Archive for category Promotion

Short Story Writing Tips & a Launch!

I’ve been busy with the feather duster in my Dropbox repository and have rediscovered several of my favourite short stories that missed their target. These are the stories which didn’t land on the right editor’s desk at the right time or failed to catch the imagination of a competition judge.

Short Story Writing TipsThis exercise made me think about two things: What are the best tips or rules for short story writing? And how can I best utilize these short story ‘misses’ in this age of recycling and ‘waste not want not’?

Here are the five top short story writing tips I came up with:
1. Have only a few characters. Any more than three or four makes it difficult for the reader to get to know them in a short space of time. Make sure all their names begin with a different letter – this makes it easier for the reader to differentiate between them. Don’t give names to ‘walk-on’ characters such as the postman or policeman – this will only add to any confusion in the reader’s mind.
2. Be clear whose story it is i.e., from which character’s point of view are you telling the story. That person should have the most to gain/lose from the action. Ensure the reader becomes emotionally invested in that person.
3. Have the action take place in a short timescale. Focusing on a single moment in time works best because the story is ‘immediate’. Avoid a long buildup of backstory. If back story is essential, drop it concisely alongside the action.
4. Conflict should be at the centre of the story. The main character should be facing a dilemma or decision of some kind. This character should solve the dilemma himself rather than have it sorted out by someone else, coincidence or fate.
5. Edit! Give the story more impact by removing words like ‘very’ and ‘just’. Replace adverbs with more specific verbs, for example ‘run fast’ becomes ‘sprint’. Combine characters, for example does the heroine need two friends or will one work just as well and make the story neater?

And what’s happening to those short story ‘misses’? They are now getting their fifteen minutes of fame in Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories. womens short storiesI’ve mixed the stories up with others that DID land on the right editor’s or judge’s desk at the right time, and I challenge YOU to decide which were hits and which missed their target.

Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories is now available on Kindle, in paperback from Amazon and on Kobo.

It would be lovely to get the comments started on the book’s Amazon/Kobo Review pages to indicate whether or not you agreed with those editors and judges.

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Talking About Authors and Reviews

Last week I watched a Facebook Live broadcast by the Empowered Author Group. It was facilitated by Sam Missingham and Katie Sadler. The chat covered a range of topics from how to deal with reviews, how to encourage readers to leave reviews and what to do with those reviews when you get them. I jotted down the points that resonated with me.

  • Reviews are subjective and what one reader hates, another will love. Anyone who’s ever been in a book group will know that a single book can generate a whole range of love/hate discussion.
  • Authors need to develop a thick skin. This is not just for reviews but for an author’s life in general. The knock backs are many and we have to develop the skills for dealing with them.
  • Many authors never read their reviews. If this is you, it can be useful to get a trusted friend or partner to read them to extract any constructive comments that be used in the writing of the next book. For example: A popular character could make an appearance in a sequel.
  • If you are ever tagged in a positive social media comment, always respond with a thank you.
  • The question was asked about how useful it is to get reviews from friends and family. In theory, Amazon does not allow reviews from friends and family, some will get through and can create a useful starting point. However, be aware that if these reviewers usually favour a different genre, their reviews on your book may mess up Amazon’s algorithms. For example, if your brother usually reads Westerns but reviews your Romance novel, Amazon may start showing your book to Western readers and this may limit your potential for sales. It can cause similar confusion on your ‘Also Bought’ lists. It might be better to get friends and family to recommend your book on their own social media and in real life. Or perhaps they could request it in the library or order it through a bookshop.
  • Actively encourage readers to review or rate your book using your social media presence. 
  • At the end of each book put a polite request for a review.
  • Build up a group of early readers or a ‘Street Team’ who will be happy to receive and review an early copy of the book and to shout about it for you. (Early readers can also be found by making your book available on NetGalley but this can be an expensive option unless you have a publisher willing to pay.)
  • Blog tours are a good way of generating reviews. Build your own tour (Reedsy has a list of bloggers) or pay one of the excellent tour organisers to do it for you.
  • When you get good reviews, use them for marketing purposes. Put them out on social media and in press releases.

It’s not easy to encourage reviews – most of us probably never thought about leaving a review until we became writers ourselves. So prize those coveted words of praise. And remember that even bestsellers get some bad reviews.

If you fancy writing a greater length about a book you’ve enjoyed, the Marlborough LitFest 2022 Love Books Competition gives you that opportunity (closes 1st July 2022).

Happy reviewing!

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Sexting – Considerations for (Mainly) Girls in a Highly Sexualised World

Sexting is the sending of a sexual message, photo or video to someone else. It’s not something I usually talk about on this blog. However, it was suggested to me when I discussed the possibility of a guest post with Arnie Witkin to launch his new book It’s Not A Big Thing in Life.


Arnie’s book began as a series of writings for his grandchildren and he gave an early draft to a friend’s granddaughter who was starting university. It had such a positive effect on her that she believed it should be for grandchildren the world over and their parents and grandparents. Hence the eventual publication of It’s Not A Big Thing in Life. The book is full of life advice for those starting out in the world and for those of us already in it! Arnie’s book would make a great present to slip in a student’s backpack to be read and absorbed as needed.

And now for Arnie’s advice on how to handle sexting:

If it hasn’t already happened you will be subjected to requests to send nude pictures or videos of yourself

How will you respond to the challenge of sexting?

If someone you don’t know or have recently met asks you to sext him, consider the simplest possible response. ‘No.’ No discussion.

However, if you are in a relationship, albeit for a short time, and you are tempted, consider that you are totally responsible for yourself. Know that, whatever the state of your current relationship or feelings, these are most likely to change. If a man is scorned, he may well publish those pictures on the internet. So before you completely expose yourself take responsibility for the consequences. I would suggest that you only do it if you are in a loving and trusting relationship, but even then you may want to hide your face. There is no place for naivety.

What if you don’t want to do it? You may feel that if you don’t oblige then you will be excluded. This is more complicated because that has to do with self-esteem and the desire for acceptance.

This is a great opportunity to grow up, assert yourself and build self-esteem. Trust your feelings. If you don’t want to do it then you shouldn’t. If you are ‘dumped’ I can assure you that the person wasn’t worth having, no matter how attractive he may seem. In fact usually the opposite of exclusion happens. Strong people who resist the pressure are admired for it.

Consider taking a firm but non-judgmental approach. ‘I am not happy to send naked pictures of myself.’ If he asks again or ‘why’, simply repeat it. It probably doesn’t pay to take a moralistic or indignant approach. ‘I like you and want to continue the relationship, but please don’t ask me that.’

If he says, ‘If you loved me you would do it’ you most definitely should consider leaving the relationship. ‘If you loved me you would….’ is one of the most selfish and controlling statements there is. It is said purely for the gratification of the person and doesn’t care about your feelings. A good riposte is ‘If you loved me you wouldn’t ask me to do what I don’t want to do.’ If you do succumb and remain in the relationship he will control you until you stand up to him. You may as well do the standing up at the earliest possible opportunity.

Another ploy could be to tell you that everybody is doing it and that you are immature. This is similar to ‘If you loved me…’ You could say, ‘If I wanted my life judged I’d go to a more competent authority.’ Peer group pressure is the greatest pressure in the world. Resisting it is hugely character building. You will be proud of yourself.

If you find the request offensive it is well to remember that offense can be given, but it doesn’t have to be taken. You can decide what you allow to offend you or not. A turd on the side of the road is offensive, but you don’t have to step in it.

Whatever you feel, this is the real world. You can’t stop the sexual pressure, but with focus you can decide on your attitude and response.

You have the power. Don’t surrender it.

It’s Not A Big Thing in Life by Arnie Witkin is available in both paperback and e-book format and has some great reviews. It’s worth a look if you know any young adults or would like a bit of advice yourself on living a better life.

And there’s more information about Arnie on his website.

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A Facelift for The Promise

The rights for psychological thriller, The Promise, have reverted from the original publisher back to me.

To celebrate, the Kindle version now has a shiny new cover and new, lower, price point. I’m also delighted to say, the e-book is available on Kobo for the very first time and, fingers crossed, it will qualify for one of Kobo’s Mystery & Thriller promotions soon.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been possible to carry the reviews across from the old version of the book. But they are currently still available against the secondhand hand editions of the original paperback.

I haven’t yet had time to sort out a new paperback version of the book – that is a project for the coming months.

“Jenkins spins a web of intrigue” – Judith Cutler

Olivia has recurring nightmares about the murder of a man which took place when she was a teenager.
Petty criminal Tina is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
With the clock ticking, Tina needs money and a wife for her younger brother, Wayne.
The discovery of a forgotten letter from an ex-cellmate puts Tina on the trail of Olivia – with devastating consequences.

The Promise is a psychological thriller set in north Birmingham, UK.

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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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Universal Buy Link for All E-Book Retailers

I’ve written previously about BookLinker. This is a free service which enables authors to create an ‘intelligent’ link to a book’s Amazon page. The link automatically directs the reader to his home country/currency Amazon site. However, this is of limited use to those authors who have ‘gone wide’.

‘Going wide’ with an e-book means making it available for sale from a number of online retailers, rather than sticking just with Amazon. These other online retailers might include Kobo, Apple, Google Play and others. Going wide increases the number of possible sales but also creates another problem: how to efficiently direct a reader to the site from which he would prefer to buy.

Internet and social media book promotion works best when potential readers can easily click through to the correct page to make a purchase. If a reader has to start searching around in order to make a purchase, he’s likely to lose interest or go off at a tangent somewhere else. It’s important to keep book buyers happy by directing them to their preferred e-book retailer (Amazon, Kobo, Apple etc.) and the correct currency/country for their location.
This can be done by listing all the different retailers’ links but it’s messy and confusing on a blog post and is impossible within the confines of the Twitter character count.

An efficient way to do this is to use the universal links provided by Books2Read. Simply go to the site, paste in the Amazon, Kobo or any other e-book retailer’s link for your book and click ‘Make My Universal Link’. Books2Read will search all online retailers for the book before creating a single ‘universal’ link. This link will take the reader to a choice of all the retailers where your book is available. If the reader has previously expressed a retailer preference via an earlier use of another Books2Read link, he will be taken straight to his preferred retailer.

To see how neatly this works, try this universal link for my psychological thriller, Bedsit Three. (Tip: Select the Amazon option to get the book for only 99p).

Bedsit Three

 

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A Public Speaking Black Friday Offer

It’s often said that public speaking is people’s number one fear. Many of us would rather adopt a tarantula, stroke a python, walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon or be enclosed in the tiniest of spaces than speak in front of an audience. I know, I’ve been there.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. The fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, can be managed. The nerves will never completely go, but that’s a good thing. A little bit of anxiety ensures proper preparation beforehand and a dose of adrenaline improves the performance. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners

Writers who can face an audience (even if they are quavering inside!) are at a big advantage. Think of the growing number of literary festivals that take place throughout the year, up and down the country, showcasing authors and their books. Think of the opportunities offered by libraries for local authors to make themselves known to local readers. Think of the critique possibilities available at writing groups, classes and residential courses to those brave enough to read their work aloud.

Writers are often stereo-typed as introverted loners, hunched alone over a laptop. We can do a lot of networking and promotion online via Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media, but nothing beats getting out into the real world, meeting real people and sharing our work.

2019 is drawing to a close. Start preparing now to make 2020 the year you crack glossophobia and take your writing and author talk to the audience it deserves.

To help you on your way Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners on Kindle is reduced to 99p for the next seven days, until 4th December. For less than half the price of a coffee you can learn how to:

  • Construct an interesting talk
  • Manage nerves
  • Build audience rapport
  • Manage speaking engagements
  • … and much more

If you prefer a ‘real’ book, the paperback of Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is only £5.49.

Whichever version you prefer, I’d love to know how you get on!

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Make New Virtual Friends

One of the nice things about being a writer is the lovely people you meet along the way. These may be real world contacts, virtual acquaintances from social media or cross overs between the two. If you meet other writers at a workshop or conference it’s rare that you’ll part without swapping Twitter handles, Facebook existence or other means of giving each other virtual support. And sometimes that person who’s said ‘Hi’ on social media will turn out to be local to you and it’s possible to meet in person.

These contacts aren’t necessarily always other writers. There’s a growing trend towards freelance working, aided by technology, internet and social media. Writers are one small part of this freelance world. We are usually not salaried and have only ourselves to rely on to find commissions and markets for our work. Mixing with freelancers from other professions can help us to treat our ‘creative calling’ as a business and manage our time better.

Over the last few months three different contacts have offered me internet publicity via blog interviews. These people all started as virtual contacts but two were near enough to meet in person as well. Below are the interview links. You’ll find out stuff you (possibly) didn’t know about me plus, if you settle back with a cup of tea and rummage around, you’ll discover information on co-working, writing tips and help managing your freelance business.

Ameesha Green is a freelance editor of non-fiction books and also runs the Freelance Life blog.  My favourite question from Ameesha was, ‘What skill do you think is most important in freelancing?’

Lorraine Mace will be a familiar name to many of you; she writes for both Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum as well as writing crime novels and doing much more. My favourite question from Lorraine was ‘Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?’

Dispace is an organisation facilitating co-working in coffee shops and other venues up and down the country. For when you get fed up of staring at the same four walls! Dispace asked me for five tips on writing and self-publishing non-fiction.

Has anybody else made helpful contacts via the internet?

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The Day I Made a Podcast

A podcast is a digital audio file which can be downloaded from the internet and listened to on a variety of devices such as a laptop, smartphone etc. It’s rare to find a one-off podcast, they are usually made available in a series. Podcast is a combination of the words iPod and broadcast. How to make a podcast

This week I was the subject of a podcast which will form part of a series about agile workers, produced by the co-working organisation Dispace. An agile worker can work where, when and how they choose.

I’d never thought of myself as agile until Dispace invited me to be part of their project. For three days a week I’m employed by a multi-national IT company – which definitely isn’t agile; even though I’m home-based I work set hours and can’t take my laptop out in order to work from a coffee shop or wherever else I might choose. Into the remaining two days I fit my writing, occasional public speaking and anything else that comes my way; this is agile.  Lucinda from Dispace was interested in these agile strands and how they fit alongside my ‘proper’ job.

The podcast recording took place at 1000 Trades in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. The microphone and camera (yes, it was filmed as well!) were all set up when I arrived. Lucinda had just finished an interview with Dan Braithwaite, a workplace trainer. Amongst other things, he goes into offices to help workers minimise the potential physical problems of sitting at a desk all day. Perhaps something that us writers could benefit from!

We started straightaway with Lucinda asking me about the different strings to my bow. She’d done her homework by reading Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners and we talked about Sutton Coldfield Speakers Club and public speaking in general. We went on to discuss why I write psychological thrillers, how to promote books, how I see the future of work, how I structure my week and my ‘writing’ days, plus lots more. The time went quickly, the space-age microphone (pictured) and the camera were hardly noticeable and the whole thing felt like a chat with someone who was very interested in me! By the end I realised that, for at least part of my week, I am an agile worker. The only question I stumbled on was: Where can people find out more about you? In the same way that I can never remember my mobile number, I couldn’t remember the website address of this blog. Hopefully that will be edited from the final take!

Conclusion: I enjoyed my first podcast experience and when the final edited version is ready I’ll share it here.

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Speaking Without Notes

This week I went to a preview performance of ‘The National Trust Fan Club’ by comedy performer Helen Wood prior to the show’s Edinburgh Festival run. Public Speaking without Notes

The show is an energetic, light-hearted romp around one hundred National Trust venues. There is also much talk about gift shops, tea shops and cream teas. There’s lots of humour and anyone who’s ever visited NT properties will identify with the content.

But what impressed me most about Helen’s performance was the way she remembered all the words! She talked non-stop for an hour and a quarter without the obvious use of any prompt or notes. When I speak to groups I talk for around 45 minutes, 90% of that time without looking at notes. However, I do have four index cards which contain quotes that I read to get the wording correct. I also have the comfort blanket of an A4 sheet containing a list of bullet points which I can glance at, should my mind go blank and I forget which section comes next (rarely happens – touch wood!). Helen had none of this but she did reel off dates, names and statistics.

So, what’s the best way of minimising the use of notes during a talk?

  • Do NOT learn the whole speech off-by-heart. Doing this can mean your delivery will lack emotion and if you lose your place, it can be difficult to pick up the thread again.
  • Use a list of bullet points to provide a pathway through the speech. If you will be using a lectern, these can be typed onto a sheet of A4. If the notes will be held in your hand, use index cards because they are less obvious than waving a piece of A4 around.
  • Memorise the gist (not the exact wording) of what you will say to expand each bullet point. The actual words you use may vary each time you deliver the speech. This gives you the ability to more easily tailor the speech if time requirements change. Plus you are less likely to panic if you forget a sentence or two.
  • Practise! It’s time-consuming but always leads to a better performance.

Public Speaking for Absolute BeginnersThere are more tips on all areas of public speaking in Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners.

 

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