The Crime Readers' Association

A Day in the Life: Behind the Scenes by AJ Waines

27th December 2015

One of the absolute joys of being a writer is that every day is different, largely because writers can play a much bigger part in the publishing process than they used to. Most authors now have a ‘platform’ and with the rise of social media, they can invite readers to go behind the scenes. Readers can now discover how books are written, what their favourite crime writer reads (or eats for breakfast) and even see snaps of the cuddly pets who clamber across the author’s keyboard! The result is that a writer has a far more exciting job. For me, with a foot in both traditional and independent publishing, my days are packed with diverse tasks.

7.30am: Set up my To-Do list for the day. Right now, I am in the final stages of editing my latest novel, No Longer Safe, which is due out in February 2016. I have a week by week plan over six months, which started with completing the first draft and goes right through to the book launch. Not only do I write the novels, but I’m a formatter, proof-reader, layout-checker, publicist, project manager, marketing manager and much more. I oversee the cover design (exciting!), set up blog tours, organise giveaways and competitions (pestering lovely authors for their free books), set up blog posts, newsletters and post to Twitter, Facebook, G+, Goodreads and Pinterest… then I come up for air.

So – it’s Monday morning and I’m at a particularly thrilling stage in the process – waiting for the first proof copies of No Longer Safe to arrive in the post. The novel has been copy edited by now and I’ve also made all the necessary changes from my beta-readers. They scour my early drafts and answer a series of questions, such as ‘Does the story drag anywhere?’ and ‘Did you find out certain facts/reveals too soon/too late?’ etc. I also want to know if they worked out ‘who dun it’ – and if so, where? Consequently, in the last week or so, I’ve been knuckling down to fix everything in the story. I’ve tightened up the plot, tidied up the narrative and swapped the order of events to make it more dramatic. I’ve checked for continuity – the weather is a particular issue in this new one, with shoulder-high snow drifts which thaw, then freeze over into treacherous ice. I love the chance for lots of imagery and to give the conditions a chance to play a part in the plot, although one astute beta-reader reminded me I needed to pay more attention to down to earth issues like grit, anti-freeze, ice-scrapers and so on.

8am: Open up my email and social media accounts to see if anything new has popped up. One of my favourite perks is getting questions and comments from readers – some of whom leave messages overnight, as they have read my book on another continent, while the rest of us have been fast asleep! A lovely message on Facebook and some nice reviews have come in this morning. Feedback like this can really make my day!

9am: Start writing this feature for CRA. I flesh out a few notes I made for it over the weekend.

11.20am: Postman arrives! I rip open the box and hold the first proof copies of No Longer Safe in my hand. I stand in awe at the way the cover has turned out and reflect on proofreading it, last week. That’s when I ran through the whole book in two to three days, in long blocks, so that I could keep on top of the story without too many interruptions. During that time, across the other side of the world, my fantastic cover designer was sending over draft versions of the cover from Texas! We usually go back and forth for a while until we get the main image and the atmosphere right. As I mentioned, No Longer Safe is all about snow, but the feel of the cover has to be savage and remote, so we’ve tried to find a dark, menacing mood, rather than the look of a pretty snow globe! The covers all match the branding my designer has set up for me, giving each book a distinctive look in terms of the all–lower-case font for the title and the distressed texture.

11.45am: I log onto my ‘project home page’ to check the process still says ‘awaiting proofs’. For my last novel, I pressed the magic green button too soon and the book came up for sale three weeks early… Arghh! No mistake this time. Getting to this stage has also involved putting the ISBN (unique book number) on the copyright page and ensuring the numbering begins at the first chapter, which must start on a right hand page. I’ve done the dizzy-making checks for ‘widows or orphans’ (those stray words that should never fall at the top or bottom of a page) and checked that new scenes are not indented (all technical stuff I used to take for granted as a reader!) The formatting for the ebook is entirely different, by the way, but that’s for another time.

12noon: Parcel up copies to send to my proofreaders. One is female, in her mid-fifties, the other is male, mid-twenties – it’s good to have a range of readers. I scuttle back from the post-box and make a coffee.

12.45pm: I start identifying bloggers who might like to host a review or interview for my blog tour. In the meantime, my Agent is focusing on the books that are already selling. She is putting me forward for special promotions on Amazon, so they will appear in ‘Kindle Daily Deals’ not only in UK and US, but also in, say, India or Australia.

1.45pm: Short lunch break. Watch Neighbours.

2.15pm – 6pm: I start setting up my Winter Newsletter with book news, giveaways and a ‘taster’ for No Longer Safe. At the end of the day, I have to peeled away from the keyboard.

You’d think being a writer was all about – well – writing a book. But as you can see, it’s an entirely different story. Each new novel is a massive challenge, but I love every bit of it!

AJ Waines is the number one bestselling author of Girl on a Train, which topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015. She was a psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, gaining a rare insight into abnormal psychology. She is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany (Penguin Random House) and USA (audiobook).

 Her first novel, The Evil Beneath, went to Number One in ‘Murder’ and ‘Psychological Thrillers’ in the UK Kindle Charts and Dark Place to Hide has reached Number One in ‘Vigilante Justice’. In 2015, she was ranked in the Top 100 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

 Alison lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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