Sunday 31 January 2016

Do Writers Really Need Social Media? - Guest Post Anita Chapman

Today, I am very pleased to welcome onto my blog writer and Social Media Manager, Anita Chapman. As writers, it's impossible to escape social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and the good old blog to name but a few. Like it or hate it, social media is here to stay and it's something we need to embrace if we want to be able to engage with our readers and other writers. The only problem is, it's a minefield out there. When interviewing Anita, there were so many questions I wanted to ask her - Which social media platforms should we be on? How should we manage our time? How easy is it to upset someone by doing the wrong thing? I decided the best thing to do was to think of some questions writers new to social media might ask and see it Anita could help. Here are her answers. 

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your fantastic blog, Wendy, and for asking such great questions on behalf of your fictional friends!

You're very welcome, Anita. Can you tell us a little more about neetsmarketing and why you set it up?

I decided to become a Freelance Social Media Manager when, because I was managing the social media for the Historical Novel Society, some authors who I knew were asking me for advice online and at events. In December 2014, Ian Skillicorn asked me to manage the social media for Corazon Books for a couple of weeks, then I built a website (which I plan to have rebuilt soon), and everything else followed from there. I ran two Social Media Courses for Writers in Surrey last year and my next course will be in London on 7 May. The neetsmarketing blog was initially intended to be a place where potential clients could see if I’d be helpful to them. Posts have become inspired by questions asked by clients and course attendees, and the blog has been a useful place to direct clients to when they asked how to do something that I’d written about already. Most clients approach me via word of mouth, which is great, and I’ve been privileged to work for Eliza Redgold and Libertà Books in the past year, among others

Jill has been told that as a writer it’s essential she has a ‘social media platform’. Do you agree?

It’s important to have a social media presence to be taken seriously, and so readers can show their support if they wish to. Agents and publishers expect authors to have a social media presence, and as an unpublished writer, it’s worth getting everything set up so that when you’re published you have a head start. And if you plan to self-publish, you really will need a strong online presence to market your books.

Eddie is thinking about starting a writing blog but someone has told him that blogs have had their day. Are they correct?

When I first started my neetswriter blog in 2011, blogging did seem to be a bigger deal than it is now, but I’ve benefitted so much from starting that blog and it raised my profile. That neetswriter blog helps me to keep my writing in check and I’ve made lots of friends through blogging too (it’s how I found you, Wendy!). It’s a matter of personal taste though, and if Eddie enjoys writing blog posts, he should embrace blogging, but if he doesn’t, he could opt to keep posts short and more update-based, for example about a writing event he’s been to with a few photos. If Eddie writes historical fiction, he could write about the era which interests him. Hosting guests helps as it brings readers of other authors/blogs to you, and it takes the pressure off having to write the posts yourself. An alternative to blogging alone (or additional possibility) is to join or set up a group blog. Good examples are The Romaniacs blog, and the very successful English Historical Fiction Authors blog.

When Anne posts a tweet on Twitter with a popular hashtag she sometimes gets dozens of retweets. She doesn’t want to offend people but thanking everyone would eat into precious writing time. What should she do?

In this case, Anne can tweet a general thank you, including the hashtag. It’s worth remembering (where possible!) who retweets your stuff though, and to reciprocate where you can. If someone takes the time to compose their own tweet mentioning Anne’s blog post or link to her book on Amazon, it’s good to thank them individually if she can, and to retweet it too, which helps to raise their profile.

Jo has been told she ought to have a Facebook ‘author page’ but will anybody ever see it unless she pays?

A reason for an author to have a Facebook Page is so they don’t have to accept friend requests from everyone, which allows them to keep their personal Facebook profile for family and friends ie. it’s a place where readers can see what the author’s up to by liking the Page. A Facebook Page allows the author to post cover reveals, news of a new book deal, or the publication date for the next release; as well as content relating to their book(s). Paying for promo doesn’t have to cost that much (Jo can try it out for £1 for one day), and I’d say it’s worth the investment when releasing a new book or to raise profile generally (linking to your own website/blog/ Amazon buy link gives the most benefit). It’s a chance to get your stuff in front of the eyes of those who wouldn’t otherwise see it. Some Facebook Pages are more successful than others, and posting regularly with content which fits in with your ‘brand’ is the best way to gain any impact. Elizabeth Chadwick is an author with a fantastic Facebook Page.

Paul is new to Twitter and doesn’t want to look silly. What are the top three mistakes you would warn him about?

  1. Starting a tweet intended for all your followers with @username, as only those following Paul and that person will see the tweet. Eg. ‘@fabauthor has written a new blog post about point of view’ should instead be something like ‘new blog post about point of view, by @fabauthor’.
  2. Confusing hashtags with usernames. Eg @amwriting instead of #amwriting.
  3. Pitching to agents.

Emma hasn’t used social media before. Can neetsmarketing help her?

My neetsmarketing blog has posts by me and guests on how to use social media as a writer. The most popular post currently is My Beginner’s Guide to Twitter for Writers which I’ve revamped for 2016.
I could help Emma as a Freelance Social Media Manager (More info on my website).
Emma could attend one of my Social Media Courses for Writers, where she’ll be able to bring her laptop and get stuck into social media for a day. I’ve just organised my next course in London for 7 May 2016 and there’s an early bird price until the end of February (the flyer is being put together at the moment, but here is the info on my Facebook Page).

Finally, if you could give one piece of marketing advice to my fictitious writers above in one sentence, what would it be?

Try not to be needy, negative or too much about you; and learn from your peers and idols.

Thank you, Anita. I've certainly learnt a lot today and I'm sure others will have too.

Anita Chapman is a Freelance Social Media Manager and she runs Social Media Courses for Writers. Anita writes historical fiction set in eighteenth century Italy and spent five years on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s new Writers’ Scheme, before joining the RNA as an Associate Member in 2016 wearing her neetsmarketing hat. Anita is Social Media Manager for the Historical Novel Society, and Publicity Officer for the next HNS Conference in Oxford, 2-4 September 2016 #HNSOxford16.

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Sunday 24 January 2016

The RNA New Writers' Scheme - My First Year

In last week's post (which you can read here) I talked about the reasons why I decided to join the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) New Writers' Scheme (NWS). Today I'll be looking back on my first year and thinking about what this has meant for my writing career.

A week ago, I left you with an image. I was opening the email telling me that I'd successfully been enrolled onto the scheme... yippee! After congratulating myself, I decided I needed to sit down and think carefully about the coming year. As I said in my post last week, my novel just wasn't happening: I hadn't been giving it enough time and, with no deadline, there was every likelihood that it would never get finished.. 

This was certainly no way to carry on. Did I think my novel idea was good? Yes. Did I want to complete it? Yes. Did I want others to enjoy it? Definitely. I needed to give myself a kick up the backside and what better way to do this than by giving myself a deadline. I knew the end of August was the last opportunity to submit to the NWS reader for a critique - this could be it. 

Now I'm not suggesting that waiting until the last minute to submit a novel is a good idea (the poor readers are inundated with late submissions) but I had to give myself enough time to have a reasonable amount to send. I needed to give myself a target - a concrete number of words to complete - and I needed someone who would keep me on the straight and narrow and have the stick waiting when I was slacking. Who better than lovely writing buddy, Tracy. After much discussion (and teacakes) we came up with the magic number - a minimum of 40,000 words. Of course I could have said that I should have the whole novel finished by August (which would have been much better) but I wanted my expectations to be realistic and I also wanted what I sent to be the best it could be.

With a word count to aim for, I found I had more focus and drive and, as the months went by, the novel started to take on a greater importance in my writing life. I wanted to talk about it... share the experience with others. What better way to do this than to join in some of the RNA events (you can find a list of them here). I'd already been to the Winter Party the previous year as a guest but it was time to get my teeth into something a little meatier - the RNA Conference. Last year it was held in London so, in July, I trotted along to St Mary's College in Mile End. I spent a wonderful weekend attending talks, meeting other writers and, best of all, having one to one sessions with publishing editors. To be told that the first chapter of my novel suggested it was a marketable story idea was music to my ears. (You can read my post called Ten things I've learnt from my first RNA Conference here.)

With renewed enthusiasm, I came home and wrote and wrote. By August I had written 54,00 words - more than my target. I sent it off and then I waited... and waited. I carried on writing and eventually, on September 20th, I finished it. My post The Day I Wrote The End is here.

When I eventually received my critique back from my reader, I was delighted. They'd obviously read what I'd sent them carefully and their observations were neatly labelled under 'plot', 'character' etc. The comments were thoughtful and very positive and luckily a lot of the suggestions they made were things that I'd already addressed in the final half of the novel (the problem with only sending a partial). It was the final comment that stayed with me though -  'This novel deserves to be read'. It was worth joining the NWS just for that!

So where am I now, a year on? I've researched agents and started to send the novel out. It's early days yet but one thing I do know... being in the New Writers' Scheme was what gave me the confidence to finish my novel and start the second. It you're new to the scheme this year or thinking about joining it in the future... good luck with your writing and I hope it gives you the boost you're looking for.

You can find out more about the RNA NWS here.

Sunday 17 January 2016

The RNA New Writers' Scheme - What Made Me Join?

Way back in June 2014, The lovely Karen Aldous asked whether she could guest on my blog to tell my readers a bit about her experience of being on the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) New Writers' Scheme (NWS). Her blog post was so interesting that I actually published it in two parts (which you can read here and here) and it quickly became one of my most popular guest posts.

So what is the RNA NWS? Well, in a nutshell, it's a scheme set up for unpublished writers of romantic fiction. It opens in January and accepts only 250 writers (unfortunately the scheme is now full for 2016). The organiser has a team of more than 60 readers who are authors with extensive publishing histories in various types of romantic novel. After joining, members of the NWS can send their script to be read by one of the readers for a critique (something that would normally be pretty expensive).

At the time of Karen's guest post, I was in the early stages of my own writing career. I had been writing fiction for magazines for about a year and the thought of writing a novel hadn't even crossed my mind - far from it. I was happy with what I was writing... Why would I want to be doing anything different?

Strangely though, over the year, things started to change. First, I noticed that my stories were beginning to get longer and more involved. This made me wonder whether I might be able to write a serial. The People's Friend certainly thought so (in fact my editor had mentioned it a while back) so I took the plunge and wrote a five-instalment serial called Charlotte's War for them. The following year, I wrote another, Life at Babcock Manor, and it made me think that maybe I could write something even longer. A novel perhaps? 

There was a short story I'd written for Woman's Weekly which had a theme I couldn't get out of my head. Might it work as something longer? There was only one way to find out. At the end of 2014, I made a start and it was about this time that a lovely writer, Deirdre Palmer (who has also written a guest post here) invited me to meet up with some other writing friends for coffee. They were all members of the RNA and were very welcoming. Deirdre had been through the scheme and had recently got her first publishing deal, why didn't I consider joining the scheme in 2015? 

I'd made a start on my novel but it wasn't progressing very well. What I needed was something to give me that push to really get stuck into it. Could the NWS be that thing?

That October, I went with Deirdre, as a guest, to the RNA Christmas party (you can read about it here) and talked to people who had been on the scheme. Should I join? The overwhelming opinion was, Yes! It was also at that party that I met my blog guest Karen Aldous in real life! It was from her that I had first heard of the New Writers' Scheme. It seemed an omen. I should go for it.

So having already written my application email, at two minutes past midnight on the second of January 2015, I hit the send button. The following day, I was thrilled to hear that I had been accepted. You can read my super-excited post about it here).

Next week, I will tell you about my first year of being an RNA NWS member and how it has helped me with my writing career... don't miss it!

Sunday 10 January 2016

Writing Targets 2016

As usual, at the beginning of the year, writing chum Tracy Fells and I sat down in our local cafe, in Cobblestone Walk, to set our writing goals and give each other a stern talking to. Unlike the previous years, I came armed with this: a lovely little book just asking to be filled with potential achievements (you see I like to stay positive!).

Last year, I realised that any goals set needed to be straightforward and not overambitious if they were to be achievable and not stressful and I think I got them about right (if you haven't already seen how I did you can read last week's post here).

So here they are (gulp) - my writing goals for 2016!

1. To have written 50,000 words of novel two by the end of August (ready to submit to the RNA New Writers' Scheme reader).

2. To write at least two short stories a month. You may have noticed this has been reduced from last year's one a week but I have to be realistic as I'll be writing them alongside the novel.

3. Publish at least one more story collection - I'm really pleased with how well Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose have done (if you fancy reading them, the link is at the side) and so many people have asked when the next one will be appearing that it would be rude not to, wouldn't it!

4. Find an agent. This probably should have been at the top of the list as it is my ultimate goal for 2016 now novel number one is complete. I've already started the process... so fingers crossed.

And there you have it - four (hopefully) realistic goals for the year. One thing I do know though is that if I don't achieve any of them I am not going to beat myself up about it. At the end of the day the most important thing is that I carry on enjoying my writing, my wonderful circle of lovely writing friends and being in the privileged position of being able to entertain readers with my work... here's my latest story in The People's Friend Special.

You can read Tracy's 2016 goals here.