Media

Catch up with what’s happening on our social media feeds, and find out about the latest authors to publish with The Book Guild… there’s also company news, the latest author events and a round-up of our latest reviews and media coverage.

Video introductions

Media

Catch up with what’s happening on our social media feeds, and find out about the latest authors to publish with The Book Guild… there’s also company news, the latest author events and a round-up of our latest reviews and media coverage.

Author Interview – Stephen Anthony Brotherton

With the news of us taking on his third book in the ‘Shots trilogy’, we talked to Stephen Anthony Brotherton to find out more about his writing:

Tell us about your book

The Shots trilogy tell the story of Freddie and Jo-Jo, who fall in love when they are seventeen, separate and then meet up again thirty-five years later. Presented in first-person vignettes from both of their perspectives, it goes backward and forwards in time to show what happened in their lives together, their lives apart and what happens when they meet up again over three decades later. The trilogy asks a fundamental question: Can the untarnished passion of first love ever be reignited?

What three things do you think your readers should know about you/your writing?

  1. The books are semi-autobiographical and inspired by a first love romance I had at the end of the 1970s/early 1980s.
  2. The books contain a lot of cultural references from that time period, including music, T.V. and film, and they show day to day living in what was a completely different world.
  3. The books explore the psychological impact of earlier life relationships and events, showing how these can tarnish our view of the world and the way in which we engage, or disengage, in relationships.

When did you decide to write your first book?

These stories have been in my head for most of my adult life and it has been a cathartic experience to finally get them down on paper. I started to think more about the psychological impact of earlier life events when I began my career as a Social Worker in the mid-1990s, but the stories have always been there. The Freddie & Jo-Jo trilogy first found its way onto the page as part of a 2000 words assignment on an MA in Creative Writing at Keele University.

How do you like to write? Do you have a routine that you have to follow?

Early morning is best, but there is no structured routine. I get immersed in the flow of the stories, sometimes only realising where the stories are taking me at the end of three or four hours in front of a laptop. It’s then all about the editing. Edit. Edit. Edit. And lots of coffee. That’s a must.

What’s the most important thing you have learned while publishing your books?

Patience. It’s hard, but I’m working on it. I try to remember the reason I’m writing is for me, but it is nice to get the stories published and read by an, hopefully, ever-growing audience. And try not to take the reviews to heart, good, bad or indifferent.

What advice would you give to other budding authors?

Never give up. It’s your story and you have a right for it to be heard.

What’s next in the pipeline for you?

I have an idea for a new book, which I’m going to write as part of ‘NANOWRIMO’ in November. Fingers crossed I can keep up with the word output required.

Another Shot and An Extra Shot are out now! We have a special discount offer available from our bookshop. Enter coupon code ‘FREDDIEJOJO’ at the checkout to buy both books for just £10 (Note: Both books must be in the basket for the coupon code to work)!

IPG Autumn Conference

Our Operations Director, Jane Rowland, and Sales and Marketing Manager Jonathan White attended the Independent Publishers Guild’s (IPG) Autumn Conference in London last week. The IPG Conference is an excellent mix of independent publishers and other representatives from all areas of the UK book trade. There are general presentations and discussions about the major trends in book publishing and retailing. This year the conference was looking at books dealing with breaking rules and on the subject of dissent, but also much more focussed sessions on particular aspects of the book trade.

Here are some of the main points of information about the UK book trade that was discussed during the course of the conference, which our authors might find useful:

One of the main presentations at the conference was a session with representatives from two of the main retail chains, Waterstones and Blackwells, as well as the owner of one of the best children’s independent bookshops, Tales on Moon Lane, representing the independent sector. Blackwell’s explained that now almost a third of their business was coming from online sales and online customer orders. So even a retailer with a traditional bookshop setup is now seeing a huge amount of business coming from the internet. With this in mind, the retailers explained about the key importance of the data associated with the book (metadata) now being correct. This is now almost more important than the selling in of a new title. Because so much of their business is coming from online sales, as long as the book is correctly set up on their system, they will be able to easily order the book to customer demand. This, in turn, then shows the retailers which books they should be stocking in the shops. At Book Guil,d we pride ourselves on the completeness and accuracy of the data we are supplying to the book trade about our books. What the retailers said during this session completely backed up our belief that this accuracy of data will help generate sales of books.

It should be noted that Blackwells and Waterstones have completely different policies in the way they buy books for their chains. Almost all Waterstones buying decisions are made at head office level whereas Blackwells say almost 80% of their buying decisions are still made at branch level. Both of the chains stressed the importance of ‘local interest’ for a book’s possible selection for stocking in one of their shops. Tales on Moon Lane stressed this local interest in selecting books for the independent bookshops and made a point that, as their shops are pretty much stocked to capacity, they have to operate a policy of ‘one in, one out’ when they are making their new titles selection. So it is only worth them replacing one of their titles with a new one if that new title can be proved to make them sales. It is a sad fact that the importance of their stock selling through means they have very little leeway for taking on new books by less well-known authors until they can be sure they will sell through from their shelves.

All of the book retailers stressed the need for their offering to give them something different from the online bookstore. Whether this is the selection of their stock telling a different story, their need to tie in with and support their local community, their use of festivals, author and other events to drive their business, the traditional bookshops are having to look for every way they can to increase their business. The days when shops could wait for customers to just come in have long since passed. Now all retailers need to be as creative as possible in looking for new business. This is another reason why our parent company, Troubador has set up our own Festival Bookshop – so we can take the selling of our books directly to customers. We do not want to just wait for retailers to buy books from us, we decided that we too should be operating as a retailer, whether online or in our Festival Bookshop.

It was not just the traditional bookshop retailers who were doing presentations about their business at the conference. One of the specialist gift wholesalers, Bookspeed, also hosted a session on the differences of selling books in this market. Bookspeed is based in Scotland but does business throughout the UK in the gift and heritage markets – whether supplying the main gift retail chains or all sizes of gift shops attached to stately homes, garden centres or on the high street. They again stressed the need for ‘storytelling’ in their customers’ selection of their products and the importance of curation in selecting the right limited range of books for these shops. For these shops, the keenness of price is less important than the experience of the customer within their shops and the perceived value for their products. A higher priced item is just as good, if not better, in their market if the customer can see the value of the product, and it ties in with the style of the shop.

Several of the retailers working in the library sector explained some of the difficulties of working in this area of the book business. The library sector is one which it is extremely difficult for an independent author, or publisher, to make a success in, with spending budgets being extraordinarily tight and almost all of that budget being used for academic purchasing. With general libraries, you are dealing with many councils and bodies, all with different policies and budgets attached. If you are to be at all successful in this area with a particular title it is vitally important to have an extremely strong business plan as this is such a highly specialist and competitive market. It is still always a good idea for an author to visit their local library to tell them about their new title, but to achieve widespread sales in this area is considerably more difficult.

The BookTrust visited the conference to explain the major problem of trying to increase diversity within the children’s publishing. Although they were specifically looking at children’s publishing, it was a very common theme throughout the conference on how publishing and book retailing needs to increase diversity to appeal to the widest possible audience for books in the future. The BookTrust has identified that particularly within children’s publishing, this diversity is just not there both in the authors and illustrators working in this field but also, and as a result of this first fact, in the positive role models in children’s fiction and picture books. They are therefore taking very active steps to try and reverse this situation.

This is just some of the excellent sessions that took place during the day of this year’s IPG Autumn Conference. We always find these conferences an excellent place to enhance our own information, as well as networking with other publishers and book retailers.

Selling Books to Bookshops

Our Sales and Marketing Manager, Jonathan White, looks at the role of a sales force in modern publishing, and what advantage repping has for an author.

The publisher sales representative has always been a key position within the publishing and bookselling world. Just about every publisher in the country would either have a whole team of sales representatives or use one of many independent sales forces. The sales reps visited every type of book retailer across the UK, showing a publisher’s new titles to the booksellers, as well as checking current stock of that publisher’s books. The aim was to walk out with orders for both new books and to top up older stock.

Today, some reps have been replaced by computerised stock control and ordering, but they still play a valuable role in the sale of books and for getting information out about books to those who are actually selling them to the public.

Even with all the digital information about books, the trade remains an extremely sociable and, in many ways, old-fashioned industry. For all their new looks and up-to-date ambiance in bookshops, booksellers do what they have always done – tell customers about books, sharing their passion for the joy of reading. One of the best ways for publishers to get information to booksellers about their new titles is still through a sales rep. There may be fewer of them these days, but those that remain are still travelling up and down the country visiting bookshops and talking to booksellers about new books. No matter how much information a publisher sends out by email or post, it is still these sales rep conversations that persuade many a bookshop to try a new book. And sales reps know their ‘patch’ very well, and can identify new titles that will do well locally, recommending them to the retailers they visit.

Quite a few publishers, after years of cutting back their sales forces, are re-investing in their reps. As well as visiting bookshops, the reps are also going into gift shops, craft shops, stately homes and museums… and anywhere else that books are sold. There are now sales forces which specifically target non-traditional retailers and persuade them to take books to complement the other stock they hold. In the news recently there have many good-news stories about how the sales of books have grown rather than declined, and more and more retailers seem to be thinking that books are good items to stock and sell. It is sales reps who are out there looking for these new markets.

Sadly, the one thing sales reps are no longer able to do in the same way is leave a bookshop with a firm order for books in their hand. The days when a sales rep could know, to a copy, which of their accounts took the books they were showing have long since passed. It was this lack of precise information that persuaded some publishers that they could not justify keeping a sales force – yet it was the lack of sales when there were no sales reps that persuaded many of the same publishers to reverse this decision.

For many years the industry has predicted the death of the publishers’ sales rep, just like predictions of the end of printed books when ebook sales took off; but sales reps still remain a vital part of the book trade.

We’ve been using a sales force to present Book Guild’s books to retailers for many years. As with many forms of marketing, there’s no guarantee that using a sales rep will result in greater sales; but undoubtedly, a book that is represented by a sales force gets wider exposure, and can at least then stand on its own merits in front of that bookseller. Sales reps are another invaluable tool in the diverse marketing arsenal for getting your book as widely seen by booksellers as possible, giving it the best chance possible of being stocked and selling.

Find out more about our Sales & Distribution team here!

How to Create an Author Talk by Sally Jenkins

Personal contact is one of the best ways of selling books. Hearing an author speak about the inspiration behind a book, its journey to publication or something of its content often sparks reader curiosity. Community groups such as WIs, U3As, and Probus are always on the look-out for new speakers – and they pay a fee as well as offering the opportunity for book sales.

Public speaking rarely comes naturally but we can all learn to construct an interesting talk and to deliver it confidently (even if we are petrified inside!). The average length of talk requested by a group is 45 minutes. This sounds like a long time but becomes manageable if the speech is constructed using blocks of 8 – 10 minutes.

Use the following pointers to put together an interesting talk:

1. Have a brilliant beginning. It’s worth getting the opening right because this will either make the audience sit up and take notice or decide to doze until the tea break. Try using a startling statistic, an arresting quote, an unusual visual aid or create an intriguing ‘what if’ scenario. Or ask the audience a rhetorical question such as, “Have you ever been in love?” or “What is your favourite murder weapon?” Whichever way the speech starts, ensure it is linked either directly to the book or to its genre or to your publishing journey.

2. Make eye contact with the audience when delivering the brilliant beginning. If you open the talk by reading from notes, everyone will switch off.

3. Signpost the talk. After grabbing the audience’s attention with the brilliant beginning, drop in some signposts of how the talk will progress. For example, “My book includes biographies of all six of Henry VIII’s wives but tonight I’m going to talk only about Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr. Then I’ll tell you about the impact they had on the King’s life at court.” Or, “I’m going to tell you how a week in Greece generated the ideas for my novel and then I’ll give you my top ten writing tips to get all of you writing too.” Signposting benefits the audience because they know the purpose of the talk and it helps you, the speaker, create the speech in a logical, easy to follow sequence.

4. Have a Magnificent Middle. The average attention span for an audience listening to an averagely interesting speech is only five to ten minutes. A better than average speaker might grab the audience for twenty minutes. The way to hold audience attention for 45 minutes is to create several ‘soft breaks’ within the speech. This means switching topics every 10 minutes or so. I have built my author talk, ‘How to Make Money Out of Murder’ from four chunks:

– How to write a thriller
– Where writers get their ideas
– How I approach writing a novel
– Working with a publisher

Switching topic like this creates a new burst of energy from the speaker and a chance to re-grab the attention of the audience.

5. Variety is the best way to keep an audience engaged so try to vary the pace and pitch of your voice, drop-in rhetorical questions and use the odd visual aid.

6. Have an Exciting Ending. The ending of a speech should be equally as memorable as its brilliant beginning. Try ‘bookending’ the speech i.e. take the presentation round in a full circle and refer back to something from the beginning, such as a reiteration of the startling statistic. Or end with a memorable quotation, for example, a talk about a writer’s life littered with rejections could end with the quote from Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It’s likely that there will be a short question and answer session after your talk. Most of the questions will be straightforward but I have been asked things like, “How much do you earn?” and “What total book sales are you aiming for?”

If there’s an awkward silence when the organiser asks, “Any questions?”, have something up your sleeve. For example, you could say, “One of the questions I’m often asked is how long does it take to write a book?” Then answer your own question.

To break yourself into public speaking gently, offer yourself as a free speaker to local groups with which you have a link, or to your local library. Learn from that experience before spreading your wings more widely.

Good Luck and enjoy talking to potential readers!

Sally Jenkins is a writer and speaker. Her psychological thriller The Promise was published by The Book Guild in 2018. She is also the author of Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners which contains further information on constructing and delivering a talk and on obtaining and managing speaking engagements. Follow Sally on Twitter @sallyjenkinsuk and see what she’s up to over on her website!

 

Being Yourself or Using a Pen Name

At the 7th Self-Publishing Conference (which took place earlier in April this year) I had a surprising number of conversations with writers on the pros and cons of using a pen name – which struck me as a great blog topic.

A pen name, a nom de plume – call it what you will – it’s a little bit marmite for me. Unless there is a really compelling reason why a pen name should be used, then I am a fan of sticking with your own. However, talking to so many indie writers this weekend, taking a pen name appears to be something that many seem to consider when they are looking at starting their writing career.

Pen names are used for many reasons and even in mainstream publishing they’re not uncommon – mainly by authors, household names, writing in different genres or publishing with different publishers.

In indie publishing the decision on whether to use a pen name is less commercial and can result from writing on very autobiographical topics and wishing to retain some privacy or because the topic is perceived as more masculine or feminine, so the writer implies a new gender with the pen name. Or it could simply be because the author assumes that their given name is not interesting enough… and should be jazzed up somehow!

For me, the most compelling reason to use a pen name would be to protect your author brand… maybe you are an established name in one genre and you are now writing in a completely different area – your readers are unlikely to cross over and you are protecting your hard-won author brand in the original genre by taking on a new writing persona. I suppose that an extreme example of this is J.K. Rowling with her Robert Galbraith pen name, which serves to set her crime books aside from the phenomenon of ‘Harry Potter’.

In terms of privacy, some authors who are writing more autobiographical books may think that changing their name can help mask their identity – especially if they are touching on sensitive topics that they don’t want a wider circle to know. I feel that by publishing a book and putting work in the public domain, your story and privacy can be easily unmasked. In the digital world, with information only a click away, this is not a guarantee of anonymity.

From a marketing POV, giving yourself a pen name can bring all kinds of complications you don’t necessarily foresee at the start of your writing career – from deciding how to present yourself on social media (what name? Linked to your real name? Kept separate?) to writing your biographical details for blurbs and events. Similarly, books written under different names won’t always be linked by author on metadata systems and digital platforms, which feed off the author name – so readers who have enjoyed your writing and naturally want to read more of your work won’t make that link.

Social media is an interesting case too, as Facebook won’t let you have a ‘profile’ in your pen name, and without a profile, you are unable to set up an author page. You need separation across your other social media accounts, blogs and marketing channels that, with a pen name, can double the time you spend on marketing activity if posting for yourself and your pen name separately on different social media accounts.

If you are serious about media coverage, then the press is primarily interested in people and stories. Getting coverage is easier when you can approach them as yourself. Similarly, if you are using a nom de plume because you want to stay anonymous, you’ll likely get no editorial coverage of your book and no media push to help drive sales, because you’ve limited the story that can be told about you. Straight book review coverage for debut authors is highly competitive and marketing now is a blend of reviews, editorial – such as interviews and features, radio and digital marketing to get the message out – so avoid doing anything that impedes this marketing mix.

If you are using a pen name to present yourself with a different gender, because you believe that will help you appeal to different readerships, this can get tricky when you want to do events, signings and with media coverage (when the first thing you’ll be asked for is an author photo!). So be aware that this will happen and know how you want to deal with it when it does!

So, for me, pen names can work well for authors – but it’s worth giving very careful consideration to either the need or the practicality of using one before deciding on that course.

[Article by Jane Rowland, Operations Director]

Creating Your Book Index

Our Editorial Coordinator Hayley recently visited the Society of Indexers. Here’s what she found out about that most complex of beasts: the index, which they define as an ‘ordered arrangement of entries … designed to enable users to locate information in a document or specific documents in a collection’.

Your book may be complete with a fantastic cover and great looking interior. But, for non-fiction books, the index is the real nitty gritty that ties all of the book’s content together. So, where to start? It’s a question we often get asked. We point authors in the direction of The Society of Indexers. Since 1957, this professional body has been promoting improved standards and techniques in all forms of indexing. National Indexing Day itself was launched on the 30th March 2017 to celebrate the society’s 60th birthday. This year’s National Indexing Day was a very well-organised event (well, what do you expect from a group whose purpose it is to organise things?). It was eye-opening to learn just how an index really works, meet the indexers themselves and find out about all sorts of indexing conventions that many readers and authors would never have thought of!

Indexers aren’t robots

Contrary to popular belief, computers haven’t made indexing redundant – a good and effective index is written, not generated from a computer search through the document. A full-text search through the book will retrieve simply too much information for the reader to sift through. Think of it like a Google search – there will be too many instances for the reader to easily find the information that they are looking for and they will simply give up. Even when reading on an e-reader with a search function, an index is necessary for the ease of the reader to find the information that they’re looking for.

Use a professional

Similar to the editing process, authors are often too close to their work to be able to create an effective index. It’s always worth seeking out the services of a professional indexer, as they will be able to analyse the text and pick out the most important aspects for the reader.

There are different kinds of index

With indexes, it’s a not a one size fits all approach. There are specialist indexers for cookbooks, medical, law and historical books. Best to find an indexer that knows your potential audience best!

Not so fast…

An index should always be made at the final stage of the production process, when the page numbering has been finalised. You could spend hours carefully creating an index as part of your manuscript in Microsoft Word, only to find later on that the page numbering has changed when the book is typeset in its final layout. There’s also the possibility of a thorough proof read moving around great swathes of text, so the index should really be created at as late a stage as possible.

Layout matters

There are also style decisions to consider when creating an index. How do you want to deal with indefinite articles? How detailed do you want your headings to be? Would you like to alphabetise the entries: word-by word or letter-by-letter? Do you want a separate index for a prominent topic in your book, like an index of names? It’s essential for there to be a consistent style throughout the index, or it will look messy and unprofessional to any potential readers; it may even put them off the book altogether!

Some golden rules…

There are important indexing conventions that can make the difference for an effective index.

• A heading should ideally have six entries before branching into subheadings. Any more is likely to be overwhelming for the reader to check each of these individual entries.

• A subheading shouldn’t have only one entry, as this means that it likely isn’t necessary for the book, and should instead be combined with the main heading.

Quite a handful, right?

For any non-fiction book, an index is a necessity. It’s a map for the reader to be able to navigate the information in your book. Spare a thought for those indexers too, the people whose meticulous attention for detail and painstaking work helps the reader find exactly what it is they are looking for.

Indexing might come last, but it certainly shouldn’t be least.

For further information and to find an indexer for your project, visit the Society of Indexers!

Selling Books to Readers

We are halfway through our first season selling books direct from the Festival Bookshop, our little vintage Citroen H-Van that we’ve converted into a mobile bookstore. We’ve been at events ranging from Saturday markets, to country fairs and music festivals and being out and about selling books to readers in this way has been eye-opening.

The Festival Bookshop is run by staff from the Troubador Publishing team (Matador and Book Guild), so we’ve had everyone from the bookkeeper to the Directors, and staff from digital, distribution, marketing, production and customer services doing a stint. Being a bookseller at an event is a fantastic way to hone customer service skills and to see how readers interact with the books we’ve helped to publish.

Megan (Digital), Fern (Production) and Philippa (Marketing) at the Foxton Locks Festival!

But books are competing for attention on so many levels these days and this really becomes apparent when you become a bookseller for the day, rather than a publisher. Only recently, the Publishers’ Association released a report showing that people are reading less and watching box sets more; with so much competition for our leisure time, something has to give, and it seems that novels are becoming a casualty, with sales down 9% last year in the UK (though non-fiction sales increased).

With this in mind, here are some of the things we’ve noted from direct selling from our Festival Bookshop so far this summer:

Fiction is rarely an impulse buy – most people who browse the Festival Bookshop at events tend to buy non-fiction or children’s titles. But for the fiction reader browsing our shelves, it really is the case that the cover sells the book. We see the same titles pulled off the shelves time and again to be browsed, but the books next to them are ignored. Cover effects like gold foil and gloss varnish on matt laminate make a big difference when catching attention. But so do tag lines and a strong blurb. When faced with a shelf of books, how do you select one to look at? Time and again, beautiful covers, tag lines and strong blurbs draw people in and clinch that sale.

Parents have to be careful how they spend their money – and it isn’t necessarily going on books. We see children repeatedly told by parents they “don’t want a book”. On more than one occasion they have been told they can have a sweet treat instead. A common question we get asked by parents is, “Which of your children’s books has the fewest words in? I don’t have time to read long books to my children…” So the shorter books sell better this way at events.

Grandparents love to buy books for their grandchildren. Dads buy more books for their young children than mums do when at weekend events and family days out (though not, I suspect, necessarily day-to-day).

Young girls look at the books more frequently than boys – but all interested youngsters want to touch the books. They don’t look at the back or inside (that’s what the grown-ups do) but make instant decisions about the topics that they like based on the front cover (still very much pirates, princesses, dinosaurs and cats).

The most avid customers have been young adult readers, who approach the task of picking their next read very seriously. For these readers, the flip over to the back cover to read the blurb and then reading the entire first chapter is a crucial part of making a decision – and not one to rush.

For adults, specialist non-fiction is popular. Most people are drawn to books on topics they are already interested in such as history, sports, and specialist coffee table books. The ones that do the best have covers that clearly place a book firmly in a certain genre. No being too clever with your cover definitely comes into play here! The so-called grey pound is a noticeable factor in direct book sales, with many sales going to the over 60s – and few to those in their 20s. Gift purchases are big too – anything with a bit of humour does well, especially – we noted – at the Christmas markets!

Everyone loves a bargain. The sale table – which is end of line titles or slightly shop-soiled books – are popular but are picked up solely based on price. However, if someone is really drawn to a particular book on the Festival Bookshop shelves then price is not a factor – especially in non-fiction and gift books. The most expensive book we stock is £50.00, the cheapest is £1.00, so a wide range of price points for all pockets!

Interestingly, people still love to buy online. “Can I get this on Amazon?” is a frequent question… and we’ve even had people standing next to the bookshop while purchasing the book from Amazon using their phone, even if the book is priced cheaper on the van…

However, we have learned that every event is different. We plan the stocking for events individually based on the actual show, what has sold well at similar events, adding in some local author and subject-specific titles and putting forward the titles that are perennial bestsellers with other outlets, such as Amazon and via the trade – and this helps to keep the stocking fresh and to give other books a try out.

Books are not always the go-to purchase when people are having a day out when endless, cheap distractions and burger vans are everywhere, but this is not just an issue for publishers selling direct. The high street can also be a difficult place for bookshops, with many reporting that they have days when they do more sales through their instore coffee shop than they do on actual books – and well-established indie bookshops close their doors all the time due to lack of revenue. Travelling Through (London), Camden Locks Books and Wenlock Books (Shropshire) are three that have shut permanently in June this year – demonstrating again that books still have a hard time grabbing attention.

But for us, getting out and about with the Festival Bookshop offers us another route to sell our authors’ lovely books… we have more events lined up over the year and it has certainly been interesting to see what our bestsellers are so far, and how varied each event can be.

Find out more about our Festival Bookshop here!

Be Social Media Savvy

Social media has rapidly become one of the most effective ways of reaching a large number of people in seconds. For authors, this is great! Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram offer you the chance to join a huge – and growing – online community of readers and writers, to network with people you otherwise wouldn’t reach, to find and share information and, of course, to promote your book.

For many authors, social media is their primary means of marketing their book. They can reach readers to share news, views and information about their new title. They can interact and connect directly with readers and other authors to help build their writer network and readership. They can build their author brand online without having to dedicate the time to building an author website. And best of all? For the most part, it costs absolutely nothing.

Here are our top tips to help you make the most of your online platforms:

Make sure you are discoverable

It sounds obvious, but it’s something that authors often overlook. If you have social media pages, you want people to be able to find them so keep this in mind when you are creating your accounts. You want to be discoverable so don’t pick an obscure username that no one will ever guess or remember. Try to stick to your name or pen name (think @Author_Surname, rather than @4uth0r4739205). Make sure that you include a biography on your pages so new readers can find out more about you and your work. Include a link to your website if you have one, or a link to buy your book if not. You will also need to select images that represent you as the author and your book so make the most of these spaces; high-quality images will help you to create professional-looking accounts.

Be creative

Studies show that social media posts that include an image will reach a larger percentage of your audience. Not only will being creative help you to get more engagement, but it will also make your timeline look more interesting and exciting. Post photos of your book, events and media coverage to help this news reach more people. Also, share behind-the-scenes photos. Are you working on your second book? Have you just received some marketing materials? Perhaps your books have just come in from print? Take a quick photo and share it with your followers. A visual post is more likely to stop people in their tracks

Share news and views

Tempting though it may be, you don’t want every social media post you share to be about your book. Your followers don’t want you to be a ‘pushy salesman’. Social media is all about the conversation; you need to be interactive, informative and engaging. Have you seen an interesting news article? Share it with your thoughts – you might attract like-minded followers as a result. Has someone else’s tweet caught your eye? Retweet with your own comment and add your voice to the conversation. There are lots of different ways that you can get involved, but the main thing to remember is that the more you engage with other users, the more likely you will be to attract followers.

Get trendy with #hashtags

We’re all familiar with the term ‘hashtag’, but what does it actually mean? In social media vocabulary, a hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by ‘#’ which identifies a keyword or topic of interest and facilitates a search for this term. For authors, hashtags can be a great way of getting their posts in front of other users, especially on Twitter and Instagram.

Keep an eye on the trending topics when you log in to your Twitter account – there might be some that are useful to you. By tapping into these trends and hashtagging key terms, you make your post (and as a result, your account) more discoverable to a wider group of people. Eventually, you’ll see which hashtags work for you and which don’t. But don’t go overboard. Studies show that tweets using more than 2-3 hashtags see a fall in engagement.

Offer exclusive content!

Everybody loves a freebie! Think about offering your readers an incentive to follow you. This can be anything from an exclusive chapter from your next book, a seasonal short story, some never-before-seen illustrations from your kid’s book… You could run competitions or giveaways to win a copy of your book. Make the prize more desirable with added extras – signed by the author, a bookmark, and the chance to appear in your next book… This kind of exclusive content is a great reason for people to follow your pages.

Don’t spread yourself too thin…

Not all social media platforms will be a good fit for every author, or indeed every book. Be strategic and think carefully about whether your planned idea will work for the social media site you want to post it to. For example, a recipe book with beautiful photographs will work brilliantly on Instagram where you can tap into both the ‘Bookstagram’ and cooking communities, but it’s more difficult to be creative with a straight adult fiction novel – you can only post your book cover so many times! Perhaps you would be better focusing your efforts on Facebook, where you can encourage a discussion or feedback, or Twitter where graphics and computer-generated content is more accepted.

Concentrate on the social media platforms that work for you. If you’re a Twitter guru, but Facebook is your worst nightmare, play to your strengths. If you know for a fact your readers won’t be on Instagram, is it worth creating an account? Ultimately you’ll find out which social media pages work for you and which you enjoy using most.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day – Author Spotlight

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we’re putting Irish literary author, Dermod Judge in the author spotlight.

Dermod Judge is an Irish author, currently living in South Africa. He has had a varied career and has worked in many industries from designer, typographer and copywriter, to actor, filmmaker, film and stage director and international lecturer on storytelling and filmmaking. Now, having some time on his hands, he has turned to writing novels.

His first novel, Clash, is a fast-paced sports thriller about an eccentric Irish millionaire who takes the dangerous sport of hurling and transforms it into a ruthless gladiatorial contest, spearheaded by a team called The Danann. This was published in late 2017. The sport featured within the novel is one of the fastest ball games in the world – Irish hurling, which has been played for centuries with a supple ash stick and a hard, leather ball.

His next book, Two Jam Jars for the Manor, came out in the same year. It’s set in Dublin in the 1950s and follows Johnny who has a passion for filmmaking as he tries to make it big in the world. Dermod Judge has been involved in story telling in theatre and film for a large proportion of his professional life, and has written over ten full length feature film scripts as well as twelve professionally produced stage and radio plays. He has won a variety of local and international awards for his video making and this inspired the idea for this story.

Dermod has just released his third novel, also set in Ireland in the 1950s. Bopping in Ballymalloy is a romantic drama, following Curly and Mary who are both running away – Curly from failure as a dancer in New York and Mary from the utter boredom of Ballymalloy in West Ireland. Mary is seduced by his flashy car, his collection of great swing music – and his style on and off the dance floor. To atone for the inevitable shame she suffers, he has to give her the only thing she wants – entry into the unforgiving world he thought he’d left forever…

Dermod says, “My three books were originally conceived as screenplays, during which process, the stories and the characters were carefully created and the action plotted with care. They also feature activities which impacted on my life at various stages. During the seemingly never-ending pre-Google world, I honed my research skills so my books have an added dimension which appeals to the target market – the avid reader.”

Dermod’s books are available to buy from our bookshop.

Ex-soldier to run 22km for 22 days to help army veteran PTSD sufferers

From soldier to bodyguard living with PTSD – Mark Inman tells his story of survival in Squad Average, which is due for release this Sunday!

Beginning his military career on the wrong foot, Mark found himself incarcerated in Hong Kong for a crime that he did not commit. Back in the UK, he rapidly progressed through the ranks, but was halted after a serious incident which threatened to end his career. Through pure determination, he picked himself up and fought to achieve his dreams. However, soon after attempting his ultimate goal of SAS Selection, Mark made a decision which changed his entire life.

Opting for a career change, he became a qualified bodyguard, subsequently picking up a close protection contract in Afghanistan. During his adventures in Kabul, Mark encountered endless close shaves including suicide bombings, a kidnap attempt and a plane crash. He became addicted to the adrenaline which would eventually become his downfall. His journey came to an abrupt end and, once home, flashbacks and nightmares controlled Mark, severely affecting his life. After discovering that he was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Mark was able to regain control.

From a man who had everything to being faced with homelessness, Mark Inman’s whirlwind life story is one of both great opportunity and immense heartbreak. Squad Average is a bold and inspirational memoir.

Mark has launched a campaign to raise awareness and funds for the military charities who save lives and support PTSD sufferers. Statistics show that there are 22 suicides a day from army veterans suffering with PTSD. In light of this statistic, starting on 27th October, Mark will be running 22km a day for 22 consecutive days, some of which will coincide with book signings. Mark is donating some of his book royalties to The Royal British Legion, Once We Were Soldiers and Daz’s Den – all of which help veterans combat this devastating illness. Donations can be made via JustGiving.