Monday, 22 January 2018

Writing tips - A blog about writing a blog!

A blog is a great way to promote your book, network, engage with readers and stay in touch with topical issues that relate to your book’s subject matter. There are some amazing bloggers and blogs alike out there, without which many authors would not have had the success they have acheived. They are a fundemental element of promoting yourself and your books but more than that, they are an excellent way to connect with readers who will become fans and fans who will ultimately become friends.
Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of blogging? 
Worry not - it’s fairly straightforward to be a blogger. Some blogs look really professional and have an extensive following, but don’t be put off. All bloggers all started from scratch. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be posting in no time.

Five Things to Think About Before Starting a Blog

·      What will you blog about?
o   Think through what you want to blog about. Blogs first started out as online diaries - the word ‘blog’ comes from ‘web log’ – which was a record of the blogger’s life. Plenty of people still use their blogs as online diaries, but they can be more focused on a topic or broad area of interest too, anything from politics to parenthood – obviously its best that your blog relates to your book as the point of it is to reach out to potential readers. But it’s not all work, work, work. If fact, it’s better if you stay away from relentless self-promotion and engage your audience on a more natural, informal level. Before you get started, decide if your blog will be a place for you to share your life, or a place for exploring a particular topic.

·      Who are your readers?
o   Consider what kind of readers you want to attract. You can use your blog as a personal diary or to swap stories with people you know but you should also be aiming to attract new readers, who will hopefully like your writing and want to buy your book. Whatever you’re blogging about, it’s a good idea to define your audience and write for a particular group of readers. This will help you set the tone of your blog – which should be similar to the tone of your book.

·      How often will you post?
o   Some writers get hooked on blogging and it takes over their lives. Others set up a blog and forget all about it. So, it’s a good idea to decide on exactly how often you’re going to post. It might be helpful to set yourself a deadline for each post. Ideally, you should aim to update your blog at least once a week – more during your Britain’s Next Bestseller campaign and in the run up to publication – with posts that are interesting and engaging to your potential readers. Don’t worry – these posts shouldn’t all be about you – but more about that later.

·      What are you blogging about?
o   The main purpose of your blog is to generate interest in your book. With that in mind, you can promote yourself and your book by talking about it, up-dating readers on progress and even featuring extracts to wet their appetite. But the blog shouldn’t just be about self-promotion. Readers are likely to be turned off if your blog reads like one long sales pitch.
o   With that in mind, think about how you can engage with your readers and make your blog a must-read for them. What do readers get out of it? You can generate interest and keep your blog ‘current’ by responding with your take on topical events or sharing relevant information that your readers might find interesting. You can also link and respond to other writers and bloggers who are writing about similar subjects, which might attract their readers to your blog. Don’t look at other writers as ‘competition’, look at them as potential reviewers who can endorse your writing and share their readership.

o   And remember, a blog is your public, online imprint, so whilst it’s ok to be informal, it’s wise to keep the content accurate and up-to-date.

·      Are you blogging as yourself?
o   Think about how much information about yourself you want to share with the world – because anything you put online can be Googled. It’s a good idea to write down a list of anything you want to keep private to help you along the way. It might be a good idea to decide in advance anything in particular (where you work, for instance) you’d like to keep private. If your posts are particularly personal, embarrassing or controversial then you might prefer to hide behind an alter-ego – perhaps you could write the blog from the point of view of the main character in your book. Or have an alter-ego occasionally ‘guest post’ on subjects you don’t want to put your real name too.

The Next Steps

Here are a few simple things that you can do right away to get you started…

·      Read some blogs which are in a similar genre to yours and think about what you like and don’t like about them. Need help in finding similar bloggers? Take a look at:

·    Start commenting on other bloggers’ posts and following blogs you like. Try to make intelligent comments that demonstrate your interest and expertise on the subject. Or empathise with the blogger if that’s more appropriate. It’s OK not to agree with everything the blogger says, but don’t be argumentative or confrontational for the sake of it. Your hope is that these bloggers and their readers will start following you too!

·       Create a title for your blog which is short and memorable (three words-ish). Remember, a title should be catchy - it shouldn’t just be a sentence describing your blog.

·        Pick a platform; decide which blog tool you are going to use - Blogger and WordPress are the two we recommend, but you could try Tumblr or TypePad... You can get lots of help from each of the blogging sites to help you get started. If you would like to set your blog up using WordPress or Blogger then you we have a quick ‘how-to’ guide below…

Setting Up a Blog on WordPress

So you’ve read our tips on how to start a blog and you’re ready to take the plunge…

·      The first thing you need to decide on is your Blog Address or URL. Where possible, this should be the same as your blog’s title and related to your book title.
·      After this you will receive an email confirming your registration and asking you to activate your blog.
·      The next thing to do is choose a starter theme. You can change this at any point so just choose something you want to try out, or you can stick to the default theme. And you’ve created a new blog!
·      You will then be logged into the Dashboard. From here you can write new posts and control your blog’s settings.
·      Choose what information will be displayed publicly on your profile such as your name, picture and About Me.
·      Manage the appearance of your blog with Themes, Widgets, Menus and more.
·      And, of course, write a post: write a title and add some text. Your first post should be a bit of an introduction about yourself and the blog and should give an indication as to what you’re going to write about.
·      Once you’ve settled in, you can get creative with the layout, add images and links and include labels. You can preview the post to see what it will look like on the page. Once you are happy with it – hit publish! Happy blogging!

Setting up a Blog on Blogger

·      If you have a Google account, log in. If you don’t, you’ll need to create a Google account to use Blogger, or create a limited Blogger profile.
·      Choose your blog’s title and the web address. Try to make your blog title relate to your book and make the web address as similar as possible - this will make it easier for people to find your blog.
·      Now it’s time to choose what your blog will look like. You can change this at any point, so just choose something you want to try out. Select a layout template. And you’ve created a new blog!
·      You will then come to a webpage called your Dashboard. This is where you can edit your settings and the layout of your blog, change the template, view page stats and comments, and, of course, write a post!
·      To write a post, select the pencil icon at the top of the page or the New Post button on the left hand side and a textbox will come up. This is your new post, and it’s time to start writing. Write a title and type some text in. Your first post should be a little bit of an introduction to yourself and the blog and give an indication as to what you’re going to write about. If you like, you can get creative with the layout, add images and links and include labels. You can preview the post and see what it will look like on the page.
·      When you are ready, hit ‘Publish’ and you’ll return to the Dashboard. Congratulations! You’ve just set up your new blog! Happy blogging!
     Don’t forget to add your Facebook and Twitter details to your blog so readers can click ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ you. You can add ‘gadgets’ to your blog which enable readers to do this there and then.

Blogging for Improvers

Once you are up and blogging, speak to us about promoting your posts by joining linky, bloghops, blog carnivals and using Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Keywords, Google Keyword, metatags, hyperlinks and pictures. Once you’ve got most of the content for your blog written, it’s time to start thinking about adding those little extras to help to make your entry dynamic and engaging for your reader, including video clips, polls or quizzes, podcast interviews, relevant articles or musical playlists. 

And that's pretty much it. So, off you go... spread the word of your awesomeness and make some fantastic friends in the meantime. (I'm talking about you, Muffin, Sarah, Emma and Gordon!)

Useful Links


*sections contributed to by Murielle Maupoint*

Friday, 12 January 2018

Writing Tips - Do I need to write more than one book?

This is something we here a lot here. It is asked in a variety of shapes and forms, but the intention is the same.

'My book is no longer selling well and it's been out for 6 months/a year/two years... why not?'

Before we get to that, there are a few other things to consider.

Firstly, the marketplace is chock full of books. All are of differing quality, size and shape. As an author, you want to write a good book; a great book that will stand the test of time. and that is not easy. Writing a good book is actually difficult. Take into account wanting it to stand out above the rest, be remembered and lauded for years to come... it becomes even more challenging.

An important thing to remember is you cannot only write one book and expect to make profits from it indefinitely, if at all. Unless you end up fortunate enough to wind up with one of the big five after securing a literary agent, then you have to acknowledge that it will take a lot of work, time and effort to make your book stand out from the madding crowd. 

This is of course, absolutely possible. Rachel Abbott, Mark Dawson, LJ Ross and Adam Croft are perfect examples of authors who have been extremely successful as self-published authors. It didn't happen overnight for them however; they had to spend a great deal of time and money to see a return of investment. Mark Dawson's debut novel in the John Milton series is excellent, but it didn't make him an overnight success nor did his previous published titles.

Of course, it depends if you only got into writing because you wish to make money. Correction, we would all like to be able to make a living from writing but the reality is that only about 11% of authors can and do.

The correct way to look at it is that you write because you love it and always wanted others to enjoy the stories you have in your head. If they happen to make you a few quid, then that is excellent!

Nor is it about churning out book after book necessarily. Yes, you cannot just write and release one title and rest on your laurels (notable examples of only one title being a hit or classic are Harper Lee with To Kill A Mockingbird. It would more than 35 years before she had another book published or E L James who made a few pounds here and there with the literary classic ' Fifty Shades of Grey'. Love it or hate it, it captured the zeitgeist).

You need to be releasing more books to keep your author name alive and in readers minds. Some put out three or four books a year (I'm not saying that that is the standard; I couldn't write four books a year and them be anywhere near good. Some might argue that I only release two a year and they are rubbish, but that is for another blog!); others release less. James Patterson releases 1002 titles a year and has sustained success (I'm exaggerating slightly, he only releases 964 a year), but the point is you cannot necessarily release only one book and then wonder why, 6 months to a year later it isn't doing as well.

Any publisher should continue to promote all their titles, but there will always be newer titles that take priority in regards to the scope of promotion. Here we afford all our titles promotion in a variety of guises; some with P.R support, some with book trailers, some with reductions in price, social medial advertising... but all of them are continuously promoted. After all, you can't promote every title at once, all the time. Even Peter James doesn't have Pan promoting his very first book. Readers buy his old books because they see his new releases.

The thing is, do you wish to write for the market or yourself? Personally, I think you should always write for yourself; write the books you would like to read. And if there is a market out there, eventually it will be found. Traditional publishers tend to focus on commercial viability and books that will win awards. We live in a literary climate that is perhaps too selective based upon the notion that good books are a rare commodity and only produced by notable publishers.

That is crap. So those who may choose self-publishing are advised to crank out title after title to increase visibility. If an author wishes to focus solely on Amazon rankings, how many reviews they have and the number of followers they have on social media then they are, perhaps, barking up the wrong perverbial. 

Don't get me wrong, social media is an invaluable tool nowadays and you can't market or even write a book without it. And yes, Amazon is important as are other book platforms; reviews are a good sign of the quality of your work but they are not the bee all and end all.

Your story should show it has taken time, have been proof read, copy edited, formatted meticulously. And that's before you get to the cover. Create (with professional help if necessary) the most beautiful, eye catching cover that will grab attention immediately. All the the aforementioned authors in the Mark Dawson paragraph write books that are professional, expertly written, edited and have the look of a bestseller (in fact, the majority of them are, locally and internationally).

But you focus should be on writing an excellent book, one that will still be ticking over of its own according in years to come. Be proud of the book you write and you will see it on social media from time to time and on readers bookshelves.

Everything else - the Amazon sales and rankings, the Twitter sharing and Facebook plugs, admiration and awards - will all come of their own accord if your book is good enough. Not only that, it will be well deserve and hard earned. It doesn't matter if it is with Harper Collins or Amazon KDP and self-published. If you write it, they will come.

Be a wordsmith, not a bean counter as one journalist once said. There is no one saying don't write multiple books and release them; just don't feel pressured into doing so as being made to believe it is the only way to success and don't be overly concerned with the financial mandate. 

Write a book that will stand the test of time or that captures reader's imaginations and sends them light years away on dangerous adventures or fills them with feelings of love and longing and the rest will come.

Trust me. I'm a nurse😉

Monday, 8 January 2018

Writing Tips - Characters

Writing is one of the most subjective art forms there is. For every individual that loves your story, two might hate it or at least dislike it intensely. That's not as bad as it sounds; you can expect diversity of opinion when your book leaves your hands for a publisher. 

Once out in the big, wide world your characters no longer remain your property. You have birthed them, raised them and learned their every characteristic and facial tick. Yet eventually, you know you have to let them go. 

For this first blog on writing hints and tips, we'll have a brief look at characters. For any of you who may find themselves a little stuck, these might just be the chock to help you drive out of the mud.

We’ve all been there – fallen a little bit in love with a character in a novel and been sorry to say goodbye to them at the end of the book. 
Chances are these characters embody some or many of these classic character archetypes; 

Writing characters is difficult. Do you make them realistic, larger than life, fantastical or simply a plot device? As with the above, chances are you have also followed this process when creating your characters and their arc - 

But how are engaging characters born? Chances are their creators knew them inside out before committing them to paper. Click here for a great exercise in getting to know your character. Try it out and watch your characters come to life over a matter of days!

But what makes a character likeable? It’s certainly not about being too good to be true. Readers want someone they can relate to. There’s got to be room for growth and flexibility. Alice Bradbury takes a look at creating sympathy without saintliness here;

You can also have a character who is the antagonist, yet someone 
that you can relate to or even sympathise with. Maybe you even end up cheering them on. Think Riddick in Pitch Black or Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs. Unpleasant individuals, certainly. But likeable? Definitely. We love to hate to love them. A character such as those and many others can turn a mediocre storyline into a gripping page-turner.

Yet when you know your character, you have to make them come alive. Body language is a great way to show not tell when it comes to a character’s emotions. Take a look at Joanna Waugh’s body language cues for some good ideas -

K.M. Weiland talks about a simple way to make your characters ‘pop’ in her great video tutorial here. 

Physical descriptions can be useful but for novelist Sarah Painter, it’s not just about how the reader sees the characters, but also the characters see each other. What characters notice about other people shows a lot about their own personality -

Sometimes it’s all in the details – something as simple as coming up with an age-appropriate name for your character can bring them to life. Click here for a great tool for matching your character’s name and age.

The most important thing, however, is to enjoy them as you write and bring them to life. You never know, you may be coming across them in a later story (hopefully yours; if it's someone else's that's plagiarism and is a bit pants really).

The above article was written by Murielle Maupoint and expanded upon by David McCaffrey