8 Things I’ve Learnt About Getting Press Coverage For Books

8 Things to remember when trying to get press coverage for your books

Self-publishing is a huge learning curve. After all, not only do you have to learn how to write the best book you possibly can, without those rookie 8 Things to remember when trying to get press coverage for your books mistakes, you also have to find the best editor and cover designer you can, format your book, upload it to Amazon and others, probably print the book, get it into shops and yes, market your book.

Having self-published my second book four months ago, I’m reasonably satisfied with the press coverage achieved since then (two TV appearances, 6 features / reviews / interviews in national papers, a review and an article published in UK papers, 2 half pages in local press, 4 national radio interviews and probably the same number of local radio interviews). Sometimes I’m a little hard on myself and feel I should have done better but then I cop on to myself when in discussion with other authors. It also helps that I’ve just discovered that various pieces of coverage I thought would happen before Christmas will now be spread over the coming months.

They say that a person needs to see or hear of a product on average seven times before they will purchase. If your book is in a popular genre and published traditionally so it ends up on one of the central tables in a bookshop, particularly if in a promotion, this should increase sales. But what if your book is tucked away with just its spine showing on one of the many crammed shelves (and yes, even getting self published books to that location is a huge achievement so pat yourself on the back), how can you get more press coverage for your book so not only will more people buy it but the bookshops will keep it in stock. Here are eight things I’ve learnt while gaining more and more press coverage for my books.

1. Timing

Timing is hugely important and you should always send press releases for inclusion in seasonal gift guides or publications earlier than you think you should! Journalists and editors prepare material for seasonal events much earlier than you might expect. I contacted one farming paper about getting my book in their Christmas gift guide and it had already gone to print! They did accept an article from me instead but it just shows how long the lead times can be. It’s probably getting too late now for some St Valentine’s Day gift guides for example but for those of us with a Mother’s Day in March, start thinking about suitable publications.

The genre of your book may help you decide on the best month for publication (if it is a light holiday read then June might be the best month) but remember that if you are publishing in November, it can make it more difficult to get pre-Xmas press coverage as there are so many other similar stories out there. How can yours stand out?

2. Write Print-Ready Press Releases

Journalists are busy people so sending a tailored press release that needs very little tweaking before going to print will increase your chances of success. Try to tell stories within the press release too, don’t just make it all about ‘Author X has published a book’. Reveal interesting information about the characters in the book or topical and interesting research you discovered while writing it. My most successful press release for my first book Would You Marry A Farmer? was ’5 Ways To Find An Eligible Farmer At the Ploughing’ – it was topical for that time of year (September is the month for the biggest agricultural show in Ireland), it was good fun and it probably made a welcome change from many of the other farming topics floating around.

Don’t forget to have high-resolution images of your book and a good quality photograph of yourself available to send to journalists as they won’t have time to wait, they always need photographs immediately. You can go one step better and have a section of your website dedicated to a media kit for journalists, complete with images in different sizes and blurbs of varying lengths. I included a Q&A in my media kit too.

3. Collaboration

Can you collaborate with other authors to arrange a launch or event or if your book has a similar theme to something newsworthy, use it. What do I mean by that? As my book are farming related, I launched my second book in time for Ireland’s biggest 3 day agricultural event and will be doing the same this year for my third book. I heard of an author who provided talks at her local library and cinema as her suffragette themed book was topical when the Suffragette film was released. I collaborated with six other authors and a local bookshop and we had a ‘rural reading’ pre-Xmas evening event where readers could meet authors and purchase their books. Apart from the sales on the evening, we were all interviewed in a full one hour farming show on local radio the previous evening, mentioned in a national newspaper and received a half page of coverage and photos in the local paper two weeks later. The bookshop owner told me that the sales from the press coverage continued for weeks.

4. Be Patient

Things change for editors too, so being promised space on a certain date doesn’t necessarily mean it will materialise on that date. You just have to go with the flow. My recent book is being reviewed in a national newspaper. Initially it was to be before Christmas (perfect for Christmas sales), then the new year and it hasn’t happened yet. It will happen though and maybe it will cause a nice surge of sales for Valentine’s Day.

A daytime TV show had contacted me in November and seemed really interested and then I heard nothing so I presumed they had changed their minds. Far from it, I heard from them last week and they’ve been beavering away with lots of ideas for content so I’m now going to be featured in February.

5. Always Say Yes

I know that sometimes some press coverage might not seem ideal but unless it is of a type that will do you more harm than good, always say yes when contacted by a journalist. Two years ago, I baulked when a journalist asked me if I would like to be featured in a popular glossy women’s magazine. Yes, I was thinking of the close up shots of me in my kitchen and sitting room and although I didn’t say no, I delayed things and the journalist moved on to other things. Just say yes and worry about the details afterwards. I currently have a to do list as long as my arm as TV cameras are coming on 12th February and yes, it starts with ‘eat less’.

Always remember to contact them afterwards (a quick email is fine) and say thank you for the coverage.

6. Be Realistic

Getting a feature in a magazine or even an television interview does not mean that your book is going to fly off the shelves. If it is close to Christmas, yes, sales will be good but at other times of the year, it’s likely to just be a small surge. Getting press coverage is not a magic bullet for huge sales but they all add to your profile. People may not buy the book the first time they hear of your, or even the second or third but if they keep hearing good things about you, they’ll pick up your book before they pick up the books either side of it.

7. One Leads To Another

It’s amazing how one piece of press coverage will lead to another. After being interviewed on morning TV last year, I was contacted by a number of local radio stations around the country and a couple of magazines too. A TV interview doesn’t just provide a surge in sales, it increases brand awareness and gives you and your book kudos too. After all, if it is interesting enough to be on national television, it’s good enough to be on people’s bookcases. Even local radio interviews can lead to newspaper coverage so keep at it.

Accept interviews or coverage on any topic related to your book. Partly because of my outspoken opinion and partly because I used my social media platforms (blog, Facebook and Twitter) to express them, I was interviewed on national radio about a recent farming organisation fiasco (my books are about farming). I then received an invitation to go on television that evening, to sit on the panel of the Prime Time programme. Yes, I was nervous and apprehensive. This wasn’t sitting in an audience, this was the presenter, me and three other panelists on live television but I went for it (yes, I was very grateful for my experience of being on the daytime TV3 Midday panel a few times) and it went fine. Interestingly, I was then contacted by a TV programme who are going to feature me later in the year.

8. Don’t Be Afraid

Yes, it is true that it can be difficult to get a self-published book reviewed in a newspaper or magazine but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Don’t be nervous about contacting book reviewers or editors of relevant publications. It won’t happen for you every time but that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or your book, it just means it isn’t quite right for their publication or they’ve been flooded with other ones.

I contacted the books editor in an Irish woman’s magazine and was delighted to get the response that she’d feature it but it wouldn’t be for a few weeks, was that okay? Of course it was. I also contacted two or three rural / farming type magazines in the UK, one has reviewed both books and also interviewed me for an article on publishing.

And a bonus point – Trying to get publicity for your book is time-consuming, it will take many more hours that you think. I know I’ve often thought to myself ‘oh, now that magazine has featured me, that proves it works so I must contact others’ and yes, it sits on my to-do list for quite a while. Don’t beat yourself up about it thinking ‘oh, I should have contacted x and y and z’. Do what you can and celebrate the press coverage that you do manage to get. You’re not a PR agency, you’re a writer so allocate a realistic amount of time each week to your marketing and then draw a line under it.

Here’s the summary in an infographic:

8 considerations for getting press coverage for your books


Best of luck with getting more press coverage for your books. It’s not necessarily easy but is so rewarding when it works out. If you have any questions or comments, please do write them below in the comments box, I’d love to hear from you. 

If you are an Irish self-published author, do enter these awards. I’m definitely going to have a go.

Something else that may be of interest to you – I’m taking part in a blab on 29th January (4pm GMT) and I’ll be answering lots of questions about independent publishing if you would like to watch or join in.



And last but not least, our Instagram for Writers eLearning course starts on 15th February and runs for three weeks. If learning how to use Instagram has been on your to-do list for a while, do book in.  

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Posted in Blogs, Marketing, Press Coverage, Self Publishing

Ten Things You Shouldn’t Do On Twitter

Ten Things You Shouldn't Do On Twitter

Many people find it hard to ‘get’ Twitter and it can take some time to work out the etiquette of Twitter as well as how to use it effectively and above Ten Things You Shouldn't Do On Twitter all, not offend anyone or cause any damage to your reputation.

1. Direct Messages to New Followers

Many people send direct messages to new followers but I have to admit I am not a fan. No matter how well they are written, they stand out a mile as an automatically generated general message rather than a personal one. Whatever you do, don’t ask them to buy your products or follow you on another platform in your first message to a new follower.

2. Automatic Tweets

If signing up to a tool which reveals your followers and those you follow, providing you with recent statistics, ensure it doesn’t send automatic tweets daily revealing your numbers of recent followers plus those who unfollowed you. It doesn’t add anything to your account.



3. Bio & Avatar

Don’t Ignore Your Bio or Avatar. Ensure your avatar photograph is clear and either shows you or your business in a good light. Your bio could include some information that reveals your personality such as a reference to your hobbies. Remember to include who is writing the tweets if it’s a large business. Be as personal as you can be.

4. Don’t Quack!

Quacking refers to overusing hashtags in a tweet, so much so that the tweet is overtly promotional and may not even make sense.

Two relevant hashtags per tweet should be plenty. If providing a link, remember to provide people with reasons why they should click it, why it should be of interest to them.






5. Remember to Chat

Don’t forget to be sociable and have some conversations on Twitter. It’s a wonderful way to get to know people and I’ve discovered many authors via Twitter for example. People buy from people and they will be more loyal if they have enjoyed conversations with you. Aim for two conversations a day as a starting point.


6. Use Visuals

Don’t forget to use images too. You can size images appropriately very easily using Canva too.  Videos are becoming popular within Twitter too. Both get good engagement as the visual stands out.

7. Seem Spontaneous

If you’re finding it difficult to tweet naturally and find yourself spending significant time composing single tweets and are then disappointed if you don’t get much response, do remember that Twitter is about what happens in the moment. While spelling should be accurate (although rare typos are forgiven), tweets should be conversational and informal in style.

8. Don’t Be ‘Me Me Me’

When deciding whether to follow a person or not, I often look at the ‘tweets and replies’ section of their account to see if they take the time to be chatty or if their tweets are all statements, call to actions and links to their blog posts. Twitter accounts that are all about ‘Me, Me Me’ aren’t so attractive to follow.

9. Don’t Forget To Unpin

If you wish to promote something or you’ve written a tweet that you’d like more people to see, you can pin it to the top of your profile so anyone looking at your account can see it immediately. However, don’t forget to unpin it if the tweet goes out of date. To pin a tweet, click the three dots under the tweet and then ‘pin to your profile’ in the drop down menu.


It will then ask you to confirm by clicking ‘pin’. To unpin it, click the three dots again and ‘unpin from your profile’. Easy peasy.

10. Be Polite

Never tweet anything that you wouldn’t like to see on the front of a newspaper. Having a public argument with someone on Twitter is unpleasant too and yet, you may see it happen occasionally. I don’t want to end on a negative note but it can happen that trolling can also happen on Twitter whereby people disagree strongly and will send unpleasant tweets. You can block a tweeter (which means you don’t see any of their tweets) by clicking the cog beside the ‘follow’ button and choosing ‘block’ from the drop down menu.

Do you have any other pet hates for Twitter users, or perhaps some recommendations? Do leave your thoughts in a comment. If you would like to avail of more social media tips, do check out our new 365 Social Media Tips book for 2016.

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Posted in Blogs, Tips, Twitter

The Dos and Don’ts of Self-Publishing A Book

Self-publishing a book is hugely exciting and a great achievement. While much of it is straightforward, it can be a scary prospect particularly if you are investing in printed copies in significant numbers. Having just self-published my second book aimed at a farming readership, I found that I am still learning and yes, it is easy to make mistakes. Here’s my list of things you should do and things you should either avoid or consider very carefully.

What You Should Do When Self-Publishing A Book

The Dos and Don'ts of Self-publishing 1. Get a good editor. You cannot edit your own book and neither can your friends or family, even if they happen to have a degree in English Literature. I can honestly say I don’t think I would have finished my second book without my editor. Not only was the book edited well, but Sally also formatted my book for printing and gave me valuable feedback (which increased my confidence in it as a good product).

2. Get your cover professionally designed so it looks like a traditionally published book. I was being interviewed on national radio when the interviewer turned over to the back cover to see who the publisher was and it was only when he didn’t recognise the name that he realised it was self-published.

3. Ensure your book is as good as it possibly can be but don’t procrastinate over publishing. I know if I didn’t have a deadline set in stone, I would still be procrastinating over something or other. Indeed, if you can set a deadline in stone (like launching your book at a large event), it really focuses your mind. Ensure that everyone (editor, illustrator, cover designer, formatter) working on the book is sticking to the deadlines too or it can be very stressful.

4. Don’t leave some things till the last minute if they can be completed in advance. It can take two weeks to get your ISBN numbers for example so get them in plenty of time. Nielsen have changed their registration process since I self-published my first book which meant I had to register again. I had the ISBN number from the previous time but it looked like it was going to take up to two weeks for my book title to be registered to the ISBN. Luckily it was done and dusted within five days but this stress could have been avoided if I’d looked into it earlier.

5. Decide in advance where you are going to sell your book. Some will decide to just sell as an ebook. Others will decide to print (either print in advance or print on demand) and as an ebook. Depending on the genre of your book and the reading habits of your target market, it can be a good idea to print a number of books. If you’re worried about unsold printed copies gathering dust in your attic, then order a single box at a time from Ingram Sparks or Create Space (print on demand). Some people like to have a printed copy and it means you can make an immediate sale if anyone asks you for a copy of your book. Always carry a box of books in the boot of your car too!

If selling to wholesalers, do work out your break even price as the wholesalers will ask for a margin of 55% and you don’t want to be selling them at a loss! If you can sell into smaller shops, for example, local bookshops or gift shops, the margin is more likely to be 35% and of course, it’s a good idea to sell from your own website too. I’m doing all three and time will tell which sells the most copies and which method is the most profitable.

6. Build your readership by using social media. A blog has many advantages, three of which include being able to test your ideas on your market, building a readership and using the blog to promote the book. I’ve met many authors sceptical of the value of Facebook, Twitter and Facebook and while I wholeheartedly agree that ‘buy my book’ type messages will not work, these platforms allow you to have conversations with target readers, to write about your subject area as appropriate and yes, readers will use them to give you feedback on your book too.

7. Put yourself (and your book) out there. Now that you’re an author, you’re also a business person. You have a product to sell so you need to get out of the writing cave for a while and turn into a savvy marketing and sales person. I know that sounds scary but you can prepare by listening to various radio stations (and contacting your local stations) and stocking up on weekend newspapers, relevant magazines and newspaper supplements and seeing where your book and your story fit in. If you are a stay-at-home mum and the theme of your book includes home-schooling or something to do with education, trying to get a featured article on that topic in a newspaper supplement or parenting magazine in early September could work. Therefore, bringing out that book in mid August should work well. The press release announcing your new book might work but if it doesn’t, then I would suggest writing a piece that provides your target market with advice.

8. If you are taking a stand at an event, remember you are going to be competing with the other stands for people’s attention and money. If it’s a busy show, shoppers almost become dazed and blind looking at so many stands so you need something to grab their attention. Some authors will use flyers or bookmarks. I have used stickers for a number of reasons: You’re more likely to get a yes when you ask someone if they want a sticker than asking if they want to buy your book. Once they have stopped to chat, the conversation can move to your book. Once they are wearing the stickers, they are promoting your book as they walk around the show.

9. Write a second book .. and a third. Yes, I’ve discovered that my second book has increased sales of my first with many people buying both in recent weeks.

10. Only publish a book you are very proud of. It’s much easier to talk about and promote a book that you believe is the very best it can possibly be. I was having doubts about my book in June, it just wasn’t quite panning out as I had planned. Maybe it was the encroaching deadline of September or it was the break of having a weekend away but in early July, I suddenly decided to change the angle and structure of my book totally. It made for a busy summer with a total rewrite but I knew the book would be so much better.

11. If you are deciding to use book promotional services such as BookBub or KDP on Amazon, do ask other authors for advice on how to make the most of it. Join author groups on Facebook or LinkedIn and learn from others.


What You Should NOT Do When Self-Publishing A Book

1. Many people will format their own books for Kindle and Smashwords and if your book is fictional with a straightforward layout, you may be able to do it yourself. However, there are some things that are just not worth pulling your hair out over and for me, formatting my non-fiction book with its many headings and bullet points was one of them. My editor formatted my book for the paperback and I used Polgarus Studio for formatting for the ebook. Having a book you are proud of means it is much easier to tell people about it and yes, encourage people to buy it.

2. Don’t use social media to send out ‘buy my book’ messages – be conversational and share links to material of interest to your target market. Aim to be seen as an expert in your field, this is particularly important if writing non-fiction.

3. Don’t forget to thank people – that includes your readers for buying your book and journalists for featuring or interviewing you.

4. Don’t pay for advertising unless you have tried to get free publicity absolutely everywhere. Sometimes a paper or magazine may do a feature if you take out an advertisement. The value in this depends on the cost of the advertisement, and the relevance of the readership.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst anyone can do is say ‘no’. This includes shop owners, wholesalers, journalists, magazine editors. Be ready to explain why your book will sell well. If you’re prepared to let a shop stock it on a ‘sale or return’ basis, most will say yes. Don’t be afraid to ask readers to review your book too – they won’t mind as long as you don’t annoy them about it. See if your local library might include you in an event too. I’ve been invited to my local library’s ‘Book Lover’ event for the last two years to deliver a short talk and sell my book. As the other authors were Donal Ryan and Sheila O’Flanagan, it was an honour to be asked plus there was a good crowd there on both evenings.

6. Don’t forget that marketing your book is as much work as writing it so give yourself time to do your book justice. Then you need to start writing the next one!

Do you have any other recommendations to make to other authors self-publishing their books? I’d love to hear.

I am a huge fan of blogging for authors, partly because my first book was inspired by the popularity of one of my blog posts but I’ve also found it to be extremely useful as journalists have featured me as a result of reading my blog, it’s increased my readership and grown my fanbase too. If you are blogging and would like to improve your existing blog in various ways, our next eLearning course focuses on blogging and starts on 2nd November.

Improve Your Blog eLearning Course


Posted in Blogs, Self Publishing

6 Advantages of Curated Content

6 Advantages for Curating Content

Do you read lots of blog posts about a particular topic or theme? Are you reading them to stay abreast of what is going on or perhaps you like to stay updated for enjoyment? Have you considered writing a curated post to share your learning with your readers?

Why curated posts are a good idea:

6 Advantages for Curating Content 1. Expertise

By adding your own perspective to the content that you share, you are establishing yourself as an expert in that area. You become an acknowledged thought leader in your niche and you become more credible too.

2. Convenience

It is hugely convenient for your readers / clients especially if they don’t have the time to source the best or newest articles. It can be convenient for you too as a means to bookmark your favourite finds. You’re finding content that is of interest to your target market and presenting it in an easy-to-digest format.

As a self-published author, I like to find useful information about writing, editing and self-publishing but I don’t necessarily have the time to seek them out on top of all my other reading. Not only do I find the weekly curated posts on The TBR Pile interesting and useful, I look forward to reading them each weekend too. The curated posts on the social media and business blog Tweak Your Biz are always immensely useful too. I always pour myself a large cup of tea and settle down for half an hour of reading.

3. Learning

You will find that your knowledge will increase vastly, you’ll be reading more posts as you’ll want to share the best with your readers. Your “finger will be on the pulse”.

4. Time-Saving

Curating content will save you time. Once you get into the habit of writing curated posts and as long as you bookmark the best posts as you find them, it can be a relatively quick post to write up.

5. Search Engine Optimisation

As the content you create will be very focused on a particular topic each week, for example, self-publishing and editing, the search engines not only pick up your content as fresh and separate information but it should also contain highly searched keywords.

6. Social Sharing

Writers, bloggers, business people, authors, they will all appreciate having their blog posts included within your curated post and are very likely to share your content on their social media platforms too, thereby growing your audience.


It’s best to use content from a wide variety of sources. Subscribing to a large number of blogs on Feedly means it is easy to check through the headlines and first lines on a daily basis to find the best content. While it may appear that writing a curated post is just a case of adding relevant links to a blog post, it’s actually more detailed than that. A good curated post will either summarise the main point of a “good read” or will simply state why it should be read, what we will learn from reading it.

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Pinterest for Beginners: How To Create A Pinterest Board

How to create pinterest boards and pin to them

Whether you are new to Pinterest or returning to it, it can be a little confusing trying to work out how to create new Pinterest boards and the different ways of pinning to them. I’m going to show you the easiest ways to do just that.

Step 1

How to create a Pinterest Board

When you click on your name on the top right, all of your existing boards are displayed. The quickest way to create a new board is to click the + sign in the empty board on the top right.

Step 2

how to create a Pinterest board

Fill out the following information: the board title, board description (including relevant keywords) and the correct category. These can be edited later if you wish. If you would like the board to be a Place Board, click yes on the ‘map’ button (more about Place boards here). You can also opt to make the board a secret board now too – once the board is made public, it cannot be made secret again. Then click ‘create’.

Step 3

how to create a Pinterest board

To pin to the board from a website, you can upload the Pinterest bookmarklet tool to your toolbar using this link and click it to pin (as indicated by the arrow in the screengrab above) or if the website or blog has a pin-it plugin installed, you can click that.

As you can see, a number of photographs from the blog posts are presented and you can choose which one you would like to pin to the board. The pin on the left is perfect for Pinterest. Not only is it a portrait image, there is text on the image and there is a relevant description showing exactly what the blog post is about. Click ‘pin it’ on the chosen image.

Step 4

How to create a Pinterest board

If you wish to, you can edit the description by clicking on the pencil icon. Then choose the relevant board and click ‘pin it’ beside the board name. They are listed alphabetically although the last three boards you pinned to will be listed at the top.

It’s as easy as that. One tip to encourage people to pin from your website is to have the ‘pin it’ buttons installed on your website which reminds people to pin and to ensure that each image is named with a relevant description when it is uploaded – this saves the pinner having to change the description. You can also add Pinterest widgets to your website too. You’ll see an example of a Pinterest widget (for one of my boards) at the end of this post.

Here’s an alternative way to create a board:

If you are pinning from a website and discover that you haven’t created a relevant board as yet for that pin, if you scroll down to the last board, you’ll see ‘create a board’.

How to create a board on Pinterest

How to create pinterest boards and pin to them Click it and it will invite you to assign that board a name, invite collaborators if you wish to make it a group board or make it a secret board. Don’t forget to edit it later and add in a relevant description to improve the optimisation of that board. That is important.

If you would like to learn more about using Pinterest for your business, our next eLearning Pinterest course will be starting in September.

Follow Lorna Sixsmith’s board How To Use Pinterest on Pinterest.

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Top Tips from Wexford Literary Festival 2015

Compelling Fiction Panel - Claudia Carroll, Rachel English, Louise Phillips, Carmel Harrington, chaired by Caroline Busher

I’ve been on panels at social media events, on TV3′s Midday and at women-in-business conferences and Saturday was my first time to sit on a panel at a literary conference. It’s less than two years since I published my first book so I was delighted to be asked to sit on the self-publishing panel at the Focal Wexford Literary Festival. In its second year, I had been at it last year so had an idea what to expect. I knew it wasn’t going to be a huge festival and with one room, all attendees would be at each panel so there wouldn’t be the worry about ‘what if I’m the unpopular one’! I was really excited about meeting Louise Phillips too – I’ve read all of her crime books and thoroughly enjoyed each and every one.

Meeting Louise Phillips

Meeting Louise Phillips

Here’s some top writing, publishing and marketing tips from the festival, I was aware of the social media tips but it was good to hear other authors saying them. I’m afraid I didn’t make a note of which writer said what though so apologies to all panelists on that score.

Writing Tips

  • Most of the ‘Compelling Fiction’ panel said that their fiction was inspired by real events. As Claudia said, truth can be stranger than fiction. Be observant. I’m guessing behaving like an investigative journalist, reading newspapers and eavesdropping in cafes and on public transport would all help.
  • Write about what you know and in a genre you enjoy. Don’t try to dovetail your writing into a ‘trend’ or because you feel that you’d have a better chance of being published with a particular genre. Be true to your passions.
  • As Sue Conley said, by the time we all know it’s a trend, it is too late. You have to start a trend!
  • If writing multiple points of view in your fiction, ensure the characters are very different and yet recognisable in their characteristics. Bear in mind that repetition of events by different characters needs to be interesting and purposeful.
  • Very few of the panelists said they planned their novel to a T. They had a basic plan in mind and let the novels take them along to an extent. You can arrive up the occasional cul-de-sac and you do have to backpedal and fill in details. The message is if you are thinking of writing a novel, don’t overthink it. Have a basic plan in mind and start to write.
  • When writing, come into a scene as late as possible and leave it early!
  • Join a writers group!
Compelling Fiction Panel - Claudia Carroll, Rachel English, Louise Phillips, Carmel Harrington, chaired by Caroline Busher

Compelling Fiction Panel – Claudia Carroll, Rachel English, Louise Phillips, Carmel Harrington, chaired by Caroline Busher

Traditional Publishing Tips

  • The publishing industry can seem like a very confusing minefield from the moment you get a publishing deal. Line edits, copy edits, structural edits, deadlines, and lots of other terms that are rattled off my editors and leave you wondering what is going on. Do connect with other writers and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every person on the ‘Compelling Fiction’ panel said they had been helped by a well known author and they continue to pay it forward so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Do join a writers group on Facebook if you can. If it is a small group, you’ll get to know each other very well and trust each other with confidential information. If you’re in Ireland, I really recommend the Irish Writers, Publishers and Editors group. These online groups really offer huge camaraderie, knowledge and support.
  • Be patient – publishing a book can seem to take an incredibly long time. It could be at least a year between getting the publishing deal and your book being on the shelves. The process of getting an agent, he/she finding a publisher, sealing the deal and then getting the book out can seem a very long process so do be patient.
  • Writing a series of books is a good idea as many people will read the rest of the books if they enjoy the first one.

Self-Publishing Tips

  • Get a good editor. Don’t think that you can edit your own work or that a friend can do it for you either. Hire a professional. Ask other writers for a recommendation if you don’t know a good editor.
  • Don’t self-publish too early, make sure you are happy with it and your work is as good as it possibly can be before you hit the ‘publish’ button.
  • See if you can tie your book launch into another event to ensure there is a good crowd, for example, host it at a literary event or if there’s an event that a celebrity will be at, all the better.
  • Kindle singles are giving short stories a boost in sales.
  • BookBub can be an effective way to increase sales. It is expensive and they are particular regarding the ones they accept but if you are accepted, it can really boost your sales and ranking.
Self Publishing Panel - Paul O'Brien, Denise Deegan and Me

Self Publishing Panel – Paul O’Brien, Denise Deegan and Me


Social Media Tips

  • Follow the 80/20 rules and don’t saturate your social media accounts with pleas of ‘buy my book’. Be interesting and entertaining. Have conversations with your followers.
  • As Paul O’Brien said, by all means connect with writers on social media but don’t forget about your target readers. They are the people who will buy your book. Know who your readers are too – apparently it is surprising how many authors don’t have a target reader in mind in terms of their demographic (age, sex, interests, income, location, ebook or paperback reader). Paul shared how he used Twitter to connect with an influential person in his subject area, he didn’t spam him but sent a chatty and conversational tweet about once a month.
  • Listen to your social media followers. Felicity Hayes McCoy shared how her second book came about because of feedback from her Facebook community – her publisher listened to them too!

If you’re considering going to more writing festivals next year, do put the Wexford one in your diary.


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Posted in Blogs, Marketing, Self Publishing, Tips

Takeaways from Border Bizcamp 2015

border biz camp

I love speaking at conferences. I enjoy preparing my talk and putting the slides together. I like checking out the room and the atmosphere beforehand so I feel prepared. I enjoy listening to the other speakers. I love the adrenalin rush of butterflies before my talk starts, I enjoy answering questions during the Q & A and I always relish when people come up to talk to me afterwards.

border biz camp

I was delighted to be asked to speak at Border Bizcamp in Co.Monaghan last weekend. One of 22 speakers, I was honoured to be included.  The 140 attendees could choose from the three talks on offer every 40 minutes. Speakers were kept to a speaking time of 20 minutes, 10 minutes for questions and a ten minute break for chatting and moving around before the next talk. It was efficiently organised with a really convivial atmosphere. Between networking, delivering my own talk, arriving late and chatting to an author I met there, I found it to be a busy and enterprising day and I was delighted with the almost full room for my talk.



Here are some tips from three of the talks.

Inspirational TakeAways From 3 Speakers from Border Bizcamp 2015

Chris Brogan (presented via Skype)

‘Mass Personalisation Not Mass Production’. Brogan argued that as social media gives us the means to connect with people, to chat, to answer their questions, there’s absolutely no excuses for not doing so. People want to do business with companies that talk to them, who smile at them, who are friendly and helpful. As he said, spend more time on Twitter Search than chatting and see if people are tweeting about problems that you can solve. That makes it easy to be personable and helpful and therefore will help you grow your business. Always remember that people want value, friendliness and a personal touch with their purchases.

Gareth Chambers of Scribbles Food

‘Better to say sorry than ask permission (particularly with regard to the banks)’. I loved this line as I’m a bit of a risk taker!

‘Believe your own hype until it is true’ – if you keep being positive and keep repeating it not only will you believe it but you will work towards the success. It makes success more likely too.

‘Stand up when having business meetings’ – they all stand around a central table when having a business meeting. I can see how this would make matters move along more swiftly, decisions would be made, activity would be more dynamic and then people would move away to get on with their individual work loads. It certainly seems to be a high energy and innovative company.

Mark Hurley of Zag Technologies

‘Stay away from people who are so negative, if they walked into a darkroom, they would start to develop’ – I totally agree with this, being around negative people just saps your energy whereas being with positive people is really energising.

‘Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business’ – So many people are curtailed in business by worrying about what others might say about them. I particularly notice this in farming yet it can affect everyone at one time or another. If they think well of you, well and good but otherwise, ignore and move on.

‘Winners: Winners WORK, they have IDEAS, do things NOW not someday, NEVER quit, are ENERGETIC, REPEAT their successes and they SELL’ – if you can recognise some of your skills in this, you know you have potential to be a winner.

All of the speakers, but these three in particular, were hugely inspiring and positive. They spoke common sense, they shared how they had failed or made mistakes and then moved on. Their energy was infectious. Definitely a great day.

Speaking of conferences, if you would like to attend an informative and motivating social media evening conferences specially for food bloggers and food businesses, do book your ticket to our Follow The Recipe event on 23rd July in Dublin.

Social media for foodies




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Posted in Blogs, Content Marketing, Events

Which Social Media Platforms Should Writers Use?

Which social media platforms should authors use

Which social media platforms should authors use When writing a book, you are creating a product that will need to be marketed in order to achieve sales. Whether you are planning to self-publish (where you will be doing all the marketing yourself) or to secure a publishing deal with a publisher, you will need to market your book. Your publishers will want to see that you have a loyal following on social media (yes, writers have been turned down on publishing deals as they weren’t using any social media platforms), and in order to achieve sales, you’ll need to develop good brand awareness across traditional media (print, radio and if possible, television) and social media.

However, you may be wondering if you need to use ALL of the social media platforms as after all, where are you going to get time to write the book if you’re tweeting, instagraming and blogging.  You don’t have to use all of them but you do have to work out which platforms are best for you in terms of reaching your target market and maximising sales, plan your social media strategy and then evaluate.

Here’s three reasons why each of these social media platforms work well for authors.

Facebook for Writers

Many writers choose Facebook as the first platform to try partly because they are familiar with it from having a personal profile. It is relatively easy to set up a business page and ask friends to ‘like’ it to make a start on building your community. Many authors have said recently that they are giving up on Facebook as their reach and interaction has decreased significantly but I believe Facebook has a lot to offer authors.

1. Build Community

If you post updates that people enjoy and interact with, you’ll find you are building a community. As they comment and you reply, you can feel that you’ve actually met them in person as you get to know them well.

Your updates should be related to your product or service (no photos of cats if your book is about social media training unless the cat is actually tweeting!) and if it is what your fans expect and want, the interaction increases drastically. As my books are humourous but realistic views of farming, my funny farming posts achieve the best reach. Even a photo of my new pink wellies got good interaction as many farm women (my target market) engaged with my comments.

How writers should use facebook

As far as writers are concerned, providing updates related to your genre or topic will be of interest to your readers who enjoy your books. People also enjoy seeing insights into your life and occasional reports on your writing progress. They help to whet their appetite for the next book.

2. Targeted Advertising

Whether you are boosting a post on Facebook or running an advertisement, you can narrow your audience to the extent that you can target those in a certain geographical location, of a particular age group, male or female, and target them by their relationship status, interests and behaviour. For example, if boosting a post aimed at increasing brand awareness of my Would You Marry a Farmer? book, I would be targeting females aged 30-55, those who are engaged or in a relationship, interested in farming and reading amongst other criteria.

3. Hosting Online Launch

Whether or not you decide to hold a book launch, holding a virtual launch on Facebook means that your fans can attend from wherever they are and it really costs you very little. Decide on a date and announce it in plenty of time, creating an event so people can opt to attend and then receive reminders. Update your page every hour with previews, excerpts,videos, photos and competitions for prizes. It makes for a fun event and your fans can dip in and out as they choose.

Do stay aware of Facebook’s rules, many are common sense but if you break them, you could lose your Facebook presence.

Here’s even more reasons why writers should use Facebook.

How Writers Can Use Instagram

I’ve only recently started using Instagram in terms of promoting my forthcoming book How To Be A Perfect Farm Wife. At the moment, I’m building followers amongst my target group slowly and steadily. Most of my content is related to farming but when I posted a photograph of a book review in a recent publication, one follower commented to say she was downloading it on her kindle.

Using Hashtags

By using hashtags within your own photo captions, your target market will find you. By searching for your target market using hashtags, you can find them, follow their account, like their photos and interact. The #farmerswife hashtag is quite popular, by using it in my posts my target market will find my photos and I can search for them with the hashtag. It really makes finding your relevant readership a simple and effective process.

Hashtags - farmerswife

Sneak Peeks

Sharing short excerpts of your writing, drafts of your book cover, sneak peeks into some illustrations for your book will all work to engage your target audience. Tyler Knott includes lots of photos of typed or handwritten poems, prose or quotes and gains immense interaction.

How Writers can use Instagram

Insights Into Your Life

Read any interview with a writer and it usually includes questions regarding where they write, when they write and what inspired their latest book. Photos of your writing desk, the view from your window or the landscapes that inspire your scenes will be popular.


LinkedIn For Writers

You are now a business person so you really should have a LinkedIn profile. You may feel that LinkedIn is just for Business to Business sales but a percentage of those business people will read books in your genre. Your LinkedIn profile will also show up in search engine results.

Your Curriculum Vitae

Use LinkedIn to list your achievements, publications and awards – it is your online curriculum vitae after all. If a potential reader, agent or publisher is searching for you in a search engine, your LinkedIn profile should come up on the first page. If your name is quite popular, by having ‘author’ as your profession, it will make it easier for people to find you too.

Professional Profile Photograph

Somewhat surprisingly, many business people’s profile photographs on LinkedIn are far from professional. Using a photograph that has been cropped from a family wedding or a day out just doesn’t cut the mustard as far as your level of professionalism is concerned. You can emphasise your author status by including one of your books in the profile photo.

Here’s mine:

How writers should use LinkedIn

Using Groups

There are many writers and book reviewing groups on LinkedIn. Some are incredibly busy with hundreds of thousands of members, some are more select perhaps limited geographically and open only to writers in a particular country or genre. Becoming a member of a group allows you to learn from other writers, to share your own knowledge and yes, engage with other people who just might buy your book.

 Blogging for Writers

In my opinion, blogging is essential for writers. It has so many advantages and after all, as a writer, you should find it relatively easy to write your blog posts.

1. Provides A Point Of Sale

Your blog can also function as a simple website or as part of a more developed website. Blogging frequently and using highly searched keywords means that searchers should be able to find it on the first page of google. Once they read the blog post they are interested in, they may click through to your ‘buy my book’ page and either purchase there or follow the links to Amazon.

2. Test Your Market

By writing your posts in a particular style or about a book-related topics, you can build your fans but also test your market. You can gauge their reaction by evaluating the traffic received, the interaction on your posts and if the posts are shared by your blog readers.

3. Build Your Community

By blogging yourself and reading other blogs, you’ll get to know your readers and other bloggers. Writing can be a lonely occupation and by getting to know other writers, you become part of a vibrant and helpful community. Your fans will have their loyalty rewarded with updates about your book launches, competitions, insights and sneak peeks. They will become even more loyal as a result.

It is worth mentioning that journalists will find you via your blog too. As it happens, I received a phone call from the BBC today – it turned out that they were looking to interview a particular type of farmer and were hoping I could give them some names (which I did) but sometimes that phone call has turned into press coverage for my own book.


More and more writers are turning to Twitter as a means to promote and sell their books. It is an effective tool but not for writers who write strong call to actions tweets like ‘Buy my book. 99c today on Amazon. You will love it #books #greatreads’.  The fact is that readers do buy books when they engage with the writers on twitter – the secret is in the art of conversation.

Like all social media platforms, Twitter is about a two-way conversation, a dialogue, not a monologue. Just as you wouldn’t launch into a sales pitch when you just meet someone in person for the first time, the same goes for chatting to them online.

Using Hashtags

Do not overuse hashtags on Twitter, one or two per tweet is sufficent but an effective use of them means that it’s obvious to others that you are a writer plus other writers will engage with you. Hashtags such as #amwriting, #writingtip, #amediting, #bookmarketing, #authors and #selfpublishing are just a few examples of hashtags you could use to interact with other writers.

Lorna Sixsmith Twitter bio Using Your Bio

Twitter users without profile pictures or biographies will find it more difficult to get followers. Your bio should reveal that you are a writer and the genre or name of your books.

In Conversation

As I mentioned above, Twitter is such a convenient tool for chatting with friends, followers and fans. Readers love chatting with writers and if you are conversational, they will act on the occasional sales tweet to direct people to buy your book.


Pinterest for Writers

You may think that Pinterest is quite similar to Instagram. After all, both are visual platforms. However, Instagram tends to be for photographs ‘in the moment’. The photographs for Pinterest have to be very beautiful or incredibly useful in order to stand out from the crowd. The beauty of Pinterest is others can repin (share) your images (pins) and it will always contain the link to the source (ideally where they can buy your book).

Attract Your Target Audience

You can attract readers by creating boards for topics that your target audience would be interested in. Examples for a historical fiction author might include Bookshelves,Book Reviews, Book Covers (for your genre),  Reading Nooks, Jane Austen, 18th Century England, 18th Century .Paintings, Writing Quotes.

Gain Inspiration

If you are struggling to describe some settings in sufficient detail, you can search Pinterest for inspiration. If you would like to describe the beauty of New Forest ponies in their setting in Southern England, just search for those terms and you will be presented with a plethora of images to choose from to help furnish your descriptions.

Sneak Peeks

Remember what I said above about readers enjoying being able to see sneak peeks into your content or into whatever inspired you. You could also reveal your research for the book within a pinboard.


M.K Hobson has created numerous boards devoted to research images for his historical fantasy novels. I haven’t even read any of the books and I am finding the boards fascinating in terms of their research into the various locations as well as what they suggest about the characters in the books.

If you wish to keep it private while writing the book, you can create a secret board. It is easy then to tidy it up, deleting any irrelevant pins and change it to a public board upon publication of your book.

Which Platform Is Right For You?

If you are wondering which social media platform is right for you, that will depend on who your target audience is, which platforms they use and how good your visuals are. Some will require more time and focus than others. It really is a case of choosing two, becoming proficient at using them and then evaluating their success. The advantages and uses of each platform have been limited to three in this post but there are many more – which will be revealed in the online course.

Social Media and Blogging for Authors If you are hoping that social media is a passing fad and will disappear, remember that it is only thirty years since mobile phones were like bricks and printers cost thousands. The developments in the last ten years have been incredibly fast and that’s the way it will continue. People are consuming information now via their mobile or tablet – be it looking for directions to a venue, booking a restaurant or researching a holiday. The same goes for buying books. Having a QR code or your website address on your marketing material means that potential readers can purchase your book very quickly via their smartphone if they wish to do so. Clare O’Beara has found that having her website address printed on bookmarks has resulted in immediate online sales while chatting to people – they take out their smartphone and make the purchase there and then.

Learn More about Social Media for Authors

If you would like to learn more about using social media for selling your books, our 3 week eLearning Learn How To Sell More Books Using Social Media would be perfect for you. The course is delivered by email, you will receive a lesson each weekday and individual feedback is provided once ‘homework’ is submitted. The course will show you how to use Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads and Email Newsletters to increase those sales. It also includes a lesson on how to gain free press coverage for your book. If you’d like to also learn how to use Instagram and Pinterest, that will be delivered in a subsequent one week course.


If you’d like a chance of winning a place on the Social Media course for Authors, leave a comment below saying which social media platform you would like to learn about most. Winner will be drawn at random – do have some fun and leave me a haiku or a limerick if you’re feeling creative though! The course starts on 8th June and the winner will be decided next Friday morning 5th June.

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Posted in Blogs, Facebook, Instagram Tips, Marketing, Pinterest, Self Publishing, Social Media Platforms, Twitter

Are You Risking Losing Your Facebook Presence?

Are you breaking Facebook's rules?

Do you have a business? Are you selling a product or service? Maybe you’re an author selling your books but you haven’t really considered yourself as being a ‘business person’ as yet.

Are you breaking Facebook's rules? If you are using Facebook to promote your product or service, have you set up a Facebook page? If you are using a Facebook profile instead of a Facebook page, you could lose it. Yes, that’s right, it is against the rules to use a personal profile as a business and Facebook is shutting down the pages or piles of businesses that break the rules.

What is the difference between a profile and a page? Your personal profile enables you to connect with friends. Facebook stipulates that individuals ‘like’ the business page in order to see the updates. The business, therefore, can’t connect with individuals and their privacy is protected.

Yet, time and time again, I come across businesses using personal profiles. Sometimes it is because they didn’t realise they had to have a business page, sometimes they want to grow their numbers of likers by sending friend requests until they reach they maximum of 5000. Some plan to convert it to a page then, others will leave it as it is. There’s a few problems with that system. Many people won’t befriend you as they don’t necessarily know who is behind the account. You can’t use any of the features that facebook pages have such as accessing Insights (analytics), scheduling or using advertising. The most serious repercussion is that Facebook can shut down your profile. Sometimes they give it back on appeal, sometimes they don’t. Imagine you have 5000 ‘friends’ and you lose each and every one of them. Apart from the embarrassment, you would have to start again from scratch.

That’s what happened to author Jessica Bell. She was using a personal profile, she had the word ‘author’ in it, and on the day of her planned launch on Facebook, they shut down her profile. It sounds as though they considered her use of her profile to be business use and unfortunately for Jessica, they chose the worst possible day to close it down. To give Jessica huge credit, she has shared her experience so others can learn from it.

Many authors are wondering if Facebook is right for them as they see a decline in their reach and interaction but as I pointed out in a recent post, Facebook is a wonderful place to grow a community and fans, you just have to provide the type of material they expect and they enjoy – be entertaining, be informative, provide beautiful pictures, be engaging, and it’s much easier to grow your reach. If you’re using a profile, you can’t even see what your reach is plus you are running the risk of social embarrassment.

Getting interaction on your facebook page

As you can see in this screenshot, a simple (and I guess, amusing) update featuring new pink wellies on my farming page received good interaction as lots of farm women commented and enjoyed the conversation – my perfect target market. I could have shared that picture on my personal profile but I wouldn’t have been able to tell how effective it was for one thing.

If you wish to start a Facebook page, you need to go to Create A Page and follow the step-by-step instructions. Don’t put it off. You will need your logo or a photograph to be sized to 160 x 160 for the avatar, and the cover image is 851 x 315. You can crop images easily in Picmonkey or use a variety of images to create a collage – just like these ones.

More Facebook Rules:

  • The images in your facebook ads cannot contain more than 20% text.
  • If you have boosted an update where the image has over 20% text, it is likely to be rejected. You can check it in the grid tool.
  • You cannot ask people to share your update for a chance of winning a prize. Facebook is closing down pages that do this. I’m frequently meeting businesses who don’t realise that this rule exists – simply because so many businesses are breaking the rules and seemingly getting away with it. If running a simple competitition on Facebook, you can ask people to comment for a chance of winning a prize (e.g. the funniest caption will win) but you cannot ask them to share your update or tag others in the comments.
  • Obviously enough, anything that is seen to incite racism, hate, violence or includes nudity is going to be banned by Facebook too.

With 1.4billion users, it’s obvious that some rule breakers are going to slip through the cracks but don’t get too complacent. As a business, you really don’t want the embarrassment, not to mention the hassle, of losing your presence on Facebook.

What do you think? Are the rules too strict or perhaps you think Facebook should be more vigilant with rule breakers? Are you confident you aren’t breaking the rules?

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My 3 Favourite Twitter Tools

My 3 Favourite Twitter Tools

With three twitter accounts, I find using twitter tools to be time-saving, convenient and it improves my use of this social media platform. Here’s my three favourie twitter tools.

My 3 Favourite Twitter Tools


Hootlet is an browser extension of hootsuite and can be used to tweet or schedule tweets providing links to articles that you might be reading and want to share with your followers. Just as you might pin an article or an image to Pinterest from your browser, you can also use the hootlet button in your toolbar to share it.


Once you click on the hootlet owl, the blog title and link pop up – all you have to do then is choose the account you wish to send it from (if you have more than one account) and choose between sending it now, auto schedule or specify the day and time. The link displays as a short ow.ly link just as it would if you used hootsuite.

If you are in the habit of reading a number of articles in one go, you might like to share the best of them with your followers. You probably won’t want all the tweets going out at the same time so you can schedule them out over time if you wish.

Manage Flitter

I decided recently to tidy up one of my twitter accounts, I knew that I was following a lot of people who weren’t following me back and weren’t necessarily that relevant as my target audience. I’m not overly precious regarding the number of people I follow but I was conscious that many of my followees accounts had lapsed or weren’t entirely relevant to that account. I decided to use Manage Flitter and find it really useful.

It provides information on who isn’t following you, which of your followees don’t have a profile picture as yet, if you have any fake or spam followers and any inactive followees (those who have not tweeted for 30 days). It also informs you which of your followers are considered influential on twitter and you can also mute tweeps from Manage Flitter too. You may consider muting someone if you don’t want to see all their tweets but you don’t wish to unfollow them for whatever reason.

In this screenshot from ‘everyone I follow’ you can see that Manage Flitter tells me if they are following me back or not (with the thumbs up or down sign), I can see their last tweet and if I hover over any of their details, their bio comes up in a pop up box.


You can unfollow up to 100 people a day using their free account which is more than enough for a tidy up.


Canva is a photo manipulation tool, with much of the functionality being free. What I like about Canva is that they offer templates in the exact sizes suitable for the various social media platforms so in the case of twitter, the template is currently sized at 1024 x 512 px, the optimum size for images to be viewed in their full size on Twitter.


Now, Canva isn’t just for Twitter of course, but it doesn’t take long to amend  a photograph to make it suitable for Twitter use. All I’ve done with this example is I have chosen the Twitter post template, then uploaded a Twitter icon and my logo and dragged them into place. Two text boxes are used to add the text and it is as simple as that.

My 3 favourite twitter tools

You can also purchase photographs from Canva to use as background or complete images.

Have you used any of these tools? What is your favourite Twitter Tool?

If you are looking for tips on Instagram too, do book into our Instagram webinar below. 

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