On the fortnight anniversary since the release of A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow,the blog tour has finished. Actually, it officially finished yesterday but one of the posts hadn’t appeared so I wanted to give until the end of today to see if it did. Sometimes a time difference can mean delays or a reviewer might be caught up with work or life and be a little late, although sometimes the review doesn’t appear at all.
I used to panic about ‘no-shows’ on a blog tour thinking it was a sign that the reviewer hated my book and couldn’t find the words to convey how much… but I gave myself a stern talking to, realising it very likely was nothing to do with the book at all.
The amazing bloggers/reviewers who are involved in the tours do this because they love books and want to share that love. They do this alongside day jobs/ family commitments/ caring responsibilities/ illness/ and a big pile of other responsibilities. And sometimes they just don’t get the opportunity to read the book. Or they read it but don’t get the opportunity to write a review. Stuff just gets in the way. And I completely understand that and would hate to think that anyone might ever feel stressed about missing their date. Reading should be a delight.
We had 41 stops scheduled across 14 days and, although there were 3 no-shows, there were 6 lovely posts from bloggers not on the tour so we’ll include them and call it 44 stops. There were also several reviews on Instagram outside of the tour too for which I’m very grateful.
I usually do some sleuthing to try to track down the star ratings for those who haven’t given one with their reviews but I’m really against it with a writing deadline so I haven’t done that this time. The stats are:
26 x 5-star
2 x 4.5-star
1 x 4.25 star (it was an 8.5/10)
4 x 4-star
11 x no ratings given (so I’m going to call them all 5-star ha ha ha!)
My favourite star-rating (which I’ve counted in the 5-star stats) has to be 5 billion. Thank you to Ceri’s Book Blog for that!
There was a lot of love out there for A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow and for the series in general – as you can see from a random selection of the quotes I’ve included in this post – which warmed my heart so much across the cold January days!
There were some reviewers for whom this was the first visit to Hedgehog Hollow and others who’d read the whole series and had been eagerly awaiting the resolution of that massive cliffhanger from Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow and it was interesting to read the perspectives from both.
An enormous THANK YOU to all the bloggers/reviewers who participated. I always try to comment on all blog and Instagram posts but sometimes I’ll miss an Insta if it’s in addition to the blog post and I haven’t been tagged in so I do apologise if I have missed any. And a huge THANK YOU as always to the fabulous Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it all on behalf of my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books.
I’m writing the 5th book in the series at the moment and it’s a relief to see there’s certainly appetite for more from the cast of human and spiky characters at Hedgehog Hollow. Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow will be out on 28th June and is available for pre-order on Kindle now (other formats will be up for pre-order later).
And not forgetting the amazing members of my own reader’s group, Redland’s Readers who’ve shared such kind feedback about this latest instalment. You’re very welcome to join us on Facebook. It’s not a book review group as there are fabulous groups who already do this so well already. It’s simply a warm and friendly space to talk spoiler-free about my books and settings and share pictures of hedgehogs, the seaside, beach huts and bears – all lovely things relating to my books – and to get a few insights into the world of publishing.
An enormous THANK YOU to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour and to all the amazing reviewers/bloggers who took part, generously giving their time to read the story, compose their review, and share it on the socials.
I’m delighted to report that this was another really positive tour. Yay!
There were a couple of no-postings and I hope those reviewers are doing okay as I noticed they haven’t posted anything for a little while. Sending hugs if they’re poorly or having a difficult time just now. There was also a promotion post only post which meant 45 reviews were shared.
Not everyone gives a rating on their posts, but I do manage to track some down when the review is also shared on Amazon around the same time. The 35 ratings shared (or sleuthed by me) were all positive with 22 x 5-star, 3 x 4.5-star, and 10 x 4-star. It’s such a thrill when every single rating is a positive one.
It was a delight to read reviews from those who’ve read several or even all of my books, noting how much they loved being back on Castle Street and among friends. For those who were new to my work, there were several comments about checking out past and/or future books which is fabulous.
There were a couple of reviewers who had read this book in its original incarnation of Charlee and the Chocolate Shop and I was delighted to read that they loved the revised (and expanded) version even more.
Some reviews were so lovely that they made me quite tearful. It’s such an honour to have such prolific readers say so many wonderful things about my writing and my abilities as an author. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I do firmly believe that recommendations are the best way for an author to succeed so I appreciate every single one of these kind reviews. You are all superstars.
Eleven days on from the publication day for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow and the blog tour has drawn to an end.
An enormous thank you to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour and to the amazing thirty-three bloggers/reviewers who took part.
I was a little apprehensive about this tour. I love this book but, as I wrote on a recent blog post (which you can read here), I knew it was a risk writing a book where one of two main characters was someone readers had (justifiably) disliked from the previous two books. It was fascinating reading the thoughts from those who’d done a massive about-turn on that particular character and now love her to those who now understand her but still don’t like her which, as I stated in my blog post, was what I expected. The great thing is they all seemed to love the story and I am so grateful for that feedback.
The cliffhanger at the end of the book was mentioned in nearly all reviews. Mostly it generated excitement (phew!), a lot of urging me to hurry up and release book 4 (sorry – not written yet!), although there were a couple of reviewers who hate cliffhangers which is something I’d never even considered until I’d finished writing this and read some of the early reviews on NetGalley. Every day is a school day, as they say!
HOT TIP! For anyone who is thinking of reading this book, don’t read the epilogue if you don’t like cliffhangers as it is purely there as a tease for the next book. The story being told in Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow does finish at the end of the book so it’s not a case of the book not properly ending so please don’t worry you’ll be left hanging with an incomplete story.
Anyway, back to the blog tour, not everyone gives ratings. Some sleuthing means I can track some down on NetGalley or Amazon but I’ve been a little less successful (or rather had a little less time to do it) so I have 11 ratings I’m unsure about but, of the remaining 22, there are 15 x 5-stars, 2 x 4.5, 4 x 4-star and 1 x 3-star, the latter being given because of the cliffhanger. The hedgehogs and I are very happy with that.
Some reviews made me laugh out loud for their humorous observations or verdicts on characters, and others were so lovely and touching, I was close to tears.
It’s especially wonderful reading about when readers have read the full series, are loving seeing the characters grow, and talk fondly about wishing they could be at Hedgehog Hollow right now. You and me both!
I also had a couple of reviews from bloggers not on the tour and really appreciate the 5 and 4.5 star ratings from them (Echoes in an Empty Room and Carla Loves to Read).
It’s so kind of all these bloggers to take the time to read the book and share their views with their followers on their blog/Insta/Twitter/all or any combination of these. Reviews and recommendations can make such a difference to the success of a book and the hedgehogs and I are fully appreciate of all the book love we’ve received over the past eleven days.
Watch out for a thank you video on Twitter really soon.
Yesterday (4th May) was the publication day for the third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series: Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. Woo hoo!
When I was a struggling indie author, publication day was a fairly ‘normal’ day. I’d post about it on social media and a few family members and friends would congratulate me, then I’d get on with my day to day work. I might nip go out for lunch with the hubby or maybe even an evening meal to celebrate but it was fairly low key because so few readers had discovered my work. I didn’t excitedly watch the charts because there wasn’t an impressive chart entry moment.
Since joining the amazing Boldwood Books, this has completely changed. Publication days are now an excited frenzy of activity on social media, responding to loads of gorgeous congratulations messages, and the start of a blog tour. I’ve learned not to attempt to write or edit as there’s too much else going on but I did slip in an appointment with the hairdresser yesterday and that was a mistake in terms of time but, my goodness, how nice was it to have my hair cut and professionally coloured for the first time since December 2019!
I debuted it during a Facebook Live with my fabulous editor Nia Beynon last night. If you weren’t able join the Live, you can catch up with it here. Thank you to all those who joined us on the evening and for the lovely comments and questions.
It was the perfect opportunity to also debut my new hedgehog print dress (awww) and show off a couple of my soft friends. Thank you to my friend Nic for the lovely knitted sparkly hedgehog, Erin.
The blog tour has started and the reviews yesterday along with the first review I’ve seen posted today are absolutely gorgeous. I also had two lovely reviews from bloggers not on the tour. Thank you to everyone who has signed up. I’m excited and a little trepidatious (is that a word?!) to hear all the comments.
I wrote a post for Boldwood’s blog about one of the themes of this book – forgiveness – which you can find here and I wrote a post for my own blog about the risks of writing about an unlikable character which you can find here.
Fabulous publication day biscuits arrived from my publisher. I love these. It’s so adorable seeing my book in biscuit format. They’re made by a company called Enchanting Bakes if you want to check them out. Amazingly they are still unopened but I suspect they won’t last beyond the morning!
We unveiled the winner of the ‘Name the Hedgehog’ competition for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. A draw was made from those who’d signed up to my newsletter and the winner, Kaye, chose Prickles as the name. As we did with the amazing Snoop Hoggy Hog who appears in New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, my hubby created a cartoon of Prickles. We saw him as a cheeky Yorkshire chappie in a flat cap, drinking his Yorkshire Tea, standing in the meadow at Hedgehog Hollow. Isn’t he fabulous?
We’ll be running another competition to name a hedgehog for book 4 so watch out for details of that late next month.
Speaking of book 4, we revealed yesterday in the Facebook Live that book 4 will be called A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow. We don’t have the blurb or cover yet but it’s available for pre-order now right here! It can only appear as a pre-order for Kindle this far in advance but it will be available for pre-order on Kobo and Apple nearer the release date. It’s out in January 2022.
Finally, let’s talk about those hedgehogs scampering up the charts! I knew I’d had a large number of pre-orders for this book – way bigger than anything I’ve experienced before – so I was hoping I might end up with a Top 100 on Amazon. The chart is meant to update hourly but that doesn’t seem to happen and yesterday it was super slow at moving. I made it to #77 by the end of the day and the full impact or those pre-orders was finally shown this morning at #38. I can’t quite believe that. Hubby had asked me what I would be happy with. Obviously I’m happy with it all and I had anticipated perhaps Top 100 on the back of pre-orders but had hoped maybe 70s. A dream would be Top 50 but I genuinely didn’t think that would happen … yet those hedgehogs went one better with Top 40! So proud!
This position has put the hedgehogs at #11 in the Hot New Releases chart and #1 in the same chart in several categories.
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is sporting #1 Best Seller tags in the UK, Australia, Canada and USA which is such a thrill and it was up to #59 in Australia yesterday. Even more fabulous was that 9 out of my 10 released books had a #1 Best Seller flag at the same time. Wow! Six of them are currently sporting one in the UK.
I’ve just checked the USA chart and am astonished to be a little outside the top 1,000 (#1,259) which is such a thrill knowing how enormous the US market is. And the hedgehogs have cracked the top 1,000 in Canada at #785 just now.
Over on Apple, they made it to #43 in the overall chart yesterday and #9 in the category chart of ‘Fiction and Literature’. They’re on the home page of Kobo too as ‘New and Notable’!
My huge apologies to anyone who is wanting to obtain the paperback version or get it from Audible. Amazon are showing the paperback as ‘currently unavailable’ despite it being a print on demand book and very much available. This is an error on their part and my publishers are working hard to rectify it but they’ve had this with another paperback recently and it did take a week so thank you for your patience. It is showing available for order on Waterstones website here. It doesn’t appear to be on Barnes and Noble yet either but should do soon. It can also be ordered from bookshops, as can any of my paperbacks.
As for Audible, it only appeared yesterday afternoon but it appeared as a pre-order with delivery in a weeks’ time. My publisher is also working with them to rectify this and we are hopeful it will properly be available today or tomorrow. Fingers crossed. Thank you so much for your patience if you’re waiting for either of these formats.
I’ll end by saying a huge THANK YOU to all the amazing readers who pre-ordered Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, making these amazing chart positions possible. THANK YOU to all those who bought or borrowed on publication day. I’m so grateful to everyone who has shared or commented on social media or sent me a private message wishing me a happy publication day and/or telling me how much they’ve loved reading it. It is such a thrill that readers have devoured the book in a day with some even saying they couldn’t sleep until they’d finished it. Wow! That just blows me away!
If you haven’t delved into the Hedgehog Hollow series already, I do strongly recommend starting at the beginning as, although the story in each book is complete, there are themes that carry across the series and threads that further develop. It’s a richer reading experience for starting at the beginning and the great news is that, if you read eBooks, the first two – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – are both still on offer. But grab them fast as the prices will go up soon. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is also in Prime Reading but won’t be for much longer and ALL my books (this series and the Whitsborough Bay stories) are in Kindle Unlimited.
Hope you all have a fabulous week. The hedgehogs and I send you our love and gratitude.
This week, I’m celebrating four amazing milestones for reviews/ratings on Amazon.
The Secret to Happiness which was the book that secured me my publishing deal with Boldwood Books, released in September 2019, has reached 1,000 ratings/reviews. Woo hoo! I’m thrilled with that.
But there’s more…
Both Hedgehog Hollow books out so far – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (book 2) have hit a whopping 1,500 ratings/reviews. Eek!
I posted a couple of weeks ago about book 2 surpassing the number of reviews for book 1 and this has continued with New Arrivals hitting 1,500 before Finding Love, despite only being released in January this year compared to July last year for book 1.
This still surprises me and I have to assume that readers are joining the series at book 2 and feeling settled enough with the story that they aren’t going back to book 1.
For those who are loving their visits to Hedgehog Hollow, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is out on 4th May but available for pre-order now and I’ve just started to write book 4. This doesn’t have a title yet but will be out in January next year.
But it doesn’t end there…
My final milestone is a whopping 2,000 reviews for Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which was a re-release in August last year, although the title remained the same as before. Oh my goodness! TWO THOUSAND!!!!!
What’s even more special is that these aren’t just huge milestones; they’re milestones full of love for the stories with more than 90% positive reviews/ratings (4 or 5-star) and the majority of them being 5-star.
I’m so grateful to readers and bloggers/reviewers for sharing their kind words and recommending my stories to others. I look at these volumes of reviews and still can’t believe they’re for the characters and plots that I created. I’m so incredibly humbled and thankful xxx
Yesterday saw the final day of the blog tour for New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow. With 36 stops over 12 days, it was epic and I certainly felt a lot of love for those hedgehogs.
I must start by thanking my publisher, Boldwood Books, for sending each new release on a blog tour and to the fabulous Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it. You are a star, Rachel.
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the first book in the series – had been on a tour in July 2020 and had been extremely well received. I was a little nervous … okay, make that extremely nervous … as to whether book two would have the same positive response. There were several familiar bloggers on the tour but also some newbies to my books. They were offered the opportunity to read book 1 as well if they wanted to catch up. Some did but most didn’t although thankfully it didn’t appear to harm the review. I personally would recommend reading the full series in order but there is a catch-up and a cast of characters at the start of book 2 to get the reader up to speed or to remind them if there’s been a gap between reading both books. This went down very well.
I’ve posted below the names of the review sites and linked each to their review if anyone (mum) wants to read some of them but I thought I’d pick out a handful of quotes which stood out to me. This doesn’t mean I didn’t love so much of what other bloggers said because I absolutely did. All the reviews gave me a warm and fuzzy glow and I could easily have included a quote from everyone who took part.
Some bloggers give a rating out of 5 and others don’t. Of those who don’t, some post a review on Amazon which has to be accompanied by a rating so I’ve been able to fill in some. I was delighted to have 20 x 5-star reviews and 6 x 4-star ones. There was only one 3-star where the reviewer wrote about loving my writing but marked it down because she drew two messages from the book which she personally disagreed with. They are themes but they aren’t actually the messages in the book – exactly the opposite in fact – but everyone takes something different away from a read based on their own personal circumstances and principles and one of my New Year’s writing resolutions is not to let negative reviews upset me. Still got quite a bit of work to do on that one!
Anyway, here are a selection of gorgeous comments. I emphasise again that I could easily have had one from every single review so, if you did take part and a quote from your review isn’t below, please don’t read anything into it!
Being Anne: “The author always creates the most wonderful living and breathing characters. The exchanges between them – the nice and the not-so-nice – are so excellent, with that quality of conversations you’re allowed to overhear and be part of, always something I particularly enjoy about the author’s books”
Wendy Reads Books: “Drama, family relationships and love are intertwined with the hedgehog rescue in this brilliant, charming story. I can’t wait for the next instalment”
Ginger Book Geek: “To say that I enjoyed this book is a massive understatement. I ADORED reading ‘New Arrivals At Hedgehog Hollow… superbly written … reading one of Jessica’s books is more like a chat between friends rather than reading an actual book. … Jessica has a way of making me feel as though I am part of the story and that’s all thanks to her very realistic and vivid storytelling”
This Hannah Reads: “Jessica Redland is fast becoming a top author for me and an automatic buy when I see a new book by her! … I absolutely loved this book and it left with me a warm fuzzy feeling”
Mama Bear’s Book Hour: “As with the previous books of Jessica’s that I have read, this one was well written, easy to digest and knows how to tug your heartstrings. And I mean, mine got tugged so hard, it’s going to take a week of rom com binging to fix them. All the characters, and I mean every single character you meet, feels like a real person or reminds you of your neighbour down the street. I would move to Whitsborough or its surrounding areas if I could. It sounds delightful”
Ceri’s Little Blog: “This author seems to be an expert in showcasing realism, romance and domestic drama… My only regret after reading this book is that I finished it so quickly and it’s taken me so long to read something by this author! … I have absolutely loved this one and would recommend it to all women’s fiction fans. I would rate this author up there with some of my all time faves, including Milly Johnson, Holly Martin, Mary Jayne Baker and Lucy Diamond”
Breakfast at Shelby’s: “Jessica Redland really does not disappoint with her stories, they are absolutely phenomenal and she really does have the power and talent within her writing to have you feeling every type of emotion. Her characters are always wonderfully developed and the settings, especially Hedgehog Hollow, are an absolute comfort to be in”
Reading Girl Reviews: “Heartwarming, cozy, and downright realistic when it comes to family drama, this truly is one of the best series I have read in a very long time. I laughed, I got angry, I cried, and my heart melted all while reading this book”
Tizi’s Book Review: “I adored the first part, so I kind of feared that this story wouldn’t fulfil my expectations, but the author managed again to break my heart, healed it again, made me swoon, made me smile, made my cry, made me angry and in the end, just made me utterly happy… oh yes, and made me love hedgehogs even a little bit more!”
Little Miss Book Lover 87: “I adore Jess Redland, this is an author that you absolutely know will not disappoint. This book has been no different… The story itself is also absolutely gorgeous and has left me with a huge smile. I have devoured this book in just one sitting… this book might possibly be my new favourite favourite”
Love the Smell of a Book: “This series is a true masterpiece it is full of love and forgiveness as well as being a hive of information about hedgehogs… I picked up this book just a couple of days ago and I flew through it as Sammie & Josh are such great characters it’s like the book is constantly calling for me to pick it up and keep reading. I love the books that leave you missing them as you weren’t ready to finish them and this story is definitely one of those”
An absolutely enormous THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to read New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow and to share their views. I’m so delighted that so many of you have expressed excitement for book 3 – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – which will be out on 4th May.
All three books are/will be available on eBook for Kindle, Kobo and Apple, as paperbacks, physical audio, audio download, large print format and via streaming services. Here’s the links on Amazon if you’re interested:
Boldwood Books, my amazing publishers, are celebrating the one-year anniversary of their first published book and what a year it’s been for Boldwood as a publisher and for me personally as one of their authors.
They shared a graphic on their social media this morning which I’ve shamelessly stolen, summarising an amazing year:
I was the 5th author to be published with The Secret to Happiness released on 3rd September 2019. My re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series came out in the first quarter of the year and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the start of a new series – came out last month. Six of those 59 titles published are therefore mine. Greedy, aren’t I?
I’ve had such an amazing first year as a Boldwood author.
I’ve gone from languishing in the charts and failing to make an impact to being a Top 10 international bestseller… Woo hoo!!!! All of my books have been in the UK Kindle Top 200 with two of them entering the Top 100. Just yesterday, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (which has been in the Top 100 since the start of May, peaking at #14) and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow were in the Top 100 at the same time which was lovely. Five titles have been in the Top 30 on the AppleBooks chart and the other – Making Wishes at Bay View – only didn’t make it quite that high because it was on a free offer and #1 in the free chart.
I’ve gone from days and days of zero sales to… well, watch this space as I should have an announcement about that next week when July’s sales figures are in. Eek! It’s something I could never, ever have dreamed I’d achieve until I joined Boldwood.
I’ve gone from having my titles in eBook only… to 9 formats. Wow! You’re going to ask me to name them all, aren’t you? Argh! I think it’s eBook on 3 platforms (Kindle, Kobo, AppleBooks), paperback, large print, audio MP3, audio CD, digital audio and one more format that I know about but there’s not been an official announcement yet so I’d better not say just yet). The Secret to Happiness has appeared in The Works stores around the UK and online and it is always a dream to hold (and sniff and stroke) your own paperback. It’s not just me. I promise. We all do it!
I’ve gone from having a demanding day job… to being a full-time author and I could not be happier to be able to spend my days chatting to my fictional friends and making stuff up. And procrastinating a bit on social media. Okay, procrastinating a lot! Although I did write 80k words of my second Hedgehog Hollow book since leaving the day job so I’ve got my head down too.
I’ve gone from feeling like a failure… to feeling like a real author who isn’t just wasting their time slapping a few words on a computer and hoping somebody will read them. If anyone asked me what I do, I’d always say I work in HR (true) and only occasionally add in an embarrassed voice that I also write books. Why? Because I dreaded the next question: Would I have heard of you? Cringe! Er, no. Only my mum has! Or the classic: I’d love to write a book… if only I had the time! (As if to suggest that I clearly had loads of spare time on my hands!) Or the glazed-over eyes/disinterest/disbelief and swift change of subject.
Now, I proudly declare I’m an author – or I did before Covid turned me into more of a hermit than usual – while trying to push that pain in the backside, Imposter Syndrome, back in his box. Ooh, he’s a little tinker.
Now, readers get in touch with me to say they’ve loved my work. Now, other authors ask me to read and endorse their books. I have to pinch myself every time these things happen and wonder if they’ve got the right person!
So on Boldwood’s 1-year publication anniversary, my thanks go to so many people who have changed my life over the past year:
Boldwood Books for inviting me into their fold and believing in me – Amanda, Nia, Caroline, Sarah, Megan and Ellie (and welcome Emily!)
Our audio partners, Isis Audio, and Ulverscroft who run the uLibrary App and produce our large print books. Your work is fabulous and my audios, voiced by Lucy Brownhill and Emma Swan are brilliant
My superb, passionate, talented and lovely editor, Nia Beynon, whose support and advice I value so highly
My fellow Boldwood authors for being such a supportive community
My husband, Mark, and our daughter, Ashleigh, for being amazing and never moaning about the crazy hours I had to work trying to balance a day job with writing
My mum for being my number one fan!
The amazing book blogger community, some of whom have been with me since my debut release. You are such amazing champions of my work and I appreciate all your kind words and promotion so much
Any of my family and friends who’ve read/reviewed/promoted my books. You know who you are and I’m so very grateful
My writing bestie and super-talented fellow author, Sharon Booth, for tea, cake, advice, encouragement and sympathy
My other Write Romantic buddies for being there with virtual hugs during hard times and congratulations during the good
The Beverley Chapter of the RNA who are so much fun to be around. So glad we’ve managed to keep our meetings going virtually
A whole host of authors, some of whom I’ve met, some of whom I only ‘know’ virtually who’ve been so supportive and encouraging
And last, but absolutely not least, all you lovely readers. Boldwood say they’d be nothing without their authors and I’d be nothing without my readers. You are absolute stars, every one of you
If I had some cake, I’d be tucking into it right now but, instead, I’ll take a sip of Diet Pepsi (I so know how to party!) and toast Boldwood Books and their team of amazing authors.
If you’re an author, Boldwood are currently closed for submissions but will be open again later in the year. I cannot recommend them enough as a home for your books so do follow them on social media and watch out for news.
The blog tour for the publication of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow has just finished and what an epic tour it has been. Across 13 days, there have been a whopping 37 stops. 36 of the bloggers gave reviews and one provided an extract only. What fabulous exposure!
Those damn nerves…
It’s exciting but also a little nerve-wracking when one of my books goes on a blog tour. The dream is that every single participant has loved it, waxes lyrical about how amazing it is and insists that everyone simply must read it. The reality is that there will be mixed opinion because we don’t all like the same things. I just have to hope that those who don’t love it don’t hate it either.
When I see the names of familiar bloggers on the schedule, there’s a momentary feeling of relief – they’ve loved my other books so they’re bound to love this one – followed by panic – what if they think this is the one where I’ve lost my touch and they say it’s okay but not a patch on xxxxx?
When I see the names of new-to-my-books bloggers on the schedule, there’s a mixture of hope – they could become a new ‘fan’ with a huge following who highly recommends my book and reads my back catalogue – followed by that panic once more – what if they regret trying a different author and they don’t like my voice or what I write?
So there I am with this fission of nerves, waiting for the first review to come in. Please let the first one be a nice one! With all this turmoil, who’d be an author, eh?
Did they like it?
Overwhelmingly yes. Phew!
Not all bloggers give ratings. On this tour, 21 (60%) of the 36 reviews included one and they were all positive with the majority at the top end:
14 x 5-star (66.5%)
1 x 4.5 star (5%)
6 x 4-star (28.5%)
What did they think of the main character?
A consensus was that everyone loved the main character, Samantha, and were rooting for her right from the start of the book. I love Samantha. She’s a genuinely kind and caring person but she is taken advantage of for this. I worked hard on developing a rounded, realistic character and was conscious that I didn’t want her to come across as a complete pushover who could not stand up for herself. I was thrilled that nobody saw her that way and understood that the problems lay with those around her rather than Samantha being weak. If they wanted to shout at someone, it was those who used her rather than Samantha.
Another common thread was the love for Samantha’s relationship with Thomas, the owner of dilapidated farm Hedgehog Hollow. I love creating inter-generational relationships. I first did this with Callie and Ruby in Making Wishes at Bay View and it was such a pleasure to create a very different relationship between Sam and Thomas but with a similar age gap.
What did they think of the antagonist(s) (baddies)?
Most books will have one or more antagonists – the person(s) who make the hero’s journey difficult. This could be a deceitful partner, an ex, a sibling, a parent, a bully, a friend, their boss, a neighbour…. the possibilities go on and on. This is reflective of real life where we simply cannot get on with everyone but some relationships affect us more negatively or hinder our growth more than others.
I loved how passionate some of the bloggers became about Samantha’s family – specifically the female members – and my absolute favourite quote ever comes from Ginger Book Geek who called them ‘numpties’ (one of my favourite words) and said she wanted to give them ‘a darn good slap with a wet flip flop’. I actually laughed out loud when I read that.
I was particularly nervous about how bloggers would react to how Sam’s family treated her because I had a couple of scathing comments about this over on NetGalley including a reviewer who gave the book 3-stars and wrote, ‘I devoured this book but honestly the relationship between Sam and her mum was so painful to read about that I cannot recommend this as an escapist read… I would remove [that plot line]… disgusted me… can’t rate higher due to the nastiness’. Eek and ouch! Hence my nerves ahead of the blog tour.
The thing is, Sam couldn’t have gone on the journey she went on without those ‘baddies’. The story wouldn’t have been the story. And then I’d have received criticism for it being bland or nothing happening.
Also, fiction is based on reality and, sadly, the reality is that there are people out there who behave like Sam’s family. I know we would all love the world to be a happy place where everyone is kind and tolerant and considerate. But they aren’t. Family feuds and toxic relationships exist and a couple of bloggers proved this by sharing personal insights into how they could relate to Sam’s plight based on difficult relationships with their own families. For those in this situation, I send you my best wishes.
Despite a couple of other negative comments about the toxic relationships on NetGalley, the bloggers on the tour seemed to understand the whole premise of the story: that sometimes blood is not thicker than water, that the real meaning of ‘family’ can be found in unexpected places, and that sometimes there are people in your life who don’t deserve to be and being kind can mean being kind to yourself by walking away from those who continually bring you down.
What about the romance?
The title of the book ‘Finding Love…’ relates to so many aspects of this story and it’s not just about a romantic love; it’s about loving your family, your friends, and yourself.
I like to mix up the way I tell my stories. Some of them are very much driven by the romance such as New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms whereas other stories are much more about friendships and/or family such as The Secret to Happiness and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. There will always be a romance story but it’s not always the main premise.
On the tour, one blogger thought the romance was ‘a little shoehorned in’ and the book could have done without it but thankfully most loved the romance and felt it rightly took a back seat while the other themes had the opportunity to shine.
Were they reaching for the tissues?
It was fascinating to read how emotional bloggers found the book. I sobbed my heart out while writing a few of the scenes but I confess that I’m a sobber. Everything makes me cry! Would others have the same reaction to Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow?
It seems it certainly did draw on the emotions from bringing a tear to the reader’s eye to them crying rivers with comments such as ‘this book just hit me hard in the feelings’ (Books and Bookends), ‘I laughed, I cried, I felt like I was there’ (Reading Girl Reviews) and the most gorgeous accolade from Book Reviews by Shalini who called me the ‘queen of hearts’ – ‘the story unfolded so brilliantly that at times my heart shattered into a million pieces where each piece was laden with so many emotions that I didn’t know where one began and the other ended’. Hugs to you, Shalini ❤
And did they love the hedgehogs?
Yes, overwhelmingly the hedgehogs were a hit. Which is just as well because the next two books in the series will have LOADS of hogs in them.
Thank you so much…
Thank you to everyone who participated in the tour. It goes without saying that I love reading the reviews where it’s the dream I described earlier – you’ve loved my work, you wax lyrical about how amazing it is and recommend it to all your followers. Anyone who has described it as a ‘page-turner’ and/or stated ‘I couldn’t put it down’ – including the fabulous anecdote from Yvonne at Me and My Books who wrote ‘I started it as I got in the bath, 2 hours later I decided I really need to get out the bath! I then got dry, warmed up in PJs and finished reading the book, it was that good!’ – has filled my heart with joy.
As I said at the start, we don’t all like the same things and I equally value the opinion of those who have liked but not loved my work. I find it most helpful when there’s a reason given for this because I don’t think writers ever stop learning. If something is raised by one blogger on a 37-stop tour, I’m going to put it down to personal tastes. If something is raised by several bloggers, then this gives me something to think about in future books.
In my previous job as a trainer and coach, there was a saying, ‘feedback is a gift.’ That might sound a bit cheesy but I do agree with the sentiment. The gift is one of learning and, as a writer, I can only continue to improve if I continue to learn.
Here’s the rub…
The thing about gifts is that some are thoughtfully packaged in shiny paper with a pretty bow and presented to the recipient with care and, even if the gift inside may not be exactly what the recipient might have hoped for, the recipient still feels the kindness and the overall experience is positive.
Other gifts are poorly-wrapped in barely-stuck-together newspaper or not wrapped at all and are tossed towards the recipient like a hand grenade.
I’m fortunate that I’ve received 37 beautifully-packaged gifts on the blog tour for Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow for which I am ever so grateful. And very relieved!
Thank you to everyone who has shared their reviews on Twitter, Insta and/or Facebook and RT’d those that others have shared, helping spread the word.
And my final thank you goes to my amazing publisher Boldwood Books and Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising and executing such an amazing tour. I’ve worked with Rachel on several blog tours as an indie writer and was absolutely delighted when Boldwood engaged with her to deliver all the BW author tours. She is brilliant at it!
I look forward to seeing what my next (now full) blog tour brings – a joint one for the refreshed re-released Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe starting 8th September when Starry Skies is released.
You can buy Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow on Amazon here. It’s also available via AppleBooks and Kobo and is out in audio, paperback, eBook and large print formats.
THANK YOU: Rachel’s Random Resources – find her website here Boldwood Books – find their website here
Today – Saturday 23rd May 2020 – is a very special day for me because today is the day I first became a published author. Happy anniversary to me!
My first full-length novel was released on 3rd June 2015 but my publishers at the time – So Vain Books (no longer trading) – asked me if I’d write a short story linked to the series that they could release ahead of Searching for Steven (now refreshed and reissued through Boldwood Books as New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms). I was up for the challenge but ‘short’ proved to be a bit too much of a challenge and I actually wrote a novella.
The original cover, then two versions as indie releases
At the start of Searching for Steven, Sarah returns home to Whitsborough Bay for a weekend and helps her Auntie Kay, the owner of flower shop Seaside Blooms, prepare the flowers for a wedding. The brother of the bride, Nick, collects them and my idea for the novella was to tell the story of how his sister, Callie, met the man she’s about to marry.
Raving About Rhys, released on 23rd May 2015, acted as a prequel to the trilogy that So Vain Books were going to publish, introducing the reader to the world of Whitsborough Bay and introducing Nick as one of the main characters in the trilogy.
A few years later, an idea for a sequel to Raving About Rhys kept nudging at me and Callie’s Christmas Wish – a short novel – was born.
My publishing deal with Boldwood Books was for a combination of new books and those from my back catalogue. We made the decision to combine Raving About Rhys and Callie’s Christmas Wish into one full-length novel – Making Wishes at Bay View – to be released as book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series. The full four-book series is available right now as an eBook on Kindle, Kobo and AppleBooks, as well as paperback and audio formats:
Book 1 – Making Wishes at Bay View
Book 2 – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms
Book 3 – Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove
Book 4 – Coming Home to Seashell Cottage
So much has changed in the five years since that first book was published. It’s been a half-decade of highs and lows.
My original publisher ceasing trading
Failing to make an impact as an indie writer
Many days of zero sales and limited writing income
Being rank-stripped twice by Amazon
Giving a talk as part of a creative writing event in a cafe in town and nobody attending except two friends, the boyfriend of one of them, and two passers-by the embarrassed owner dragged in off the street
Rejections when I looked for a second publishing deal
Trying – and usually failing – to fit in writing on evenings and weekends around my demanding day job
But these were definitely outweighed by the highs:
Securing my first publishing deal – and having two offers on the table
Seeing my work out there for the first time ever
Having a launch party for my friends and family
Receiving great reviews
The support of the blogging community, some of whom have been there since my very first release
Writing and releasing another five more novels as an indie writer
Obtaining a Masters in Creative Writing
Giving talks in my local libraries
Securing my publishing deal with Boldwood Books
Releasing another brand new novel – The Secret to Happiness – through Boldwood Books
Some amazing successes with the reissued Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series including Top 5 in the AppleBooks chart for Books 2-4 and #14 in the overall Kindle chart for Book 2
Officially becoming a UK and international bestselling author, with The Secret to Happiness reaching #11 in Australia and #9 in Canada
Holding the Boldwood paperbacks and audiobooks in my hands for the first time
Readers emailing me or contacting me on social media to say how much they’ve loved my stories
Readers telling me they’ve binge-read my entire back catalogue during lockdown and have valued the comfort and escapism my words have given them
Finally feeling like a ‘real’ author
Being able to resign from my day job to write full-time (two weeks left to go!)
Five years ago, I was wide awake at midnight, watching for Raving About Rhys appearing on my Kindle – a magical moment. I hoped it and the subsequent three books would be well-received but my dreams didn’t go much further than that. I’d written three books and a novella and I genuinely had no idea where that would take me. Would anyone want to read the ones I’d written? If so, would I be capable of writing more?
During those five years, I’ve had times when I’ve felt so low about poor chart positions, lack of sales, rejection and imposter syndrome that I wondered whether it was time to call it a day.
But all good things come to those who wait – not easy for someone like me who is so impatient when it comes to their career – and they certainly did. I will be forever grateful to Boldwood Books for believing in me and making me one of their first twenty authors.
Happy five year anniversary to me and I’m so excited about what could happen in the next five years. Boldwood have helped me tick so much off my author’s bucket list in the nine months since The Secret to Happiness was published, who knows what other amazing goals they’ll help me achieve next.
A huge thank you to Amanda, Nia, Megan and the rest of the team and fellow-authors at #TeamBoldwood. You’ve made my five-year anniversary a very happy one. Cheers!