Sunday 16 September 2018

What The Fuck is a Blog Tour anyway?

If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram etc. etc. then you can't have failed to notice that for the last ten days my book, The Craft Room, has been on a blog tour.

What the fuck is a blog tour? I hear you all shouting.

Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin. The book visits a whole load of book blogs and gets reviews, or promotional posts, depending on what each individual blogger wants to do. They don't get paid to review, so it's entirely up to them and impartial. I'm almost as new to this as those of you still wondering what the hell a blog tour is and this marks yet another stage on my (oh for fuck's sake I'm going to have to use the word journey here – kill me now, Billy) journey as a writer.

When I published The Craft Room in August 2017, I had no idea how to market it. Weekend Rockstars the year before had been easy, there's a very specific niche market of middle-aged part-time musicians with a huge online community that I am already part of. Job done, it sold well, and still does. I worried that because of its broader appeal, I would not be able to market The Craft Room as an indie author with no agent/publishers to back it for me. I was right to, it sells, but not to the same extent as Rockstars has, and I had begun to doubt if it was actually any good.

I made new covers for them a couple of months ago, in the hopes it would encourage sales.
Guess what? It didn't, but they do look prettier.

My third novel should have been ready to publish in June, but my favourite editor pointed out I had included an accidental Deus Ex Machina near the end (the result of its ever-changing plot line) and it would be better if I were to change it completely and force the characters to work out their differences, rather than just killing one off. This has led to an awful lot of rewriting and it only now being ready to send out on query.

Unfortunately, having just finished those rewrites, my synopsis now looks incredibly dull. The Deus Ex Machina sounded quite exciting, and, while the new version is infinitely more satisfying in full, as a brief outline it looks a bit shit, and could instigate the following hypothetical conversation.

'So how do your protagonists resolve their differences now Dave?'

'Well, they sit down together, at a table, have a drink and talk about their feelings.'

'Really? Nobody gets killed?'


'No alien invasion, shoot-out in the woods, eldritch demons dragging people down to hell, massive fight?'


'That's not like you.'

'I suppose not, but it's much more interesting than it sounds, they've both just separately left the same party that they thought was a bit shit, and ended up in the same remote pub after a walk in the dark, so they realise they have more in common than the thing that's been driving them apart. Being forced together by circumstance makes them have to talk it all through and gives a more satisfying conclusion.'

'Yeah, but the last version had a really icky, grisly death, shinbones going through eye-sockets and everything, and their relationship only held together by keeping up a lie for the rest of their lives.'

'I know, I liked it too, but it wasn't right. Trust me, read it, you'll agree. This is how people should deal with their problems in real life, art needs to reflect real life, encourage us to be better people, push us gently into doing the right thing.'

'I can't be arsed to read it all you stupid fucking hippy, get out.'

Obviously my imaginary conversation with an imaginary publisher will never happen, because now it looks so dull in brief that no agent will ever touch it with a bargepole. Nevertheless, it will go out on query before I give in and do it all myself again.

(If you're an agent/publisher reading this, can I grab your attention with the headline: It's a coming of age story about a young man who goes to live with his estranged father and the difficulty with reconnecting after a decade apart when the girl you love is in love with your dad. Thanks for your time – email me, we'll do lunch, or drinks.)

All this means that there will be no new book til at least Christmas (hopefully even longer if the industry pick it up) so I thought I'd try and drum up some publicity for The Craft Room instead. But how to do that (bearing in mind I really am as lazy as I say, it's not just for comic effect).

Then Twitter came to the rescue, I started following Chris Mcrudden simply because he posts some really funny stuff. Then he turned out to be in publishing, and from his mentions and retweets I ended up following a whole bunch of other publishing types. That was when I discovered that blog tours were a thing. I had long wondered how you go about getting reviews and am much too lazy to spend hours contacting individual book bloggers and begging them to read my book. And then I found out there were blog tour operators, who do all the hard work so I don't have to.

On the recommendations of Lucy V Hay and Sam Missingham, I contacted Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources and, for a very reasonable fee, she set up the tour. I got the schedule and the dates through back in July and spent the summer nervously awaiting my fate. Remember the bloggers don't get paid, they can be as mean as they like about my work.

And then it began, and the reviews have been uniformly good. Most of them great, they love my book. For the last year, I have worried that its slow sales have been because it is not good enough, but people who read hundreds of books a year have said it is very much good enough. Here's a selection of quotes that are currently making me very happy.

'light hearted, witty, full of chaos, it's dramatic, yet addictive!.. The plot is crazy, pacy and cleverly written.'

'I ended up finishing this book in one evening as I became quite attached to both the characters and the story!
If you enjoy a story that is a little quirky with humour slightly on the darker side then I'm sure you will enjoy The Craft Room!'

'The Craft Room is a completely original and addictive read that I fell in love with. I raced through this book as I couldn’t wait to find out what the hell was going on in it. I laughed my way through and I gasped in shock and delight as events unfolded.'

'Dave Holwill has put together a fabulous cast of characters, an increasingly wild plot and some laugh out loud one-liners to create a very entertaining, you-didn’t-know-you-needed-it-until-it-was-here, combination of Serial Mom, Rambo and Blue Peter'

'A brilliantly engaging read from start to finish which I found difficult to put down... This is a dark comedy which had me smiling right to the end.'

'It’s a breath of fresh air, and quickly added itself to my list of favorite reads this year.'

'This is a story that is dark, funny and completely unexpected – four stars from me – a very enjoyable story – highly recommended!'

'I was so glad I had given this book a chance, it truly was hard to put down… A little naughty, a little inappropriate, and a whole lotta fun!'

'Dave Holwill manages to combine Hyacinth Bucket with The Purge in The Craft Room, which is a chillingly funny look at a post mid-life crisis from a woman who has a lifetime’s worth of suppressed anger to take out on everyone around her.'

'Anyone who enjoys the comedy of the likes of The League of Gentleman will be in sync with this book. Those of a squeamish or prudish nature should probably give it a pass, but they will be missing a treat of a read...'

'I really, really loved this book. It completely appealed to my macabre sense of humour and my delight in any book that goes off at a bit of a tangent from well-worn literary tropes.'

Being new to this, I have retweeted and shared every single post, retweeted link and shared promo. I have no idea of the etiquette for this, but it seems polite to make sure the bloggers get publicity for their blogs as much as I get it for my book, even if it looks like endless self-promotion and narcissistic back-slapping. I got so excited I put The Craft Room on a free ebook amazon promotion. I suddenly felt validated, and that the last four years of constantly writing, rewriting, editing, formatting and cover designing (along with the endless self-promotion online) has been worth it. Before this I had almost hit a point of wanting to stop and get my spare time back again.

As it is, I will carry on. Book number three is done, ready to be rejected by the industry and thrown into the world anyway. I will launch it with a blog tour, and this time I will prepare more content, interviews, promotional materials etc. to make sure the promo posts are more than just blurb and bio. I've learned a few things from this experience. Book number four is a jumble of about 100,000 words ready to edit down to something comprehensible and readable, and I am about to spend the next month and a bit knocking out the rough draft of book number five (which a lot of you will be pleased to know is a sequel to Weekend Rockstars set ten years later).

I am resigned to the fact that writing is unlikely to ever fulfil me financially, but this acceptance from the blogging community means that my soul overfloweth with joy. I shall continue, and sacrifice whatever spare time I once had to the Gods of words. I have no idea if it has had any significant effect on sales or not yet (the free promotion at the same time kind of skews all the figures for the last week) but I feel that sales are not as important as my self-esteem, on which the effects have been very significant. My heartfelt thanks go out to all those who participated, particularly Rachel for organising the whole thing, and who I will now happily recommend to anybody wanting to do similar.

Here's the full list of stops on the blog tour, in case you wanted to read the reviews in full.