Social Media for Publishers

This day last week I was in Dublin, talking to publishers (scary!) about how to use social media to help promote their books, and why they should. The lovely Stephanie of Publishing Ireland, who organized the seminar, wrote a blog post about it for the Publishing Ireland site, and she’s kindly let me re-post it here so non-Publishing Ireland members can read it.

Come back Monday for my thoughts on the horrifying disconnect between what ‘social media’ actually is and what some publishers/some self-publishers think it is, and more about disused and dusty treadmills… (It’ll all make sense, trust me!)

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Yes, even my Power Point presentations are pink. 

Social Media is Just Like a Treadmill Really!

Blaming social media for not coming through is like blaming an unused treadmill, said Catherine Ryan Howard, author, marketeer and social media guru extraordinaire last Friday as she explained the inevitable question of whether or not social media actually helps sell more books. ‘This is a question I get asked a lot’, she said, ‘and the answer is that it absolutely does!’ ‘Having twitter, not using it right and then blaming it for not boosting your sales is like having a treadmill, not using it and blaming it for not losing any weight!’

Social Media for Publishers kicked off last Friday with a motley crew encompassing every sector from digital projects to marketing and editorial as social media guru Catherine Ryan Howard took us through the do’s and don’ts of how to sell your books through social media.

From the inescapable growth of Facebook and Goodreads to newer kid on the block Pinterest (which is by the way the fastest growing social network ever), Catherine offered a practical and no-holes barred approach to making your books more ‘discovereable’- a word which Catherine herself admits a certain hatred of!

Among the key points to take away from the session were simple and time-effective ways to use social media tools- and the right tools!, setting the right tone for your message, and, most importantly, accepting the fact that social media, in whatever tool it comes under is here to stay!

The seminar was very helpful and informative. Catherine’s lively and engaging presentation was excellent; she helped to dispel a lot of misconceptions about social media and provided very useful examples of how different elements/formats of social media are particularly applicable to publishing and, if utilised appropriately, can have a positive impact to create engagement with the book buyers we want to appeal to.’ —Helena King, Assistant Editor, Royal Irish Academy

‘The seminar was extremely relevant- Catherine was articulate and very engaging!’ — Kitty Lyddon, Manager, Assistant Editor at The Lilliput Press

Missed this one? Never mind, we have more seminars coming up in the series over the next couple of weeks. Keep an eye out for our next sessions on Fiction Editing with Rachel Pierce on 10 and 17 May. For more information, go to the Publishing Ireland website or email stephanie@publishingireland.com.

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Thanks Stephanie! While we’re on the subject of me telling people things, if you have attended one of my talks or workshops, didn’t find it completely awful/a total snoozefest and would consider writing a little endorsement like the quotes above, please write a few lines and send it to me via the Contact page. It’s for a secret summer project of mine… (Oooh, mysterious!)

On another related note, I will be talking self-publishing at the Guardian’s Getting Your Book Published Masterclass in London on June 15-16. Details here

You can also follow Stephanie on Twitter here, and Publishing Ireland on Twitter here. To get new posts in your inbox look for the subscribe button over here —> and probably up a bit. 

Have a good weekend! 

How To Get People To Read Your Blog

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Following on from The Author Platform: Are You Being Cautious… Or Just Lazy?, a few readers commented that they’d like to know more about how to go from blogging into the void, i.e. me three years ago, to having ten thousand followers and 25-30k views a month, i.e. me today.

I’ve avoided doing this thus far because I don’t think you’re going to like my answer. It’s:

  1. Write good blog posts
  2. Don’t over-think it
  3. Wait.

That’s it.

(Sorry!)

Write Good Blog Posts

I tell writers considering self-publishing that the first thing they should do is make sure their book is good, because there’s really no point doing anything else unless it is. When I use good in this way I don’t mean the ‘Oh, the Booker prize judges said that book was really good’ because that’s mostly subjective and we all like different things. I mean good as in has appeal. As in someone else is going to want to read this. Lots of someone elses, preferably.

The problem is that we all think someone is going to want to read what we’ve written. I mean, of course they are. Why wouldn’t they? We’re fascinating! But in the real world, that’s just not the case.

So this is where I tell you how to write blog posts people want to read, right? I really can’t do that. We’re not talking about a checklist, or a template, or a recipe of keywords and search topics that has been proven to work for others. You can either do it or you can’t. Like writing books, I believe you can learn to do it better, but ultimately you can either do it or you can’t.

It’s the same with all aspects of social media: you either are the type of person who does it well, or you’re not. If you’re the former, you can learn some tips that’ll help you improve, and you might pick up a few tricks that make your use of it more effective, but if you’re the kind of person who hates the idea of tweeting, thinks Facebook is for teenagers and has their blog posts set to private, then I can’t help you.

Let’s just all cut the crap and admit this, once and for all.

The only good things about the Irish version of The Voice are what Bressie, one of the judges, looks like, and what Eoghan McDermott, one of the presenters, says. A couple of weeks ago he told the contestants, “remember, if you don’t get through… it’s because you weren’t good enough.”

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Behold: The Bressie.

Continue reading

The Author Platform: Are You Being Cautious, Or Just Lazy?

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Welcome to the last post of Mousetrapped Madness Week!

Three years ago last Friday I self-published my first book, Mousetrapped, and set off on this misadventure. To mark the occasion I’ve made a hardcover edition of Mousetrapped, and if you leave a comment on this post by midnight tonight, Tuesday April 2nd, you might win a signed copy of it. (OR you can have a copy of Self-Printed 2.0, if you prefer.) If you really want to win you can increase your chances by leaving a comment on every Mousetrapped Madness post I’ve posted (that’s all the ones that have gone up since Friday and make some mention of the Mousetrapped giveaway), but only one comment per post will count.

Today is also the last day you can download Backpacked for Kindle for free.

While I’m on the subject, someone on the Mousetrapped Facebook page asked if there’s anywhere you can see pictures from my Central America trip. Well, my lovelies, there IS. Here, AKA The Backpacked Gallery. There’s a gallery for Mousetrapped too. Count the many hairstyles of Catherine’s Past…

Anyway, onto today’s post.

‘Tis the season of speaking engagements, when I get to crawl out of my writing cave and see what’s happening in the 3D real world of self-publishing. One thing, I’ve noticed, never changes.

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One of my favorite spots in the world, the rocking chairs by Celebration Lake in the “town that Disney built”, Celebration, Florida. It’s okay to be lazy on these. It’s mandatory, actually.

There’s always an exchange that goes something like this: Continue reading

Plans and Goals and Stuff

Happy New Year!

I love fireworks, and here is a video of my favorite fireworks of all, Wishes at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Honestly, nothing can instantly improve my mood like watching this video. Because I recorded it, you can also hear me giggling with pure delight from time to time, and the crowd around me oohing and aahing. (And also cheering because they think it’s over, when it’s not even properly started yet.) The whole thing is about 12 minutes long, so if you just want to skip to the finale, go to 10:45.

So I thought I’d use this, my first post of the New Year, to tell you about what I intend to do with this blog and my whole self-publishing misadventures for the next twelve months, and then you can use the comments section to tell me what you think.

Blogging Bits

1. Write one blog post a week

At the end of every year I use Lulu to make a little hardback book of my blog posts just for me to keep and hopefully look back on sometime in the future with a warm, fuzzy feeling (as opposed to embarrassment and regret), and a by-product of this is I get to see how many words I’ve blogged in the last twelve months. I haven’t done 2012’s book yet, but I know it won’t be anywhere near as thick as 2010’s or 2011’s. I was a lazy blogger. (This wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t also a somewhat lazy writer, but we’ll come back to that in a sec.) So in 2013, I plan to write one blog post a week, except for the weeks when I’m traveling.

Or busy.

Or catching up on The Walking Dead.

2. Start a Sunday morning coffee break link fest

As my Twitter followers will have copped by now, I use my favorite social media-related app ever, Buffer, to tweet interesting links when I’m otherwise engaged, not writing and/or watching The Walking Dead. (While we’re on the subject, I’ve “gone awesome” on Buffer, paying $10 a month for unlimited buffered tweets and multiple accounts, and it is so totally worth it.) But there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff out there, and so I have to have some kind of system or I’d waste (more?) hours reading every interesting blog post or article that comes my way. So what I tend to do is check Twitter a few times a day—in the morning while I’m waiting for the kettle, while watching TV, etc.—and I mark anything interesting as a favorite. I also “star” items on my Google Reader and if all else fails, e-mail a link to myself. Then on a Sunday morning I go through everything I’ve marked for the week and read it, buffering what I think other people should read too, while drinking lots of coffee. It’s like my version of the Sunday papers.

But over the course of 7 days it’s a lot of reading, and some things are more interesting than others. So I’ve decided that in 2013, I’m going to post my favorite links of the past week—found in the past week, not necessarily posted—on a Sunday morning, so we both have something to read with our coffee.

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Come on, new Scrabble mug. LET’S DO THIS THING.

3. Find the fun again

Blogging about self-publishing and I nearly broke up in 2012. Honestly, I just got so fed up with it. The whole “Why I Unpublished My Novel” post was a low point. I made a business decision—not to waste time on a product that wasn’t selling—and was accused of being shallow or all about the money. Dark corners of the internet told me I wasn’t “cut out” for self-publishing, without knowing a single other thing about me other than that post. I make part of my living from delivering workshops on the subject, and I started imaging scenarios where the organizers would ring up and say, “Nah, Catherine. Forget it. This anonymous person on the internet who hasn’t as much as published a Post-It says you’re not cut out for this, so…” And what’s funny is when self-publishers make bad decisions that are detrimental to the bottom line, they’re accused of being silly romantics who don’t understand that publishing is a business. (?!?!?!?!?!?!) I just felt like I couldn’t win, and I definitely wasn’t having fun.

If I’m doing something in life that isn’t fun, I stop doing it. That’s my rule, credit card bills permitting. So I either had to rekindle my blogging fun, or put an end to it. What had made it fun in the beginning? Figuring out how to do this self-publishing thing, having the proof copy arrive or seeing an Amazon listing of mine for the first time (the night Mousetrapped went live, I stared at it for nearly an hour) and getting messages and comments from other self-publishers saying I saved them time or a migraine. So this year, this pink blog is going back to being about me, to my experiences with self-publishing. There’ll be no commentary on the Us Vs Them debate, analogies involving the Irish potato famine or calls to action. There never was, really, but I felt I might have been creeping towards that place, or that people were expecting me to. So, no. It stops. The blogger who wrote this post is back.

Self-Printing Plans

4. Mousetrapped in hardback

I’m struggling to believe this, but on March 29th Mousetrapped will be out three years. THREE YEARS. What the…? Seriously, where does the time go? Since Mousetrapped basically changed my life, I feel it deserves a little celebration to mark its anniversary, so I’m investigating releasing in hardback via Lulu, perhaps with a new introduction. It will really be for me more than anyone, but I think it’ll be an interesting experiment—and make for good blog fodder. If it goes well, Backpacked might get the same treatment on its two-year anniversary in September.

5. Travelled in bits

As I detailed in this post, my next self-published travel book, um, Travelled, will be released in four parts over the next twelve months: 3 e-book only installments of 3-4 essays a few months apart, and then the completed book in both e-book and paperback just before Christmas.

6. Operation Full Distribution

I’ll be blogging more about this in the coming weeks, but in 2013 I’m taking some of my eggs out of Amazon’s basket and going for full distribution (Amazon, Smashwords, my own website, anywhere else that’ll have me) with all my books. It was this post that really got me thinking and when Smashwords announced that they were starting to accept ePub files, well, logic prevailed. The fact that Amazon.co.uk spent Christmas dumping 20p traditionally published books into Kindle owners’ hands didn’t exactly warm my heart towards them either. (You might not see the 12 Days of Kindle page on Amazon if you click that link; it depends on where you are in the world/whether or not you’re signed in.)

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I picked the Erin Condren Life Planner with the most suitable quote. (I hope!)

7. On the road

I’m a very busy girl in 2013. Workshops and speaking gigs in London, Dublin, Waterford, Chipping Norton and London again, it looks like. Last night I was planning a trip in February that will have me on four different flights and staying in four different hotels in eight days. (And I can’t wait for it. Think of my travel document wallet!) You can find out more about all that in this post.

Writing Goals

8. Writers write, don’t they?

2012 was a shameful word count for me. SHAMEFUL, I tell you. If that whole 10,000 hours before success thing holds true, I should be getting published…. hmm, sometime in December 2067. And writers are supposed to write. Talking about it doesn’t count at all, and thinking about only counts a little. (Also not counting: perfect notebook hunting, file re-arranging, index card coloring, how-to book reading, plot planning, etc. etc.) On St. Stephen’s Day—what we Irish call The Day After Christmas Day—I saw Joanna Penn tweet about Rachel Aaron’s book 2k to 10k, so I downloaded it (yes, I read e-books now), read it and then felt something stir deep down inside…. is that…?… do you think it could be…?…that feels like… well, hello there MOTIVATION! Can you even imagine a world where you’re writing 10k words a day? What would that world look like? I think it’d be like the Gumdrop Forest in Elf, but that’s just me…

So I will be writing a lot and, as per Aaron’s advice, keeping track of what I write and how long it takes me to write it. (Blog posts, too. I’ve been at this for about an hour now and I’m up to 1,391 words.) There will be a spreadsheet. There will also be a year planner above my desk, with red marks (a la Don’t Break the Chain) on the days I’ve written, and nothing but white space FILLED WITH GUILT on the days I don’t.

For the record, in the next twelve months I want to:

  • Write a blog post most weeks (approx 60k words, let’s just say)
  • Finish My Current Novel Project, proper draft (totaling 100k)
  • Write A Second Novel, rough draft (100k)
  • Write Travelled, for publication (60-70k)
  • Write a new introduction to Mousetrapped, for publication (2k)
  • Write a new non-fiction project that I’m thinking about, rough draft + proposal (70-80k).

And sleep and eat and travel and finally watch The Killing, of course.

Come to think of it, when’s Dexter back on FX?

9. Writers read, don’t they?

In 2012 I did the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and managed 48 books out of my goal of 52. This year I plan for the same—52 books—but I want to be more organized about my reading, now that a Kindle is involved. I also need to sort out the two Amazon wish lists I’ve had going for years (one on Amazon.com and one on Amazon.co.uk, totaling about 1,500 books) and decide what I’m going to buy in Proper Book and what I’m just going to read in Pretend Book. We’ll see how that goes.

10. Remember why we’re doing this writing malarkey in the first place

My best friend lives in New Zealand and after her recent visit home, we decided to get back into letter writing. She’s not big on e-mail or Facebook (I know—how are we friends?! The answer is, we met when we were 13!) and so we used to send actual hand-written letters, but we hadn’t been too good at it of late. So when I was in London shortly before she came back, I went to Paperchase on Totterham Court Road and bought us both ample supplies of pretty letter writing things, and we’ve got back into it. When I was in Nice I sent her a letter in which I described my novel-writing anxiety… and then went on to talk myself down off the ledge I’d climbed up on. And I did it by telling her the story of why I want to do this whole novel-writing thing in the first place.

In Ireland, you start school around age five, in what we call “Junior Infants.” (Cute, I know.) When I was in Junior Infants, my teacher—who may or may not have been called Ms. O’Sullivan—would sit up on her desk at the top of the class with her legs on a chair and read to us, holding the book open so we could see the pictures. When I’d get home in the afternoons, I’d line up all my Barbies and teddy-bears and basically anything with a face, on my bed, all in rows and all facing front, climb up on my dressing table with my short little legs swinging above a chair, and “read” to the assembled toys, holding a book open so they could see the pictures (which I totally believed they could, because I was convinced toys had a secret life we didn’t know about, which Pixar have since confirmed). But I couldn’t read yet, so I had to make the stories up as I went along. And that’s how I started telling stories.

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Me, Christmas morning, age 7/1989 (I think).

Which is what this is all about. Forget, for a minute, the submissions and the query letters and the manuscript formatting and the e-books and the author platforms and the workshops and the word counts and the beta readers and the advances and the twenty-year-old with a seven-book deal and how the latest ghost-written pile of celebrity crap sets your teeth on edge and what the Randy Penguin merger will mean for your writing dreams and your favourite authors. FORGET ALL THAT FOR A SECOND. Or try to. And think instead of what this about, what this is really about, why we want to be writers and entertain readers and see our names on the spines of books.

It’s because we want to tell stories.

And that, more than anything, is what I’m going to try and keep in mind this year.

But seriously—does anyone know when Dexter is back on FX?

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Replay 2012 | The Writer’s Guide to Making Google Your Friend

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not only dragging out the Stuff I Found While Procrastinating Online Gift Guides, but also replaying some of my most popular “self-printing” posts from the last twelve months for those who might have missed them first time around. They’re in no particular order, popularity-wise. Today we talk about SEO and why there’s much easier and more effective ways to get the attention of internet search engines… 

If you have a blog, chances are you’ve heard of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. You might have read one of the 83,321,023 articles or posts about why you have to do it right now or else, or maybe some kindly person from an SEO company sent you an e-mail expressing their concern over the fact that your SEO efforts are a pile of poo but fear not, because they’d lurve to help you improve them.

If you’ve got to this point without finding out what SEO actually means, I’m proud of you. And it’s basically making your blog or website more visible to Google. According to Wikipedia:

“As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content and HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.”

Thrilling stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

It sounds like something important, but I think it’s too much like hard work. I can honestly say that in 2+ years of blogging—and on a blog that got over 50,000 hits last month—I have never spent any significant amount of time worrying about my SEO, and I haven’t spent as much as a nanosecond doing anything about it.

(Sometimes I don’t even bother to tag my posts. My laziness knows no bounds.)

Now if you were, say, selling used cars in Dublin, I completely understand why you’d need to make sure that your website is the first that pops up on Google should someone enter “used cars Dublin” in the search box. If your business was primarily based online, SEO might make or break your business. But for a writer with books, a Twitter feed and a blog, I don’t see the point.

Time Spent in Better Ways

First of all, Google probably isn’t your main path of discovery. People probably find out about you and your blog through reading your books, links or tweets on Twitter and word of mouth recommendations, more than any other methods. Also, people can’t search for something if they don’t know what they’re looking for. If you’re a writer with a few books and a blog and you want to use SEO to help people find you, what kind of keywords are you going to focus on? How are you going to get people to land on you by way of an internet search when they don’t actually know you exist yet? Think about it. And don’t think about writing, because there’s a few million writers in the world people have actually heard of that they’d have to wade through before they got to you.

Maybe you have an angle, like blogging about self-publishing. In that case, wouldn’t it make sense to optimize your blog so that if someone Googles “self-publishing advice”, they land on you? I think it makes more sense to spend what little time you have producing quality content that will bring people to your blog without you having to worry about SEO and which will, over time, ensure the organic growth of your audience. All the blogs I read I started reading because someone recommended them to me or because I followed a link to one of their posts that I saw on Twitter, and when I got there, I liked what I saw. No SEO effort is going to make that happen if the posts on the site it’s optimizing are boring the arse off me—or worse, a waste of my blog-reading time.

I’m not saying that spending time working on your blog or website’s SEO won’t bring new people to your online platform. It probably will. What I’m saying is that your time would be better spent on other things, such as writing the kind of posts that bring people to your blog or website anyway.

What’s in a Name?

Having said all that, I do think writers need to make Google their friend. But this is nothing to do with SEO, indexing activities or inbound linking. It’s something far more simple and straightforward than that. It’s just common sense.

It’s about your name.

How many times have you been listening to the radio or watching something on TV and just about caught either an author name or a book title that you want to find out more about? It’s lots of times, for me. So I open up my computer or go to my phone, and do a Google search.

Keeping in mind that I have never spent any time worrying about the headache that is SEO, when you Google “Catherine Ryan Howard”, the entire first page of results is me. (And then some, but the first page is all we’re worrying about, really.) Even if you Google “Mousetrapped”, I’m not every result on the first page, but I’m there, and I’m first.

Now try Googling “Catherine Howard.” If you’re on Google Ireland I still get a look in, but on Google.com and it’s all about the fifth wife of Henry VIII of England.

The thing is, my name is Catherine Howard. “Ryan” is my mother’s maiden name, and “Catherine Ryan Howard” is completely made up. I made it up because thanks to countless History teachers, I knew about the other, infinitely more famous Catherine Howard, and so I knew that if someone was trying to find me by way of Google, she’d have something to say about it. So I changed my name, and in doing so made Google my friend.

This is why I despair when I see authors—traditionally published authors, I may add, whose publishing houses should know better—recycling titles, using titles already used for movies or even other books. This is a bit silly in the Google Age, but it’s downright stupid when the movie or book they’re borrowing from is infinitely more famous than theirs, and has been around for a long, long time, thus allowing years and years of Google friendliness (links, pathways, etc.) to build up.

Take Some Like it Hot, for instance. [At time of writing] on Amazon.co.uk, the top result is a special edition of the DVD of the movie that’s so well-known and so popular and has been around for so long that it should never have been used as a title for anything else, but there’s also other editions of the movie, a companion book to the movie, another companion book to the movie, a memoir by Tony Curtis about making the movie, (at least) two erotic novels and then there’s Some Like it Hot by Amanda Brobyn*, which was released by Poolberg here in Ireland late last year. Now Some Like it Hot happens to be a great title for the book, but I went through five pages on Google Ireland and got no mention of it. If I’d heard her interviewed on the radio or something but didn’t catch her name and went looking for the book afterwards, I might well give up on page five. Or even before it.

For traditionally published authors, this isn’t that big of a deal. They’re also in bookstores. There’ll be plenty of other chances for us to find out about their books. But for self-published authors, we’re only online. If someone only has the title of our book and Google doesn’t help them find us, there may never encounter a mention of us again.

Just something to think about before you name your book—and yourself.

Have a good weekend! 

*I don’t mean to pick on anybody in particular; it’s just a good example. But there are countless others—feel free to mention any you know about in the comments. 

Click here to see a list of all my self-printing posts.

The Social Network: Guest Post by Author Gillian Duffy

A while back I heard about Dublin writer Gillian Duffy, who had just signed a three-book deal with Book Republic, an imprint of Irish publishing house Maverick Press. What was unusual about Gillian was that her first book, The L.A. Commandments, was going to be published in only a few weeks’ time. With such a short time between dreaming of becoming a published writer and becoming one, I wondered how difficult it would be for Gillian to handle the social media side of things which, as we all know (whether we like it or not), is vital to selling books these days. So I asked her to write a post about it. Welcome, Gillian!

“Hi there everyone. I’m Gillian, I live in Dublin and I’m currently studying English and History at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. All seems pretty normal and unexciting, right? Right…until something extraordinarily exciting happened about nine weeks ago which has thrown a spanner of hope and happiness into the normality works – I signed a three-book deal with Book Republic, an imprint of Maverick House, and my debut novel, The L.A. Commandments, will be published on 18th August.

I signed the contract on 8th June and the weeks since have been a rollercoaster ride of bliss and delight, with just a side-order of disbelief – ‘is this really happening?’ I continually ask, pinching myself. ‘Yes,’ is the answer, ‘it is happening.’ And happening really fast, which, I must admit, is propelling the excitement levels to a 5.0 on the Richter scale. The fast-paced momentum of my publishing experience keeps me focused, triggers my energy and makes the creative process even fresher; the manuscript is edited, proofread, then it’s ready for publication, and that’s exactly what’s happening. No long wait from edit to release and that approach suits me fine. Book Republic felt that the novel’s principle themes – Redundancy, Emigration, Celebrity Culture, Infidelity and Addiction – are so integral to people’s daily lives that it would make sense to publish it when its meaning is so topical. Finding something I can connect to is extremely important when it comes to my own reading ‘must-haves’, so I hope readers will find something relatable in this book. The L.A. Commandments deals with some hard-pressing issues, but, predominantly, it’s a light-hearted story about two best friends, Joanne and Suzie, who strive to find their place in the world as they tackle unemployment, relocation, relationships, and all the ups and downs which they can bring. Their journey begins during the summer months of 2009 as they make their way across the Atlantic, en route to their new home, so it’s fitting to schedule the novel’s release during the same season – people embarking on their own holiday or travelling adventure can also accompany the girls on theirs.

When I began this novel adventure, the part of the process which I found most daunting was the social media/promotional side of things. I had a Facebook account with about 130 friends, who comprised family members, schoolmates, former colleagues, friends and acquaintances, which I rarely logged on to. As for Twitter, I followed about five people and had five less followers. Not to mention my biggest fear of all – video diaries. I’m a huge fan of vblogs when I’m watching someone else’s footage, not my own. But suddenly I found myself in a situation where I had to embrace these social networking systems. They were to become my best friends for the immediate future – in some ways, even more so than my flesh and blood substitutes – and slowly, but surely, they are.

Facebook wasn’t so frightening. The search for likeminded literary lovers all over the world was but a few clicks away and I’d also found my Facebook feet while using my personal account, as relatively unacquainted as we were. But Twitter was a whole different kettle of very slippery fish. For me, it was a site solely used to follow the tweets of your favourite celebs, people you admire and those who inspire you – I was a tweet reader; I’d never envisioned myself as a tweet writer!

When I first began tweeting I’d stare blankly at that white space – future home to my 140 characters if I could just think of something to type – and rack my brain about what to say. ‘Should I just talk about the book and my publishing experience?… No, I’m trying to create connections, not crush them with repetition.’  ‘Perhaps I should post links to my favourite songs?’ ‘Maybe I could quote some lines from my favourite books.’ ‘Or, what about trying to meet some tweeps with similar interests and goals? Yes, that makes sense. We can converse all things literary.’ I’ve since realised that attempting to stick to one approach is pointless and nonsensical because people aren’t like that and isn’t that what Twitter and Facebook are about, trying to connect with people?  My favourite tweeters are those who openly share what they believe in, what they find funny, what they like and dislike – basically, people who are themselves. That’s the approach I try to take. Instead of only tweeting all things publishing, I like to let others know about my musical interests, what books I read, what films I watch, what fashion I like, while, also, keeping them up-to-date with my own writing news. I try to be myself and I think that’s the best approach to adopt in everything you do. So, Twitter and I are no longer strangers, rather admiring acquaintances whose budding relationship grows stronger by the day! It’s a great place to meet fellow writers – and fellow music, fashion, and film fans. I’m not doing too badly on Facebook either. My ‘author’ page gives me the perfect opportunity to meet and engage with other students and book lovers, worldwide, and The L.A. Commandments’ page is brilliant for keeping those who are interested abreast of any developments – it’s win-win all round.

The reality is that without Twitter or Facebook I wouldn’t have been introduced to Book Republic and if I hadn’t been following their tweets I definitely wouldn’t have known about the writers’ evening which they held in The Irish Writers’ Centre, Dublin, on Thursday 19th May. That was when this adventure really began. I met with the editorial team that night, told them about my manuscripts, which I submitted to them the following week, and about two weeks later I signed a three-book deal. Social networking really was instrumental in transforming my writing wishes into reality.

I’m still getting to grips with my video diaries, but, hopefully, I’ll soon feel as comfortable with them as I do with my other social-networking sidekicks. I think I’ll always prefer to be behind the camera, but you never know. Soon I could be chronicling my life on film: Gillian going to the supermarket, Gillian going to have her braces removed, Gillian waiting on the bus… Imagine!  No, you can relax – that’ll never happen.

So, nine weeks ago I was a social networking student. Now, I’m still a social networking student but at least I have a few more friends. And I’d like to say a very BIG ‘Thank You’ to all my digital companions for their ‘follows’, ‘likes’ and well wishes – right back at you!

Talk soon,

Gillian.”

Thanks so much for stopping by, Gillian!

The L.A. Commandments is out now. You can find out more about it on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, The Book Depository and Book Republic’s website. You can also follow Gillian on Twitter here and find her on Facebook here.

Self-Printed Preview #5: What’s With the Be Professional Thing?

Welcome to the Self-Printed Preview Week! Today’s excerpt is from Part 3: Building an Online Platform and it’s called What’s With The “Be Professional” Thing? In Self-Printed I talk a LOT about acting like a professional writer even if you’re not one yet, especially on your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc. But why do we need to? Why can’t we just blog about Jersey Shore, tweet about how our boyfriend’s dumped us and incessantly poke our Facebook friends? It’s because if you want to sell books, acting professional is the only way to go… 

Why do you need to act like a professional? Why can’t you smear your emotional crap all over the place? Why can’t you do whatever it takes to get to a nice round number of Twitter followers? Why can’t you virtually poke me in the eye, especially when after reading this far, you really really want to?

You Have Something to Prove

Self-publishers, in the eyes of the discerning reader, start off fairly low on the Book Ladder. In fact for some, we’re not even on the ladder. The ladder is leaning against a house and we’re across the street and five doors down from it. Before the discerning reader will give our book a chance, we have to convince him or her that we have the potential to be just as good as anything the top-selling, most lauded, international-superstar-authors have to offer, and that just because we’re associated with a group known for bad quality doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve gone down that road as well.

How can we do that? By sending I’m-not-crap signals at every opportunity. On the book, this is the cover. On our Amazon listing, this is the product description. And online, this is how much our blog looks like the website of a professional author, maybe even one who has someone else to make and maintain their website for them, someone with a website manager. (The dream!) When you’re a self-published author, everything you do online is a reflection of the quality of your book. Everything. Because even when no one is watching, Google is.

The More… the Merrier?

When you first start blogging, you feel like it’s just you and the screen. Then a few people leave comments, and you feel like it’s just you and them. Even though you know, intellectually, that whatever you type on those posts is entering the public domain, it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Even when your site stats say a couple of thousand people are visiting your blog on a regular basis, it still feels like a little group of friends, gathered together over a coffee every morning, chatting about quilts or whatever. It’s nice. It’s intimate. It’s safe.

It’s only when something from the real world pierces the bubble of your blogosphere that you realise how many people can, potentially, read your every blogged thought, and who some of those people might be. Maybe you write a post about how your family don’t believe in you, and then Aunty Joanne brings it up at your cousin’s wedding. Maybe you tell people the resort you’re going to on holidays and, while you’re there, someone comes up to you by the pool and says, “Are you the Quilting Queen of the Universe? I read your blog!” Or maybe you bitch about how your boss is clearly a devoted disciple of Satan, and then the next day you get fired.

And not to get all serious and sinister, but a lot worse can happen that that.

Your social media presence requires your personality, but it shouldn’t include your personal life. The easiest way to ensure that we keep one but exclude the other is to behave ourselves, and act the same way a professional writer – who knows, right from the outset, that lots of people, including reporters, agents and editors, are reading his/her every word – would do.

Dress for the Job You Want

You’ve heard that, right? Dress for the job you want, not the job you have? The same applies to your online presence. If you want to be a professional writer some day, start acting like one now – at least on your blog.

And so concludes Self-Printed’s preview week! I hope you’ve enjoyed these little tasters of the book that, through typing it, nearly wore my fingerprints away. (Over 100,000 words, people. What was I thinking?!) If you haven’t, we can still be friends. 

Find out more on SelfPrintedBook.com