Social Media Questions and Answers and a Book Launch Event

Here’s some of the questions and answers given at the Social Media and Writers Panel held at Leicester Writers’ Club last week which I took part in. I’ve also added some questions that were raised in discussion outside of the panel.

Do you have a social media persona that’s separate from your real persona?

This question isn’t just relevant to social media, it applies in real life too where a writer might keep a controversial opinion quiet for fear of putting off readers or publishers. But being a bland, kind person that always says the right thing won’t get you many followers. How much you reveal about yourself and the effect that has on readership will always be a dilemma for writers.

I have a personal Facebook account, do I need an author page as well?

Whether you need an author page as well as a personal Facebook account depends on what you use your personal account for. If you use your personal account as a means of keeping in touch with friends and family, then you might not want to share your posts with readers so an author page would be useful. If you’re wary of friending people whom you don’t have a connection with in real life, then an author page is a good way of connecting with readers who won’t necessarily have a real life connection.

If you only use your personal account to post author-related updates, then you don’t need an author page as well.

What advice would you give YA authors whose readers shouldn’t really be on Facebook?

Some Young Adult (YA) writers have set up what are effectively private, small scale social media sites for younger readers where discussions were restricted to the books, their characters or their settings and moderated to create a safe environment. It would be worth setting up a blog and creating an interactive environment where readers can not only comment but also post guest articles.

Someone got a book deal after posting her novel in sections on Wattpad, should authors be on Wattpad?

There are numerous examples of publishers giving book deals to people who have built a following on social media platforms, not just Wattpad, but also YouTube and blogs. What publishers are looking for is someone who can build that following and therefore has a ready market for their books, rather than the actual platform. It is more important to find a platform you are comfortable with and could do well rather than trying to spread yourself too thinly by doing too many or doing a specific platform badly because someone who could do it well happened to get a publishing deal

Shouldn’t publishers help with their authors’ social media platforms?

Ideally all promotion should be a joint enterprise between a publisher and writer. In reality, how much help a publisher can give depends on marketing budgets and available time. Certainly publishers can help by featuring their authors and promoting links to their authors’ platforms. However, it’s not reasonable to expect a publisher to create an author’s platform for them.

Should writers be on Goodreads?

Whether writers should be on a Goodreads or not depends on how well you take reader feedback on your books. Some reviews will be good, others will be poorly written. Some publishers encourage writers to get on Goodreads because they see it as a useful vehicle for connecting with readers.

How do you find time to be on social media and find time to write?

It takes the same discipline it takes to be a writer in the first place. It’s also about managing expectations: if you are on social media at regular times, that’s when people will expect to find you on social media. If you really struggle, switch your internet connection off when writing or use an app or a system of alarms and reminders.

How do you decide on the right schedule for posting to your blog?

There are plenty of “social media gurus” who will tell you to post daily or more frequently to keep your readership. You do not need to post daily.

The only right schedule is one that works for you. The right schedule is where you know you can find the time to write and post regularly and will be available to moderate comments afterwards. Blogging is a secondary activity to writing your next poem or book so don’t let encroach on your primary writing activities.

Is social media a good place to find beta-readers?

Beta-readers are people who read and comment on a manuscript or work in progress before it’s sent to an editor/publisher so we have beta-readers in the shape of fellow Leicester Writers’ Club members. Social media’s a good place to put call-outs for beta-readers and I’ve seen that happen, particularly on fanfiction forums.

However, writers need to take care about posting works-in-progress online because some publishers do class social media posts as publication and would refuse to take a poem that had been published on a social media.

If I put poems on Facebook for feedback, is that OK?

If you put a poem on your personal feed where it was only visible to your friends, it would be regarded as ‘closed’ (because it would only be seen by people who’d friended you, therefore is similar to showing a poem at a workshop) and therefore not published.

If you put your poem on a blog that everyone could read, it would be regarded as published. This is why many writers’ groups on Facebook etc are closed groups so that shared work won’t be regarded as published

Urban Myths and Legends From The Emma Press

Urban Myths and LegendsThe Emma Press’s new Metamorphoses-inspired poetry anthology Urban Myths and Legends: Poems about Transformations launches on 1 June at Westminster Reference Library, 35 St Martin’s Street, London WC2H 7HP (private view of artwork from 5.30, readings from 7pm). Free entry, but please RSVP to rblack1@westminster.gov.uk.

With readings from Sophie F Baker, Francine Elena, Ella Frears, Linda Goulden, John Greening, Jack Houston, Annie Katchinska, Emma McKervey, Richard O’Brien, Kathy Pimlott, Degna Stone, Jon Stone, Pam Thompson and Ruth Wiggins. The event will be introduced by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright.

A review of “Urban Myths and Legends” will follow.

Social Media and Writers

Social Media and Writers Panel at Leicester Writers’ Club

 

Thursday 19 May 2016 from 7pm at Phoenix Arts, 4 Midland Street, Leicester LE1 1TG.

I will be speaking about writers and blogging. The other panel members are Rod Duncan and Siobhan Logan. More details available on Leicester Writers’ Club website. This complements the articles I’ve written previously:

Poets and Blogging: is Blogging for you?
Poets and Blogging: Search Engine Optimisation
Poets and Blogging: Promoting your Blog
Poets and Blogging: Managing Blog Comments
Poets and Blogging: Statistics
Poets and Blogging: Alternatives to Blogging

Saboteur Awards Short List Best ReviewerI’m delighted to be on the short list for Best Reviewer for the Saboteur Awards. Voting finishes on 24 May and this is one instance where every vote does count, so please consider voting at this link: Saboteur Awards Voting.

“Lost in the labyrinth of my mind” K Morris (Moyhill Publishing) – poetry review

Kevin Morris’s love of nature comes through in these meditative poems, e.g. in “Early Morning Walk”

“My dog snuffles
And scuffles
Amongst the leaves
It is just there
With no care
For what I think
As I drink
In the fresh morning air.”

The poem that gives the collect its title, “Labyrinth” also has a contemplative feel,

“Lost in the labyrinth of my mind,
Can I a way out find,
Via Ariadne’s thread,
Or must I remain in the land of the dead?
A place where the shadows forever fall,
And no birds call.”

There are other occasions where the perceived need to rhyme creates inversions to the natural order of words. In “Country Places”

“A neon advertising sign,
Clubbers drunk on wine
Half-dressed girls sway on unsteady feet,
Trying to keep to the beat.
Fruit machines flash
After knife-wielding thugs the police dash.

In his study the squire sits,
From a glass of brandy he sips
The dog his hand licks,
Elsewhere society falls to bits.”

Clearly the writer has a greater love of the country than the city. His disdain for female clubbers is counterbalanced in a later poem when he gives Penelope a voice sending her husband back to sea so she can be free of him. But there is a feeling of nostalgia in some poems, e.g. “Modernity”

“Give me something real
Not this plastic that I feel.
Give me books in cloth boards
That I may not be bored.
Give me a chime
To measure time.
Give me solid wood
To caress and love.
Give me objects that last.
A link to the past.”

The stronger poems have a balance of light and dark and invite the reader to join in contemplation, e.g. “Catherine Wheel”

“Sometimes I feel
Like a Catherine Wheel,
My words as sparks,
Lighting the dark.
But who in December
remembers
The fifth of November.”

“Lost in the labyrinth of my mind” by K Morris is available via Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions.

Saboteur Awards Short List Best Reviewer

“He Runs the Moon” Wendy Brandmark (Holland Park Press) – book review

The collection is subtitled “Tales from the Cities”, the cities being early 1970s Denver and Boston, and New York in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of Wendy Brandmark’s characters are in a state of flux, either their lives are about to change or they discover something that could be life-changing and the story stops in time to guide the readers to deciding whether the character would stay or leave.

In “The Stone Woman”, a young girl is afraid of the ‘witch’ in the basement apartment, but, when the girl gets lost, the ‘witch’ comes to the rescue and the girl befriends the Jewish woman who is prepared to tell the girl the truth about her ill grandmother that her parents have tried to protect her from. But the woman won’t talk about the number tattoos on her wrist.

A student, inspired by John Millais’ “Ophelia” is drawn to Pre-Raphaelite-style gowns in “The Denver Ophelia” that she finds in thrift shops in the hope her professor will notice her. However, she discovers she’s not the only one with a crush. Will she see sense or persist in her unrequited love?

A man faces a conflict of loyalties in “The Book Thief” when he discovers his kleptomaniac girlfriend has stolen from his friend’s bookstore.

A teacher of illiterate adults discovers his flatmate has gone back to a lover who doesn’t respect him while one of his students forms the phrase “He Runs the Moon” because he couldn’t find the word ‘sees’. Does the teacher intervene or let his flatmate discover for himself that he’s making a mistake?

Within the brief space of her short stories, readers get to know the characters in Wendy Brandmark’s atmospheric stories well enough to suspect they know which decision the characters will take. The selective but rich details in each story make them distinct and memorable with their characters coming to life. Each story is focused and targeted on its plot so it feels exactly the right length with no story outstaying its welcome.

“He Runs the Moon” by Wendy Brandmark is available from Holland Park Press.
Review of Wendy Brandmark’s novel “The Stray American”

Saboteur Awards Short List Best Reviewer

“The Pursuit of Pearls” Jane Thynne (Ballantine Books, NY) – novel review

Book Cover of The Pursuit of Pearls of Jane Thynne

In Berlin in 1939, actress Clara Vine, who is half English, half German, finds herself cast in “Germania” a proposed history of the Aryan race directed by Leni Riefenstahl. Clara’s grateful for the work as a distraction from the tragic news that Lottie Franke, an aspiring costume designer, has been murdered. Lottie was a student at the prestigous Faith and Beauty School where graduates were expected to marry high ranking SS officers. Clara visits both Lottie’s parents and her best friend Hedwig to pay respects, when she is thrown by Hedwig’s comment that no one at the school seems to be grieving Lottie, Clara suggests Hedwig keeps in touch. Hedwig lets slip that Lottie had a secret lover and had hidden something – Hedwig doesn’t know what – that can’t be found.

Clara Vine is also an English spy tasked with getting closer to the von Ribbentrops to find out what their plans are – it’s an open secret in Berlin that Annelies Ribbentrop is the power half of that couple. British Intelligence are trying to establish whether the Nazis will form an alliance with the Russians. It’s an open secret that Germany is preparing for war. Clara meets Hugh, a tweed-suit loving English journalist who knows of her sister. She also meets Conrad Adler who is working in the foreign ministry on art acquisitions actually reports to Reinhard Heydrich, a sadist head of security and, she discovers has done his research on her. Although her father is a Nazi sympathiser, her later mother had Jewish origins. If those origins are revealed, Clara would be treated as a Jew. Being an outsider but also welcomed by the Nazi elite, thanks to Hitlers’ love of art and Goebbels’ love of film, Clara finds herself an occasional confidente of the wives of the senior Nazis, one of whom warns her that rumours are being spread about her. She also finds out that Lottie’s secret lover isn’t the only one trying to find what Lottie hid. Initially it was assumed to be a jewel because it’s know that it was highly valuable and Lottie was murdered to keep it secret. Can Clara pass a vital message to British Intelligence without her cover being blown and when she doesn’t know who to trust in an atmosphere of increasing paranoia when her life is in danger? Just as she is getting close to discovering who Lottie’s murderer was, she is arrested by the Gestapo and has to draw on her acting skills to survive. A person who has murdered once to keep a secret safe, will do so again and again if necessary.

Although this is not the first book featuring Clara Vine and some of the characters also first appeared in “The Scent of Secrets”, it is not necessary for readers to have read the first book. “The Pursuit of Pearls” works as a stand alone novel. It has the richness of atmospheric details that make Berlin as much of a character of the book as Clara Vine. However, these background details are not allowed to hold up the plot.

Richly-layered, “The Pursuit of Pearls” works just as well as historical fiction as it does an espionage novel. Jane Thynne’s credible leading characters and sumptuous atmospheric details bring Berlin alive. Jane Thynne gives herself space to explore themes of loyalty and betrayal, and how factions within the Nazi party competed with each other so allowing extremism to rise.

In every action she takes, Clara has to thoroughly think through the potential consequences and ensure she has an exit strategy. In a time of paranoia and suspicion, a friend can become an enemy in a heartbeat. “The Pursuit of Pearls” is both a satisfying spy novel and a detailed look at life in Berlin in 1939, with particular focus on the lives of women.

Blog Promotion: getting Poems Published

I’ve been writing a series on Poets and Blogging, looking at whether blogging is right for you, promoting your blog, dealing with comments (and trolls) and other social media platforms if you decide blogging isn’t for you. The best social media promotion isn’t about badgering people to buy your book or pestering people to share your posts, but by getting your poems published and gaining readers. Readers will share poems they enjoy, post comments on them and find your blog because they want to know more.

If you’ve nervous about sending your poems out, consider the following points:

  • Your poems can’t be read if they languish in a file on your computer and you’re the only person who knows they are there.
  • Editors can only select from poems they’re sent – if you don’t send your poems out, they can’t be selected for publication.
  • It’s the editor’s choice as to whether your poems are worthy of publication.
  • It’s not a competition.
  • You’re not stealing a publication slot from someone else – if an editor selects your poem, it’s because it’s a good fit with poems they’ve also chosen. If your poem’s not selected, that doesn’t mean someone else’s poem will be selected to fit that slot.
  • Most competitions and some magazines read poems anonymously so your name won’t prejudice an editor’s or judge’s selection.
  • All published poets had to start by sending out their first submission.
  • All published poets still get rejections.
  • Rejections are part of the process, not something to fear.

Submitting poems

  • Read poetry magazines, select ones that feel like the right fit for your poems.
  • Check guidelines, especially submission windows.
  • If there aren’t any guidelines, standard submission format is a covering letter and the three to four poems you want to submit typed single spaced on separate pages (within the same document if emailing). Ensure your name and email appears on each sheet of your submission in case pages get separated.
  • Double check your poem for formatting, typos, grammar issues and submission guidelines before pressing send or posting.
  • Avoid sending the same poem (or batch of poems) to more than one editor at a time. Most editors do not like simultaneous submissions and poetry readers do not want to read the same poem in several different magazines at around the same time.
  • Don’t send one submission to editor A and wait for a response, send several submissions to different editors over a short period. Magazines often only take one or two poems so if you send 6 poems to editor A and 6 poems to editor B, 8 to 10 of those poems will be rejected and up to 4 may be accepted. If you send four poems to editor A, four poems to editor B, four poems to editor C, 6 of those poems will be rejected and up to 6 may be accepted. But choose your poems carefully – randomly targeting editors is a waste of time and effort.

If you’re not confident about submitting poems:

  • Find a trusted reader, someone who will give you constructive feedback but won’t rubbish your efforts or give unconditional praise
  • Take your poems to workshops
  • Go to open mic events and read your poems – if you can read your poem in front of an audience, you can place your poems in front of an audience by seeking publication
  • Seek out a mentor – remember most poets are writing around other jobs and may seek payment for their time. If you approach a poet, they are entitled to say no.

If you can share your poems at open mic slots or take them to workshops or ask someone else to read them, you can submit them to an editor.

Articles in the Poets and Blogging series:
Poets and Blogging: is Blogging for you?
Poets and Blogging: Search Engine Optimisation
Poets and Blogging: Promoting your Blog
Poets and Blogging: Managing Blog Comments
Poets and Blogging: Statistics
Poets and Blogging: Alternatives to Blogging

Poets and Blogging: What if Blogging’s not for you?

Blogs can be a great way of demonstrating expertise, providing news, engaging and building a community. But it’s not the only way. When the move from static websites, where browsers could only read what you posted and had to dig out your contact details to email you a comment which you weren’t expected to publish, to social media, where browsers could read, comment and generate their own content, started it was fine to build a social media platform through trial and error because everyone else was experimenting and working towards discovering what worked. But now the internet community is less tolerant of mistakes and getting it wrong can provoke a viral backlash.

Publishers are looking for writers to have an established internet presence. Independent publishers don’t have the budget to help writers create websites or blogs. Most writers don’t have the budget to pay others to do it for them and, in an environment where authencity matters, using a third party isn’t always advisable.

It really is not worth setting up a blog if you don’t think it’s for you or can’t commit to a regular schedule of posting. But there are plenty of other promotional tools in the box.

Email Newsletters

These can be as frequent or infrequent as you like providing you give readers something to read and an opportunity to respond. There are now plenty of e-newletter providers who enable you to produce a professional newsletter with graphics and interactive options that also allow you to manage your subscription list. Do check out the legalities regarding email marketing. You must allow people to opt in, give an unsubscribe option which does actually unsubscribe people and give a postal address (need not be a home address).

The advantages of e-newsletters are their flexibility and you can allow readers to send in items to include in a future newsletter (particularly if you’re targeting younger or teenaged readers).

Facebook Page

These are useful ways of building a community around an author, book or book series. You can post your own news and readers can post questions, share posts, upload images, etc. It’s a good idea to draw up a policy for what can and can’t be posted and establishing that anyone posting needs to show courtesy and be constructive. The page will also have to be moderated so inappropriate content can be deleted.

A Facebook page also has the advantage that you can separate your personal status updates from your writing related updates so you don’t have to extend your friends list to people who like reading your poems but don’t what to know about your social life. You can still share posts to or from your Facebook page where relevant.

Twitter and similar social media

Twitter is great for short updates or posting links to interesting articles/videos etc. The downside is that tweets have a short shelf life so you can’t guarantee that all your tweets will be seen by all of your followers. It’s also critical to share by retweeting others’ tweets or linking to articles/news/etc that isn’t just promoting your work. If you’re seen to be broadcasting (i.e. all your tweets point to your publications, your publisher, your own websites, etc and only about self-promotion) you will lose followers.

Guest Blog Posts

If you can’t commit to a regular schedule of posting blog articles, why not consider offering guest blog posts when you have a book or live event to promote?

Before you approach bloggers, check that they accept guest posts, read a few articles to get a feel for what they do publish (just as you would if seeking to get a poem or story published) and sketch an outline of a couple of blog posts. When you approach a blogger, remember it’s their blog not yours and no is a perfectly acceptable response. The best approach is to outline why your post is suitable for their blog, not list the advantages to you of your post appearing on their blog.

Blog Book Reviews

These many not seem as prestigous as a review in a literary magazine, but blogger reviewers generally have a quicker turn around and the published review is accessable to anyone with an internet connection, not just magazine subscribers. A review of your book on someone’s blog is also useful online marketing material.

If you have a book you’d like to be reviewed, don’t just send the book. Send a request first so the blogger can decide if your book is suitable to review for their blog and also if they have time review it. Remember, it’s their blog so don’t demand a review on a certain date, a speedy turn around or suggest particular points to include in the review.

If you’d like to write book reviews for a blog, approach first with some sample reviews and mention where your reviews have appeared before. It might not matter if you haven’t published reviews before if your sample work is good enough. Like magazines, blogs that publish reviews are looking for someone who can meet deadlines and is reliable.

Marketing In Real Life

Online marketing is a complement to offline marketing so don’t forget press releases, interviews, readings, live events, networking events, literary festivals, etc. Ultimately which marketing tools you use is entirely down to what suits you and what you can do well.

 

The first post in this series was Poets and Blogging
The second post in this series was Poets and Blogging: Search Engine Optimisation
The third post in this series was Poets and Blogging: Promoting your Blog
The fourth post in this series was Poets and Blogging: Statistics

The Social Media and Writers panel event will be at Leicester Writers’ Club on Thursday 19 May 2016 at Phoenix Arts from 7pm. Tickets for non-Club members are £5 on the door.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 301 other followers