My Blog

From Rowan

Community Matters

I’ve spent a bit of time over the last week or so using Twitter to engage with the wider book-loving community.  I can honestly say that, in the frequently toxic atmosphere of social media, I find reading tweets from fellow writers, reviews and publishers to be a relaxing haven.  Whether it is discussing our favourite books or helping overcome common writing challenges, there is a genuine sense of community here.  It is a broad church, with all sort of literary interests represented – romance, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, history, humour and everything in between.

What I like most is that there is a great sense of collaboration here.  Writing is generally a solitary pursuit, so I suspect there is something quite cathartic about sharing problems with people who have likely experienced them themselves.  And everyone is super supportive – I don’t think I’ve seen one negative, snide or nasty comment from anyone.  There is a recognition that writing is a hard and often lonely activity, that can easily eat into social and family commitments.  Most writers are also very self-critical, perfectionist and often lack confidence in their abilities.  The last thing we need is to be exposed to the bickering and nastiness that is prevalent across most social media.  So, to find a tranquil corner of Twitter where people are supportive and genuinely interested in what you are doing is quite special.

There is one small downside, however.  With so much good advice, inspirational material and alternative suggestions being shared, it can be difficult to know which to incorporate into your own work and which to leave alone.  In truth, there is no science to this, so I’ve decided to take a more pragmatic “test & learn” approach.  With less than three weeks to go before The Greyfield hits Amazon, it is too late to change the text, but there are plenty of things to try when it comes to marketing and promotion.

And besides, there is always the sequel.

From Rowan

Horses, Start-ups and Book Promotion

One of the things that have become increasingly obvious to me over the last few weeks is that it is far easier to write a book than to promote a book.

It’s true. While you are writing, you are total control. If you want a character to do a particular action, you have the ability to make him do it. There’s something rather God-like about holding the power to control the world – albeit the one you’ve made for yourself on the page.

However, once all the words have been written and everyone is living happily ever after – or not, as the case may be – you then need to find people who a.) want to read it and b.) willing to part with their hard-earned cash for the privilege. This is a significantly more difficult task because this something completely out of your control. The expression “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink” is very apt here, except you have to go a few steps back where you have to tell a bunch of horses that water is available and then round them up to point them in the right direction. Except, instead of horses, it’s kittens and instead of water, it’s a mystery liquid that no one is quite sure how it tastes.

As someone who works in a marketing and business environment, I cannot pretend that I wasn’t aware of these challenges, I was. The key difference is that, unlike many of the clients I work with, I don’t have an advertising budget stretching into the 7-figures I can use to promote the book, nor do I have a popular brand name that I can use to engender trust in potential buyers.

In fact, self-publishing a book is more like running a small start-up. It’s all about heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears, you are starting out from nothing, there is a lot of competition out there and, to be very blunt, the odds are not in your favour.

That being said, there are plenty of lessons that self-publishing authors can learn from entrepreneurial start-ups – and indeed many online courses, who advertise as helping new writers find their audience, follow approaches that are essentially copied and pasted from books aimed at helping start-ups grow and prosper.

I’ve followed a few of these approaches in my own efforts to promote The Greyfield – this blog entry is an example of one of them – but my expectations are of success are hopefully very realistic. Time will tell whether I have been able to persuade those horses/kittens or not.

From Rowan

Can a Location also be a Character?

For anyone who has ever read any of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, then the answer is almost certainly “yes”. 

The Edinburgh that Rebus inhabits is not the Edinburgh seen by the tourists as they wander from the Castle down towards Holyrood House.  There are no jolly pipers or happy-go-lucky tour guides.  The pubs don’t welcome outsiders with open arms and you won’t always find haggis on the menu.  The strange thing is that Rebus’s Edinburgh still feels absolutely real.  It’s still totally recognisable as Edinburgh – all the key elements are present and correct – but because it has been stripped of all the adornments, what you are left with is the pure product.  More real, more vivid and a lot more dangerous.

There is no doubt that Edinburgh is more than simply a backdrop to the Rebus tales, it’s an essential part of the fabric of the story.  It is very much a character, whose relationship with Rebus is just as important as all his other relationships, possibly more so.  And although, there are other writers who base their stories in and around a specific location e.g. Stephen King and Maine, the role of Edinburgh in the Rebus stories is special

Now I’m not comparing myself to Ian Rankin – there’s a long way to go to get there – however, where I have tried to emulate him, is in the way he’s made the location a critical part of the Rebus mythology.  Where he has Edinburgh, I have Cardiff – which is a bit of a doubled edged sword.  Cardiff doesn’t have anything like the history of many major cities – it is one of Europe’s youngest capitals – and it’s nowhere near as well known.  However, Wales, as a whole, is chocked full of history so there is a LOT of material to mine for ideas.  I think the fact that this is not just a detective story also helps.  By giving the story more supernatural element, certainly opens up ways of using that rich history that otherwise would be quite tricky.

The Cardiff of The Greyfield is probably recognisable to anyone who knows the city pretty well.  Most places of interest are where they should be and several real locations get a mention in the story, including Cardiff Bay, The Millennium Centre, The St. Davids Hotel, Whitchurch Village and my old school, Ysgol Glantaf.  But, at the same time, I hope that there is something slightly wrong about it as well, just enough to stop people from getting too comfortable.

You can judge for yourselves when The Greyfield goes on sale on March 1st

From Rowan

The Art of Creativity

I had an interesting conversation this week about the times of day that different people feel most creative.  Someone said that they had a read a theory that stated that people were most creative during those times of the day when they were least efficient.  In other words, if you were a night owl, then you would be more creative in the morning (assuming you were awake) or in the afternoon, than in the evening.

My first reaction to this was that it didn’t really resonate with me.  I am very much a morning person and The Greyfield was almost exclusively written during morning sessions in various cafes.  But then I reflected on what exactly was meant by creativity.  If it meant crafting the story, working out what would happen when and how everything came together, then maybe there was something in the theory after all.  Before a word is even typed, the idea has to exist somewhere.  Then it germinates and grows and spreads and, eventually if all goes well, it flowers.  This is not an efficient process, in fact, it is hopelessly meandering, perfect material for a tired mind to casually play with at the end of a day. 

If coming up with different ways of taking a character from point A to point B (be it physically or emotionally) is a creative process for afternoons and evening, then sitting down and committing it to paper is often more of a morning workmanlike process.  By that point,  I usually already know, pretty much what has to happen and so all I am doing now is telling the story.  It also helps explain why on those, all too frequent occasions, that I realise that I’ve written myself into a hole, that I need some time and space to find a creative way to get myself out of it again!

Everyone is different and this is not a “how to” guide, still it would be interesting to hear what works for you.  Feel free to leave a note in the box below.

From Rowan

What’s in a Name?

One of the questions that I get asked the most, is why am I not writing under my own name?  The answer is, alas, rather dull and pragmatic: there is already an author with my real name out there in the world.  So to avoid confusion, headaches and lawsuits, I decided to have a bit of fun and choose a new name.

So, how did I come up with Rowan Ides?  Well, I took the letters that are in my real name and looked to see if I could make an anagram out of them.  However, with an “m” and a “c” in the name, many of new names sounded very Scottish.  Nothing wrong with that at all, but a Scottish author who writes predominantly about Wales felt a bit odd.  But, it turned out that all I had to do was remove those two pesky letters and, low and behold, Rowan Ides emerges.

Of course, pseudonyms are hardly new; JK Rowling and Stephen King, have both released books under other names.  And, if you believe Edmund Blackadder, even Jane Austin was “a huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush”.

Until next time!

From Rowan

First Week Nerves

It’s been just under a week since I announced that The Greyfield would be published on March 1st 2019.

Pressing the “send” button on that message was a peculiarly stressful moment.  It’s one thing to idly tell people that you are writing a book, but it’s another thing to let them know exactly when it will be available to buy.  Until then everything is safely under wraps and there is the possibility of stopping and hoping that everyone forgets about it.  But, once you press the button, there is no going back.  For better or worse, the book is out there in the world, ready to face the music.  

Even thinking about it now, I can feel a surge of adrenaline – part excitement, part anxiety.

There are still a few things that need to be done between now and March 1st.  The text is having a final final final polish, the last amendments to the book cover are being made and there are a few other things regarding the launch that need a bit of attention.  But we are in good shape. 

The Greyfield is available to pre-order now on Amazon here