There are over 70 million pages on Facebook and something we've known for a while is that the organic reach of these pages is in decline. One way publishers and authors try to get around this is through Facebook ads. But these can be costly and best suited to support a new book launch or to re-market your back catalogue.
So what options do authors have?
Seriously, the Facebook group I’ve set up has been amazing. Check out these insights below, the group just grows and grows every day (you get an initial flurry of members at the start then 1 or 2 a day).
It's no surprise. Groups have grown in popularity for businesses since Facebook announced in January 2017 that changes to its algorithms mean that posts from friends, family and groups will now be prioritised in people’s news feeds. No wonder we’re getting less engagement with our author pages on Facebook, which are now way down on the list for Facebook unless you advertise.
The fact is, groups complement your author page and help to build a community of loyal fans. A combination of a Facebook page as your attractor to drive people to find you, coupled with a Facebook group to boost engagement, can be a powerful thing. Especially as your group can be directly linked to from your Facebook Page.
Interested in setting one up?
Creating a Facebook Group is simple and straightforward. But it pays to have a think about what you want from your group and how you will manage it first.
Creating your Facebook group
Start by clicking on Group in the Create section at the bottom of Facebook and entering the details in the pop up.
Think of a name for your group, checking it’s not being used already by searching for it on Facebook. I went for a reader-friendly name which would make people feel welcome.
At this early state, you can either add friends or invite people. Adding friends will automatically make them members of the group. By inviting them you are giving them the option to accept.
Next select the privacy setting you want for the group. I recommend going for closed so members feel ‘privileged’ to be part of the group. Now it's time to start building your group page…
That’s it, your group is set up! But don’t worry, it isn’t live yet. Now you need to add some detail to make your group attractive and help people understand the value of joining your group.
Go to your group and click on the More option and select Edit group settings from the dropdown.
This will give you a number of areas to complete, including selecting your group type. Pick the option that best matches what you are trying to achieve with the group. I chose ‘Club’.
Now it’s time to write the description. You can have up to 3000 characters so make it yours. Add links to other areas such as your websites or Twitter accounts. Here is the description for The Reading Snug, my own Facebook Group which I share with the amazing Kelly Rimmer and Kerry Fisher.
You can then add up to 5 tags to help people find the group (as long as you haven’t set the privacy to Secret). Think about what your readers will be looking for.
Facebook Groups can be linked to your pages, you can create a vanity url for your group and even change the theme colour to suit your branding. You can also add apps such as Buffer and Canva to help streamline posting.
The web and email address section allows you to create a custom url and also an email address to make is easy for people to find you.
You will also be presented with a range of options too for getting new members to the group.
When you are selecting the options, think about how you would like the group to work. Too many limitations or restrictions on how people can post may increase your workload and put your readers off. I didn't go for pre-moderation on posts. My view is if any potential members look 'spammy', I won't let them in. And regular checking of posts means anything inappropriate can be quickly deleted. Your members will be great at alerting you to things too. I do however recommend posing a set of questions (under 'Ask questions' in Membership requests) to perspective members so you can get a better idea of their intentions. Here are mine:
Hey, thanks for requesting to join The Reading Snug! This group is for enthusiastic readers! So a few questions: First, what's the last book you read?
Have you read any of Tracy, Kelly or Kerry's books and if so, which ones?
Are you an author? We don't mind having author members as long as you promise to engage as a reader, not an author!
Adding a cover photo
At the top of your group page you will see the area where you can add your cover photo – simply click on upload photo.
It is a good idea to have this image ready. Facebook cover photo sizes do change and do display differently on mobile device compared to desktop. The recommended size is 1640px x 859px or 1.91:1 ratio. As you can see from the template below there is an area that needs to be considered for mobile devices but should not include any important messaging that may be lost when viewed on desktop.
Once you have added your cover photo be sure to check how it displays both on desktop and also on mobile.
Adding and Inviting people to join your group
You can now start spreading the word about your group. On a basic level, you can start by adding or inviting people you know would be interested. Click in the box below ADD MEMBERS (under your cover photo). Enter the names of your friends to add them to the group. You can also use email addresses to invite people, such as fans from your mailing lists, to join the group.
Once you have invited everyone you have contact details for remember you can always hit the share button to add it to your wall or share it to another group.
Linking your group to your Facebook page is a great way to grow your audience, it makes it easier for fans to find you, your fans have a community where they can interact with each other, and you can like and comment as your page in your Facebook Group.
To link your group to you page go to your page and select Groups.
If this option is not available click on Settings, Edit Page and scroll down through the tabs and click Add a tab. From the menu select Groups.
You will be given a pop-up window will appear and you can select what groups you would like to link to your page. Now just click Link and Link Page and you are all set!
Let me know how you get on!
It is pretty safe to say that relationships, whether professional or personal, can be tough at times. But when they’re working, they can be amazing and rewarding.
The author-editor relationship is no exception. The truth is there will always be bumps along the publishing road. But how you handle them determines whether they become molehills or mountains.
Below are three common issues authors face with advice from editors on how to deal with them.
But before sharing their advice, I want to offer some quick advice myself…
First, preparation is key. If your editor is aware of the direction you see your ‘author brand’ going in right from the get-go, you thoughts will be heard early and you can create a discussion platform that can be referred back to. I blog about how to prepare here.
Second, it’s so important to always be charming and polite. Being firm does not mean being rude and there is a world of difference between the two. Be nice and treat people with respect and they will want to engage with you.
Now, onto the advice editors shared with me.
1) The unresponsive editor
Speaking with other authors, one of the biggest issues they face is editors simply not responding to emails. I call it Publisher Ghosting.
It's important to remember how busy editors are. As Kate Mills, publishing director for commercial fiction at HQ Stories and formerly publishing director at Orion, says: ‘Editors can be in meetings much more than authors realise. Unfortunately we don’t read at our desks any more – our jobs have changed over the last ten years, reading is done at home now in the evenings and at weekends.’
Despite this though, I think it’s important to expect responses to emails within a reasonable timeframe, even if it’s a quick ‘sorry not to be in touch but will be soon’ email. I’ve been ridiculously busy in previous jobs but have always aimed to send a holding email within twenty-four hours. As Kate says herself: ‘In the best author/publisher relationships, the communication is frequent and fast.’
But what to do if you don’t hear from your editor within a few days?
Phoebe Morgan, commissioning editor at Avon and the co-chair of the Society of Young Publishers says: ‘I would use email to politely check in – and if that doesn’t work, I’d speak with your agent and ask them to chase too. Phoning out of the blue is usually a last resort – for me, I prefer to schedule times to chat with my authors so I am fully prepared for our phone call.’
Kate agrees about the polite chaser email to start with: ‘If you haven’t heard in a few days, a nudge along the lines of ‘Did you see my email re…’ is fine. Of course, if you’re waiting on a response to a manuscript, that may take longer, but hopefully your editor will have given you a timeframe in which you can expect to hear. Hopefully an author shouldn’t ever feel like a pest.’
That’s the key. You should not feel like a pest! It all comes back to that 'grateful sap' persona come of us authors have picked up. As long as you’re not hassling them unnecessarily, it’s fine to send a polite chaser email then take it to your agent (if you have one) next.
To add to Kate and Phoebe’s advice, if nothing seems to work, I’d check whether your editor tweeted in the time you’ve been waiting. Like the tweet. Respond to it. Don’t chase them in the tweet, this is more about reminding them you’re there.
Still nothing after all this? Then I’ll be blunt. Unless they have a genuine excuse, it’s time to rethink whether you want this person as your editor. In my view, communication is a key part of the process.
2) Disagreements over covers
Book covers can be a big bone of contention – publishers have a wealth of experience but we authors feel we know the book intimately.
It's often a running joke, the story of an author who designs their own cover in Microsoft Paint and sends it to their editor as a suggested cover. It's seen as part of the transition to being a 'traditionally published author' that you know it's your publishing house that will handle the design for you. But what this joke has done is make authors think they have to be completely hands-off in the process.
The truth is, you have every right to express your opinion... especially if you have already done your research and know your genre, as I recommend above. But how to approach your editor with your concerns?
Phoebe advises to first sleep on things. ‘Try to avoid emailing straight back with your initial, emotional or gut response – instead, sleep on it, ask your family and friends.’
She also asks that you think about all the work and thinking that would have gone into creating your cover behind-the-scenes: ‘All jackets will usually have a huge amount of effort put into them, with input from not only the designer but sales, publicity, marketing and editorial too. Book jackets along with the propositions are pitched to the retailers by the sales team, and so having something that stands out and positions the book well is of paramount importance.’
Still dislike your cover? This is where that all important preparation comes in. Kate advises: ’I find it helpful when an author doesn’t like their cover to receive a calm, thoughtful explanation of what’s not working from the author’s point of view. In some cases, I’ve found myself being totally persuaded by the author’s considered response. Having good examples of covers you think sit comfortably alongside your book helps a publisher see where you’re going, and how you think your book should be positioned.’
She also adds: ‘If you separate the different components that make a cover, there might be things you can build on – the font, the colour-way, the positioning of the title, etc. Pointing those out, as in: “I like the title font, but feel the image isn’t right…” already shows you’re looking for a solution together.’
If your cover isn’t changed despite putting your best case forward, I recommend patience. See how your book sells. If your novel sells well then fine, your publisher was right. If not, you have your communications with your editor as proof to push to have the cover changed for the ebook version... and push the case for your next hardback / paperback release.
3) Winning a new contract
There’s nothing that beats the jubilation of an editor adoring your work and taking you on as an author. But then that time comes when your contract is up and the dynamic can change. What can we do to increase our chances of getting a new contract?
Both editors agree it comes down to the quality of the next book you deliver. ‘Nothing puts an author in a stronger position than delivering a great book,’ Kate says.
But it’s not the only thing taken into the mix. Both Kate and Phoebe emphasise the importance of showing willingness to promote yourself, not just via social media but also by writing features and so on.
‘When publishers decide about re-contracting,’ Kate says, ‘often the whole team is involved in the discussion and will talk about their experiences of working with that author. If a publicist says ‘He didn’t want to write features…’ that goes in to the mix. That’s not to say we won’t work with that author again, but it means we know we’ll need to find a different way to promote without relying on feature coverage, etc.’
So it really is a case of writing the next book and making it the best you can, getting stuck in with the marketing and maintaining a good relationship with your publishing team. These are all things I hope I’m helping you with on this blog!
What if your contract isn’t renewed though? I plan to blog about this in more detail down the line but Phoebe makes a good point about it being just as hard for the editor. ‘It is so hard deciding not to re-contract someone and it breaks my heart every time,’ she says.
She advises authors not to see it as a sign to give up: ’I know lots of authors who have been published by several different companies in their lifetimes, and sometimes a fresh start can be a good thing, so if your current publisher has made the decision not to recontract you, don’t give up! It definitely doesn’t have to mean the end of the road.’
And that is the key: don’t give up!
ABOUT THE EDITORS:
I am super grateful to Phoebe and Kate for answering some tough questions.
Phoebe runs a great blog for authors here and I see her as being one of the interesting up and coming editors who could lead the way in changing a few things in the industry. As an editor and an author herself, she offers a brilliant insight into the publishing world and I'd strongly recommend following her.
Kate Mills is one of the nicest editors out there and I often hear great stuff about her from authors... despite turning JK Rowling down, ha! Seriously though, despite having a scary title like 'publishing director', she's fun and down to earth as you'll see from her Twitter feed. If you want to read all about her experience of turning down JK Rowling, you can read it here.
Knowing where you best fit into the book market is one of your first steps to taking control of your career and author brand.
In the indie publishing world, there’s a technique called ‘writing to market’ where authors scour Amazon sub-categories to pinpoint a growing trend. They then write and publish in time to leverage what they hope will be hungry market based on that trend (by the way, this is different from what's known as 'genre-swapping' where publishers will list your novel in a vaguely related category small enough to get your book to the top of the pile). You can find out more here about Chris Fox's brilliant insights into writing to trend.
'Writing to trend?!' I can imagine some of you gasping in horror. After all, we're told all the time by agents and publishers not to write to trends. And with good reason for those of us who are trad published. Our publishing cycle is too bloody slow to chase a trend that could well have disappeared or evolved by the time a book is released.
But even if you don't want to write to trend, we authors can use some of the techniques to help us understand our place in that market. By learning this, we can position our author brand and our books to leverage more sales and positive reviews.
Maybe you're reading this thinking you already know your place in the market. Are you sure? Follow the steps below and you might be surprised. In fact, just taking those steps will reap benefits, trust me. It's the best learning curve I ever took.
You see, back in 2017, I published my fourth novel Her Last Breath. It was pitched as a psychological thriller with the description “A girl has gone missing. You’ve never met her, but you’re to blame.” It had a dark cover of a woman looking like she was about to jump into a stormy ocean and I'd written it very much focused on delivering a plot which offered twist after twist.
It was different from my first two novels which were pitched more as being women's fiction. Why change direction? As I explain in this interview for the Honest Authors Podcast, I wanted a bite of the psychological thriller cherry after seeing what a success other authors were making of it. My third novel, No Turning Back, had seen me move into darker territory and as it had sold well, I reasoned going even darker would make sense.
But then the sales figures started coming in: Her Last Breath was attracting my weakest launch sales to date. When I realised the sales weren't great, I did what all good authors do: s*it myself, ha! But then I decided to take action. I did some research and some thinking, and it soon became clear what the problem was: I'd confused my readers.
First, some of my loyal readers who love the women’s fiction elements of my writing - the character journey, the family drama, the heart-breaking tear-jerking revelations - were turned off by the packaging and the fact I hadn't focused as much on the character journey. The fact is, the crime and thriller elements weren’t a strong motivator for them.
Second, readers who were looking for a new psychological thriller to read were disappointed. It wasn't quite dark enough. Here are some of the comments readers made:
'I would define this book as a family saga with suspenseful elements rather than an edge of your seat high-end thriller.'
'Tracy Buchanan writes well, the story starts at a good pace, there is right amount of suspense at the right areas. The story starts with a bang but there is something missing to make it a complete thriller.'
Of course, there could be lots of contributing factors when it comes to sales. But I strongly feel it was mainly down to my confusion about where I sat in the market, which had a knock-on effect on how I wrote the novel itself and then how it was packaged.
By figuring this out, I was able to pinpoint what direction I needed to go in next. From my research, it became clear women's fiction is my strong suit. As soon as I realised that, I began writing The Lost Sister, a book that feels so so right to me. Even though it's not out as I write this post, early reviews show me I've made the right choice to return to my women's fiction roots.
So how can you figure out your place in the market? Here are 5 simple steps which can help you determine, and embrace, your true place in the market. As I said, even if you're sure you already know your place, this can be a really useful exercise for all readers. Here are 5 tips...
1) Look at your reviews:
Reader reviews, as painful as they can sometimes be, are a goldmine in helping you shape your writing and chances of success with subsequent novels. Even if you just select the four and five-star reviews on Amazon, you’ll learn something. I learned those readers who loved my writing adored the women’s fiction elements of my novels and compared me to the likes of Jodi Picoult and Nora Roberts. Those who didn’t were frustrated I’d pitched myself as a thriller author when I wasn’t. This really helped me with my next novel.
2) Look at Amazon’s categories:
List five genres you believe your writing belongs in. Don’t worry if this is a struggle as this is something that will become clearer along the process. For me, it would be women’s fiction, psychological thrillers, crime, contemporary fiction, and romance. Now go look at these categories on Amazon (I looked at the UK and US sites). Glance at the descriptions of the novels in the top 25 or more for Kindle and paperbacks. Which categories feature novels that sound most like your best-selling novel and the novel you’re hoping to write next? This is the genre you should be focusing on. For me, it became clear that women's fiction was the category I should be focusing on.
3) Look at annual bestsellers:
Sometimes, a bestseller can be a fleeting thing. Someone may have got the top spot for a day or two, and never see it again. Do not get lost in the noise of the short-term bestsellers, we are after longevity. Therefore, I recommend looking at the top selling author lists that usually come out at the end of the year which reveal that year's overall bestsellers. Use it to learn more about the authors doing well in your market...and how they do it.
4) Gather data:
Compile an evidence document that includes cover and description examples used by the bestselling authors in your genre. What categories are they listed under? How does this compare with your positioning? This information will be useful for marketing discussions with your publisher.
5) Immerse yourself in your genre.
Sure, you might already be social media friends with authors who write in your genre, but do not limit yourself to just following other authors to immerse yourself. There are some amazing associations and groups that offer support and champion your genre. Once I got to grips with the fact that I write women’s fiction, I discovered the Romantic Novelists Association and I can honestly say I have gained so much from this wonderful community. Attend their events, engage in the community and embrace your genre.
These simple steps, whilst not a magic bullet, will help you lay a foundation to understanding what your audience craves in your writing, how other authors find success in this genre and, ultimately, where your writing should be aimed to maximise your sales.
UPDATE: GENUINE REVIEWS ARE BEGINNING TO REAPPEAR SO AMAZON HAS BEEN LISTENING :-)
There's been some panic recently with authors and reviewers noticing reviews disappearing on Amazon. I actually shared a post to my Savvy Authors' Snug group on Facebook about disappearing Amazon reviews many weeks before this all kicked off as it's actually happened before.
Many believe it’s part of Amazon’s crack-down on dodgy paid-for reviews, not just for books but all products sold via the website.
Admirable reason. Problem is, many people are discovering genuine and sometimes even verified reviews are going missing. Whatever Amazon has recently developed to seek out dodgy reviews is proving to be a tad over-zealous.
I think it comes down to one of Amazon's review policies:
'In order to preserve the integrity of Community content, content and activities consisting of advertising, promotion, or solicitation (whether direct or indirect) is not allowed, including:
Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative's, close friend's, business associate's, or employer's) products or services.'
And by 'close friend' that can include anyone who they think received a free copy of your book (bloggers, journalists and advance readers) or simply someone who follows you on Twitter or is a Facebook friend. Not good when many authors connect with bloggers and readers via our social media channels.
So for now, until we know concrete reasons why, here are two steps you can take:
1) Be careful about the kind of links you share. Long links give Amazon information which can set off their algorithms. So for The Lost Sister, when I search for it on Amazon the link is mega long:
Don’t use a link like this. Instead, shorten it by simply going to your book page and finding the 'share' link on the right. This will create a nice neat link for you. Or you can delete everything after the first long number. So for The Lost Sister, it’s https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Sister-Tracy-Buchanan-ebook/dp/B0796WD7S5 As always, check the link works before posting.
2. Tell you publisher. They probably know about it anyway. But your publisher will have more clout with Amazon then you and can put in a query.
I hope this helps! Things might change over the coming days so watch this space.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK in the week I'm writing this (WB 14 May). Mental health plays a huge role in our lives as writers. After all, we explore our characters’ mental frames of mind and often, we can help restore the mental health of our readers by giving them something to escape into (something I’m exploring with my #BookBalm campaign).
But it’s also so relevant because many authors battle mental health issues. I recently shared a personal battle I had in this blog post.
It can seem like an enviable life doing what we do as traditionally-published authors. But it can be such an isolating and scary experience too. We fear talking about the insecurities and worries that plague us. There’s this sense you always need to be enthusiastic and excited and SUCCESSFUL as a writer.
But the truth is, we’re terrified we might not get another contract. We fear people will hate the novel we hold so dear to our hearts. What if we get writer’s block? What if we run out of ideas? What if our agent and / or editor hates our next idea? If book sales are disappointing, what does that mean for our career? If we're lucky enough to be full-time authors, how long will that last?
Sometimes it feels like the questions just won’t stop. There are ways to help ease the mental anguish. But obviously, some mental health issues go so deep, only professionals can help. Don't be scared of visiting you doctor and seeking help. I did as you'll see in the blog post I link to above. But for now, here are some tips that might help:
1. Make ‘honest’ author connections
It’s so easy to feel like crap when you’re seeing other authors shout from the rooftops about their successes. And why the hell shouldn’t they? They deserve it! Plus it's very likely they will have had their fair share of low points too. But not many of us talk about those low points meaning we don’t often read about them, which in turn makes us feel we're alone with those low points. It's a vicious cycle!
But there are places where people share the tough stuff. If you find it difficult seeing other authors’ success, it’s time to change the frequency. Seek out places where you can hear about honest author experiences so you know you’re not alone in your insecurities and what you perceive as ‘failures’. This can come in the form of listening to podcasts like the The Worried Writer podcast by author Sarah Painter where she shares advice and interviews to help authors overcome self doubt and fear. There's the Honest Authors' Show too that is run by two traditionally published authors. It gives a refreshingly honest (hence the name!) take on the traditionally-published author experience.
And then there are communities you can join. I’ve set up the Savvy Authors’ Snug on Facebook, for example, a closed group for traditionally-published authors who need a safe place to share their fears and struggles.
2. Aim for the long-term
This relates to my post about changing your mindset, and it’s relevant here too. By seeing our writing as being part of a long-term career, we have a much better chance of lessening the mental pain when we don’t reach those short-term goals we all obsess over. Things like obsessing about pre-orders and stalking the bestseller lists in launch week, for example.
Of course, the numbers are important. But if you see them as being part of a bigger picture - a strong and steady build towards a long-term author career - then it becomes a little less painful when they don't meet expectations. Instead, focus on your day-to-day work, the foundations you’re building for a strong career and the relationship you have with your readers (more on that below). The snowball effect rather than the overnight success.
And remember, the fact you got a publishing deal in the first place, selected by an editor at a publishing house to spend money on and nurture, means you’re already miles ahead of a million other writers.
3. Watch what you eat
I don’t mean go on a diet, screw that! What I do mean though is author life involves a LOT of sitting around and much chocolate eating (please don't tell me it's just me!). And this can be fine, in moderation. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my 40 years on this planet, the relationship our minds have with our bodies is profound. If you eat better, then it will often make you feel better mentally. Here are some steps I try to take each day. Hands-up, I'm not perfect. I often slip up and stuff my gob with chocolate brownies. But I do try...
- I keep a large cup of water with me and take regular sips, refilling it when it's empty
- I have a fruit bowl nearby and try to eat at least two pieces of fruit as I work
- I try my best to prep several portions of food, meaning I'm not tempted to grab something unhealthy as I work.
- High sugar intake has been linked to poor mental health. This doesn't mean you need to cut it out totally. I personally think every author needs some sugar in their life. But just make sure it's the right kind of sugar and you have it in moderation day-by-day. I have some dark chocolate in my desk drawer for when I need a sweet fix. Dark chocolate is actually good for you in small doses, you know! Make some sugar-free cakes at the weekend and freeze them. A quick defrost in the microwave and you have a sweet treat without all that processed sugar.
- I don't beat myself up when I slip up and indulge. In fact, I allow myself indulgences when I reach a deadline or something good happens.
4. Move more
I’m not telling you to join a gym or sign up to a running club. Sure, do that if you want to. But what’s most important is to move. Writing is such a sedentary task! And exercise has a direct scientific link to lifting your mood. Here are some things I try my best to do:
- Walk the dog each morning
- I try to get up from my desk every 30 mins or so, often to make a cup of tea. I used to keep my tea-making stuff within reach so I didn’t have to move to get to it. But now I’ve moved it to the other side of the room. Okay, just a few steps but it means I'm moving!
- Walk around the garden at lunchtime
- Walk around when replying to emails or checking social media on my phone
- I like dancing so now wake half an hour earlier every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to do a dance workout. On Tuesday and Thursday, I try to do a quick 5-10 minute yoga stretch at my desk before I start work, so it doesn't feel too formal. Do a search on YouTube for free workouts and yoga sessions to suit you!
5. Focus on your readers
I don’t mean obsess about your reviews. As I’ve said so many times, I found the worst individual reviews I got were for my best-selling titles. The more you sell, the more bad reviews you’ll get. Go check out your favourite authors on GoodReads or Amazon, select their one and two star reviews… you’ll see what I mean!
No, what I mean is focusing on your connection with your fans. The readers who love your work. The ones who follow you on social media and email you. Create a ‘Happy File’ on your desktop of the loveliest emails and comments you get from readers. Damn it, print them out and plaster your walls with them!
Focus on interacting with your readers. They are so grateful when you do. And stop obsessing so much about what goes on in the publishing bubble that's filled with other authors, publishers and book bloggers. The most important bubble is the one you share with your readers and more often than not, it’s a lovely positive place to hang out in.
I hope this helps. Please share your own tips in the comments and I’ll add them to the article if you’d like me to!
The GDPR acronym is everywhere at the moment, causing authors to scratch their heads in confusion. I'm one of those authors! Or was, until I did some digging. First, some background:
What the heck does it mean? In it’s very basic form it means new laws are coming into place from 25th May meaning we need to ensure we're looking after the data, through both electronic and physical documents, that relates to an individual.
Why should I be bothered? It's very easy to dismiss this and say – “nope, I don't keep any information on anyone.” But sit and have a think. Do you have a newsletter that you send out? Do you outsource any work such as social media support, newsletter distribution and so on? Do you keep a list of people to send ARCs to? Chances are, you are storing information such as people's names, email addresses, and a postal address in one form or another. This means it's time to comply! If you don't, there's the chance of a huge fine.
*Gulp* Okay, so how do I comply?
Here are 5 steps I took to comply. Please note, I am NOT a legal expert and am just sharing the steps I took with you.
1) I got the consent of my current newsletter subscribers: As the law is so new, it's unlikely you will have got the level of consent that's required from your subscribers. So to cover all bases, I contacted all my subscribers asking them to sign up to a new newsletter and making it clear what they'd be signing up for (you don't need to do this, I was just launching a new list!). To make it easy for you, most of us use email marketing tools such as Mailchimp to send out our newsletters. These tools will more then likely have developed an opt-in landing page that is GDPR ready for you so use that. Eg, the Mailchimp steps can be found here: https://kb.mailchimp.com/accounts/management/collect-consent-with-gdpr-forms So you can send our an email via Mailchimp which covers you
2) Have a record of consent: I needed to be able to provide a record of exactly where and when a user gave their consent. If you can't, you could be in breach of the law (hence why the step above is so important). Again, if using a provider like Mailchimp, they will have a record of all this. So if you follow the step above, it's covered. If not, make sure you're keep a record somewhere secure and safe.
4) Check any online forms you have: It is made clear what purpose users are providing their data for? Existing forms may need to be re-worded or tweaked to make permissions more explicit.
5) Still confused? Check out these useful resources:
For a 12-step guide to what steps you need to take visit The Information Commissioners Office website
Run by a specialist GDPR small business lawyer, this Facebook group has a number of videos and discussion on the new regulation
If you are running as a small business and just want ready to customise templates for all the legal documents this pack has all the checklists and legal documents you need.
‘Don’t give up your day job.’
It is a well-worn mantra among agents and editors. I’ve banged on about it myself at times. After all, there is some truth in it. It would be foolish to pack your job in on the assumption you’ll get rich quick with your writing.
However, what this mantra has done is make some authors think that writing should be for the love of it only, and money shouldn't even be a consideration. But if you love writing so much, then surely you want to be spending most of your time doing it? Many of us need a day job to pay the mortgage though. This means fitting writing in at weekends and evenings. The only way to change that is by making enough money through our writing to turn writing into a job... or at least reduce our day-job hours.
Some authors are lucky. They strike that six-figure deal quickly, or their books sell hundreds of thousands without them having to think too deeply about the business or marketing side. Others can happily hold down a full-time job while meeting increasingly demanding publishing schedules.
But this is rare.
Most of us are what the industry refers to as 'mid-list authors': we're in a contract with a publisher, but we can never guarantee we'll get a new contract. So there's always that fear hovering over our heads that this dream we've worked so hard for will be snatched from our hands. It can all feel a bit precarious. Most of all, we feel we can't control things. Our writing fate is in our publishers' hands.
But I disagree. I think there are ways you can take control as an author. And it starts with changing your mindset. The fact is, to have a chance of a long-term writing career, you must adopt some CEO attitude.
I can imagine some of you cringing right now.
Treating your writing like a business can feel disheartening for some creative types. We have this view of writing as a dreamy creative experience. We don’t want to sully it with talk of business and money.
But by changing my mindset, I've been able to continue earning enough money through my writing to live in that dreamy creative world all day, every day (that's before the four-year-old comes home from school and all hell breaks loose!).
So how can you start changing your mindset? Here are some tips:
1) Don't waste time
When my latest novel The Lost Sister winged its way to my editor, I took a break. But then I was back on it, working on my author brand. You need to do the same. Don't sit around doing nothing when you’re waiting on feedback from your editor and / or agent. Take a break and recharge for sure. But do not stagnate. Instead, make plans and take responsibility for your author brand. Engage with your readers. Plan a marketing strategy for the launch of your next book. Network. Check your finances.
2) Shrug off your Grateful Sap persona when liaising with your publisher
We're constantly told how difficult it is to get a book deal. So when that deal comes along, we're so grateful to the people who’ve taken a chance on us that we become blinkered to the fact this is essentially a business relationship. Editors love words, of course they do. They're our cheerleaders and our support. They can become our friends too so it often feels like they're so much more than just a business associate. But, at the end of the day, the books they edit need to make money for the company they work for. And remember, for every book sold, your publisher is taking a much larger percentage of net sales than you.
So don’t be so humbled by them taking a chance on you that you lose sight that this is essentially a business partnership. Approach any communication with your publishers knowing you are a crucial part of the process. You are creative and business partners. Ask them probing questions. Chase them if you don't get replies to emails.
3) Stop panicking you won't have time to write by adopting this mindset
Of course you will! For all this talk of thinking of this as a business, the most important thing you need to do is WRITE. Writing comes first. The more you write, the more you learn. And the more books you have published, the bigger the potential for making money out of them and getting that long-term full-time writing gig. Sounds pretty amazing, right?
Read it: Though Joanna Penn aims much of her advice at indie authors, I found two of her books very useful for changing my mindset: Business for Authors and The Successful Author Mindset.
Listen to it: I enjoyed listening to this podcast with Joanna. Definitely worth a listen when stacking the dishwasher!
1. Start listening to indie podcasts
I was happily living in my traditionally published bubble until I stumbled upon a podcast. It was the Worried Writer podcast. That led me to finding more podcasts, like The Creative Penn. It. Blew. My. Mind! From interviews with successful indie authors to guides from the people who helped them become successful, it shone a light on techniques they were using to sell more books. Techniques, I soon realised, which traditionally published authors should be using too. Now I listen to these podcasts all the time. And so should you. It doesn’t need to take up much time. I listen to them while exercising, tidying, walking the dog, clearing the garden… just make it part of your daily routine. For a full list, visit my resources page.
2. Check your social media stats
You want to make your social media posts as engaging as possible. And yes, there's a wealth of information out there to tell you how, just a simple Google search will give you realms of articles with tips. But nothing beats checking your stats to see what works and what doesn't among YOUR audience. I use the insights from my stats to see which posts are the most engaging. By engaging, I mean posts which encourage the most comments from your readers. These are the posts which will be shown most in Facebook timelines in particular going forward. See the Resources section to find out how to get these stats.
3. Engage with other authors
Other authors are invaluable. Not only are they a fantastic support but you can also share your readers! Does this thought alarm you? I remember when I first launched the Savvy Authors' Snug on Facebook, one of my friends said: ‘but why are you sharing information with your competitors?’ But I never see other authors as competition. The kind of readers we all want to attract hoover up books and have a passion for reading. They aren’t going to NOT buy your book because they’ve brought another author's books. So network online (see my resources section for a list of useful groups to join, and of course it goes without saying, you are welcome to request to join the Savvy Authors' Snug). Twitter is also a great tool for connecting with authors. Utilise the lists facility to engage with authors in your genre. And of course, connect with authors who are represented by your agent if you have one, or are published by your publisher too.
4. Sort out your web presence
No, I’m not talking about your website - though you should have a decent one (without spending a fortune). I’m talking about making sure your author pages on sites like Amazon and BookBub are up to date. Check out the resources section for a list. Also make sure your publisher and agent have an updated profile for you on their websites.
5. Change your mindset
This is so important, maybe the most important point on this list. ‘Don’t give up your day job’ is a well-worn mantra among agents and editors. I’ve banged on about it myself at times, after all, there is some truth in it. It would be foolish to pack your job in on the assumption you’ll get rich quick with your writing. But what this mantra has done is make some authors think that writing should be for the love of it, not the money. That we should be grateful to get a publishing deal. That we should continue to sign up to that 'poor artist' stereotype. If you want a long-term writing career, then you need to change your mindset. And ta-da! I have just the article for you...
It's time to start taking charge of your writing career. It'll be hard work. But by starting with these 5 important steps, you can get there!
We're often encouraged to ignore reviews. It's all part of the whole 'fragile author' mindset I'm trying to change. And you know what? That's fine. If you really don't want to look at your reviews, then don't.
But don't let this 'hands over ears, la-la-la' approach downplay the importance of reviews. I don't mean in terms of getting amazing reviews. Truth is, the more you sell, you'll often find the worse your reviews get. So I really don't obsess about it too much.
But what IS important is the number of reviews you get. The more reviews you get, the more chance you have of getting your book promoted on sites like Amazon and Kobo, and enewsletter 'services' like BookBub.
So it's important to try your best to get as many reviews as you can. But how? Here are five quick steps to take:
1) Ask your publisher what they're doing to get reviews.
Is your book going up onto NetGalley? Are ARCs being sent to bloggers? In the letter / email your publisher sends to bloggers with the ARCs, are your publishers encouraging people to leave reviews on sites like Amazon, Kobo, GoodReads and so on? Will your publisher be getting in touch with the people who have ARCS on the day of publication to remind them to leave a review? If they answer no to any of these, ask why.
2. Include an 'Author letter' at the end of your novel
Start thinking about this before you've even got to proof stage. At the end of the manuscript you send to your editor, include a 'letter to the reader'. An informal thanks for reading the review, maybe some information about writing the novel then a polite request for them to leave a review after reading the novel. Visit the Resources section to see mine for The Lost Sister.
3. Build your own 'street team' of reviewers
I recommend sending an ARC - or even a pre-proofed copy (eeeeek!) to 5+ enthusiastic readers. For those of us who've had a few books published, you can put the request out via your enewsletter like I did for my latest novel, The Lost Sister. Or you can approach those readers who are regular posters on social media. They get a copy sent to their Kindle (or posted if you get ARCs) a few weeks before publication. In the email you send them, you ask them to share the love with family and friends if they love it... and leave a review. DON'T make this as a condition of getting the free copy, Amazon don't like that! On publication day, send them an email to jog their memory with a direct link to the area to leave reviews (easily found by going to your book on Amazon, scrolling down to 'Customer reviews' then clicking on the yellow 'Write a customer review' button).
4. Don't be shy about asking for reviews
This ties into the author mindset you need to develop, something I've blogged about. Too many authors are scared to ask for reviews from their readers, family and friends. Why? Imagine one of your favourite authors sending a tweet asking politely for a review. You wouldn't think badly of them, would you? I schedule tweets to appear once a week asking for reviews. You can see examples below as well as a few from my Instagram account, which I shared to Facebook too. Hell, if you're really too scared about asking for reviews, just RT my tweets! I also recommend that if you're trying to invite reviews for a particular novel, link directly to where someone can leave a review, like I do for The Lost Sister. To find the link, go to your novel's page, scroll down to Customer Reviews then click on the yellow 'Leave a customer review' button.
5. Be careful!
Amazon has got a lot more stringent when it comes to clamping down on reviews from family and friends (which frankly is ridiculous as many authors are 'friends' with bloggers and readers on social media but what can we do?). My advice? Be careful what link you share to your book on social media as Amazon can track long links. Always use the short URL.
So for The Lost Sister, when I search for it on Amazon and click on it, the link is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Sister-Tracy-Buchanan-ebook/dp/B0796WD7S5/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1520281610&sr=8-2&keywords=the+lost+sister&dpID=51MGKI5CPBL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch But when I'm going to start sharing it, I'll shorten it to https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Sister-Tracy-Buchanan-ebook/dp/B0796WD7S5 (even when using it to get Amazon Affiliate or things like Bit.ly links). This is where sharing a direct link to where people can leave reviews comes in handy.
I hope this helps! Oh and if you're reading this after 20th July and you've read The Lost Sister, remember to leave a review... ;-)