Just a quick blog alert to say that my new book trailer for my latest novella, The Curse of Camelot, has now been launched.
It can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/ginahollands/videos/557600525031213/
So much fun – love it!
Just a quick blog alert to say that my new book trailer for my latest novella, The Curse of Camelot, has now been launched.
It can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/ginahollands/videos/557600525031213/
So much fun – love it!
Ever seen an article in a local (or even national) magazine, newspaper or online about an author you’ve never before heard of who has a new book out, or tuned into the radio and heard an interview with the same? Ever wondered how they managed it? Here’s how…
Unless you happened to know someone very well who works in the media and can pull a few strings, you will have to contact the media to let them know details about you and your book. The normal way of doing this is to put together a short press release – no more than two pages – which includes a bit about you and your book, and why this is of interest to the journalist you’re writing to.
If you’re with a big publisher, they will undertake some marketing for you, but if you self-publish or are with a smaller publisher, all the marketing will be up to you. The more marketing you do, the more books you will sell.
Normally the ‘hook’, i.e. the bit that gets the media interested, is that you’re local. Alternatively, it could be that the location where your story is set, is the area where the radio station, newspaper, etc. is based. Either way, make the local connection abundantly clear in the press release and your cover letter.
Generally, all correspondence with media these days is done over email, so you will need to find their email address and make sure you’re addressing your mail to the correct person. You can do this by researching online – most of this information is freely available if you search for it – but this can take time.
You can try to call the news desk, or forward planning for radio, but journalists answer their phones very infrequently, if at all. However, you may have more luck with a phone approach with radio, so it’s definitely worth a go.
If relevant, you could tie your press release in with a particular awareness day, e.g. if your main character is living with breast cancer, you may want to try approaching the media on the run-up to October – breast cancer awareness month. Be aware though – national and glossy regional magazines can have up to a 4 month lead time! Radio works day-by-day and weekly newspapers work two weeks in advance. Online is pretty instant.
Visual media (magazines, online, newspapers) will most likely request an image if they decide to use your story. This could be an image of you and/or your book. Make sure you have both available in high resolution (min. 300dpi). If your image is not high res, printed media will not use it as it will come out pixelated. For online, the resolution can be lower.
Radio stations are a good shout if you’re trying to raise awareness through media. I suggest trying your local BBC station. Commercial radio stations (such as Heart) are extremely unlikely to touch your story as they survive on advertising revenue – something you won’t be offering unless you have several thousands of pounds to part with.
If the BBC station is interested in your story, they may invite you to be interviewed. Snatch this opportunity with both hands as they don’t come along very often! They will not ask you to pay for this and you will not be paid. Chances are, they’ll want you in the studio, as this will give them a better quality of sound. The interview may well be live, so it can be scary, but it’s well worth doing for the publicity opportunity it affords you.
Like anything else, media is a long game. Don’t expect to get one press cutting or do one radio interview and to be propelled into the limelight or sell hundreds of copies of your book. This is extremely unlikely to happen. However, appearing in the media is excellent for your profile as an author and is good experience for when you do reach that best-seller status!
Good luck with generating that all-important media attention. Go get ’em, tiger!
I’d never considered the concept of ‘active reading’ until I received my latest copy of Writing Magazine (I recommend subscribing if you’re a writer, btw). On the letters to the editor page is a letter from a lady who, as an aspiring writer, knows that reading is a great way to learn how to write (Absolutely!). What she questions is how to read ‘actively’. That is, how to read in a way that you notice whether the book is written in first or third person, what tense it’s in, and so on.
Of course, if you’re not trying to be a writer, the best way to read is probably, well, just to read, without being consciously aware of tenses, point of view, etc. However, if you are looking for trends, tendencies in genre, and the like, then active reading is definitely worth a go.
There are many other elements of writing you can actively read for and ask yourself what motivated the author to make their choices, and how they impact you as a reader. Things to look out for include:
Finally, when you’ve repeated this exercise with several books, see if you can see commonalities within and across genres. Do thrillers tend to be in the first person, present tense, whereas romances are in the third person, past tense, for example?
Once you’ve tried actively reading several books and answering the questions above, plus any others you may wish to pose yourself, you should feel more confident in giving your own writing a try.
Remember – just because someone else uses a particular style, that doesn’t mean you have to, but ase a practised active reader, you will be all the more aware of how your choices affect your readers’ relationships with your story and your characters.
Trying to find time to write anything that could be considered remotely good quality is extremely difficult when you’re trying to balance everyday life. Work, the dreaded ‘life admin’, juggling a family and chores make up a full-time job. How is it possible to do all this and write?
I’ve read interviews with writers before where they’ve said things like ‘even if you only have five minutes, you can still write a few paragraphs’. Hmm. I’m cynical of this. It takes five minutes for me to warm up my computer and remind myself what happened in the story the last time I wrote. Advice such as ‘when you’re waiting in your car to pick-up your kids, whip out your notebook…’ leaves me cold. Great if it works for you, but it sure doesn’t work for me.
Plus, you need time to get into ‘the zone’ – or ‘flow’, whatever you like to call this. Getting into the flow is amazing. It’s when you experience the ‘magic’; words fly onto your screen, ideas shoot into your head like never before and time zooms past, to the point that when you finally stop for a break, hours have past and you haven’t even realised. You can’t get this during five minutes on the school run.
Bliss for me is the extremely rare occasion when I have a full day to myself to write and, critically, I get away from my house. Even if it’s just escaping down to the local cafe, I find I get so much more done when I have a change of scenery.
Although going down to the local cafe for a coffee and a teacake someone else has made, is luxurious enough, what’s even better, if you can manage the time and the cost, is to go away for a weekend or a week and spend a substantial amount of that time on your latest project.
I’ve been on day, weekend and week creative writing courses in the UK and Tuscany (okay, Tuscany once many years ago) and find that pretty scenery, a tranquil environment and new people who share your passion, are highly inspirational for writing.
When you have a family and are limited to annual leave from work, then retreats are a rarity, but even a family holiday can offer the space you need to work on your writing – just the increased head space alone is so valuable. When you’re at home, doing your jobs and looking after the family and home, there is very little time to ponder about your plot and your characters, but being away offers a completely different approach.
If you’re struggling to find time and/or inspiration to write, then think about a week or weekend away if finances and time allow. If not, a couple of hours in your local coffee shop could work wonders!
Book clubs are popping up in pockets up and down the country. They’re a great reason for avid readers to get together over a glass of wine (or three) and discuss the latest novel on the agenda.
I realise in some book clubs, it’s less about the book and more about the social aspect, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Whereas in others, the literary discussions are taken more seriously – and there’s nothing wrong with that either. Whatever floats the members’ boats seems to me to be the best way.
I do have an incy wincy bit of an issue with book clubs in general though, and that is there doesn’t often seem to be an appetite to read and discuss books that aren’t considered on the ‘literary’ side, or ‘upmarket’, as some might say.
I’m sure there are some clubs, who do choose books that are considered more accessible – the ‘holiday’ type read if you will, modern romance, erotica. But, as a whole, whenever I ask a friend what their club is reading, it’s almost always one that’s rather highbrow. Their showing me the book is often accompanied with an eye roll or a lip curl (from them, not me), and even a vocal complaint that they’d rather read something more cheerful / easier-to-read / less serious, etc.
So, um, why don’t they give it a try?
I realise it’s good to read a bit of everything; that sometimes you cannot and should not judge a book by its cover; that the best reads aren’t necessarily the easiest or most light-hearted. I also realise that there’s nothing at all wrong with literary fiction or highbrow books. However, there does, I’m afraid, appear to be a level of snobbishness surrounding many book clubs that means genres such as romance or chicklit rarely appear on their reading lists.
People I meet often ask me what my latest book’s about and say it could be something they put forward to their book club. When I tell them it’s a romance or an erotic romance, every single one so far has said something along the lines of “Oh, I don’t think that would be suitable for the book club.” This is often followed by “Of course, I’d love for us to read something like that, but the other members would probably throw me out!”
Surely, if they’d love to read ‘something like that’, then there are other members who would too.
Isn’t it a shame that we feel we can’t introduce a romance or erotic romance to the book club because the genre isn’t considered intelligent enough? Romance / erotica is the highest grossing genre. At $1.44 billion, it brings in twice the income of the next best-selling, which is crime. And yet, many book club members are too embarrassed to suggest reading such a novel in fear of their peers thinking them stupid, common or tasteless.
Come on, book-clubbers – isn’t it time to mix it up a bit? Or maybe you’re part of a book club that does embrace all sorts of genres or are dedicated to romance, holiday reads, cosy mysteries or whatever it may be. Knowing that would make me feel warmer about the world.
If you’re self-published, or your book is published with a small, independent publisher, you’ll need to market your book yourself. The realistic result of doing no marketing is that your book highly unlikely to sell.
I’ve both self-published and been published independently, and work in marketing, so have compiled these tips designed to help you sell more of your books with effective – and affordable – marketing you can do yourself.
These days, small publishers will want to see that you have an active profile online before they’ll consider publishing you. Smaller publishers do not have the budgets of the bigger boys, and therefore rely on the authors to promote their own works and make sales.
Many authors have unfortunately failed to sell their books, or have given up writing all together, because they hate self-promotion. It’s not my favourite thing in the world either, although I entirely understand the need for it. Promoting someone else is always easier than promoting yourself, so if you have a spare few grand, you could always hire a marketing company to work on your behalf. Let’s face it though, that’s unlikely, so for the rest of us, here goes:
That’s just a trio of marketing ideas to get you started. There are many more where they came from. Keep posted for future articles, such as:
I was on a writers’ facebook page yesterday and was surprised to see several posts from different writers, all saying they’d finally worked up the courage to send an entry into a competition. I was surprised, not because they’d entered, but because they’d all had an attack of self doubt before thankfully overcoming it and pressing ‘send’.
Great that these people got over their fears and did it anyway, but imagine how many people didn’t. Then it struck me that there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of really great writers out there whose work will never win a competition, be published, or even be read, because a lack of confidence is holding them back.
And I’m sure it’s not just writers. There are people with all sorts of talents who’ll never be discovered because of crippling fear. What is this a fear of? I’ve felt uncertainty myself in connection with my writing, and in my case it’s always a fear of being judged, mainly by people I know, who might think my books are too erotic, not literary enough, and even based on them!
And I was right – to some degree all three of those fears have come true.
But what I’ve discovered is it really doesn’t matter. What I’ve got out of writing far outweighs anything I’ve been scared of. In fact, most feedback about my books has been complimentary and positive.
It isn’t all positive, however. I’ve had criticisms about my books that I hadn’t been expecting, and surprised myself to find I wasn’t at all offended – genuinely.
You see, you can’t please everyone, and you never will. Trying to please everyone is a fruitless pursuit that will never work, and therefore is a waste of time and energy. Instead, write something you enjoy writing – that you’d like to read, and you’ll find you won’t be the only one who gets pleasure out of it.
This is a picture of me in November last year, proud as punch at having my first short story published in a mainstream magazine. My colleague kindly took the photo. I didn’t ask her to. Actually, I cringed a bit inside when she suggested it, but bit back my fear and thought ‘just get on with it and be brave’. I thought if I put it on social media it would look showy-offy. It was actually one of my most popular posts.
People are generally kind and like to celebrate the success of others. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of an achievement – especially one you have worked hard for. Everyone can relate to this, and far from it having an eye-roll effect, it tends to lift the mood.
Submitting a piece of writing is like giving up a part of your soul. It’s going out there for the world to see. This is big. No wonder we get scared. That’s normal.
Here are some common fears. Ring a bell with you?
I’ve had all these thoughts at some point, but have managed to overcome them with a ‘Oh, sod it!’ and pressed send before thinking about it too hard. I highly recommend this as a way of overcoming fear.
So what if your work makes an agent spit out their coffee – at least they’ll remember you for next time. So what if your teenager reads it one day and thinks you’re a complete lunatic – they’re teenagers, they’ll think that whether you write a book or not. So what if your colleagues think you’re more sex obsessed than Michael Douglas on Viagra – better that than being known as the one who steals the toilet rolls.
None of it matters. What matters is you, your writing and the fact that if you don’t get it out there, the world won’t know how great it is. And that’s doing the world an injustice.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
More and more celebrities are bringing out works of fiction. From TV presenter Holly Willoughby and actress Ruth Jones, to gardener of the small screen, Alan Titchmarsh and journalist Fearne Britton – a whole lot of celebrities are writing books and having them published.
Our nation’s obsession for celebrity means that a well-known name sells. And in the cut-throat world of fiction-writing, publishers, unsurprisingly, love a guaranteed seller.
I can understand perfectly why many excellent writers find this terribly frustrating. Their work, which is every bit as good as anything created by a celebrity author, may never get noticed—or even published—whereas if they were famous, well, it would likely be a very different story.
Celebrities, especially those who write children’s books, when approached with this objection, will often cite that anything that gets children reading is a positive. Hmm, maybe. But if their work wasn’t published, then someone else’s would be. Awesome kids books would still be published and children would still read.
Celebrities’ books will often get pride of place on bookshops’ shelves. They will almost always be supported with a huge marketing budget, and the celebrities often have copious opportunity to promote their books through media appearances as broadcasters are receptive to having these stars appear on their shows.
The same cannot be said for most authors, or wannabe authors, who don’t possess the privilege of the celebrity status.
From this blog, I think it’s pretty clear I’m not a fan of a celebrity author who has been published purely on the basis of their popularity in an area other than writing. Of course, if a celebrity is a brilliant writer, and there are no doubt many who are, then they should have every chance of being published, just like everyone else—but wouldn’t it be nice if that’s what it was; a ‘chance’ rather than a certainty? What if everyone had to submit their manuscripts anonymously, so they were judged on merit rather than on the popularity of the writer?
Working in PR, I realise this is an idealistic viewpoint, which will never be realised. Because celebrity rules. Because money rules. This means talent often takes a poor second place, and it means celebrities have a huge advantage over the average writer.
For these reasons, I would rarely opt to read a book penned by a celebrity. I prefer the idea of making a celebrity of a previously unknown writer because their work is awesome!
Having said that, my son, who ‘quite likes’ reading, enjoys David Walliams’ books. And I have to say, so do I! We’ve just returned from the theatre—the third David Walliams’ show we’ve seen based on his kids’ books. Billionaire Boy, just like Gangsta Granny and The Midnight Gang, was a good story, great fun and contained lots of colourful characters.
So, some celebrities do create fantastic books, no doubt. I just wish this didn’t have to mean there’s less room for the unknown author who, due to the already rich and famous celebrity bringing out a book or few, might sadly always remain unknown.
Like most writers, I read – A LOT, sometimes to the point of it eating far too much into my writing time. My usual genres are romance, thrillers and the psychology of business, but every so often I delve into something a little different.
Here are four of my latest recommended reads, which you may like to give a go – depending on your mood! And don’t worry, no spoilers.
If you’re in the mood for: a meaty read with romance, drama, and packed with emotion, then try A Hundred Pieces of Me, by Lucy Dillon.
I’d normally go for something more lighthearted but my mum recommended this to me. It sat on my bookshelf for quite a while before I finally picked it up, but I’m delighted I did – I could hardly believe the similarities between the character’s life and my own. Her name is Gina (great name!), she has a lovely old school friend called Naomi (hi, Naomi!), she studied at Oxford (okay, getting a little spooked now…), and her mum’s name is Janet (erm, what the…?) who lives in Leominster (has Lucy Dillon been hiding in my wardrobe?!). There are other similarities too, which I won’t go into as I don’t want to give the story away.
Just when I started to think I was reading a biography, things took a turn in Gina’s life, which thankfully haven’t happened to me, and I got totally sucked in to this emotional page-turner. It was so lovely to read about Gina’s relationship with her best friend and her new pet at a time when her life was going totally awry.
I can’t explain the impact this book has – at a risk of sounding dramatic, it is rather life-affirming. If you like a book that makes you cry one minute and smile the next, then this one could well be for you. It has one of the best endings I’ve ever read.
If you’re in the mood for: a sweet romance with a unique, down to earth hero, then try Please Don’t Stop the Music by Jane Lovering.
I loved that this book was set near to where I grew up in York. Living far away, it’s easy to lose touch, so it’s always nice to step back in, even if it is through the pages of a novel. This is the second Jane Lovering book I’ve read, and I really like her style of light and shade, culminating in a happy end.
I listened to this one on Audible, and the narration, by Penelope Rawlins, flows well and is easy on the ear – always a bonus! The sub characters (I love a good sub character) add great colour to the story and offer pockets of emotion and humour throughout.
Definitely a good option for lovers of light romance packed with emotion and conflict.
If you’re in the mood for: breaking free from the 9 to 5, then try Be a Free Range Human by Marianne Cantwell.
My top read of recent months, Be a Free Range Human is packed with advice, ideas and cool exercises for anyone who wants to explore the possibilities of going it career solo and needs some inspiration.
Marianne has a very unique approach, which is fascinating and refreshing. Far from being a run-of-the-mill ‘how to’ business book, she steers clear of the dull bits and focuses on the individual behind the business, ie you.
The book contains helpful tips and loads of real-life case studies, showing Marianne really knows what she’s talking about. I love this book. Love it.
If you’re in the mood for: a lighthearted and cosy romcom then try The Picture House by the Sea, by Holly Hepburn.
Sexy hero, picturesque location, likeable heroine and cute story line – what’s not to love?
This is the first Holly Hepburn I’ve read, but I liked it so much that I’m now halfway through another of her books, A Year at the Star and Sixpence (which is also very good – but that’s for another review another day).
Holly Hepburn has an interesting and quite unusual way of writing. Each of her novels is made up of four novellas. The novellas are released sequentially when she’s finished writing each one, and later are compiled into a full novel. In both cases, I’ve just read the whole caboodle in one. It makes for a fairly long read, but one which certainly captures your interest and keeps you wanting more.
I love a book with female friendships, and the relationship between Gina (I don’t just choose books where the main character has my name, honestly!) and Carrie, the owner of the vintage clothes shop is really nice to read. But the best bits are when the hero and heroine are together – burning tension, an undeniable attraction to one another, and a big reason why they can’t be together – make for a super dose of therapeutic romance.
Gina’s boyfriend (God, I hated him so much) pops up occasionally to throw a spanner in the works, and the local nasty girl (grrr) doesn’t help matters either.
So much fun – give it a go!
Writing is a mug’s game. There. I’ve said it. At the risk of being labelled a pessimist, destroyer of all joy, fatalistic moron, or whatever else, I’m afraid I have to be truthful. If you’re a writer trying to get published, or just about to embark on your writing journey, I’m afraid the likelihood is you’ve either already collected enough rejections to decorate a bungalow, or are about to start your collection.
If I had a pound for everyone who said, “Well, J.K Rowling did it, and she had hundreds of rejections before…blah, blah, blah. BLAAAHHHHHH,” then I wouldn’t need to write a best-seller – I’d already be minted. J.K Rowling won the equivalent of the publishing lottery. There are some winners, yes. In fact, every week there’s usually one, but for every winner there are thousands upon thousands of losers. Unlike nipping down the newsagents to buy a lotto ticket, however, writing a book requires time – sometimes years of it – passion, and a huge investment in commitment, energy and hope.
Another thing people say when they’re being kind is: ‘as long as you enjoy writing, it doesn’t matter you get rejected, does it?’
Yes it does. It matters. It matters because when you write a book you pour your heart into it. Of course, the writing process is enjoyable (otherwise, why do it?), but it also takes a lot of time and means making a lot of sacrifices – especially if you have a family to think of. After all that, receiving a rejection is like a kick in the gut. Ten rejections is like getting a thorough beating from the biggest kid in school, and trying to pick yourself up to go back to lessons with a smile on your face.
When you get rejection letter one, you might be fairly philosophical about it – ‘ah well, didn’t expect to get picked up straight away, anyway.’ After rejection letter 10, you might start questioning your writing abilities. Imagine this many – and more rejections – for each novel you write. Then things start getting tougher.
In the last two years I’ve had three acceptances of novels, four of novellas and one for a short story. But in this same time and for five years before this, please understand, I’ve had tens of rejections. After a recent bout of rejections I was finding it particularly difficult to get started again with my next project.
I asked myself:
What’s the point if I’m so crap that no-one wants to publish me?
I’ve spent seven years of my life writing, and for what? – I could have spent the time doing a PhD and had something to show for it!
Just as I was really starting to question whether I was wasting my life doing something fruitless, an acceptance popped into my inbox. I’d almost forgotten even making the submission, and there it was – a real acceptance from a real publisher offering to pay me real money for a story I’d written that they really liked. Well, bloody hell.
This came at just the right time and spurred me on to re-work a manuscript I’d previously had rejected and submit it again.
This is the reality – agents and publishers receive thousands of submissions every year. They’re often reluctant to say how many, but on one agents website I was reading last week, it said the figure was in the region of 2,000 a year. The same agent said they took on around two new authors a year. The stakes ain’t high, folks.
Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking this article is designed to put you off writing. Far from it – it’s a reality check to manage expectations, but also me sharing my experiences to hopefully help you realise that if your work gets rejected over and over, you are very definitely not alone.
Rejections do not mean:
Don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into some dross about how rejections make us more resilient and are part of the journey to success. Both those things are true, but they sound naff. What I will say however is that there is one way of guaranteeing you’ll never get published, and that’s if you stop writing.
A couple of years ago, before I got my first publishing deal, I just wanted someone to tell me whether I was wasting my time and should give up. Did my writing show any promise, whatsoever? I realise now that’s the wrong question. You know if you can write, right? You know if you have the desire and the gift to put sentences together and tell a ruddy good yarn. You know that.
Getting that publishing deal is a heady combination of luck, timing and you stopping feeling sorry for yourself after your squillienth rejection for long enough to get off your butt and write something amazing.
Every time you write a story, send a submission and get a rejection is one step closer to you getting that deal. If you can write, and you keep writing and submitting, you WILL get there. I read an interview with a very successful author recently who said that every book on a shelf represents years of hard work and dedication from someone who never gave up.
Who knows – you might be one of the very few who gets there first time, but if you’re not, take heart that you’re in excellent company. Many fabulous writers don’t get there first time, second, third, or even tenth, but they DO get there. And so will you.