I had the privilege of being asked to contribute a post to the Novel Points of View Blog recently. Worth reading, and worth following; as indeed are the 6 writers who run the blog.
Here is Part 3 of the series I started some time ago.
Like it or not, Social Media increases in importance with every passing day, for all authors, both conventionally and independently published.
Social Media 103 – Life On Line
A quick note. Do remember, if you are published with an established conventional publisher, you will have (usually) some support from them.
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 towards you.
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 about.
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 regard.
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 BUSINESS
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 10.
Normally, only run 2 words together. (Your book title is an exception).
There are lots of pages suggesting good hashtags for writers. Here are some good ones, though.
#Romance #Erotica #Paranormal #RomanticSuspense
Books and Reading
#Books #BookWorm #GreatReads #IndieThursday #MustRead #WhatToRead
#ePubChat #Kindle #KindleBargain
#Kobo #KDP (Kindle Publishing Direct) #Nook
#Giveaway #BookMarketing #FollowFriday #FreeReads
#Novelines (to quote your own work) #FreeBook
#AskAgent #AskAuthor #AskEditor #Publishing #SelfPub
#MSWL – manuscript wish list. (This is where agents post what they are looking for)
#AmWriting #AmEditing #CopyWriting #Creativity #Editing
#WIP #WordCount #WriteMotivation #WritersLife
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 sites.
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 “Newest”
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 not “demanding”
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!
I’ve been having WordPress problems. For reasons yet-to-be explained I have been having terrible logging-on problems
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!
This is a follow-on from the last session. In this one, we should all have (at least) basic accounts, profiles or pages in:
- A Facebook Personal page
- A Facebook Authors page.
- A Goodreads Readers page
- A Goodreads Authors page
- A Twitter page
- An Instagram page
- A Pinterest page.
You should also know how to find the PYA Youtube page. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwvgdKFqUji1YFvlR9dOmBw/featured
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 Liking pages.
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 time.
- 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 friends”
- Look at your existing friends, and at THEIR friends.
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 about”
- 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 YOUR friends.
- 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 photos)
- When you have a new entry on your own blog or page.
- 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 other peoples.
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 useful.
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 First”
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.
Greetings 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 ?
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 Moderator.
Some Groups ask you to answer some questions.
They can be split roughly into 2 sorts.
a. Those where you can promote or sell your books.
b. Those where no promotion is allowed.
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 etc.
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 today
236 in the last 30 days
+25 in the last 30 days
Created: 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.
- Event Groups (if you are attending)
- Groups that DON’T allow you to promote your books (i.e. Writing, rather than Marketing Groups)
- Groups that allow you to promote your book.
- These include:
- Historical Fiction Book Club
- THE HISTORICAL NOVEL CLUB
- Marketing for Romance Writers
- Promote Your Books
- Book Club UK.com
- Book Pimp
- The Bookshop Café
- The Writers Message Board
- Aroma Books & More
- Book promotions
- Book Viral
- Creative Writers
- Euphrates Bookstore
- Great Books to read!
- Independent Authors eBooks and reviews please!
- Kindle Amazon Book Club – Authors Promote Here!
- Julies Book Review- Reviewers for Authors
- Kindle, Kindle, and Kindle.
- These include:
- 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 group Description 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.
That’s definitely enough for this week!
Next week – Hashtags, and more Tips and Tricks.
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 time.
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 Page.
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.
Go to https://www.goodreads.com/.
Follow the simple instructions. Check out books you have read, or are reading. Add reviews where you can – even if its only a number of stars.
To get your own Author page, go to https://www.goodreads.com/author/program
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 application.
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) simple instructions.
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, etc.
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 small icon.
- 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. That’s fine.
Also, add details of ALL your social media and authors links. This is mine:
WEBSITES AND SOCIAL LINKS
|Social links |
john5642 (Instagram) jjackson42 (Twitter)
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 Spam”.
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.
How 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
- Home: Home timeline for any specific account.
- User: Tweets from a specific account.
- Notifications: Notifications for a specific account, including when the account’s Tweets are Retweeted, liked, or mentioned, and when someone follows the account.
- Search: A specific search term.
- Lists: Create or connect a list you already follow.
- Collection: A timeline of curated Tweets, hand-selected by you, to share with others.
- Activity: What’s happening with the accounts you follow.
- Likes: Tweets marked as likes from a specific account.
- Messages (one account): Direct Messages for a specific account.
- Mentions (one account): When someone mentions a specific account.
- Followers: Follow activity for a specific account.
- Scheduled: Your scheduled Tweets.
- Messages (all accounts): Direct Messages from all your authorized accounts in aggregate.
- Mentions (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 cameras.
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 fun.
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 creativity.
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.
- Choose a recognisable username.
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
Instagram 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 mobile device.
- 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 Twitter.
You can also take a new photo with Instagram.
- 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 first photo.
Here’s a quick run-through of how Instagram works:
- Take a picture.
- Click on “Share”
- Select Instagram
- 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 area.
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 COLLEAGUES!
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 follow.
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 your boards.
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.
Youtube 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.
Promoting Yorkshire Authors has its own Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VdN2-Dl1qM This is a short video Edwin made for the group.
It’s 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.
If 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 creation form.
- 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 in.
- 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 necessary.
- Click the “Verify your email address” email from Google.
- Note the six-digit code in the middle of the email’s body.
- 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.
- 1. Open 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.
- Enter 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.
- Tap NEXT.
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 “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
- 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.
- Tap NEXT.
- Enter a password twice. Type your preferred password into the “Create password” text box, then repeat the password in the “Confirm password” text box.
- Tap NEXT.
- Scroll down and tap SKIP. It’s at the bottom of the page.
- Scroll 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.
What 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.
- Build friendships
- 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.)
- Hashtag research
- 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 come!
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.
Jane Lovering’s Little Tea-Shop of Horrors (such a brilliant title)
If you haven’t read them, then do so!! They are ALL outstanding, and all worth the 5* I gave them.
That’s more or less it for 2018. Hopefully this year I’ll get my act together and get writing properly again.
If you think all this looks a bit “busy” it’s because I’m testing out Google Docs Voice Typing. So far, not too bad.
Until the next, have a very Happy New Year
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?
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.”
Jane – Many thanks!
I am delighted to host my fellow Crooked Cat author, Val Penny, on the blog today.
Val! Take it away…
I am delighted to be visiting your blog today to chat about so many of the exciting events and opportunities 2018 has offered me and my family.
It was clear by the end of last year that 2018 would be an exciting one for our family, because my husband had learned last May that he had qualified, again, to represent his country in their International Fishing Team. This is his third Scottish Cap for his beloved fishing. We are all very proud of him.
Imagine our happiness when our older daughter and her husband compounded our excitement by making us grandparents for the first time in April. Joy of joys! A beautiful baby girl. Of course, I have never seen a more beautiful baby nor one more fascinating. Time to get knitting.
I also made a New Year Resolution this year. The first one I have made in many years, and it is one I have found very easy to keep. I resolved to read more books by authors with whose work I was not familiar. This has been a fabulous resolution. I have been thrilled by a historical romance, ‘Heart of Stone‘ by John Jackson, spooked by the ghost story ‘Woman in Back‘ by Susan Hill and intrigued by the mystery that is ‘The Silence’ by Katharine Johnson. The book that I have found most compelling book so far is the autobiography ‘Born a Crime‘ by Trevor Noah. He is a South African comedian and presenter who grew up during the period of Apartheid. As the son of a black South African mother and a white Swiss father his tales of life as a child in his native country are fascinating. This is the best resolution I have ever made.
But the thrills of 2018 continued to roll in. My debut crime novel, the first in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, was ‘Hunter’s Chase‘. The book, set in Edinburgh was published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. I was excited and nervous about that, in equal measure. So, when my publishers confirmed that they were accepting the second book in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, ‘Hunter’s Revenge‘, with a view to launching it on 09.09.2018, I really did not think things could be any better.
I was wrong. In a good way, but I was wrong: things could and did get better when I was asked to lead a session on publicising your work at the prestigious Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in England in August. I have no doubt that the magic of Swanwick gave me the confidence to show ‘Hunter’s Chase’ to my publishers in the first place, so it will be a delight to be back.
All in all, 2018 has been an extraordinary year for me and my family. I hope it will be similarly exciting for you and all your readers.
Val Penny is the author of The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. The first on the series, ‘Hunter’s Chase’, was published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018 while the sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’, will be published on 09.09.2018. Both books are available to order from Amazon.
Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is revenged.
DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense? Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer. Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city. The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.
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.