All about Expectation: 2013 365 Challenge #155

Swimming

Swimming (from our holiday snaps)

I went to a spa with my Mum this afternoon. I bought her the experience for Mother’s day and she asked if I would come too as she didn’t want to go by herself. It was only local, meaning I could get my post written this morning and cook dinner before picking her up after lunch.

Summer has finally arrived here and it’s a gorgeous day. Thankfully the swimming pool had sky lights so we didn’t feel cut off from the sun.

I swam 25 lengths, relaxed in the sauna and had a back massage. Gorgeous.

But it wasn’t Ragdale Hall, the place I go with my friends. It was a third of the cost so I didn’t expect it to be, except our vouchers were half price, so at full price our 4-hour visit (without lunch) would have been expensive. After my recent discussions about reviews, it got me thinking about the importance of expectations. From the full price of the experience, and based on my visits to Ragdale, I had a certain expectation – one that wasn’t met:

The changing rooms were small and basic. In a travel review I’d called it Tired. There were no towels or robes, because the delivery driver had broken down, so we had a small hand towel each. When the delivery did arrive I went to reception to ask for a robe and was told they’d be brought out, even though I was standing there wet and dripping. Mum says her massage was marred by the sound of taps running in the next room. My ‘relaxing music’ was Indian sitars with lots of Indian men chatting in the background, as if they were playing at a street festival. I tried so hard to ignore it. To be happy. To practice gratitude. I even politely asked the girl to turn it down, but it didn’t help. Despite that, and the therapist’s long nails, I came out content and revived.

Relaxation

Relaxation

I met Mum in the relaxation room, but as there was no door shutting it off from the noise of the jacuzzi or the happy shouts of the young kids in the pool, it wasn’t terribly relaxing. After a short while, with still an hour left until we had to leave, I suggested we go for coffee. Then said, “Let’s save the eight quid and have coffee at home.”

Mum agreed.

I dropped her at her house – feeling only slightly guilty for shortening our visit – drove home and had a free cup of tea and read my book. And there was still time to walk the dog in the sunshine and write this post on my phone.

This isn’t meant to be a rant. I very much enjoyed my afternoon and would go back at the reduced cost. But it was interesting to see how critical I was because my expectations weren’t met. I’m afraid to say I even left negative feedback on the comments card.

Someone responded to my post yesterday by saying one-star reviews are more about the reviewer than the book. That’s probably true. But I think it’s also about expectations. Something in my cover image and blurb may have set the wrong expectation and the reader never managed to overcome that. I think getting the cover and blurb right on a book is essential – whatever we say, we all judge a book a little bit on its cover.

I have two covers for Dragon Wraiths and they represent the book differently. I’m very attached to them both but maybe they set the wrong expectation. Similarly for the blurb. For a marketer I’m rubbish at writing blurb, for Dragon Wraiths or the Claire books. Maybe I should run a competition for people who loved the book to write the blurb for me, though not sure what I could offer as a prize.

The other thing I need to establish is the price. I dropped it to see if I would shift more copies (I haven’t yet). Maybe people make a more considered buying decision if it’s more expensive. It’s all fascinating stuff I don’t have answers to. In the mean time I’m off to get the kids. Relaxing day over then!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“How’s your Mum?”

“She’s great. Thank you so much for suggesting I talk to her. You were right – she’s been so worried about being the pushy parent, she’s been biting her tongue. Now I’ve given her the green light she can’t wait to get stuck in. I wouldn’t be surprised if she came to stay next week. What is it with mothers and weddings?”

Claire shrugged, unwilling to answer. I can’t imagine what mine would be like with a wedding to plan, and I doubt she’ll find out. She didn’t get a look-in on Robert’s and, from what I remember, Ruth’s was a paltry registry-office affair.

“You didn’t tell me what venue you managed to book for the wedding.”

“Wilderhope Manor, in Shropshire. It’s not too far from Mum and Dad, and the building looks amazing. We’re having to accept a sub from Jeff’s parents, as it isn’t dirt cheap, but even they must approve of the building, if not the bunk beds. Have you been?”

“No. Milton Keynes was the furthest south I managed to get to, and look how well that turned out.”

Kim pouted. “Oh, I was hoping you might be able to have a word with the manager, make sure everything is perfect.”

Claire’s laughter rang loud in Kim’s kitchen. “Kim, none of the YHA managers in the hostels I’ve visited even know I’m doing the assignment. The more places I stay, the more I know Carl is making the whole thing up. I haven’t had anything to do with Coca Cola either.”

Kim’s expression made Claire snort with laughter again.

“What are you laughing at?”

“You. You look so shocked.”

Kim shook her head. “Well, I am. I can’t imagine a boss lying to me on that kind of scale.” She gave her friend an accusing stare. “I can’t believe you’re okay with it, either. It’s not like you.”

Claire took a sip of coffee, then put her mug back on the table, while words churned through her mind. “I’m not okay with it.” She looked up at Kim. “I’m spitting mad, if you want to know the truth.”

Kim’s face became serious. “Then why do you put up with it? I hate to see you being taken advantage of.”

“Being taken for a fool, you mean? No, don’t apologise: you’re right. It must look like that from the outside.”

“But..?”

“But, I don’t think I’m doing this assignment for Carl anymore.” Claire sat back in the chair and laced her fingers, careful not to pull at her sprained wrist. “Can I tell you a secret?”

Kim nodded, sitting forward to give Claire her full focus.

“I had no intention of sticking it out. I was going to travel for a couple of weeks and then use my holiday and the salary they’re still paying me to jet off to Maldives. I’m not sure what I planned to do then, I never thought that far ahead. Send Carl a rude email, probably.”

“What stopped you?”

Claire sighed again, and ran her fingers through her hair. A scent of daffodils wafted in through the open window and somewhere a blackbird was singing.

“Josh, I guess. To begin with. He made travelling fun. Then it all went wrong, and I got mugged. I wanted to leave at that point.”

“I’ll bet!”

“But, somehow, there was always something stopping me. I had to look after Sky, and now, with Ruth sick…” She stopped, but Kim’s face showed her understanding. Claire couldn’t leave the country not knowing whether Sky might need her again.

“What will you do, then? Will you finish the assignment?”

Claire gazed out the window at the clouds scudding past, foretelling the arrival of another rain shower.

“I don’t know, Kim, I really don’t. I’m only on hostel number thirty or thirty-one. That leaves so many still to do. Plus the stupid activities Julia keep sending me. Did I tell you, she emailed me to suggest I learn to windsurf? She has no idea. Stuff like that isn’t for an idle afternoon. It takes time and commitment. It’s all very well trying to make the blog interesting – not to mention humiliate me – but it does hurt.” She looked at her wrist as if the pain was entirely Julia’s fault.

“Maybe you could sell your story to a newspaper, have them sponsor your blog. It’s a great adventure. I can’t be the only one loving it.”

Claire was going to dismiss the idea as foolish, but something stopped her. That’s actually not entirely crazy. What if I approach the YHA myself? Or a paper could work. Get a travel column. Claire looked over at her friend and wondered when she suddenly had all the answers.

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Making the goal visible: Self-Publishing, Book Covers and the Blurb

Proposed book cover for my WIP

I’ve read a few blogs recently on the topics of self-publishing, designing your own book cover and writing your book blurb.

It got me thinking.

Maybe what I need, to help me get to the end of my final revisions, is a nice visual goal. So I’ve wasted several days of precious writing time pulling together a book cover for either paper print or e-book publishing.

 I haven’t actually decided yet whether I am going to go down the self-publishing route or continue with the plan of applying to agents. I admit I still tend towards the latter, for two very important reasons.

1. I cannot afford to hire a professional editor, and I am terrified of publishing something full of grammatical or typing errors.

2. I am rubbish at self-promotion. I have set up various ventures in the past, all of which required me to sell my talents, and I know already that I’d rather pull out my own teeth.

I could add a third barrier, but it is one that should be surmountable, if I can get enough enthusiasm to do it, and that is the need to fill the gaping hole in my knowledge about social media. From everything I have read, promoting your book on social media sites and building up a following are both essential if you want to sell your book to more than family and friends. I can just about negotiate my way around Facebook, but even that is a challenge. I’m far too young to be such a Luddite, but there you are. I need the kids to grow a bit, so they can teach their old mum a few tricks!

I cannot describe how many hours it took me to find a photograph that encapsulated what I wanted to say about my novel. I wanted to catch the eye, to make sense of the title, but not give anything away about the plot. (I hate spoilers.) And I wanted to be able to afford it. The first image I fell in love with was about £80 for the size I needed, in case I have it printed. This one, thankfully, was considerably less. Thank you www.dreamstime.com

If you are interested in creating your own book cover, Keri Peardon has some very useful lessons on her blog: http://keripeardon.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/how-to-make-your-own-book-cover-lesson-5/. I use Photoshop Elements (currently on a free 30-day trial which would be plenty for getting your book cover done).

As for the blurb, I’m sure I will do a few more re-writes before I’m happy. It’s not an easy thing, getting someone interested in your story without giving any key plot points away (did I mention, I hate spoilers?) 

There has been an interesting discussion on blurb agony over on Keri Peardon’s fab blog. Definitely worth a look.

Anyway, diversionary activity over, time to get back to editing, with my lovely new book cover to inspire me (if I can just resist the urge to tweak the colours, layout, font, text, images….)

Other great links:

http://keripeardon.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/7-reasons-why-e-books-are-great/

http://catherineryanhoward.com/self-printing-home/self-printing-posts/ (Catherine is currently offering her book on self-publishing – The Best of Catherine – Caffeinatedfree on www.amazon.co.uk. Go check it out.)