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.
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.
- 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!
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.
- 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.
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.