Tips for Remote Conferencing

It feels like everything has been cancelled or indefinitely postponed this year.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Many of the literary festivals, writing workshops and bookish events have been re-engineered to take place online, either via Zoom or some other remote conferencing facility. This means that events which were previously too distant geographically to attend are now within reach. Plus, many are also being made available for free!tips for remote conferencing

There’s an interesting article in the November 2020 issue of the US writing magazine The Writer by Melissa Hart giving tips for how to make the most of these remote events. If you can access the magazine (I use Readly) it’s worth a read. If you can’t, here are the salient points for conference participants:

  • Put yourself on mute if you’ve got children/pets/background noise.
  • When taking a break from the conference action, turn your camera off as well as muting (you don’t want others to see you wandering around in a smart top and pyjama bottoms).
  • Have a tidy, neutral background.
  • If the time of day allows it, use natural light otherwise try a white bulb about a foot in front of the screen (not behind you or you’ll appear like a silhouette).
  • Put the laptop on a pile of books so the camera is slightly above eye level.

The original article also contains useful information for conference staff and instructors.

To get you started in the online writing world: Arvon are running a number of courses and readings ,My Virtual Literary Fest is connecting readers with authors (and there is a free e-book to download every month for members) and Harper Collins at Home is hosting a number of author events.

For some people another advantage of online events is that it can be less daunting to speak and give your opinion from behind a screen rather than in front of an audience. But if you’d like to start readying yourself for a return to ‘normal’ and the opportunity to speak in front of a group, Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners has lots of tips for addressing in audience in many different scenarios. It is available on Kindle, Kobo and in paperback.

 

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#MarketYourMarketing Workshops

How to Market a Book

My Very Basic Marketing!

I want to give a shout out to the very generous Ellie Pilcher. She is running a series of free Zoom workshops entitled #MarketYourMarketing. The workshops are principally aimed at those taking their first steps in a career in book marketing. However, anyone can signup and it’s useful for an author to be aware of what goes on behind the scenes when a book is published or to apply some of Ellie’s advice to the marketing strategy for a self-published book.

So, in order to broaden my own horizons, I signed up to Ellie’s first two workshops: How to Write a Marketing Plan and How to Utilise Social Media to Promote a Book, the latter will also feature Claire Fenby from One More Chapter.

How to Write a Marketing Plan took place last week and is now available to watch on YouTube. There were over a hundred people in the meeting (all muted!) to watch Ellie’s presentation. The main purpose was to show how to create a book marketing plan during the interview process for a job in publishing. However, as an author, I found it interesting and picked up on the following points:

  • The importance of pinpointing the audience for the book, for example: gender, age, beach read, Christmas gift etc. This enables the marketing to be correctly targeted.
  • Publishers generally allocate large marketing budgets to writers who are already big names and often there is no budget at all for some books. No budget means creative thinking is needed plus more input from the author.
  • It’s important to get a buzz going pre-publication around the cover reveal and the launch of pre-orders. At this point assets for social media are effective (gifs etc.) along with trying out different straplines for the book and using fun photos.
  • Post-publication the emphasis shifts slightly to sharing reviews and a blog tour plus more social media.
  • A person has to see a book mentioned three times before they might be tempted to buy. So it’s important to keep putting the cover image out there.

How to Utilise Social Media to Promote a Book takes place on Tuesday 15th September at 18:00. This is followed on Tuesday 29th September by How to Ace a Publishing Job Interview. Both of these are free and can be booked via Eventbrite.

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Free Food in Lockdown

During lockdown social media has been full of pictures of banana bread, sourdough starters (whatever they are!) and other delicious things produced by the nation’s bakers. In between the chocolate beetroot cake and lemonade scones, I’ve been trying some of the free food that nature has to offer:

Nuts from the Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Monkey Puzzle Tree Nuts

Monkey Puzzle Tree Nuts

When we moved into our house 24 years ago there was a small monkey puzzle tree in the garden. Nearly a quarter of a century later, there is a HUGE monkey puzzle tree in the garden and, for the first time ever, it has produced nuts. A quick internet search confirmed that these nuts are edible if boiled for ten minutes. They taste a little like chestnuts and are very moreish …

Broccoli Stalks.
Like most people I used to cook the green bushy broccoli top and discard the stalks. However, if you slice the stalks very thinly, they can be successfully stir-fried or roasted in the oven and there are even recipes specifically for broccoli stalks.

Blackberries.
Obviously, blackberries aren’t a completely new food for me but I’ve never really taken advantage of the easily available abundance of this fruit until this year. Last week we picked A LOT of blackberries and now have stewed blackberries in the freezer and ten jars of blackberry jam in the cupboard. The pips are a disadvantage compared to strawberries and other jamming fruit but spread over toast they don’t cause too much of a problem.

What has all this got to do with writing?
Not a great deal, but it does nicely lead up to me telling you that the food and drink website pellicle.com is accepting paid pitches for its blog.
Tip: My wine-related pitch was turned down because they are stocked up on wine articles for the next six months – so you might want to peruse the website and come up with a different topic.

Bon Appetit!

Blackberry Jam

Blackberry Jam

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Readly – Unlimited Magazines to Read

Freelance writers must study their target publication before starting work on a short story or article.

It’s essential to find out the following as an absolute minimum:

  • Are freelance contributions accepted? Look at the bylines, list of contributors etc.
  • What’s the word count for the slot in the magazine you are aiming at?
  • What’s the tone/style/age range of the publication?
  • What topics have been covered recently? Potential writers will have to come up with something different.
  • What’s the name and email address of the feature editor? This will allow an idea to be pitched in advance before writing up the whole article.

It’s difficult to discover the above without reading several copies of a magazine. If you’re aiming to write for several different publications, buying all the magazines can become very expensive.

I’ve just discovered the joy of Readly. For a monthly subscription of £7.99 Readly gives access to a wide range of magazines plus a couple of newspapers as well. You can read as many publications as you want across up to 5 devices including laptop, tablet and phone. Perfect for a writer to study the wide magazine market.

The Readly website currently offers a one month free trial but it’s sometimes possible to get a longer trial elsewhere. I found a two month trial via Money Saving Expert but unfortunately that’s finished.

However, electronic reading doesn’t beat curling up with a proper, paper copy of your favourite magazine. Use Readly for market research but please continue to buy your favourite magazines on the high street – otherwise there’ll be no markets left for us to write for!

 

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Mountains of the Mind Writing Competition

Mountaineering Scotland is running a free writing competition which is open to non-members as well as members.

On Ben Nevis

Entries can be fact or fiction and there are categories for prose and poetry. However, the subject matter must have a connection with some aspect of mountaineering, rock climbing, walking or ski mountaineering / ski-touring.

In both categories the prizes are: 1st £200: 2nd £100; 3rd £50.

Prose entries should be a maximum of 2,000 words and poems a maximum of 200 words long.

Closing date is 31st August 2020.

As always, please read all the terms and conditions before entering.

 

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Canal and River Trust Writing Competition

The Canal and River Trust is asking for 300 words of your experiences of being by water.

The Trust says: You could recall a peaceful stroll, reminisce about spotting wildlife on a boating holiday or spin a yarn about a fishing trip with an unexpected twist. The subject matter is endless – the only condition is that the piece must be inspired by a visit to river or canal cared for by the Trust.

The judge is poet and author Ian McMillan. The winning entries will be published on the Canal & River Trust website and the winners will receive personally signed copies of Stephen Fry’s books – The Ode, Paperweight and Mythos.

Closing date is 31st August 2020 and don’t forget to read the terms and conditions.

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A Zoom Writing Retreat

Although lockdown is gradually easing, there are still lots of things we can’t do. Groups meeting together indoors is one of them. This has led to the rise and rise of Zoom, video conferencing software that most of us had never heard of at the beginning of March but now use regularly. I take part in Speakers’ Club and Shared Reading on Zoom. We have family catch-ups and quizzes and there’s been guided alcohol tasting too!

On Saturday I tried something new – an all-day Writers’ Retreat on Zoom.

It was organised by Sophy Dale of Fully Booked and ran from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. There were around twenty of us online and Sophy stopped any chaotic, cross conversation by keeping us all on mute. Instead of speaking we typed in the chat box a few sentences about what we intended working on. This included novels, short stories, blog posts, a translation and a guided meditation, among other things. For those who didn’t have a project in mind, Sophy provided writing prompts and also offered guidance to anyone who was struggling or had questions.

Introductions and explanations over, Sophy set a timer for 45 minutes, we all minimised the Zoom window and started writing.

Zoom Writing Retreat

Timed 45 Minute Writing Sprints

It’s amazing how a defined time limit and the knowledge that others are beavering away too helps creativity! I focused on the chapter I was writing and the words came quickly.
After 45 minutes we were all called back together to add more comments to the chat window and then take a five minute comfort break before the next writing sprint. At lunchtime Sophy gave us an hour away from the screen and encouraged us to get some fresh air (I mowed the lawn, which went some way to cancelling out the ‘guilt’ I felt for spending a whole day on writing).

Through the course of the day we had five writing sprints. I switched from churning out words to reviewing the structure of the story and ironing out parts of the plot that didn’t work.

At the end of the afternoon there was time for comments on the day and everyone deemed it thoroughly beneficial. Sophy is planning on doing it all again sometime later in the year.

It struck me that a retreat like this would be easily organised by a group of writing friends – but it would require someone to have the paid-for version of Zoom. I fear the continuity of the retreat would be lost if participants had to keep logging into a new meeting every 40 minutes!

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Valuable First Editions

Have you got a rare and valuable first edition sitting on your bookshelf? Would you like one?

I recently came across an article on LoveMoney.com detailing the phenomenal sums achieved by the first editions of some books. Remember, when these books were first bought, the purchaser was often taking a gamble on an unknown author, simply hoping to find a good read and having no thought to what the book might be worth in the future.

Here are some examples to check for on your shelves:

A first edition of Bridget Jones’ Diary can fetch up to £303 or £500 if signed.

A signed US first edition of The Talented Mr Ripley can be worth up to £7,678.

First editions of either Animal Farm or 1984 by George Orwell can sell for £10,000.

A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was saved from a skip by a teacher helping to clear out a school library. It sold for £33,000.

The Abe Books website has a useful article about identifying first editions. It’s not straightforward because different publishers use different identification methods. As a starting point, the publisher may state the words ‘first edition’ or ‘first printing’ on the copyright page. Alternatively, look at the number line – that’s a line of numbers on the copyright page. If a one is present then it’s usually a first edition. Sometimes booksellers are able to identify a first edition by a printing error that was later rectified.

It’s not too late to start your collection of first editions or gift one to somebody else. I have some copies of psychological thriller, The Promise available for only £6.99, including second class postage within the UK. These books can be signed, personalised with a special message or left pristine. An excellent present for yourself or someone you can’t get to see at the moment. For more details or to order, please email sallysjenkins@btinternet.com.

Disclaimer: There is no guarantee that your copy of The Promise will rise in value, just as there is no guarantee that your lottery ticket will win the jackpot.

What Amazon reviewers say about The Promise:

“… there is something about the way that Sally Jenkins writes that draws me in and keeps me wanting to read more.” – Whiskas’ Mum.

“I was particularly surprised to find out much sympathy I felt for Tina, she is a very well written character.” – Theda.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures! How far would you go to protect yourself!!” – dash fan

The Promise by Sally Jenkins

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A Grand Tour of Scotland in a Freedom Caravan by Susie Kearley

Susie Kearley is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for Practical Poultry, Weekly News, and Caravan magazine. Susie KearleyShe’s taken advantage of the extra time gifted by lockdown to publish A Grand Tour of Scotland in a Freedom Caravan on Kindle. The e-book is full of detail and illustrated with colour pictures of the sights, people and animals she met along the way.

I was pleased when Susie agreed to answer my questions about how she put the book together and about the tour itself. Here’s what she told me:

The level of detail in the book must have necessitated keeping a holiday journal. What form did this take?
I took an A4 lined pad and wrote about my day every evening in the caravan. I’d hoped to sell it as a series of articles to Caravan magazine, but hadn’t got a commission at that time. I persuaded the editor to take the series when I got back, but it took him six years to publish them all, which is why I wasn’t in a position to publish the collection as an e-book until 2020. And then some updating had to be done!
When I returned from our Grand Tour of Scotland in 2014, with a bulging notepad, it took two days to get it typed up on my desktop computer. I had a bit of help from Dragon Naturally Speaking (dictation software), and resolved to getting a laptop, so going forward, I could type drafts straight onto a computer while travelling.

I was pleased to see you’ve included photos in the book. I’ve never formatted an e-book containing pictures. What are the main points to be aware of when doing this?
If the images are too big, KDP will throw up error messages about the file size. You’ll need to use low-resolution images to avoid this. If you post the original image files onto Facebook, a small image is created, which you can then download and use in a Kindle e-book without getting error messages.

A Grand Tour of Scotland in a Freedom CaravanThe photos are a mix of those taken by you and some sourced from organisations such as English Heritage. How do you go about securing photos from such bodies?
I emailed the press office at English Heritage to ask if they had photos of Carlisle Castle, and got the rest from the Scottish Tourist Board and from www.visitbritainimages.com. Visit Britain has a great range of photos available for editorial use, for promoting Britain, free of charge.

Were you able to get multiple benefit from the holiday by writing magazine articles as well as producing this book?
Yes, writing about the experience means you have to pay attention, so you take in more information and remember more details! The holiday and my detailed drafts written as we travelled, obviously led to a series of articles in Caravan magazine, and some of the experiences were used in other travel pieces too. Publishing as an e-book seemed like a natural progression, especially as I have more time on my hands during lockdown.

The caravan looks very small! Was there any friction with two of you living so closely together?
Not much. We get on very well and we have an understanding that if one of us is standing up, the other must sit down, because there isn’t room for two people to stand up and move around at the same time! The only problem is that my husband has lively nightmares, which usually involve him being chased by monsters. Sometimes he lashes out. This isn’t great when you’re sharing a small double bed in a tiny caravan!

Do you have a top tip for caravan holidays?
I’m not sure I do. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. We prefer quiet sites with nice views and a natural feel, perhaps a lake, but some people like big sites with lots of entertainment. We tend to avoid those!

Do you have a top travel writing tip?
You don’t need to travel to far flung places write travel articles. I’ve written articles about my home town, local heroes, and local National Trust properties, without having to leave my home county.

A Grand Tour of Scotland in a Freedom Caravan is available on Kindle for the bargain price of £1.99. Essential reading for caravanners, would-be travel writers, lovers of Scotland and the generally curious!

Keep up with Susie, her travels and her writing on Twitter: www.twitter.com/susiekearley and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/susie.kearley.writer

Castle in Scotland

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Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners

Many of you are familiar with my e-book Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners. Now there is a sister publication: Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners. Both books are structured in a similar way, taking the novice e-publisher from the definition of an e-book and deciding what to write to uploading a manuscript to either Amazon or Kobo and using the marketing tools provided by these respective platforms.Kobo Publishing

The idea for the Kobo Writing Life book was born after a consultation with Tara Cremin, a Kobo Author Experience Manager, about making the most of the Kobo platform.
Kobo is based in Canada and has a large audience share there and in Australia. The company’s market share is also growing very fast in the Netherlands and Kobo’s partnerships with bookshops around the world, including Bookworld in New Zealand and FNAC in France and Portugal, are a factor in its increasing popularity. Importantly for self-published authors, in 2019 one in four of the titles sold by Kobo in Canada was by an independent author published through Kobo Writing Life. This love of new independent voices is a growing trend across Kobo’s major markets. More than 30 per cent of the titles sold in Australia are from independent self-published authors, 27 per cent in the United States, and 20 per cent in the United Kingdom. These statistics are a compelling reason for making your book available on the Kobo platform. Another good reason is that Kobo Writing Life is one of the easiest and friendliest e-publishing platforms to deal with. Kobo has a personal touch with authors that Amazon often lacks. If you have any questions, Kobo Writing Life is very approachable which means that some writers choose to cut their e-publishing teeth with Kobo instead of publishing on Amazon first.
Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute BeginnersAmongst other things Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners explains how Kobo can make your e-book available for purchase by public libraries via Overdrive and how to get access to promotions run by Kobo where your book may be mixed in with titles on sale from major publishers. In common with the original KDP book, it also covers more general e-publishing topics such as how to obtain a book cover and writing a series of books. This is in order to fully inform the newbie e-publisher.
Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners is available on Kindle and Kobo.

And I’m delighted to say that Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners is currently featured on Kobo’s Best Books for Writers page.

In tandem with producing the Kobo e-book I have also revised Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners for 2020. The tweaks are mostly small, the only major change is the removal of VAT from e-books sold in the UK. This means that the 35% KDP royalty rate now applies to books priced from 77p to £1.76 and the 70% royalty rate is from £1.77 to £9.99.
The revised version of Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners is available now from Amazon.

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