Sunday, 20 August 2017

My new course at Richmond Adult Community College!

Photo by me
Hope you're having a good summer, apart from the rain. I've been away in France and Italy (Instagram pics here), and I'm dropping in to tell you some exciting news!

From September, I'll be a tutor at Richmond Adult Community College (Surrey), teaching a ten week course: Social Media for Writers and Bloggers

The course will take place on Thursdays, 11am-1pm, starting on 28 September 2017 and it will cover Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogging for writers and bloggers. Students will learn how to write engaging blog posts and develop an online presence (find out more, and enrol here).

I'm really looking forward to meeting my students, and can't wait to get started.

Also, I'm thrilled to tell you that Della Galton tweeted me recently to say that this blog will be recommended in the October issue of Writers' Forum (192) on her Dear Della page. Updated 19 Sept: see the page here on Instagram, where both of my blogs are mentioned (top right).

Thank you so much to you all for your support. Back soon!

Previous post: Go the RNA! #RNAConf17
Popular posts:
What are Hashtags, Why Use Them, and How?
Beginner's Guide to Twitter for Writers 2017
More info on me and my courses via my website
My neetswriter blog

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Go the RNA! #RNAConf17

The gala dinner
I went to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) conference at Harper Adams University at the weekend, and I’m still recovering. It was my favourite RNA conference so far-there’s something about the venue (same for the conference in 2014) which creates a warm family atmosphere. The RNA is a friendly organisation anyway, but there really was a lot of love in the room at this conference.

On Friday morning, I had a meeting which meant I embarked on my journey to Telford later than planned, and unfortunately due to lots of traffic (basically all the way there, apart from on the M6 Toll which was a dream), I missed Chairman, Nicola Cornick’s welcome and the panel which followed on the state of the industry with Nicola, Rosie de Courcy, Isobel Dixon, Broo Doherty, Sam Missingham and Emily Yau. However, I look forward to finding out more in the write-ups which I’m sure will follow on blogs and in the RNA magazine, Romance Matters. Friday night meant catching up with lovely friends, (who I was lucky to share a flat with) at the drinks, dinner and afterwards in our kitchen with lashings of prosecco.

Lizzie Lamb and Adrienne Vaughan peering through my kitchen window
On Saturday, I attended a talk by Nicola Cornick and Sarah Morgan on social media; and then as my alter-ego, neetswriter: Elizabeth Chadwick, Beyond the dressing up box (historical talk); Pia Fenton and Anna Belfrage on Playing with time in romantic fiction (making timeshift work). I attended the RNA Open Discussion: Have Your Say! where lots of exciting plans were discussed, including the 60 year anniversary of the RNA in 2020. Vice-chair, Alison May and a team will be organising a celebration, and I can’t wait to find out more and get the date in my diary. The last talk of the day I attended was These We Have Loved with Ian Skillicorn of Corazon Books and Louise Allen on reviving the backlist. I found this talk really useful as Ian talked about advertising on Facebook and BookBub; and it was interesting to hear about Louise’s experience of publishing her backlist.

Ian Skillicorn, me, Adrienne Vaughan, Jackie Ladbury, Liz Cooper, Jules Wake, Donna Ashcroft
The gala dinner took place on Saturday night, where the room was made to look pretty with pink lights on the columns and the food was delicious-best beef wellington ever. I stayed up quite late on Saturday night with a few bad influences in my flat (!), but had the best time. 

Anna Belfrage at her fab talk
On Sunday morning, after a big fry up, I met up with my lovely client, Anna Belfrage which was great as we usually speak over Skype. Then I went to Fiona Harper’s talk on building characters from the inside out (again as neetswriter), and I look forward to reading through my notes and applying Fiona’s advice when planning new characters, and revisiting those I've made up already.

After a delicious roast lunch of lamb and Yorkshire pudding, I drove home, and stopped at Warwick services for a coffee. When I got out of the car and walked towards the entrance, I had to tell myself I was no longer at a conference and didn’t need to smile and say hello to everyone I saw…then who should I bump into but Catherine Miller! We did laugh. And I must have been looking happy post-conference (despite being exhausted!), as the lovely lady in Starbucks included a huge smiley face on my coffee cup.

Much-needed cappuccino for the drive home
I've done write-ups for talks at RNA conferences in the past (which take ages to put together!), but this year I'm writing this round-up post instead, as I know there will be lots of write-ups elsewhere. 

All in all, I had a fabulous time, and thank you to Jan Jones and all the organisers for such a special weekend. 

I hope to tell you some exciting news (for neetsmarketing) soon re that meeting on Friday morning, but I can't say anything until all is finalised. UPDATE: find out all in my post here!

My Social Media Course for Writers in London on 7 October is now fully booked, but I've just organised my next London course for 19 May 2018. And I'm running the same course on 3 March 2018 in York. There are quotes from former attendees on my website. Book here or by emailing me at anitajchapman at gmail dot com.

Wishing you all a lovely summer. I'm going to take the rest of the summer off as neetsmarketing to spend time with my family and to get some writing done. But I'll be back in September.

Previous post: 
Most popular post:
Recent post on neetswriter blog:
How Does Reality TV Help Writers? (inspired by Love Island)

Friday, 16 June 2017

What are Hashtags, Why Use Them, and How?

These days, hashtags are everywhere, but why use them and how?

Many of my course attendees, and clients have said they find hashtags confusing, so I've written this post to explain what they are, how they work, and why it’s worth using them. Of course, it's not a good idea to fill tweets with an abundance of hashtags-a general rule is two in a tweet, three at the very most (if you really have to). Any more and your tweet looks like it wasn't produced by a real person. You can use several hashtags to promote a book or blog post etc by creating a few tweets, varying the hashtags in each, spreading them out over a few days.

Don't forget that social media is about building relationships and sharing content which fits with your brand, rather than bombarding followers with only promo tweets. 

Whilst drafting this post, I asked the following question on my Facebook personal profile-read comments here, and there's more info under 'Which Hashtags?' below:

In this blog post, I'll be talking mainly about using hashtags on Twitter, with a little bit on Instagram and Facebook (see end of post), from the point of view of writers/authors.

What is a hashtag?

Twitter Support says: "A hashtag is any word or phrase immediately preceded by the # symbol. When you click or tap on a hashtag, you'll see other Tweets containing the same keyword or topic."

Find out more here, via Twitter Support.

If Twitter Support's explanation of what a hashtag is (above) doesn’t make much sense to you, my explanation would be:

Think of a hashtag like a reference, a way to reach beyond your followers; a way to find those with the same interests or attending the same event as you. Including hashtags relating to your brand in tweets (and searching for them) helps to increase discoverability. There is a lot more to hashtags, but I'll explain below.

Before I go any further, here’s an explanation of how brand and discoverability work when you use social media:

Building a Brand, and Discoverability:
Brand: think about what defines you and your books, and aim to focus on those subjects and themes when posting on Twitter and Facebook. Use relevant hashtags on Twitter so people interested in those subjects and themes can find you (and use other hashtags to build relationships through shared interests). This is a way to gain potential readers as followers.

Discoverability: find the places where people interested in subjects and themes from your books hang out. Join Facebook Groups, follow and use Twitter hashtags, follow and comment on blogs based around those subjects and themes. Liz Fenwick wrote a post for this blog, Using Twitter to Connect with Readers which gives great examples on how to find your potential readers using Twitter. Ask book bloggers (nicely) if they’ll review your book (check their review policy first), and/or host you on their blogs. Ask authors to host you on their blogs too. The more content you post online, the more likely you are to come up in a Google search. And backlinks are great for improving SEO ranking (a backlink is a link to your blog/website from another blog/website; especially great if that blog/website has lots of followers/page views).

So, what's so great about hashtags?-main points.
When searching for a hashtag (more below): you can find new people to follow: check hashtags which are relevant to you and your brand and you will find followers, and potential readers there.

When adding a hashtag to tweets: your tweets will reach beyond your followers, and new followers will find you.

Events: see who is attending an event in advance, raise your profile while you're there by tweeting updates, and tweet photos during/afterwards. Find out what's happening when you can't make an event. From experience, when promoting events-if an event is promoted well on Twitter (and Facebook, Instagram, with post-event blog posts etc), it helps to promote the next event. I've often received tweets when promoting an event along the lines of, "Wish I could be/could have been there. Must book next time/ Can I book for next time?"

Build relationships through common interests. I've found new followers relating to my brand as a writer through hashtags like #invisiblecities #SecretsoftheNationalTrust and #thedurrells-TV programmes. Alison Baverstock talked about using #thearchers and other hashtags to build relationships through common interests at the RNA Conference 2015-see my post here.

If you want to see how hashtags are working for you on Twitter: use Twitter analytics. 
Info from Twitter analytics
Use and Search:

Don’t just add hashtags to tweets and Instagram posts; search for hashtags too. An easy way to search for tweets using hashtags you want to keep an eye on is to add the hashtags to columns in Tweetdeck, or Hootsuite ((I'm a Tweetdeck fan, and have lots of columns for hashtags). With both Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, you can include more than one hashtag in a column by typing OR in between each hashtag, which can be useful if you want to monitor hashtags which are similar.

Which hashtags?-a few examples:
Thank you so much to all who took the time to comment on my Facebook post with favourite hashtags: Emma Darwin, Mary Anne Lewis, Karen Aldous, Linda Green, Terri Nixon, Jenni Keer, Rebecca Lang, Phillipa Ashley. I've included names after those hashtags mentioned which I'd missed from my list.

Here follow a few hashtags, especially used by writers/authors. I can't include them all, but do let me know if I've missed a popular one. The best way to find hashtags which will be useful to you is to look at tweets by your peers and idols-which hashtags are they using, and are those tweets receiving much engagement, ie likes, replies and retweets? Hashtags are not case sensitive.

#writing (thanks Rebecca Lang!)
#writingtips (thanks Emma Darwin!)

Book blogging/reviews:
#bookblogger #bookbloggers (I asked the Book Connectors Facebook group back in March which hashtag members used more and the general consensus was #bookblogger)
#bookconnectors: linked to the Book Connectors Facebook group for book bloggers and authors. Find out more in this guest interview with Anne Cater. Twitter account @Book_Connectors.
#review (thanks Linda Green!)
#bookpost: lots of book bloggers use this with a photo of books received for review.
#DDRevs: Disovering Diamonds reviews by Helen Hollick. Find out more in Helen's guest post here.

#alwaysreading (thanks Linda Green!)

Sales and promo-there are more:
#giveaway #win
#99p #99c
#BYNR: See @BookYrNextRead bio for more info. (Thank you Terri Nixon!)
#greatbooks (thank you Terri Nixon)
#goodread (thank you Jenni Keer!)

Genre-you can find hashtags for other genres easily:
#crimefiction #crimefic
#histfic #historicalfiction
#youngadult #YA
#romanticcomedy (thanks Mary Anne Lewis!)

Self-publishing-see tweets by @IndieAuthorALLI to find more:

History-you can find hashtags for most historical periods:
#Twitterstorians- a general history hashtag, find really interesting stuff here

When Sue Moorcroft's book, The Christmas Promise trended!

Your book:
Sue Moorcroft has kindly given me permission to use her books #TheChristmasPromise and #JustfortheHolidays as examples of how to use hashtags for books. The Christmas Promise is a bestseller, which made it to the UK Kindle #1 spot before Christmas 2016.

As the main character in The Christmas Promise, Ava is a milliner, members of Sue's Street Team posted photos of themselves wearing hats on social media with #TheChristmasPromise (that's where my profile photo comes from).

Also, Sue gave street team members the option to add wording to a banner with #MyPromise, to mention something they planned to do; silly promises included! Being near Christmas, there were a lot of promises to not overeat etc.

With Sue's recent  release, Just for the Holidays, Sue came up with the idea for members of her street team and followers to post old holiday photos on Twitter with #JustfortheHolidays.

This proved to be a popular idea, and here I am with Sue at the RNA Summer Party on the day Just for the Holidays was released in paperback.

Left: Sue and Catherine Miller. Right: me and Sue.
Twitter chats:
These allow you to have a conversation about a particular subject, usually during set times. They can be an opportunity to ask an expert for advice, to chat generally, or for an author to answer questions from readers.

Sue Moorcroft has also kindly allowed me to use her Twitter chat from 9 June 2017, 12.30-1.30pm UK time: #AskSueMoorcroft as an example. Click here to see the tweets.

#askagent: now and again, certain agents will answer questions within a set timeframe. Check the hashtag to find out more.

Pitching and agent info:
#tenqueries: by @TheEricRuben, New York literary agent at The Ruben Agency. This hashtag gives an interesting insight into how agents make decisions on query submissions.

#pitchcb: an opportunity to pitch, run by agencies, Curtis Brown and Conville and Walsh. Find out more here.

TV, radio, film-think of those relating to your brand:
#Poldark (used by Liz Fenwick, Phillipa Ashley, Terri Nixon).

Days-here are a few which often trend:
#ff. Meaning Follow Friday, where you can recommend who to follow (or others may recommend you).

Seasons, locations, gardening, food etc...:
There are so many more hashtags out there: relating to season, location, gardening, food; everything you can imagine. Use hashtags for locations where your book is set, eg #Cornwall is used by Phillipa Ashley and #Tuscany by Karen Aldous (thanks both!).

Blog sharing:
If you use one of these hashtags, there are usually rules and you are expected to reciprocate by retweeting other tweets using the hashtag.

#MondayBlogs. Established and registered by bestselling author, Rachel Thompson @MondayBlogs. This article tells you all about it.
#Tuesbookblog (thank you, Karen Aldous!)
#WWWblogs: see @Womenwriterblog bio for more info. 

RNA members only:
This sharing news hashtag is used on Tuesdays by members (only) of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and reciprocation is expected in the same way as with blog sharing hashtags. Members usually share news of cover reveals, pre-orders, special deals and giveaways, new releases, new contracts, blog posts, upcoming talks and launches etc. It's a really effective hashtag, and sometimes I receive 70+ retweets when I use it. Don't forget to use @RNAtweets as well as the hashtag-RNA members know to search for both as per below. This is to avoid picking up other #TuesNews hashtags-sometimes there are a few of those. Use #TuesNews @RNAtweets (click on Latest in when searching to catch them all).

Me en route to London Book Fair #lbf17 on Instagram
Events-a few examples of past events:
#HNSOxford16: Historical Novel Society conference, September 2016. I was publicity officer and Social Media Manager (handed over to Elaine Powell after the conf, 4 Sept 2016). See tweets here.
#lbf17: London Book Fair, 2017. See my tweets here.
#rnasummerparty: Romantic Novelists' Association's Summer Party. See my tweets here.
#neetsapr17. I created this hashtag for my talk to the RNA London chapter in April, so attendees could practise. See tweets here.
#neetspring17. I created this hashtag for my May course in London so attendees could practise. See tweets here.
#rnaconf17 (this Romantic Novelists' Association annual conference will be soon, and I can't wait!)

What happens if you use the wrong hashtag?
Those who you’re trying to reach are unlikely to see your tweet. I have seen this many times when promoting and following events on Twitter, and it's a shame for anyone who uses the wrong hashtag, as their tweets become redundant. Use the right hashtag! (do your research).

How do you know which hashtag to use?
Do your research. For example, if two (or more) are being used for an event, find the official hashtag being used by the person/organisation running the event; or if you can't find that info, which hashtag is being used the most and by those who usually know what they're doing on Twitter. A lot of the time, I see confusion between 20[17] and [17] for events, meaning that two are used eg #neetsapr2017 and #neetsapr17. If you organise an event, make it clear to your followers what the hashtag is way in advance of the event (include on flyers/banners/website etc), so by the time the event arrives, the hashtag will have been picked up by many of your followers. Don't make it difficult for followers to find the hashtag. I've attended events where a hashtag isn't being used or is created hastily during the event; a wasted opportunity.

There is no point in using a hashtag which no-one else uses or searches for. Unless you're creating a hashtag of your own, in which case initially you'll probably be the only person using it. (been there, it can feel a bit lonely!)

A couple of websites which may help with hashtag research and tracking:
Hashtagify (research) and Keyhole (tracking)

When you login to, you will see what's trending in your network. Twitter will tell you who in your network is tweeting using a trending hashtag. Find out more here, via Twitter Support

Using a trending hashtag can be a way to expand your reach, but sometimes these tweets can look unnatural, ie. it's obvious if someone's jumped onto a hashtag because it's trending (also be aware you can attract trolls depending on the hashtag and what you say). I have messed about with trending hashtags to see what happens, and often they receive little or no engagement. If the trending hashtag is for an event which many of your followers are attending, or for a book award etc, then you're likely to receive more engagement.

If you click on Change, next to Trends (see above screenshot), you have the option to tailor what you see (see below screenshot). 

Creating your own hashtag:
Try to make any hashtag you create easy to remember and relevant to your event, book, Twitter chat etc; and not too long so it doesn't take up a lot of space in tweets (where possible). Be careful to make sure your hashtag doesn't mean something else. Just read this article, via The Guardian on the Top 5 Twitter hashtag PR disasters to find out more. And check the hashtag you want to create isn't being used already, especially if it's being used for something you would not want your book etc to be associated with.

Me with Alison Morton at her recent launch for RETALIO in London
Hashtags on Instagram:
Hashtags expand reach a great deal on Instagram, where it's seen as OK to use a number of them. Many hashtags on Instagram are the same as on Twitter, and there are lots of variations too. Look at who is using hashtags relating to your brand to find who to follow (as well as who your peers and idols are following).

Here are a few which I often use on Instagram (relating to the writing world):
#amwriting #writing #writersofinstagram #authors #authorsofinstagram #bookstagram #booklaunch #amreading #currentlyreading (see below)

There are many more. Thanks to Linda Green for mentioning #bookstagram #bookworm and #bookaddict.

Updated 23 August 2017: This is an interesting article re books on Instagram and celebrities, via The New York Times, and I'm adding #currentlyreading to the list above.

Hashtags on Facebook:
Hashtags are sometimes used on Facebook, but not in the same way, and according to Kevan Lee in this article via Buffer, How to Use Hashtags: How Many, Best Ones and Where to Use Them, hashtags don’t work effectively on Facebook. Kevan Lee says, "Facebook posts without a hashtag fare better than those with a hashtag." This article was written in 2015, but I can't find anything more up-to-date. I have found myself that using hashtags in Facebook posts hasn’t increased engagement. Andrew Hutchinson goes into more detail in this article, via Social Media Today, Should You Use Hashtags on Facebook? Here's What the Research Says, and he references Kevan Lee's post mentioned above.

It's taken so long to write this post, I can't see it anymore! Hope it's helpful, and I can't possibly include all the hashtags relevant to you here, but do let me know if I've missed any big and obvious ones (sorry if I have!). I'm sure I'll remember loads more after I've published the post...will add them if that happens.

Now I've actually finished the post, I'm off to find one of these:

Post RNA Summer Party margarita

More on Twitter here: My Beginner's Guide to Twitter for Writers 2017.
Liz Fenwick on Using Twitter to Connect with Readers (guest post).
My new course at Richmond Adult Community College (added Aug 2017)

My Social Media Courses for Writers in London and York:

My course on 7 October 2017 is now fully booked, but I'm running the same course on 19 May 2018.

I shall be running my first Social Media Course for Writers in the North of England on 3 March 2018. More details here.

I work as a Freelance Social Media Manager with clients in the world of books. Here's a lovely new flyer on what I do, designed by Avalon Graphics (as are the flyers above). More info via my website.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Alison Morton on Marketing a Book Series

Today, my guest is Alison Morton, who I've known for a number of years. Alison worked with me on promoting the Historical Novel Society ("HNS") conference in Oxford 2016, which was a lot of fun, and we often catch up at HNS and Romantic Novelists' Association events. Alison is author of the popular and beautifully marketed Roma Nova Series, and this post is part of the blog tour for RETALIO, which will be released on 27 April 2017. Find other posts in the blog tour here

There seems to be a trend for book series at the moment, and I know from pitching as a writer at conferences that many agents and publishers are looking for them. Alison has written a really helpful post with tips on how to market a series below. Thank you, and over to you, Alison! 

Alison Morton on Marketing a Series

When I wrote my first book, I was thrilled I had completed it. Holding the shiny covered paperback in my hands in March 2013 was a never to be forgotten moment. The second book was in the pipeline and came out seven months later with the third one the following June. But Books Two and Three weren’t quite the obvious success that the first book was (and continues to be). Now the sixth is about to come out and I’ve learnt some new lessons since Book Three.

Why series are attractive to readers:
Firstly, readers like to read more about the same characters and places. Finding out what’s happened to familiar friends, if the pesky villains have been threatening them or their lover is still faithful, without having to learn a new world draws readers straight into the story.

Secondly, readers care more about finding and sticking with a good author and a well-written series than in getting everything cheap.

A strategy:
A series should feature recurring elements. Some focus on the same setting and at least some of the same characters. Other series centre round an object or particular place, e.g. through the ages, others on inter-connected families.  Familiarity and availability of ‘more’ are the two selling points.

Make it easy for a new reader. Firstly, ensure your books can be read as standalones, i.e. that each story is properly resolved and does not end on a cliffhanger.  I have thrown my Kindle on the floor for less. Secondly, consider a second entry point for readers. For example, my Roma Nova series consists (so far) of two trilogies, one set in the ‘present’ and one in the late 1960s to early 1980s. New readers can start the series at Book 4, read Books 5 and 6 then happily go back to Books 1-3.

Some practical basics:
You really need three books as a minimum when you switch to series marketing.

Of course, all the books should be edited, proof-read, well designed inside and correctly formatted. Use a professional designer to ensure covers are stunning and carry elements that link them, such as fonts, a logo, style, recurring motif. This gives your books a brand, an identity that readers can spot instantly. Each book then reinforces the visibility of the others in the series. If your series books don’t have such visual links, I strongly recommend new covers.

Publish your books on as many platforms as possible at home and abroad: Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and B&N Nook at a minimum for ebooks and Lightning Source (via Ingram Spark) and Create Space (Amazon) for print.

For mainstream published books, the publishing house should have done this and will use their own resources to publicise and market your books for at least an initial period. After that, you may like to join in here…

Now, if you are at the three book stage, you will have already developed your own website/blogsite/blog and set up a Facebook page from your Facebook personal profile. (More on this here. Anita: thanks for mentioning my post, Alison!). And of course a Twitter account! 

By now you will probably have started a mailing list of subscribers (with their consent!) who agree to receive either regular newsletter or purely notifications of new books. I write a monthly newsletter to keep reader interest and also post mailing list only offers (subscribe here
). Regular contact gives an author direct access to interested readers who will be a receptive audience to the next book in the series.

Consider allocating a marketing budget, however modest. While you can do a lot for free, the day will come when you need to boost a post on your Facebook page, enter paid promotions, or pay for advertising or some PR/marketing help. 

Down to tactics:
In the run up to publication day reveal the cover and blurb, tell people on your own blog/website and social media where the book is on pre-order (with links). If you have a newsletter, it’s better to tell your loyal subscribers first!

Logic tells us a reader won’t purchase the latest novel in a multi-book series without reading the previous novels. You need to sell the entire series. A good tactic is to sell as many copies of the earlier books as you can in the run-up to release week, to refresh interest in the whole series.

Hopefully, you will have already blogged earlier about your characters, what they eat, drink and wear, their values, aspirations, faults and about any context, such as historical, as well as the setting, all focusing on the unique nature of your series and its themes. Now is the time to step this up, emphasising the continuity as well as hinting at new developments in the forthcoming book. In the ten days before launch day, I blog every day with snippets about Roma Nova, the book background and the characters. Exhausting, yes, but it reinforces your book’s world and series brand.

Oh, and do make sure you have a series hashtag. It’s worth spending a while developing this as it has to last. Check for any unfortunate coincidences, TV programmes, political connotations and keep it clear and direct. I started with #RomaNova and wondered why I was getting a lot of Russian interest. I changed it to #RomaNovaSeries!

Advance Readers and reviews:
Seeing ten reviews in the first week not only brings happiness to the author’s heart, it prompts Amazon to give your latest book some attention, i.e. it features it on their email to subscribers. You may then see sales of your earlier books as new readers will go and look for them.  So gather some reliable friends, bloggers, mailing list subscribers, those who follow you on Facebook or your blog and offer a free advance copy. You can’t make a review a condition of receiving the advance copy, but you can strongly hint! It’s wise to have built up a ‘street team’ of readers beforehand.

Approach bloggers with an offer of an advance copy for review and also offer to write a guest post or answer an interview. Bloggers become very busy, so it’s wise to set this up as early as possible. If you’ve had previous books reviewed or mentioned by them then this is the time to renew that relationship!

Sales tactics:
If you have three books and you’re selling your fourth, make the first three into a box set and sell at a promotional price.  This will make life easy for a reader new to the series, and who doesn’t like a bargain?

Another tactic is to reduce the previous book by say 50% the week/10 days before the new book comes out. And let people know via social media, a boost on your Facebook page, Twitter and a free promotional service advert.

To keep the momentum going, it’s a good idea to promote via a few paid services such as BargainBooksy, BookSends, eReader News Today, Robin Reads, and (for sci-fi/fantasy) Book Barbarian.

Free or not?
I couldn’t reconcile myself with offering one of my precious babies for free until I had published my fifth book. INCEPTIO was the book of my heart, but less emotionally as Book 1 it was my series starter. In hard terms, it was a product that could be used as a loss leader.

I use INCEPTIO as the gift for people who sign up to my Roma Nova newsletter (which I hope is interesting in its own right!) and if I do any joint promotions with other authors. But it still sells on the retail sites and at a competitive price. This is the ‘hook book’ for the series and prompts readers to investigate the next, and hopefully the next….

Anita: Thanks for a really generous and informative post, Alison, which I know will be helpful to many authors. Best of luck with the launch for RETALIO! 

Find out more about Alison and RETALIO below:

Alison Morton, writes the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

The first five books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April 2017.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.

Now she continues to write, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband of 30 years.

Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site:
Twitter: @alison_morton
Alison’s Amazon page:

Buying link for RETALIO (multiple retailers/formats):

RETALIO book trailer:


Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.

Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Helen Hollick on Discovering Diamonds

Today, my guest is Helen Hollick, a bestselling historical fiction author who knows a great deal about self-publishing. 

I've known Helen for a few years online and I was lucky to meet her properly 'in real life' at the Historical Novel Society ("HNS") Conference in Oxford, September 2016, as we were both members of the committee. Helen has a huge hat selection, is wonderful company; and you can find out more in her bio at the end of this post. Recently, Helen set up her own review blog for historical fiction, Discovering Diamonds, and I invited her to write a guest post to explain more, so over to you, Helen...!


For several years I was Managing Editor at the HNS for reviewing Indie historical fiction, but times change and I decided to head off into a new direction and a new venture – my own review blog for historical fiction. The ultimate aim, to review books good enough to recommend to other readers regardless of the production process or sub-genre. A good book is a good book, whether it is indie, self- or traditional mainstream published. 

Assembling a good team to support me was the first step. As it turned out I had a host of enthusiastic people who wanted to come on board:  e-book editor Nicky Galliers, assistant editor author Annie Whitehead, graphics designer Cathy Helms, and an eclectic collection of eager reviewers, some who are writers, some just avid readers and some with a foot in both camps.

The intention was to post one review a day (except Sundays) but I wondered if perhaps I was being a little ambitious? Would one a week be more practical? When Discovering Diamonds was initially announced in December 2016, and submissions for reviews were requested. The response was enormous and immediate. Within days there were enough good quality e-books pouring in to fill the entire month of January and most of February. We launched on 1st January 2017 and attracted over 1500 page views in that first week, along with a host of new submission requests. So the #DDRevs team is certainly being kept busy!

We only review historical fiction (and maybe the occasional non-fiction, by invitation only). Our definition of ‘historical’ is any novel that has 75% of the story set pre-1950 (this is because I was born in 1953 and I refuse to be thought of as ‘historic’!) At our discretion we will review something history-based set later than this time limit, but there has to be a strong historical interest connection. I am thinking of novels such as Alison Morton’s wonderful Alternative History Roma Nova series, which are modern-day thrillers, but based on the presumption that the Roman administration survived, a theme which readers of Roman-Age novels, especially mystery/thrillers, would find intriguing and exciting.

From the submissions we select which books to review which means just because we receive a book it doesn’t mean it will automatically receive a review. Our Discovered Diamond status is the equivalent to five stars, with a Diamond Review being four stars. Occasionally, for debut authors showing great potential we also include a 3+ star equivalent  rating, with the review containing some helpful constructive criticism – maybe another edit will be suggested to pick up some missed typos, or perhaps a note to watch a tendency to ‘head hop’. Let me stress that we are not a critique service, but our view is that potential good authors (especially indie authors) need encouragement and support to start the climb up that long, steep, ladder, and the entire #DDRevs team take great pleasure in seeing these new authors improve and grow as they write more books. But in order to do so they often require that little bit of courage and confidence to keep going, a thing that is so easy to destroy if enthusiastic encouragement is not given. We do not, therefore, publish poor reviews. I am of the firm opinion that if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all. I wish more readers leaving comments on Amazon would also adhere to this!

That is not to say that if we do not select a book it must be poorly written – far from it! (Although, I must add, a few novice writers should perhaps consider finding a different hobby.) Most of our submissions are not selected because of incorrect formatting or presentation. To be taken seriously as a professional author a book must look and feel good – which means correct formatting of the text, a well-designed cover, all the usual requirements of copyright etc on the opening page. Type face not so small it can’t even be read with a magnifying glass, so a suitable size and type of font is essential. And of course the story must be a good read! We are looking for quality produced books that are value for money to buy, and are suitable for recommending by ‘word of mouth’ (the best way for authors to sell books!) We also want authors to be proud of their Discovered Diamond logo which they can use how and where they like, and is presented when their book is reviewed. Our hope is that this logo will become recognised as a standard for a quality read, in the same way that Indie BRAG and the Chill With a Book Award operates.

We primarily only accept e-books (mobi or e-pub) not paperbacks or hardbacks, this is because we do not charge a fee, so there is no funding to cover forwarding books to various reviewers. If there is no e-book version, or if there are complications we can occasionally arrange to receive a paperback edition. We do not accept gift vouchers as they are too complicated to use when other reviewers are involved, and PDF versions, unless professionally produced as an ARC edition, are not always suitable because our reviewers use a variety of e-readers and PDFs can often become incorrectly formatted on certain devices.

But Discovering Diamonds is not just a place to post reviews. On our Sunday pages we have a Book of the Month and Cover of the Month slot (with also a Book and Cover of the Year award to follow!) A Guest Spot, and our Reader’s Voice section where we hope to draw readers into having their say about various issues. After all, what is the point of writing a book if no one is going to read it?

That’s where we come in…

Anita: Thanks very much, Helen for taking the time to write this post! And best of luck with your new venture. Find out more about Helen in her bio, below.


Helen Hollick moved from London in 2013 and now lives with her family in North Devon, in an eighteenth century farmhouse surrounded by thirteen acres of fields and woodland. A variety of pets include horses, three Exmoor ponies, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and geese.

First published over twenty years ago, her main passion is her pirate character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne of the nautical adventure series, The Sea Witch Voyages.

Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) – the story of Saxon Queen, Emma of Normandy. Her novel Harold the King (titled I Am The Chosen King in the US) is a re-telling of the events that led to the 1066 Battle of Hastings. While her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, set in the fifth century, is widely acclaimed as a different telling of the Arthurian Myth. Helen is published in various languages including Turkish, Italian and German and as a supporter of indie writers, she co-wrote Discovering the Diamond with her editor, Jo Field, a short advice guide for new and novice writers who are interested in self-publishing.

Her latest book to be published is a non-fiction Pirates: Truth and Tale, released in the UK in mid-February 2017 and is due for release in the US a little later. (Amazon Universal Link).

For other members of the Discovering Diamonds Team see About Us on the Discovering Diamonds Review Blog :
Helen Hollick :
Twitter: @HelenHollick #DDRevs
Subscribe to Helen’s Newsletter:
Cathy Helms : (Graphic Designer and Cover of the month judge)
Indie BRAG:
Chill With A Book: