Novelist Graham Storrs’ first novel is being published on February 15th by lyricalpress. At the same time he is taking his first brave steps into the world of virtual book tours (blog tours).
Before the tour, Shack’s Comings and Goings spent some time with Graham, asking him questions on the issues of putting together a first ever tour and was it easy or did he wake up in the night screaming?
An exciting near-future thriller set in a post-depression Europe where two young people must fight to save millions from destruction by a time-travelling terrorist who is the willing pawn of his criminal backers.
Two young people, Jay and Sandra, each traumatised in their different ways by their involvement in the youth cult of timesplashing, struggle to bring down Sniper, the glamorous cult-figure who turned a one-time extreme sport into a deadly weapon for sale to the highest bidder. From the Berlin of 2049 to Edwardian London, they track the man who destroyed and defined their lives. But Sniper has powerful backers and all the police and security forces of Europe can’t stop him. In the end, Sandra and Jay are all that stand between Sniper and the achievement of his greatest and most devastating timesplash.
?| Graham, I believe this is the first blog tour you have put together, and it makes me wonder where you first turned to for advice when deciding how it should be and how big it should be?
I didn’t have any advice at first but I had two examples.
The first was the Queensland Writers centre which ran its own blog tour over a 4 month period with me as one of the stops.
The second was Jeremy Shipp who was twittering constantly throughout his, 2 month tour and for whom I did a review of “Cursed”. Jeremy’s tour was tied to the release of his latest book and I thought that seemed like a good idea.
The QWC tour was rather vaguer and, lasting a third of a year, seemed in danger of being completely unfocused. So I suppose it was Jeremy’s model I followed. About half-way through the planning, I came across your posts on the subject which really opened my eyes to how this should be done, but by then I was already committed to something less ambitious.
?| It is interesting that you mention a tour as possibly being “unfocused”, where a tour can be a collection of almost random events surrounding an author or book release. Many authors go to great pains ensuring there is a hook at the end of each chapter or even when there is a change of point of view, but then appear to forget this important need whilst promoting. Do you have any advice on how an author can keep their tour focused?
Curiously, I’m still uncertain about this. I’ve got three principles I’ve been using to structure everything I do towards promoting my book.
The first is, “Make it easy to buy.” This means having a ‘buy now page’ I can direct people to where they can easily get a copy of the book if they want it. This is it.
The second is, “Make it easy to discover.” To this end I have a ‘selling page’ which promotes the book and to which every other aspect of my web presence directs people. In fact, I created a website-of-the-book and a blog-of-the-book just for this purpose. It’s got lots of stuff about the book and about me and lets people get a feel for the book. If they like it, they can go from there to the ‘buy now page’. Here is my selling page.
The third is, “Keep mentioning the book.” I spend a lot of my time online. I’ve got a small but very focused Twitter presence and my blogs are similarly well-targeted. I actually enjoy spending my online time in the presence of other speculative fiction writers and readers. They tend to like the same things I do. As it happens, these people are the same ones who would read a book like mine and I’d very much like them to read it. They are also the people who would mention a book like TimeSplash to their own, like-minded friends. So I’d like them to be ambassadors for my book. For that to happen, though, they need to know about my book, and that means I have to tell them – and, in this age of information saturation, I have to keep reminding them.
So, to answer your question (at last), I think an author with a tour should keep it very clear in their own mind what they want to get out of it. After all, it isn’t an insignificant amount of effort – precious effort that is diverted away from writing the next novel. So I want this blog tour to serve my three principles. Obviously number three is taken care of: I will keep mentioning TimeSplash during the tour. However, I also need to direct readers to my ‘selling page’ if they need more information, and to my ‘buy now’ page if they want to jump right in and get a copy. And here, in this paragraph, I just did all three.
?| In putting all this work together have you found it a fun new experience to be jumped into or has it become an uphill struggle, with deadlines looming ever faster?
I hate admin – mainly because I suck at it. I know some really great administrators, project managers, organizers and I admire them enormously, but I’m not one of them. Organising a large number of people (however keen, friendly, and forgiving) to participate in a fixed timeframe was stressful. It was also very exciting. All my hosts are volunteers, mostly people I have never met, but all of them people whose blogs, tweets and writing I admire. So working with them to agree topics and approaches has been great fun. These are funny, creative people, and I am very lucky to have their support.
Of course, I still need to produce most of the pieces that will appear on their blogs but that side of it doesn’t worry me at all. It’s what I do best.
?| Did you find it hard to keep all those pieces original, so that the tour didn’t come over as repetitive?
Yes, but not too hard. My answer to the general question, where do you get all your ideas? is that I don’t think I have more or better ideas than anyone else, I just find a use for them instead of letting them go. The fact is that ideas are easy.
What’s hard is recognising a good one and then making something interesting out of it. When the idea for TimeSplash came to me, it slapped my face, shook me by the throat, and threw me across the room, so I knew it was a pretty special one. Most ideas try to sneak past without you noticing, but, if you need one or two for a blog post, you just need to switch on the light and whack as many as you can with a shovel before they scuttle into to the shadows.
?| I am wondering about how you approached the planning of the tour, has it been carefully considered like all the detail in your book or has it had a more organic birth?
Definitely organic! When I wrote TimeSplash, as you say, I was fanatically careful about the world-building, fitting all the pieces of this future world together so that it was consistent and plausible. It’s the same with the characters, their life-stories, their appearance, their personalities, all had to be as real as I could make them, and I slaved over a hot notepad until they were just right. When it came to the blog tour, however, I just set some parameters based on what I’d seen others do and what I thought I could manage (two months duration – starting a couple of weeks after the publication date so some people might have read the book – and a stop every two or three days, so I wasn’t overwhelmed with work, and to give me time to interact with readers in between.) Then I asked for volunteers, looked at who I’d got, and started talking about what we might do together.
?| On your site you have produced a support page specially for the blog tour, giving your hosts additional material to help them with their posts. What do you believe are the most important parts of a support page for someone considering a blog tour and has your one grown during the build up to the tour?
In fact, mine has shrunk. When I was playing about with my support page, I threw everything in there. I’ve never had a book reviewed and I’ve never been a published author. I don’t really know what people want to know, either about the book, or about me. Since then, I’ve been whittling it away.
One of the things that has helped a lot has been to look at established writers’ Web pages to see what they’re doing. I think John Scalzi’s site is great (http://whatever.scalzi.com/ – check out the ‘Administrivia’ links) as is Joe Konrath’s (http://www.jakonrath.com/) and about as alike as chalk and cheese! Both these guys are successful and have lots of material and they each aggregate their publications on the site, so they’re not the best model for me. Jeff Vandermeer (one of my favourite authors) has a different approach and sets up separate pages for books he wants to push (see http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/ – try the ‘Press Kit’ page). I took a lot of ideas from Vandermeer when I set up TimeSplash.co.uk. Incidentally, all three of these guys are prolific bloggers – something I need to work at.
?| Are you worried about ‘spoilers’ in the tour, sites that give away too much of the story and ultimately cause readers to miss out when your carefully crafted ducks and weaves in the story unfold before them. In any book review this may be a problem, and I am wondering what your thoughts are on trying to retain any editorial rights with your hosts?
People who write spoilers tend to annoy their readers. It isn’t in any reviewer’s interest to give away plot information. I’m fairly happy that a Darwinian process of winnowing will keep people away from sites like that. Of course, I’d rather nobody reviewing TimeSplash revealed anything about any plot twists. It’s just not respectful of the readers, but I trust the people involved in my tour.
Many of them are writers too and all of them are savvy readers. They know the score. If other people review my book and give away the plot, I’ll probably be more grateful for the review than upset about the spoiler.
?| I should imagine that with the tour about to start you must be feeling a bit like Sniper in your book at the end of a Timesplash, in that you have put all the work into it but will it be what you wanted, the clock is ticking and soon you will be wrenched into…
So tell us, what does it feel like to face the start of your blog tour?
When I set up the tour, I deliberately gave myself a couple of weeks between the book release date and the main bulk of the tour visits. This was partly to let a few people read the book before they read about the book, but also to give myself a bit of a cooling-off period. The book release is as scary as hell. As I say, this is the first time for me, it’s an ebook, and I have no idea of what sales will be like.
When I asked my publisher what sales might be for this book, she effectively said, “From nothing upwards.”
I’m kinda hoping for the “upwards” end of this scale but I’m preparing myself for the “nothing” end too. I wanted the trauma of those first two weeks out of the way before I got stuck into the blog tour. I can only cope with so much stress at once.
C&G| Thanks Graham, we wish you all the best with TimeSplash and the tour. Let’s hope that people like your work and spread the word. So until we talk to you again after the tour and capture your thoughts on how the tour went and lessons learned, we wish you the very best of luck.
TimeSplash Virtual Book Tour (Blog Tour)
This interview is part of the virtual book tour running from 16th of February to the 5th of May. To find out more about the book, characters, Graham, publication and inside information about writing the story, go to the virtual book tour schedule page at “TimeSplash – The Blog Tour 2010″
About Graham Storrs
Graham Storrs is someone who thinks a lot about the future. It’s a place we’re all going, whether we like it or not, a place where we, our children and their children will have to deal with changes we can barely imagine. Some of us can’t wait to get there, to see what it’s like, and how we will cope. That’s why Graham writes science fiction – he wants to know what happens next in this amazing story we’re all living.
After a career in research and software design, Graham has turned his gaze firmly to the far horizons and now lives and writes on a remote mountain-top in rural Australia. Surrounded by gum forests and wild animals, he relies on his wife, Christine, and their Airedale terrier, Bertie, to keep him anchored in the present.
Released: February 15, 2010 · Lyrical Press Inc.
Purchase: TimeSplash can be bought as an eBook direct from the publisher, by clicking on “Buy now”.
e-Book: All six popular formats supplied with each purchase
Price: US $ 5.50,