The best laid plans and why technology is the root of all evil

Cast your mind back to September 2020. Everybody had watched the entirety of Netflix twice. Cardi B was telling the world about her WAP, and I was preparing to release my debut self-published novel after six months of market research and launch planning. After writing the book, I swapped my creative hat for my business hat and approached the task with the meticulous attention to detail of a cold-blooded mercenary.

And it paid off.

My first novel, We Men of Ash and Shadow did alright for itself. Did I set the literary world on fire? No. Am I now able to throw another several koi carp in the piano-shaped pool? Not quite. But I did exceed all the goals I set for myself. It turned a profit. All good things. Most of which I attribute to my spending those six months being really organised, having hundreds of spreadsheets and spending a lot of time sticking Post-it notes all over the living room carpet.

If anyone wants to hear more about strategic post-it note placement, check out my interview with Jose’s Amazing Worlds from late last year:

My new book, The Hallows, is coming out in March this year. You would think that after four years and five books, my book launch prep work would be down to a fine art. And in terms of having lots of spreadsheets and keeping Post-it notes in business, it is.

In terms of executing said launch plan. Not so much. A few weeks ago, I started preparing to send ARC copies of the book. I checked the files. I uploaded them to multiple devices to ensure I could iron out any kinks. I am a meticulous planner. I am detail-orientated. Most importantly, making even the most minor mistake tends to send me into a downward spiral of crushing self-loathing. The sort only soothed with time and cheesecake.

So, when I discovered that not only had I accidentally merged TWO files and uploaded these as my ARC, but sent this out to reviewers, complete with duplicate chapter, wonky index and half a paragraph cut, you can imagine how I reacted. If you can’t imagine, it was like that scene in The Exorcist when Regan’s head starts spinning around and redecorating the room with projectile vomit.

My life and career were over. I had just proven myself to be a complete fraud. I was not detail-orientated. I was not meticulous. I had made a catastrophic error that would cause people to point and laugh at me in the street for years. Anyway, after about three hours of being slightly over dramatic, I stopped climbing the walls and dropped a crisis level.

I went into ‘damage control’ mode. There was damage! It needed controlling! Admittedly, at this point I was probably still being a bit dramatic. I started contacting my ARC readers, explaining my heinous error. I offered to replace the ARC with an updated copy and apologised for the inconvenience.

Within 24 hours, everyone who wanted a new ARC had requested one. Everyone who didn’t care one way another was happy to continue with the less-than-perfect original version. To my total astonishment, there were no calls to mount my head on a spike as a warning to other writers. In truth, everyone was really nice about it. In retrospect, of course they were. I’ve never sent an ARC to anyone who wasn’t. The writer, reviewer and reader community are generally top sorts and decent folks who simply want to enjoy good stories.

In other news, the first session of Dice Chewing of 2024 was on Sunday, 28th January. As ever, I meticulously planned our session, set up all my maps and wrote out extensive notes. Ten minutes in, I started experiencing audio issues. There was echoing. The microphone kept cutting out. No matter how many settings I changed, plugs I unplugged, or different volume variations, it was almost impossible for the players to understand what was happening. I started to stress out. DMing is nerve wracking.  The players had come to play, and I was letting them down. But as with the whole ARC debacle, the real issue was in my head. The clanging chimes of doom I could hear were entirely fictional.

The players were, as ever, kind, patient and understanding. Fortunately, my husband sacrificed a night of playing so I could use his gaming PC and the session could continue. It was an epic session that ended with the party levelling up. Technology might be the root of all evil, but we eat evil for breakfast.

The point of my story is this. You can be good at something and still make a mistake. You can tell everyone you’re good at something and still make a mistake. You. Can. Make. Mistakes. Things go wrong. Stuff goes sideways. People will forgive you. The difficult part is learning to forgive yourself and keeping things in perspective. I’m trying to get better at this, but it is a work in progress.

The Hallows comes out on 22nd March, complete with an updated index and minus the duplicate chapter.

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Author: Holly Tinsley

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