Children in Read is an initiative that allows authors to
donate a book (or books) to one of the best-known charities in the UK –
Children in Need, through an on-line auction.
First and foremost, this is not just about books written for
kids – it is very much about books written for all ages and tastes, and across pretty
well EVERY genre.
These are the genres they currently divide books into:
Children’s Laureates Autobiography/Biography Children
Christmas Contemporary Cookery
Crime Thriller Educational Fantasy
Suspense Thriller T.V.
& Film Young
Multiple books Dr
For authors, I think it’s a superb cause. You get YOUR book
into the hands of someone who really wants it. It costs you 1. A book, 2, A
Jiffy-bag, and 3. Postage. AND you raise
funds for a very highly regarded charity.
All you need to do to donate is to let Paddy know the title
and give him an Amazon link to your book. He will put up a page for your book.
This was mine for Heart of Stone
As you can see, you get links to your Web page and your
Twitter handle, plus your bio, cover, headshot and, of course, the blurb for
The Auction closed at 11 pm on the Friday of Children in
Need, and I was advised by a DM on Twitter from Paddy of the address of the
winning bidder on the following Tuesday.
Children in Read itself gets excellent sponsorship from a company called Construction Impact Framework; they sponsor the website and system architecture – and well done them.
Paddy Heron, who runs the event, tells me that some people
start sending him books early in the year; their bid drive really starts in
July, though. Next year I will put an alarm call out in late June that its all
kicking off soon!
And finally, congratulations to ALL my fellow authors who donated or bid for books. In the words of Young Mr Grace, “You’ve All Done Very Well!” and raised over £8500.
A quick note. Do remember, if you are published with an
established conventional publisher, you will have (usually) some support from
However, if you are an Indie, or with one of the smaller
publishers where you have to do all the work yourselves, then this is aimed
I hardly have to teach you good manners – but there are
times when people do forget their manners when on-line.
Facebook Friend Requests. Set your Settings to Accept Friends. This is your Author Personal Page we are talking
about. Accept their requests and expand your Friends network. This is not just
good manners, this is BUSINESS!
To borrow a quote, SELLING IS TELLING!!!!
If you go to a Group page, and click on Members, you can see
who else is in the group. You can also see if they are open to Friend Requests.
If they are NOT open to Friend Requests, this looks at best, unsure of how
Social Media works, and at worst, downright unfriendly.
The above is a screenshot of the Friends List of a Promo
group I belong to. It’s an open group, so you don’t have to be members of its
parent organisation to post here, or to share.
Looking at these members.
I’m already Friends with Sue, Robin and Jeanette, and several others are
Accepting friend Requests.
But some are not! If I click on their Profile, I get their
Authors Page, which I can then Like, but I can’t see if we have any
Friends-in-Common. This is a VERY good way of deciding whether to “Friend”
someone, or how to respond to a Friend request.
How many friends in common do you have? If its at least 60,
then there is a very good chance you will at least have something to chat
Are they writers? Bloggers? Agents?
One gives a little more info. She
has Author in her Page Title. Some others? Not even that. What are they hoping
to get out of the group? What might they contribute?
With Kenneth and Jane, I can see a
bit more about them, so can click on Add Friend.
Anyone who describes themselves as
an “Entrepreneur” or “Content
creator” will not be Friended or Followed. Anyone who trades in Bitcoins
or other dodgy Investors, ditto.
So YOU have control of your
Friends. You can always “Unfriend” someone or Unfollow them on Twitter.
If in doubt as to someone, check
out their Timeline. However, if its just a page, all you can see are their own
posts. Do they post any original content, or do they just repost pictures of
cats? You do want SOME original content. I find our hedgehogs helpful in this
Looking at Twitter:
Do NOT Lock your
account! Imagine what your readers think when they click on your Twitter page
and see “This account’s Tweets are protected. “ Again, remember, this is
And Now on to something else Important! #Hashtags.
Hashtags are everywhere. Particularly in the vernacular of
the young. The do have a use apart from making people sound either cool or
pretentious. Sooner or later, they won’t be cool and trendy, but they WILL
still be important.
So What Are Hashtags?
Let’s start with the simple definition:
hash·tag: A word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used
to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it.
Whenever you add a hashtag, it can be indexed by the social
network and is then searchable by other users. When you click on a hashtag,
you’ll go to a page that shows all of the posts with the same hashtags.
Use them but use them well. The easiest #hashtag is
#thetitleofyourbook. i.e. #heartofstone in my case.
On Twitter or Facebook, do NOT use too many (3 tops)!
On Instagram, you can use as many as you like, up to about
Normally, only run 2 words together. (Your book title is an
There are lots of pages suggesting good hashtags for
writers. Here are some good ones, though.
How do you use them? Just add them onto the end of all your
messages or posts.
Finally, do remember, this is not about “Making Friends”,
although that can happen in real life, it’s about SELLING BOOKS!
Goodreads, once you have your Book and Author pages set up, only
requires an occasional visit.
Do encourage your readers /
followers / friends to LEAVE A REVIEW when they have read your book, and to
leave it on Amazon AND on Goodreads. They can “cut and paste” between the
Goodreads reviews have the
advantage that – to date – your review won’t disappear because you are a
“Friend” of the Author / Reader.
To find your LATEST Review,
Go to your Book page, then Scroll
Down till you see COMMUNITY REVIEWS, then Click on SORT ORDER, and then on
Click on See Review and you’ll see
your chosen review on its own, and also a button on the right-hand side for
Share on Facebook. Click this to share your review to your own Facebook page,
and then again to your Author page, or to any Group you want to past it to.
You can “copy and paste” the link
for the review from the Address Bar at the top of the page, and then post this
into a Tweet, or into a Blog or any other post.
You do want to have a “Brand” and
part of your Brand is making sure your Info is up to date on all your platforms.
So your own website, your Facebook page, your Amazon and Goodreads page, and
your own page on Promoting Yorkshire Authors or any other group page is giving
the same message.
Goodreads is actually owned by
Amazon, but there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the two.
Pinterest is very low maintenance. Just post or save pics you like
or want to save. Check out boards that interest you. I do find it useful, but
You will build up a group of
followers, and people you follow, as time goes by on Instagram.
Go to your Instagram page and
click on Followers. Hou can see who wants to follow you. This was a recent one
of mine. I didn’t follow her back! Use common sense when following back.
I couldn’t help feeling her interests
didn’t obviously lie in Romantic Fiction.
So I Blocked her! Click on the 3
little dots to the right of her name.
You will see something like this.
So you’ve Blocked them, and click
on Dismiss. Note that this person has NEVER posted!!
Finally, do remember, again, this is not about “Making
Friends”, although that can happen in real life, it’s about SELLING BOOKS!
With PYA we are still arranging, very successfully, author
talks and panel discussions at various libraries. We were absolutely delighted
to see Harrogate Library who have been amazingly supportive from day 1, be
awarded “The Nibbie” as the Booksellers Library of the Year! Well done everyone
there, but especially Jane Trigoso, who is our main contact there.
The next item in the plans is to carry out some author training to help members make good choices if going down the Indie road.
I am back writing, too – which is good. I just wish they
made more hours in each day though.
I’m also doing a lot of back-office stuff for the RNA. The author profiles continue to come in in drips and drabs, the York Tea and the Joan Hessayon Awards are (hopefully) all prepared (September 14th, at the Merchant Taylor’s Hall). At the time of writing we have exactly ONE ticket left out of 110.
Next year, the RNA is celebrating its 60th
birthday. It is certainly a different world to 1960. At dinners and events back
then, furs, jewellery and long white gloves would be worn. A toastmaster would
announce the guests and members as they arrived, and Denise Robbins and Barbara
Cartland would stand to “receive” each arrival! I have had the privilege of
access to the RNA archives, in search of suitable items to make up a PowerPoint
presentation to illustrate 60 years of the RNA. There’s not a lot so far –
because early editions of RNA News were typed and duplicated. What photos there
were are not suitable for scanning and putting into a presentation.
One new venture this year has been attending a number of “signing events”. I went to a couple last year just as a visitor. This year I had “half tables” at four, in Leeds, Sheffield, Blackpool and Bradford.
They do seem to be the way the Romance market is going. Taking Leeds as an example, there were 70 authors, and of those 90% described themselves as Romance Authors. They are VERY productive, bringing out at LEAST a book a year, they have a loyal readership and fanbase, and they work very hard selling themselves and their books on live and via social media. Of the 70 authors there, they included another 5 RNA members, and the attending authors are the natural recruiting ground for the RNA. Their age demographic extends from early 20s up to around 60s.
Some of them had well in excess of 50 pre-orders! Some
attending readers were going home with trolley boxes FULL of books and “swag”.
Having a “half-table” was worth it just for the ability to sit down. My back
and my leg just don’t like prolonged standing.
The daddy of them all is the “Romance Authors and Readers Event”
at London’s Olympia. This sells out every year, and will have over 200 indie
authors, a lot of them American. Attending is no light matter, either – with tickets
going for £45. I’ll stick with Leeds – £10. (£35 for my half table). I sold a
few copies. Not enough to make it a paying proposition, but like an RNA party,
it is ALL about the people!
All about the people is, of course, a really good
description of the RNA Conference. I’ve already posted all the photos. Basically,
for me, its three days of fun, chat and learning with 270 very good friends.
The next blog post will be after the York Tea! The best of luck to all the contenders for the Joan Hessayon Award. In my book, you are all already winners!
You should also have decided what name you want to use. You
might want to pick a name that sounds more like an “Authors Name”. Your
publisher, when and if you get taken up, may tell you to change your name. An
advantage of using a nom-de-plume is that you can keep your “real name personal
page” for actual friends and family.
In Facebook, we are going to look at “Friending people” and
responding to Friend Requests. We will also look briefly at Following, and at
I’m also going to include something on Facebook Groups
Remember, Facebook Friends – especially Friends with your
“Nom-de-Plume” profile are not just personal friends (at least some of them)
but BUSINESS CONTACTS. I recommend that you add as many Friends as you can. Not
random strangers, but fellow-authors, fellow peer-group members, book bloggers,
reviewers, readers, etc.
You may find – as I
have done – that many of these will become personal friends over the course of
If you know someone, ask if they have a Facebook
page, and send them a Friend Request. This is the most basic way of “making
Look at your existing friends, and at THEIR
This is my Facebook page, showing my Friends.
As it happens, these profiles are of “new friends” who have just joined the
Romantic Novelists Assoc.
You can scroll down my page to see if you
recognise anyone and send a Friend request if you so desire.
You can also go down and see HOW MANY FRIENDS
YOU HAVE IN COMMON!
If you have at least 60 Friends in common, then
you will certainly have a range of common interests, or “something to talk
If they are also members of Promoting Yorkshire
Authors, or any other relevant group you belong to, such asm in my case, the
Romantic Novelists Association, you should send them ALL friend requests.
You can also click on someone’s profile and see
their location and occupation, depending on the level of security they have set.
This is another reason for using a nom-de-plume. This is business, and you want
to give MAXIMUM info to potential readers and buyers of your book. You WANT
people to see what you do (an Author) where you live (York, for me) and who are
There is, officially, no limit on the number of
friend requests you can make in a day. Facebook will suddenly change its rules
though, so a certain amount of discretion is advised. Do not send more than 50
Friend Requests per day. It just seems needy! 😉
Also, do NOT send a lot of Friend Requests, have
them accepted, and then unfriend them all. This is known as “churning” and
Facebook DO NOT like it!
You have a limit of 5000 Friends on Facebook.
You are not likely to come too close for a long time.
It is also essential that you set your profile to ACCEPT FRIEND REQUESTS!
Click on Settings (the little down arrow in
the top margin, then Settings, near the bottom)
Click on Privacy.
Privacy Settings and Tools Your activity
Who can see your future posts? Public
Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in. Use Activity Log
Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public? Limit Past Posts
How people can find and contact you
Who can send you friend requests? Friends of friends
Who can see your friends list? Friends
Who can look you up using the email address you provided? Friends of friends
Who can look you up using the phone number you provided? Friends of friends
Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile? Yes
You have a degree of protection from idiots and oddballs by
restricting visibility to “Friends of friends”.
I’ve found this works pretty well.
So you are now dipping your toe into social media. Putting
bits of your daily life on Facebook, pictures of cats (or hedgehogs), etc.
You are also putting EVERY reasonable picture relating to
your books that you can. Don’t forget to tell your friends about any 5* reviews
you get, on Amazon OR Goodreads.
If in any doubt, have a look at a potential Friend’s
timeline, especially people who are sending YOU Friends requests. Do they post
anything interesting? Do they post hate-speech, or extreme politics? Is it likely
to be a fake profile? (a retired US General, a pneumatic lady of negotiable
affections, an Arab sheik, a Prince?)
When you Decline a Friend request, you can also mark it as Spam.
The sort of news to post.
When your cover comes out.
When you get a publishing date.
When you sign a contract with a publisher
When you are signed by an agent.
When your book appears in the best seller lists.
When your book is referenced in the press.
When you get a review.
When you work up a new advert for your book.
When you are having a launch party
When you are having a blog tour
When you are appearing in anyone else’s Blog, or
on their page.
When you are going to a writing event
When you have been to one (especially with
When you have a new entry on your own blog or
When you are meeting writing friends socially
When you are starting your edits
When you are finishing them.
When you see your book on a shelf for sale.
Always – with any of the above –
include a link to the event / page, etc.
Once you have been using Facebook for a while, when you
click on “Friends” on your profile, it will show you those Friends who you
“talk” to most.
Also, always try to include a
photo or two. They don’t have to be taken by you but do ask if you are using
If you are taking pictures on
your phone, you can post them straight to your Instagram page, and at the same
time, share the post to Facebook and Twitter.
Liking Pages, and
Asking for your own author Page to be Liked (on Facebook)
People may well ask you to “Like” their Facebook page. Some
people do not like doing this. However, “Page Likes” are considered important
as a measure of success. You are being asked to indicate support, not pledging
your lifelong devotion to a page. I will always Like my Friends pages. All it
takes is a mouse-click.
I do, naturally, check on the page and make sure its not a
porn page or promoting extremist views. Also, I won’t like your page if it’s
written in a foreign script. Common sense rules.
Facebook will also suggest pages you may like. These will be
based on your Friends and your Location. Their recommendations can be quite
You can see what you have Liked. On your page, Click on
More, and then on Likes.
There is no restriction on the
number of Pages you can like, but there is on “the number of Pages you can like
in a day”.
There is a degree of
“tit-for-tat! In that if you like someone’s Page, they should like yours.
One big difference between
Facebook and Twitter is that, with Facebook, someone has to send you a Friend
Request. So you have control over whether they become your friend. Its “Ask
Twitter is “Do it Anyway”; i.e.
Anyone can Follow you on Twitter. This
means that it is worth checking over your recent followers to see if there are
any “undesirables” there; i.e. People who want to sell you Followers, People
with no Profile Picture, or with a name where the spelling of the name is
TOTALLY different from the name itself.
If something looks too good to
be true, it probably is. Just Block the person. VERY easy. Click on the 3 vertical
dots next to the persons name. You will see something like this.
Tweet to @Twittername
Send a Direct Message
Add or remove from lists…
Embed this Profile
Then Click on Block @Twittername
As I was writing this chapter, I
had a Follow, followed by a DM (Direct Message) This was it.
my dear friend, hope all is well with you? I write you in peace and it will be
my pleasure to make a good acquaintance with you if you wouldn’t mind. My name
is Prince Hamdan the Crown Prince of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. You are
probably very informed about me or not but that means less when you meet new
friends because all you will need is a proper introduction and time. And I know
you still wonder why am contacting you through this medium, lots of questions
in your mind I know.. Will be glad to answer if you give me the chance. Well
everything I can tell you about myself is already online … Hope you can let
me know a little about you for the time being ?
So Blocked immediately. Crown Princes don’t go following
random foreign nationals!
There are HUNDREDS of Facebook
Groups devoted to Writing or Selling books.
There are WELL over 300 Facebook
Groups available to join – and these are just the ones concerned with Writers/Authors.
Some Groups let you join immediately; others require you to be approved by a
Some Groups ask you to answer
They can be split roughly into 2
a. Those where you can promote
or sell your books.
b. Those where no promotion is
There is a small amount of
“Crossover” where a Group will allow a very limited amount of
promotion, on, say, Publication Day.
Groups also vary in size, with
some of the new groups having as few as, say, 50 members, while at the other
end of the scale one or two groups have over 50,000 members. Some of the
“non-promotion” groups have over 200,000 members.
Within these divisions, Groups
also divide by Genre.
While the obvious reaction might
be to post to ALL the groups, Facebook will NOT like this, and may regard your
post as Spam. In the worst case, you could find yourself sent to the Facebook
“Naughty Step” and prohibited from posting to Groups, or possibly
from posting altogether.
Facebook has very definite Rules
as to what constitutes Spam, however:-
a. They are NOT telling you what
these Rules are,
b. They change the rules at the
drop of a hat, and again, won’t tell you.
Broadly speaking, avoid sending,
sharing or re-posting the SAME message more than, say, 20 times in a day.
DO NOT post too fast. If you try
and be systematic and efficient, then Facebook interprets this a Spamming, EVEN
if there is no commercial link in your posts.
Facebook doesn’t look at your
posts – it just checks to see if they are identical.
Facebook now want you to avoid
commercial promotion from your own Personal Page. Keep yourself on-side by
setting up and using an Author Page, and preferably an Author Page Group.
Invite all your friends and likers-of-your page to join the Group, and then use
the Group page as the base page for your Advertising shots, fliers, etc.
If you join a LOT of groups, you
can find your Facebook feed swamped by Notifications. So, when you join a
Group, click on the Notifications tab and switch the Notifications to Off, or
to Friends Only.
Even where a Group is listed as
“Promos OK” they may have some limitations. It is up to you to check
and make sure that you follow their requirements.
As a general rule:
a. Do not post more than once a
day in a Group
b. Do not post anything NOT
related to books.
c. Do NOT post porn links / pics
As a specific rule: Make sure
you are posting in the right Genre.
When you join a group, you need
to consider its size, and its popularity. If a group has 50k members, and they
all post every day, YOUR post is going to flick through the feed and disappear
in seconds. If you post in a group with 100 members, and only 20 are posting
every day, then you will be seen for much longer, but only by 100 people.
So pick a selection of groups
that will give you the best exposure you want.
Click on “About” on a
Group page you don’t belong to and you will see something like this.
2 New posts
236 in the
last 30 days
+25 in the
last 30 days
about 10 years ago
This helps you decide if you
want to join a Group.
Do remember that Facebook has
certain limits. You cannot have more than 5000 Friends (but you can have more
members of your Author Page Group).
Some Groups worth joining (for Writers)
Your “Peer Groups” Group. This includes the big
associations. They all have Facebook Groups. If you belong to one, then join
their Facebook Group.
Don’t try and join EVERY group. Join Groups that
are appropriate for you.
You can search on your Genre in the
Facebook Searchbox, and then click on Groups.
For Children’s Books
Whatever Groups you do join, make sure you follow THEIR Rules.
These will be in the “About” section of the group
Here is an example of a Group’s Rules.
About this groupDescription
A group to discuss Fantasy books, post articles and reviews, and for
authors to promote their work Free-For-All Fridays for any sales
promotions. Self promotion is welcome on this day on the designated posts
provided, and we’ll be giving out free e-books to celebrate every 200 new
members! Bullying or vicious attacking of any author or their work is not
permitted and members participating in these activities will be removed
promptly. Let’s make Fantasy Focus an inclusive and positive haven for
readers of the best in Fantasy fiction and the authors that create it.
Lastly, about Facebook Groups. When you join a Group, you
will start to receive Notifications when someone posts. You can restrict the
number of notifications that you see by clicking on Notifications (on the Group
page) and then selecting Friends Posts, or Off.
This will stop you being overwhelmed.
This first session is for those people who are new to Social Media. We will look at the different types of Social Media, and what they do. A PDF of this page is available at the foot of the last page.
We will also look at the pleasures and pitfalls of the different
types. What is best for you?
There are SIX main social media platforms.
There are other platforms which you CAN use to gather followers
and exchange information. I’m not going to cover them in this session.
Facebook is the giant
of the bunch, with over 2 BILLION users worldwide.
Twitter is for
sharing shorter messages (up to 280 characters). It is very “transient.”
Instagram is a
picture-sharing app designed for use with your mobile phone and its camera.
Pinterest is a
“picture collecting” site. I find it useful for research, and it can give you a
nice shop-window for your books – WITHOUT you having to update it all the time.
Goodreads is a site
you should ALL be on, as authors. It’s a shop window
for your books, and, like Pinterest, doesn’t require you to update it all the
Youtube is a video
sharing site. If you are happy in front
of the cameras, this may be for you. It
CAN be very effective.
Before you start, pick a “Headshot” for your profile pic. Pick a good one
that is unmistakably you. Use this pic
for ALL your profiles at this stage. We
want consistency. This is your business!
Similarly, write a short bio you can use on all your Social Media
sites. You can cut-and-paste it from one to another.
Also, equally important, what name do you want to use?
The choices are 1. Your name.
2. A Nom-de-plume
You may use your name on your personal Facebook page, and
restricting your “Friends” to people who are friends or family in the real
world. You can then use a Nom-de-plume for another Personal Page.
Set up a simple Gmail email account under your non-de-plume.
You can then use your “Nom-de-plume Page” to set up an Author
For women writers, or teachers and others, there can be a need to
keep a degree of separation between your writing life and your home life.
This is NOT as
complicated as it may sound.
I thought we would
deal with Goodreads first. EVERY author needs a Goodreads page. It is FREE and
doesn’t take too much to set up.
Goodreads is a site where you can collect reviews, and also where
you can leave reviews of other authors books. The site is owned by Amazon, but there is no direct link between
reviews on Amazon and reviews on Goodreads.
To apply for the Author Program, you can follow these steps when
visiting the desktop version of Goodreads:
Sign in or create an account, and then search for your most popular book via ISBN, ASIN, or title.
On the book, click on your author name. Scroll to the bottom of
your author profile page.
Click “Is this you? Let us know!” to complete and submit the
They will send you an email when you’re approved
within 2 business days. Your login and
password will stay the same. Follow the (fairly)
Once you have added your personal
details, pic and bio, add details of any other books.
Basically, that is it.
You can follow other authors at your leisure.
If you have a blog, then you can connect it to Goodreads, so that
when you update your blog, it will also show, on your Goodreads page.
If you are having a Launch party or event, you can invite your
Goodreads friends to attend or join in.
When you read a book, please, please revue it! Review it on Amazon
and then copy that review to Goodreads. Then, hopefully, your friends and
readers will review YOUR books.
Facebook is the giant of Social Media, with nearly 3 BILLION pages
out there. This is YOUR market!
Everyone starts with a “Personal Page” (Their Profile). I imagine
everyone here has a personal Facebook page. This
is – as it says – a Personal page. This
is where you post pics of your cats, your grandchildren, your holidays and your
friends, or in my case, hedgehogs.
Do NOT post your home address or your home phone number on
Facebook! You CAN post the town or area. i.e. York, North London, Cornwall,
You SHOULD enter a mobile number. This
is NOT shown on your page. It is there so
Facebook can send you a Code to reset your password, should you need to.
Click on Edit Profile
Click on About, and add as much detail as you are comfortable with.
Under contacts, you will see: Mobile phones 07123 456789 · Texts
Activated · Remove and a
Click on the icon and select “Only Me” illustrated by a padlock.
Put your birthday in. Ladies
may not want to put their year of birth in.
Also, add details
of ALL your social media and authors links. This
Remember – this is FREE ADVERTISING for you. Make it as easy as
possible for potential readers to find you.
You should now have a working Personal Page. You will start to
acquire Friends immediately. You can acquire
your own friends as well. Don’t go off
and send 200 Friend requests at once though. Do it steadily.
Click on “Members” and look down the list and send Friend Requests
to as many as you feel happy with – especially if you know them.
At the start, if you get Friend requests, feel free to decline any you are not happy with. If you get any spam
requests, i.e. from US Generals, or sundry Sheiks, just click on “Mark as
In the next session, I will cover having your own Author Page, Facebook
Groups, and setting up your OWN Authors Facebook Group.
Twitter is probably the most popular social media among writers.
Twitter posts are for immediate short-term
announcements. You are limited to 280 characters, which forces you to
concentrate on the substance of your message.
Also, because Twitter handles a lot of traffic, you will find your
messages scroll up the screen rather quickly.
to get a Twitter account.
Choose a profile name. This is the name you’ll be known as
on Twitter (also known as your @name or twitter handle). Be
consistent; have it recognisable as your writing name.
Add a photo of you, not your logo. The same photo as your Facebook account. Again, its
consistency, and becoming your “brand.”
Complete your bio. Be guided by your Facebook bio.
Add your website address.
Follow some people. Celebrities, news media, friends, etc.
Get tweeting! Cat pictures are allowed.
Check your mentions regularly.
I recommend you use Tweetdeck. This is a good way of displaying
your Twitter feed on your laptop. Tweetdeck is owned by Twitter! It’s at https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/
As you can see, it organises traffic into columns.
Types of Tweetdeck columns and what they display
timeline for any specific account.
from a specific account.
for a specific account, including when the account’s Tweets are Retweeted,
liked, or mentioned, and when someone follows the account.
specific search term.
or connect a list you already follow.
timeline of curated Tweets, hand-selected by you, to share with others.
happening with the accounts you follow.
marked as likes from a specific account.
Messages (one account): Direct Messages for a specific
(one account): When someone mentions a specific account.
Followers: Follow activity for a specific account.
Scheduled: Your scheduled Tweets.
(all accounts): Direct Messages from all your authorized accounts in aggregate.
(all accounts): Mentions from all accounts.
Trending: Specific worldwide trends.
Just click on the “+” sign in the left
hand column to set up a new column.
You will start to build up
a collection of Followers quite quickly. If you post your new Twitter handle on
the PYA group page, or any other group you belong to, in FACEBOOK, then your friends and co-authors will follow you.
Instagram is VERY popular. It is a photo-sharing site and is particularly oriented towards Smartphone
When you see people taking “selfies” of themselves, you can be
pretty sure they will be posting it to Instagram.
Again, for YOU, as an author, it is Free Advertising.
Why is it so popular?
Instagram is Social: People are social creatures. We like to
tell others what we are doing, eating, buying, and seeing. Sharing an image
through Instagram not only communicates what we are doing and where we are
doing it, it gives iPhone users the
ability to add a little creativity into their day and actually share a small piece of digital art.
Instagram is Free: Though it is downloadable from the iTunes
store, all the photo-editing bells and whistles of Instagram are completely free to users. Another big benefit to users is the lack of
advertisements cluttering up the screen, a common complaint of Facebook users.
Instagram is Easy and Fun: Instagram doesn’t need a
complicated help page to get it up and running.
Snap a picture, edit, caption, comment, like and share are simple tasks to
accomplish, so the learning curve is easily manageable. Through the use of
filters, borders and other special effects, people with little artistic ability
can drastically change the look of any picture they snap. That is just plain
Instagram is Instant: Clumsy user interface and long loading
times were criticisms of other photo-sharing applications, and even of
Instagram’s early versions. The current version loads quickly, and in this age
of instant gratification this feature
alone gets points with users.
Instagram is Creative: While a status update on Facebook or
Twitter of “Bought a pair of red shoes” can be boring
to read, illustrating the purchase with a snappy photo including a border and a
retro filter effect is visually appealing and allows the user to show some
Anyone and everyone can show their artistic sides with Instagram.
Ordinary, everyday objects can be transformed into works of art in a few
moments, then shared with the Instagram world and other social media friends to
admire previously unknown artistic ability.
To actually get on to Instagram:
Download the app
Instagram is different from other
social networks in that it is primarily a mobile platform.
Once your account is set up, you
will have a page that can be viewed on desktop,
but the majority of your activity will take place within the mobile app.
You can sign up for Instagram with
an email address or a personal Facebook account.
Once you sign up, you’ll be asked to choose a username.
Your username will display
publicly and will be what people see when they find you on Instagram. Make sure
the username you choose is recognisable
and is as close to your business or organisation’s
name as possible.
When signing up, Instagram will also ask for your full
name. Here, you can put your business name which will make it easier for
people to find you through Instagram’s search function.
Update your profile
lets you fill out a 150 character bio about your business. Use your standard
Author bio. You can also add your
business’s website, which users will be able to click to visit right from their
Add your profile picture
Your profile photo can only be
updated on a mobile device. If you don’t have your logo saved to your
smartphone or tablet, Instagram has the option to import it from Facebook or
You can also take a new photo with
Research. Otherwise known as poking around and looking at what other people have posted.
It might not sound fun, but
without having a good understanding of the type of pictures others are posting,
you won’t know what content tends to do well. Happily,
for you, Instagram research is less staring-at-piles-of-data-wearing-a-lab-coat
kind of research and more
look-at-pretty-pictures kind of research.
Start by finding a writer in your
genre who has a hefty Instagram
following and high levels of engagement. What do they tend to send, and when do
they tend to send it?
Even if you want to differentiate yourself from the competition,
it’s essential that you know what others are doing.
Post your first photo
Okay, now that your profile is set up, it’s time to take your
Here’s a quick run-through of how Instagram works:
Take a picture.
Click on “Share”
Decide whether to Crop it.
Decide if you want to use a “filter” (but its OK to skip this)
Click NEXT in the top right of the screen. Add a caption or
description, if you want.
You can also tag people and name the location.
Setting up your location
When you click” Add Location” you will see a list of
previously used locations in your general
Give a “general location”, i.e. York, rather than a precise address.
After your photo is posted, you will see the location name in
blue. When you click on your location name, you’ll be able to see every picture that has been tagged there.
Tell people you’re on Instagram.
This goes for EVERY new account you set up. TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND
If you have an email list, you can send out an announcement and ask
readers to follow you.
Instagram’s search function makes it easy to find people and
brands to follow.
You can search by username, or choose
a hashtag that may be relevant to your business.
Following more people and businesses is a great way to make new
connections and can also provide inspiration for your Instagram account.
You’ve set up your account,
learned the basics, and found the right people to follow; now you’re ready to
start building a presence for you and your books on Instagram.
The key is engaging with the people who follow you. When someone
likes or comments on your photo, you will receive a notification.
You can respond within the comments of a photo by including the
“@” symbol, followed by their username.
You will also receive notifications when someone tags you in a
photo. You can view all of the photos
you’ve been tagged in, on your Instagram profile.
Pinterest is another picture-sharing site. You can Pin and keep
almost any picture you see on-line – and
your own pictures.
I find it VERY useful for research. When writing Heart of Stone, I
used it extensively for pictures of costume from the 18th Century. It’s also very useful for pics of the site where your
book is set (or where you imagine it to be)
You can log into Pinterest with both Twitter or Facebook, or by
setting up a User name and password of your own.
1. Choose Your Topics of Interest
Once you’ve signed in using Twitter or Facebook, you’ll be presented
with a visual grid of 28 topics. You’ll be asked to choose your topics of
interest so that Pinterest can make better suggestions of who you should
Pick some topics, then click the blue “Follow People” button at
the bottom of the page. You’ll see some images of people and Boards based on
the selection of topics you just made.
2. Create Boards
Next, you’ll be given a default selection of pinboards (or
“Boards”) to choose from, such as “Products I love,” “For the Home,” and many
more. You can also click the “Add” button at the bottom of the screen to add
your own Board with a custom name of your choosing. These Boards represent
topics that you can “pin” pictures to.
You can create as few or as many boards as you like. You can also
edit the titles of Boards you’ve created or delete them altogether. Allow other
people to contribute to your boards by clicking the “Edit” button at the bottom
of your Board. Next, find the option “Who can pin?” and change the setting from
“Just Me” to “Me + Contributors.” You have to follow at least one Board
belonging to a Pinterest member in order to add him or her as a contributor to
3. Install the “Pin It” Button and Start Pinning
Once you’ve created some Boards, you’ll be directed to a page where
you can install a bookmarklet, called “Pin It” in your browser. The Pin It
button gets installed on your browser’s bookmarks bar so that when you find
images on a website that you’d like to pin to one your Boards, you simply click
the button. The Pinterest application will open, showing you a grid of
thumbnails of all the images available on the website.
When you scroll your mouse over any image, click the “Pin This”
button to pin the image to your Board. A pop-up window will open and you can
choose the Board you’d like to pin the image to from a drop down menu of the
Boards you’ve created in Pinterest. Select the appropriate Board, give the
image a description (this is mandatory) and click the red “Pin It” button.
Another pop-up window will open, confirming your successful pin and providing
you the options to “See your Pin,” “Tweet your Pin,” or “Share on Facebook.”
Pinterest takes care of attributing the sources of the images, and
every pinned image contains an embedded, clickable link back to the original
website from which it came.
4. Get Social
Once you’ve created some Boards and you’ve pinned a bunch of
images to them, you can begin the process of finding, connecting, and sharing
with other Pinterest members.
You’ll find a search bar in the top left-hand corner of the
Pinterest home page. Type a keyword that you’re interested in finding and click the Enter key. You can refine
your searches by selecting “Pins,” “Boards,” or “People.” Once you’ve found
some interesting matches you can follow individual Boards, or follow all Boards from
any Pinterest member you’re interested in.
Following a Board places it on your Pinterest homepage so that you can visit
the Board any time to see and interact with any updates made to it.
You can “Like” an individual image (or “Pin”) using Pinterest’s
own Like button, or you can Like it with the Facebook Like button at the side
of the Pin’s page. You can tweet the Pin to your followers, email a link to
your friends, and even “Repin” an image to one of your own Boards. Anyone familiar with other social media platforms like
Twitter, Facebook and Google+ should have no problem finding their way around, and making the most out of Pinterest,
in no time at all.
is a video-sharing site. Some authors find it very useful and can use it with
ease and comfort. It has a VAST number of subscribers.
easy to do this on either the desktop or mobile versions of YouTube. YouTube
and Google accounts share logins, so if you have Gmail or another Google
account, then you already have a YouTube account as well. You can create a new
YouTube account with any email address on the desktop YouTube website, or by
creating a new Gmail account on the YouTube mobile app.
you have already got a Google account:
Open YouTube. Go to https://www.youtube.com/ in
your computer’s web browser. This will take you to the YouTube home page.
Click SIGN IN. If
you aren’t signed into a Google Account in your web browser, this option is in
the top-right corner of the YouTube home page.
If you’re already signed in to a Google account in
your web browser, then you are also logged in to your YouTube account. There’s
nothing more you need to do – you can get started using YouTube right away
If you DON’T have a Google account:
Click Create account. It’s
a link near the bottom-left side of the sign-in page. Doing so opens an account
Fill out the Google Account form. Type
your information into the following fields:
First name and Last name — Enter your
first and last name, respectively.
Your email address — Type in a
working email address to which you have access. This cannot be a Gmail account.
Password — Type in the password you want to use to log
Confirm password — Re-enter the
password you just typed in.
Click NEXT. It’s
at the bottom of the page.
Retrieve your email address verification code. To
Open your email address inbox and sign in if
Click the “Verify your email address”
email from Google.
Note the six-digit code in the middle of the email’s
Enter the verification code. Type
the six-digit verification code from the email into the text box in the middle
of the Google Account creation page.
Click VERIFY. It’s
below the text box.
Enter your date of birth and your gender. Select
your birthday’s month, day, and year, then click the “Gender”
drop-down box and select a gender.
You can also enter your phone number here, but doing
so is optional.
Click NEXT. This
option is at the bottom of the page.
Scroll down and click I AGREE. You’ll
find it at the bottom of the list of terms. Doing so will create your Google
Account, log you into YouTube, and take you back to the YouTube page.
YouTube. Tap the YouTube app icon, which resembles a
white triangle on a red background.
Tap the “Profile” icon. It’s
in the top-right corner of the screen. A drop-down menu will appear.
Tap SIGN IN. This option is in the drop-down menu. Doing so
opens a new menu.
If you’re already signed into a YouTube account,
you’ll tap Switch account here instead.
Tap Add account. It’s near the bottom of the menu.
On Android, tap ＋ in
the top-right corner of the menu.
Tap the Create account link. This
option is near the bottom of the screen.
Enter your first and last name. Type
your first name into the “First name” text box, then type your last
name into the “Last name” text box.
Tap NEXT. It’s a blue button at the bottom of the page.
your date of birth and your gender. Select the month, day, and year of your
birthday, then tap the “Gender” box and select your gender.
a Gmail username. You can’t use an existing, non-Gmail address
to create a Google Account through the YouTube app, so you’ll need to create a
new Gmail address by typing whatever you want to use for your Gmail address’
username into the “Username” text box.
For example, typing in “iamabanana” here
will set your Gmail address to “email@example.com”.
When creating a YouTube account on your mobile,
you’ll have to create a Gmail account rather than using a separate email
address. If you want to use a non-Gmail address, use the YouTube website to
create your YouTube account.
a password twice. Type your preferred password into the
“Create password” text box, then repeat the password in the
“Confirm password” text box.
down and tap SKIP. It’s
at the bottom of the page.
down and tap I AGREE. This
option is at the bottom of the list of YouTube terms.
You can post any videos you take on your smartphone
or with any other camera.
Some people find this very easy, and review books on
video. If you want to see other people’s videos, just search in the box for
Book Reviews, to give you an idea of what is out these.
is the quickest way to increase Friends and Followers for ALL Social Media?
There are lots of FREE ways to do this.
Do Follow/Unfollow and accept Friend Requests
Find people who like similar things. Follow them or send them a Friend request.
Comment, Like and Share / Retweet / Repost.
Find interesting or amusing content on your platforms. Comment on it, then like them and share, retweet or repost.
This is Social Media so BE social! Make friends and follow people.
There is a real buzz when you get a tap on the shoulder, and turn to meet someone new, who says “Hi, John. We’re friends on Facebook*” (*insert Social Media platform of choice.)
Use #hashtags! Use #hashtags on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. # A good hashtag can bring in thousands of new people a post, and ALWAYS include #yourbooktitle. i.e. for me, I always include #heartofstone.
Post it everywhere
Self explanatory. Post on one platform, and share it to others.
We are into
January, so it’s time for a “look back”.
There has been a lot going on – and a hectic
year, although not as much as I’d hoped on the work in progress. Still – it’ll
Last year was mostly about my friends writing, rather than mine, but it IS coming back. – mostly thanks to a major kick in the a….se from the uber-talented Liz Fenwick!
We started close after the start of the year with the RoNAs, which, for my non-writing friends is the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year awards. The Gladstone Library, in the old Liberal Club, hosted us, and proceedings were led by the Rev. Richard Cole, who we know from Strictly, and from Radio 4’s “Saturday Live”. I had a chance for a chat with him as well and with Jilly Cooper who was given a lifetime achievement award by the RNA. I’ve been reading her stuff for about 50 years! Very readable, too
We had meetups with my publisher, Crooked Cat Books, in the person of Laurence in Edinburgh, and then in Manchester with Steph, his wife. Crooked Cat is my excellent publishers, and they’ve done a cracking job with Heart of Stone.
I also belong to North East Authors & Readers. We meet two or three times a year at the Town Wall, an excellent pub in Newcastle. It’s right outside the station. Juliet Butler, who runs the group is also a very active book blogger at Bookliterati.com. She is a delight to be with and does a great job. Several other RNA members also are members.
In the last year, I’ve also found a with a more local group called Promoting Yorkshire Authors which does exactly what it says on the tin.
They are open to all authors who are published by any means and in any
genre, if they are living in Yorkshire (like me) or if they were born in
Yorkshire. If you’ve got a book published, or “ready to go” you are welcome to
join us. They have gone from strength to strength during the year, organising a
series of author talks and panels in Harrogate, Ripon and around.
I’ve got a couple more coming up as round Yorkshire as well, and we are literally in the throes of setting a chapter up in York. We are about to have our second meeting in York at the very beginning of February. Hopefully, that will go on from strength to strength.
PYA are very keen to help people improve their writing as well as getting
published and marketed. If you self-publish, then marketing and publicity are entirely
down to you.
This year, the RNA’s Summer Party moved to Oxford. We were in the atrium of the Ashmolean Museum. A fabulous venue. Because I was published in the last year and came through the New Writers Scheme, I too was on the short-list for the Joan Hessayon Award. Last year, there were seventeen authors up for it. I didn’t win, but it was still a fantastic evening.
The winner was Hannah Begbie and her book “Mother”. I have since read it, and it’s a great read, although not easy, and certainly not a conventional romance! Both Hannah and Kate Field (last year’s winner) gave super speeches as well. A real fun-filled evening, and I highly recommend it.
Hannah can also be heard on Radio 4 reviewing the Sunday papers on
occasions. Always good to hear; always intelligent and witty
This year’s RNA Conference was full of live wires as usual, and it took place at Trinity and All Saints in Leeds. I hadn’t been there for 45 years since an old girlfriend of mine was doing her teacher’s training there when it was a Catholic Teacher Training College.
A day trip to London in September, for the first Romance in the 21st Century Author Panels, sponsored by David Headley and Goldsboro Books. 2 panels of 4 speakers each. They included Katie Fford, Liz Fenwick, Dorothy Koomson and Jules Wake among others. The event took place at Browns on St Martins Lane, and they have a very nice large room upstairs The Judge’s Court, formerly the courthouse for Westminster. Great panels – and great to see so many friends there as well. I was able to do it on a “day-return” and although I didn’t get back until 1 in the morning, definitely worth the trip.
There’s a lot of literary festivals in Yorkshire. One of the newer ones is the Indie Lit Fest in Bradford. Now in its 4th year, it’s now already considered to be in the top 5 literary festivals in England! Good progress.
I went this year, and it was well put together, if slightly short on footfall, mainly because of having it on at the same time as the World Cup. I’m back there this year, and I’ve got a table. Several of us from PYA are going in support.
These signing events seem to be the new way to go. I went to one in Leeds on the same day as the “Beast from the East” arrived. They had a few no-shows from the authors, but still mustered almost 50 authors, and an excellent crowd attending. People come to buy books and collect pre-orders. I find them fun. I’m going again this year and also to one in Manchester, equally very well attended. These events seem to be the way to go.
The RARE event in London SELLS OUT Olympia. Especially when you look at the RARE events (Romance Author & Readers), These attract perhaps 2000 people and sell out of Olympia. Mostly US-based romantic authors but also from the UK. They charge a lot for tickets, but they sell out. It seems to be an excellent way of involving readers with the actual writers and publishers.
This year’s RNA York Tea was held in the wonderful Merchant Tailors Hall. A great afternoon, and a good-sized crowd. This year, it’ll be held there again, and will also include the Joan Hessayon Awards. After 3 great years, Lynda Stacey has passed to baton on to me!
We are close to the Harrogate Literary Festival, and I’ve been going every year since we came up here. I’ve seen some great people and this year was no exception — great talks from Lindsey Davis, the Roman author, and Conn Iggulden, best known for his Genghis Khan series.
This year they recorded two sessions of Round Britain Quiz. The long-standing mental agility and general knowledge quiz if you like. Perhaps its radio’s equivalent of Only Connect. On the North side was Adele Geras, also an RNA member, with Stuart Maconie the very knowledgeable DJ. Happily, the North won both episodes. On the way in, I happened to the bump into a friend from Malaysia I haven’t seen in about five years. It was good to see Richard again and shows what a small world it is.
The last significant event was the RNA winter party. Very well attended and held at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. They laid on a delicious spread, canapes etc., of which I got precisely one gherkin. I was just too busy taking pictures and chatting to friends to take time to eat. As ever, great to see so many friends.
And so to books. I’ve not read as much as I wanted this year. Having a new grand-daughter takes up more time and energy than you might imagine. However, the top three – in no particular order, were.
A tiny oak door opened into the warmth of the Romantic Novelists’ Association event, and a hearty welcome glowed from Lynda Stacey and John Jackson. The guests of the RNA York charmed me, and I fell in love with a family of romance writers.
It seemed an appropriate way of introducing Val Penny, a fellow Crooked-Cat author, and writer of the very successful Hunter series of detective novels set in and around Edinburgh.
1 What makes a good story? Characters. A good plot is essential, but if the reader doesn’t buy into your characters, all is lost.
2 How have YOU become a better writer? By reading lots of good books in all the different genres. I firmly believe that before you write a word, you should read voraciously.
3 What inspires you? People. I think people are fascinating and a snippet of conversation or interesting outfit can inspire a whole novel.
4 What does your family think of your writing? I am lucky that my whole family is very supportive of my writing endeavours. They turn up at events, tell their friends, share things on Facebook and even buy the books!
5 What were the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books? The amount of bad language I put into them!
6 If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why? I am quite happy writing the novels I write without being envious of those written by others, but I do enjoy the books written by Linwood Barclay and Erin Kelly.
7 How much research do you do? I have to do quite a lot of research into the crimes my characters commit, the language they would use and, at the other end of the scale, I need to research the CSI and forensic expertise and police procedures.
8 How do you relax? I spend time with my family, swim, knit and read. I also love to travel and find much inspiration from ‘people watching’ on my journeys.
9 Do you have any writing quirks? (and if so what?) I suppose we all have quirks, but I had never thought about it until now! I think I am quite organised, I write for promoting my work and write blog posts in the mornings and work on my novel in the afternoons. I am very focused while I am writing, I like to have a quiet writing space so that I can hear the voices of my characters in my head.
10 Why write in your genre? I enjoy reading crime thrillers and I started writing them simply because they are my favourite kind of stories.
11 How is your writing different now from when you started writing? I think it is more sophisticated and the plots are more closely interwoven.
12 What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t? They think crime novels are easy to write! They are not ‘literary pieces’: believe me, they are not a soft option from a writer’s point of view.
13 Your 3 favourite authors? Erin Kelly, Michael Jecks and Katharine Johnson.
14 In what ways do you ’service’ or ‘support’ your books? I try to share my stories by making author visits in real life and online. Support from other authors and all my readers is terribly important.
15 What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? Everybody is entitled to an opinion. It is lovely to read good reviews but no writer will ever produce something everybody enjoys, so bad reviews are inevitable. I view getting good and bad reviews as a right of passage for authors. I think it was Harper Lee (who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird) who said, ‘I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent, he would be wise to develop a thick hide.’ She was right!
16 What makes your book(s) stand out from the crowd? One of the things I love about my books is the cover. They are produced by my publishers, Crooked Cat Books, but I think they are fabulous.
17 Tell us something about your road to being published. I began writing my first novel when I was recovering from cancer. I did not have the energy to go out with friends and family, travel and I was not allowed to swim during my treatment. However, I had the energy to read, and subsequently to write.
18 Plotter or Pantser. I was a pantser until I attended a course run by the inimitable Sue Moorcroft. She convinced me of the usefulness of plotting. So now I plot quite thoroughly, except for the very end – I never know who done it until I have finished writing.
19 Your main character. What makes him or her so special? Hunter Wilson is calm, thorough and thoughtful. He is flawed but compassionate and determined to uncover the truth.
20 What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Can I make Hunter’s Chase into a movie?
Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University.
She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store.
Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.
Jane writes both contemporary fiction and non-fiction. As a long-term resident in Kenya, she draws on her life and experiences there to people her fiction.
I gave her some questions to answer: (and some good answers came back)
What was the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books?
That I was actually successful in writing four published books. That, although I’ve been an intermittent journalist all my life, I had lots to learn about writing a book, and learning while doing is not the most satisfactory way of achieving.
My first book, BREATH OF AFRICA suffered a string of re-edits and re-writes over thirty-plus years. I believe GRASS SHOOTS is better written – more structured and organised. But Breath of Africa is more popular, maybe because I wrote with my heart.
GRASS SHOOTS is less emotional. It was written with a purpose – a mission, exploring how best to help Africa while at the same time allowing Africa to help itself.
How do you relax?
That’s easy – curling up in my armchair with a good book. Sometimes it’s a novel. I like cosy crime or historical fiction; sometimes an autobiography; it depends on my mood, and what’s to hand.
In bed, at night there’s nothing better than a few chapters to calm me down before going to sleep.
When I need a break from the intensity of my computer, I head off for a walk on the downs. I’m lucky they’re on my doorstep – provided the weather is fine, of course.
Otherwise, I usually have a jigsaw puzzle on the go or do a sudoku. I’ve started playing tennis again – just one or two gentle sets with a rest in between. There’s nothing like it to clear the head, especially when it’s windy.
And to keep my brain ticking over in a relaxed manner with a like-minded partner, a game of bridge is just the ticket.
Why write in your genre?
What genre? When I set out on the journey of writing my first novel, I didn’t even know what a genre was. I wrote from the heart. I wrote the kind of novel I wanted to read, especially when it came to romance. Because I am a historian at heart, I wrote it like a historical novel, based on fact, with notes and dates heading the different sections and a glossary at the end.
Naturally, I tried to market it to agents and publishers as historical fiction. Then, I had to learn something about genre. It was only when I changed tactics and presented it as contemporary fiction, that I found my publishers.
Apart from my latest deviation into non-fiction (GOING IT ALONE – a beginner’s guide to starting your own business), I’ve stuck to the literary fiction/contemporary fiction genre. It is nicely broad, giving me scope. But none of my books has succeeded like Breath of Africa, which is going out of print in October.
Then, perhaps its successor, GRASS SHOOTS might come into its own under the contemporary fiction genre; although one reviewer stated it isn’t an easy book to categorize, having historical, romantic, travelogue and social elements.
Your main character. What makes him or her so special?
Charles may not be the most obvious main character, but he is my favourite, as his development epitomises the contrasts of contemporary Africa. He starts life as the son of a humble farm guard, then realises his full academic potential by graduating from Oxford University (not a far-fetched feat, as several Africans have followed similar routes). Charles suffers from the natural sexual failings of most men and his life is a roller-coaster of highs and lows as he pursues several women and a career of journalism in Nairobi, before calamity hits.
In GRASS SHOOTS, he is able to come to terms with events from his past, resume his career, and restart relationships he had allowed to fray or break. One of my reviewers, who had not read Breath of Africa, said: “he was the most interesting and complex character, prickly and not always likeable but trying to make things at least better when they can’t be good.”