Excuse me while I humblebrag…

‘maybe I’ll just carry this around with me wherever I go?’

‘maybe I’ll just carry this around with me wherever I go?’

Except I’m not actually going to humblebrag. Not here anyway. Instead I’m going to have a (hopefully mini) rant about one of the most difficult parts of being an author – self-promotion.

Readers might not realise it, but publishers do really hope authors will do quite a bit of promotion of their own books. After all, publishers publish so many books throughout the year, and while most of them receive some marketing budget, only a few of them – the ‘big’ books (or ‘lead titles’ as they are called) will get the ‘big’ budget, with lots of promotion, like book tours and extensive proof mailouts and adverts on the underground and fancy launch events, alongside the normal things such as online advertising and social media support.

As the writer, the person who cares the most about your book is you, and this also means you’re the best person to promote it. After all, you know it best. You know who your potential readers are. You know the storyline in and out. You can happily wax lyrical about it for hours.

So it would be a bit crap if you didn’t at least try to give self-promotion a go.

I feel like I’m standing on a table in a busy room shouting ‘Me me me, everyone look at me!’

But oh my god is it hard. I’m not sure why – I’ve had a business before and I found it pretty easy to promote that. I was more than happy to shout about it to anyone and everyone. But promoting my books is like pulling teeth. Every time I tweet or instagram about them, I feel like I’m standing on a table in a busy room shouting ‘Me me me, everyone look at me!’ It’s so uncomfortable.

I wonder if it’s because, deep down, I still believe that writing a book is a pretty arrogant thing to do – it’s so personal, and yet it’s assuming that this personal thing is so important and worthwhile that everyone needs to know about it. Everyone needs to read it. It doesn’t help that I grew up in the UK in the 90s when ‘showing off’ was not cool, nor was foisting your opinions about things on any unwitting bystander (I still wish this wasn’t cool. While I understand the motivation behind them, the endless political rants on Twitter don’t half bring me down). And sometimes that’s what it feels like, promoting your novel. After all, when you write a novel you’re trying to convey a theme or deeper message – something that resonates with you and bugs you enough to make you wonder about it at night – but who’s to say that that ‘thing’ is as important to others as it is to you?

How very dare you!?

These are the voices in my head that I battle with whenever I tweet about my books, or share a nice review. Having talked to other writer friends about this, I know that many of them feel the same awkwardness when they have to talk about their books too.

But there are also other authors who are unashamed in their self-promotion, who go ‘all out’ to sing their own praises. And I have to confess that I look upon these people with a strange combination of admiration and horror.

Do I just need to get over my Gen Y upbringing and get on board with the self-love?

Where is the line drawn between self-promotion and bragging? Is bragging even a thing anymore? Do I just need to get over my Gen Y upbringing and get on board with the self-love?

Is there a ‘good’ way to do it? If you caveat it (which I often do) with some kind of disclaimer - ‘I know I’m showing off here but this review made my day’ - does that make it better? Does self-awareness cancel out the negative side of bragging?

Do readers mind unabashed confidence in novelists?

It’s just I’m conditioned, when I see people telling the world how great they are, to wrinkle my nose in disapproval, and then I wonder if I’m the only one. Do readers mind unabashed confidence in novelists? Maybe, like enthusiasm about anything, it’s infectious – maybe the self-belief rubs off and the readers then also feel convinced of your greatness. Or do readers see tweets like that and think, huh, get over yourself love, I’ll be the judge of how good your book is!

Either way, I suppose it gets you noticed. Which is the main aim after all. To stand above the crowd. 

Another thing that interests me is whether or not this is just a British thing. I don’t know. I remember the fascinating interview with the American author Jessica Knoll on The Cut about her income. Again, my cognitive dissonance was off the charts. I massively admired her for her confidence, while also finding it a bit distasteful. The reactions to that interview were fascinating.  

What do you think? I’m genuinely so interested in whether people mind authors ‘showing off’ (I know it’s not showing off really, but that’s how it FEELS to me)? Or do they like it?

A few years ago there was a hashtag on Twitter that was pretty popular - #humblebrag. I was pretty fond of that one. It allowed me to ‘show off’ whilst also acknowledging that I knew I was showing off and that it made me uncomfortable to do so - neatly incorporating an invisible plea not to be judged too harshly for it. I haven’t seen it much lately – perhaps I should try to bring it back?!

You can order my debut, The Rival, here. Unfollow Me is out now!

Why every writer should have a dolls house*

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*Or a dog. Or a kitchen garden. Or an obsession with knitting. Or jigsaw puzzles. Or any hobby that doesn’t involve computers

Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter might have noticed that I have lately become completely obsessed with a dolls house. I have to apologise in advance here – because this post, is going to be about the dolls house. Now, I have had mostly good reactions to my social media #dollshousediaries pictures, with lots of DMs from people saying they’re loving it but I am also slightly terrified there are an equal number of people watching my Insta stories rolling their eyes going ‘shut up about the bloody dolls house woman’.

So sorry. If you hate dolls houses then… well, for a start I think you’re a bit weird because how could you possibly not love them, perfect miniature things of joy… but also, sorry, cos this post is about my dolls house.

My Dad in his workshop

My Dad in his workshop

My dad made me my dolls house from scratch when I was 9 or 10. My dad is a bit of a modelling geek. He’s a frustrated engineer who ended up working in software and his way of relaxing has always been to make things with his hands. He’s built model aircraft, model ships and a full-size car and a working, full-size German WW1 biplane in his garage (yes really). He told me that he wished he’d been a carpenter, but he followed the money and ended up working in IT instead, which makes me a bit sad but not too sad as he is always going on nice holidays and has a good pension.

Anyway, this post is not about my dad. It’s about my dolls house. So, as a young teenager I collected bits and pieces for my dolls house, and I loved it, but of course I then discovered boys and the dolls house fell out of favour. Then when I was about 21, my parents moved house and it ended up being put in their garage, boxed in by tons of other Garage Stuff. 

But last year I begged him to unearth it, and he did (reluctantly and a little complainingly). And it is now squeezed into my tiny home office and it is my Favourite Thing (after my partner and my daughter. And the cat, although that’s a close call. Sorry Percy).  

I am potentially renovating it more painstakingly than I did our actual house last year.

I am slowly renovating it. I am potentially renovating it more painstakingly than I did our actual house last year. It’s quite a big (for a dolls house) Georgian house, and while it was in storage unfortunately some mice took up residence in it, and so some bits of it are a little nibbled and worse for wear. Like any house that’s lain empty for over a decade, it has a few issues. The wallpaper is peeling in some rooms, the carpets are stained. I’m slowly redoing each room, one by one. I’ve started with the dining room, and next up I’m going to do the music room. Each room needs a different amount of work – some rooms need re-wallpapering and new flooring, others just need more furniture and accessories. And this is the best bit – the stuff.

The stuff! There are so many amazing miniature craftsmen out there, making teeny tiny and amazing things. I went to a dolls house fair recently (median age of attendees: 65) and spent £47 on a tiny porcelain vase. I spent the same on a chair that had been hand-carved. I love both pieces equally, they bring me great joy, but they also serve as a reminder that this dolls house is going to bankrupt me.

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One of the things my father never got around to doing when he first built it was put lighting in. So I have also been gradually adding lights to the rooms – and oh, my – the effect is amazing. But let’s be honest, with this kind of thing, it’s all about the pictures isn’t it? SO here are a few more…

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I have become so obsessed, that I also ordered some tiny kit furniture from Germany, and with my own hands made a new sideboard for the dining room, plus a dining table, side table and grandfather clock. I sanded and stained and varnished and glued them together. It’s the most crafty thing I have ever done. I am also currently working on a mini Georgian sampler, meticulously cross-stitching teeny tiny stitches on the smallest canvas known to womankind (and swearing about it a lot). 

I was telling one of my oldest friends about the dolls house (let’s be honest, I’m telling anyone and everyone) and she said she thought the reason I loved it so much was because I was in complete control of it. Because as a writer, she said, I had so little control. Of course, writers have control over their output, but whether or not the book will be published, whether or not it will sell more than a handful of copies, whether or not it will be well received… all these things are completely out of our hands. Whereas in my teeny tiny perfect miniature world, I am God, and what I say goes.

the thing I have loved so much is making things with my hands. And – most importantly of all – being away from a screen.

She may be right. I am sure there’s an element of that in it. But also, for me, the thing I have loved so much is making things with my hands. And – most importantly of all – being away from a screen. I have spent my working life staring at a computer screen, and it’s horrible – the most unhealthy, lonely, lethargic way to spend your time. But at 7pm each night, once Daphne is in bed, I sit down at the dining room table (much to Oli’s consternation – he objected a LOT to the smell of wood stain in the kitchen) and I fiddle with my teeny bits of wood, and I (sometimes) drink a gin and tonic and I forget everything else. And it’s pure heaven.

You can find out more about THE RIVAL here, and order here if you want to make my day. UNFOLLOW ME will be published in June.

Me, on the internet

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Happy 2019! It's been so long since I blogged that I've come to Wordpress only to find the CMS has completely changed. Hopefully this will work out alright...

So, since I last posted, quite a lot has happened. Most significantly, of course, is the fact that my book was finally published. It is officially out there. And the experience has been mildly debilitating, euphoric and plain weird all at once. I am so grateful that it's been pretty well-received. The reviews have been, on the whole, really lovely. It's not a conventional thriller (it's not really a thriller at all, but I've ranted about that before), so it's been really heartening to see most readers have enjoyed it and been surprised by it.

I'm currently knee-deep in book 3, which has been such a different experience from book 2. Book 2, by the way, will be out later this year! It has a title now: Unfollow Me, and you can find out more about it on my website. I really really enjoyed writing Unfollow Me - it was one of those rare experiences when the plot came to me pretty much fully formed, so I just had to write it all down. Book 3, on the other hand, has been a nightmare from the very first paragraph. But I had a break from actual writing (or typing, anyway) over Christmas and spent a long time thinking about it, and I'm hoping that I can wrestle it into some kind of shape in the second draft.

But I digress. The point of this post was really to do a little round up of places I've been featured on t'internet since The Rival was published, in case you want to find out a little bit more about it/me/my writing journey. So, without further waffle, here we go:

Why I wrote my debut novel The Rival - The Early Hour

My top 5 books about rivalry - The Big Issue

Best thrillers roundup - The Guardian

Beginners Pluck - The Irish Examiner

My journey to publication - Women Writers

Dark undercurrents of everyday life with Charlotte Duckworth - BritLit Podcast

My top 5 scariest reads - Crime Files

How the Faber Academy course helped renew my faith in writing - We Heart Writing

How I lost and found myself after having a baby - Female First

Three Pics to Publication - Amanda Reynolds blog

Phew! I am sure I have missed some but that will do for now. Before I go though, could I just ask a tiny favour? If you have read The Rival and didn't hate it, please would you pop a review on Amazon for me? It doesn't have to be long, but all ratings are so helpful, and I'd really appreciate it. If you have read it and didn't enjoy it however, I'd really appreciate you, er, not writing one. Cheers. ;)

You can find out more about THE RIVAL on my website, and order here if you want to make my day.

What it really feels like to get a bad review

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It's happened! I have popped my bad-review cherry. Ugh, I apologise. That's the worst analogy/metpahor/whatever of all time. But anyway, I have had my first (and second) bad review. They weren't even that bad, but even so, it was a discombobulating experience. So discombobulating in fact that I thought I might blog about it and share my findings. Because being a writer, writing about stuff helps me deal with it. Obvious but true.

I consider myself relatively thick-skinned - but there is nothing quite like the sensation of someone you've never met before telling the world that something you've worked really hard on disappointed them. It hurts! It's also really weird. It feels a little like you're going along with your day, living your life, and then suddenly a stranger springs out of the bushes and slaps you round the face, and then disappears, leaving you with a sore cheek and a confused frown. It's a bit like an ambush.

After that first sense of shock and the stinging aftermath, comes your own sense of pride, riding out on a horse called Anger. Your pride then tells you that this person is an idiot, that they're wrong, that they know nothing etc etc. Your fingers twitch with desperation to type some clever, well-thought-out retort to show them who's boss. You want to ask them how many books they've bloody well written. You want to tell them that the twist was not a twist it was a sodding REVEAL so who cares if they guessed it - they were meant to and it was meant to be satisfying. You want to say that it wasn't meant to be highbrow literature, so if the prose was workaday then that's because it's commercial not literary fiction, and don't they know anything about the publishing market and genre-expectations?

You would also REALLY like to point out that you wrote and FINISHED your book before The Replacement aired on TV and that you were majorly pissed off when you saw the trailer and realised that if the book got published everyone would think you had nicked the idea.

Then you realise that would make you look like a dick.

(Well, maybe not that last bit about The Replacement. That last bit I would quite like to add to my writing bio. But I will resist and take comfort in this rant instead.)

So you decide to rise above it and get on with your day. But every now and then those choice phrases of criticism (my current favourite is 'the prose is merely workmanlike' - how bloody insulting to workmen) creep into your head and slap you round the face again. And you feel a bit sad.

You resolve never to look at your reviews again.

But then... your editor congratulates you on a new 5 star one. So of course you have to go and look. So you do. And you read their lovely feedback and it's like a warm drink heating you up from inside. And you wish you could reach out through your computer screen and hug the person who loved your book, and tell them how much their kind words mean to you.

And then you remember what your wise novelist friend told you. That a bad review just means the book wasn't for them. You imagine yourself whispering it to this faceless username who took such great offence at your work that they felt the need to warn others off it.

'It wasn't for you and that's OK. There are plenty of other books out there for you and plenty of other readers out there for me.'

And you go away and write this blog post. And that helps a bit too.

And then when the next bad review comes through, you read it with a better understanding. It still hurts, but a little less.

It wasn't for you. And that's OK.

If you're a fan of 'workmanlike prose' you can find out more about THE RIVAL on my website, and pre-order here if you want to make my day.