by Gareth Davies
Imagine a book launch that takes in seven countries, 16 venues and has audiences of between 50 and 250 people at each event. Established authors would give their eye-teeth for such a tour, let alone someone who is publishing their debut novel. It sounds too good to be true but I was in seven countries, I did attend all of those events and I was in front of all of those people. This was the because the launch of my book, Humans, Being, coincided with the busiest spring I have had in my 'day' job for years, meaning I have been able to piggyback an unofficial launch tour on to my work-a-day travels.
My day job is as a teacher trainer for EFL publishers, which means I travel to different destinations around the world talking to teachers about teaching and the publishers' books. This spring took me to Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Macedonia and although, of course, it would be unprofessional of me to hijack my talks by promoting my book, I have been able to mention Humans, Being in passing and to have a few copies on hand to sign and sell to anyone who shows an interest. I am glad to say my colleagues in those countries have been happy to oblige and have mentioned my new novel while introducing me and teachers in those places have been eager to buy my book.
Piggybacking seems to be a theme with this novel, because the book itself was written with the help of Cinnamon's mentoring scheme. Humans, Being started life as the portfolio piece of work for my MA in Creative Writing at Cardiff University. I had written 25,000 words by the time I handed it in but analysing it in forensic detail for the course had left me a little sick of the characters Vic and Mia. What is more, subsequent paid work, teaching in Cardiff and teacher training in China, got in the way of my writing. I needed a catalyst to get me writing again, something that would push me to finish the project.
The mentorship with Cinnamon Press was just the ticket. A year working with an established writer who reviewed and commented on my work and pushed me to write was exactly what I needed. And Michelle did push me. Sometimes her feedback left me feeling a bit down, sometimes I didn't agree with her suggestions, but her enthusiasm for my work, the encouragement that went alongside the advice and the fact that I knew she wanted me to be the best I could be, spurred me to keep going.
The mentorship finished with a residential writing retreat in beautiful North Wales. It was my first chance to meet my mentor face-to-face and to discuss my book with other writers. It was cold in Ty'n y Coed in January but good food, especially the cheese, good wine, and of course good conversation, soon warmed things up. A combination of workshops and writing time was a perfect end to the year. Right from the word go, I felt like I was part of something special.
Doing the mentoring scheme doesn't guarantee publication, so you can imagine my delight — and relief — when Jan Fortune announced that they would like to publish Humans, Being. I didn't stop smiling for a week. It took about a year for the manuscript to become a book as there were contracts to sign, proofs to check and the cover to approve. I didn't actually believe it was real until I got the finished article in my hands in March.
Maybe naively, I thought publication would be the end of the process but, in fact, it is just the start of the next chapter. I now have to put myself out there and promote the book. I am sure most writers would agree, self-promotion is difficult. There are always doubts: what if I'd packed 20 books in my suitcase when jetting off to Serbia or Bulgaria only to bring home those 20 copies. Thankfully, my luggage was much lighter on the way home than on the outward journey. My next steps are to contact book bloggers and get my book reviewed and talked about and of course that brings its own uncertainty; it's all very well getting positive vibes from people who know me, but what will the public at large think about it? This is out of my hands. I've done all I can, I just have to wait and see.
As well as selling in those countries I've visited, the book has also been a hit in the Czech Republic. I lived in Prague for many years and worked closely with book distributors, Megabooks. When they heard my novel was coming out, they couldn't wait to get copies into their book shops. By all accounts, it is selling well.
The eagle-eyed of you will notice I mentioned seven countries but only listed six above. The official launch in my home city of Cardiff meant Wales was the seventh country. This was a lovely event, a tie up between Cinnamon Press and Cardiff Library's Open Space, and alongside Kate North launching her collection of short stories, Punch. It was amazing to hear Jan compare my work to Bridget Jones and it was a thrill to read extracts of the novel to my family and friends, but this presented its own problems. Having my Mum and Dad and my young nephews in the audience meant I had to choose pieces to read that were family friendly. If the book were a film, it would have at least a 15 certificate and there didn't seem to be one passage I could read that didn't have a swear word or a mention of sex. But everyone enjoyed it and I think it amused my nephews greatly to hear their uncle use rude words.
Our thanks to Gareth's sister and nephews for the launch photo.