Friday 15 May 2015

New Romantics Press on Marketing Books!

'Author Showcase' at Waterstones, High St Kensington, Nov 2014
L-R anticlockwise: Lizzie Lamb (front left), Janet Brigden, Sue Moorcroft, Adrienne Vaughan,
Lynda Dunwell, Talli Roland, Mary de Lazlo, Carole Matthews, June Kearns and Eileen Ramsay

My guests today are New Romantics Press, who are four authors: Lizzie Lamb, Adrienne Vaughan, Mags Cullingford and June Kearns. As members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme (“RNA”), they ‘decided to take destiny into their own hands, form New Romantics Press and publish their novels in 2012. They were further inspired by the success of E L James’ 50 Shades of Grey which took the publishing world by storm’. Find out more on their website, which includes a blog, and information about their books. In this blog post ‘A Fresh Page’, they talk about what they achieved in 2014, and their plans for this year, which include going to the RNA Conference in July (see you there ladies!).

I’ve known Lizzie Lamb since I first joined Twitter in October 2011, and have met her several times at RNA events. Lizzie has a fantastic sense of humour, and it’s always a joy to bump into her at these events. Below is a photo taken by me, of Lizzie and Adrienne at the RNA Winter Party in 2012. 

L-R: Lizzie and Adrienne
New Romantics Press have a noticeable presence on social media, as individuals and together; both on Twitter and Facebook. And they organise events locally like this Literary Lunch at The Belmont Hotel in Leicester. Doesn’t their flyer make it look enticing?

I’ve invited these lovely ladies to answer questions on marketing books, as they have so much advice to give. Thanks to all of you for agreeing to be guests on my neetsmarketing blog! Here are my questions:

Whose idea was it to market books as a group, and how did you go about organising yourselves?

Adrienne: I can’t actually remember whose idea it was. The fabulous Regency novelist, Amanda Grange set us on our way, and we were all at the same stage regarding having a novel ready for publication. It did occur to me, with my PR hat on, that it would be much more of a story if not one, but four writers decided to publish their debuts together, so that’s what we did.

We were surprised at how much media interest there was, articles and interviews in local newspapers and magazines, with BBC Radio Leicester inviting Lizzie and I into the studio for a chat! It was great fun to be on the receiving end of such enthusiasm, even Sir Terry Wogan gave me a shout out and Lorraine Kelly of ITV wrote us a lovely letter of encouragement.

The Author Event ‘Roadshow’ was my idea, but this was based on June’s original idea for us to self-publish and ‘exhibit’ ourselves in London. We started low-key in Leicester in December 2012 and played to ‘packed houses’ in two local pubs, two smart hotels and a church hall. By December 2014, we had made it to London, hosting our very own ‘Author Showcase’ at Waterstones, Kensington High Street, no less. Go us!

We tend to fall quite naturally into our roles, and work well as a team. Lizzie is definitely ‘Head Girl’ keeping our diary dates in check and making sure ‘agendas’ are up to speed. June is an excellent No 2, always the voice of reason, calm and considered, her PR skills are excellent! Mags is Director of Transport, managing train budgets and connections et al with aplomb and I try to keep abreast of the industry and any marketing initiatives that might benefit it us as a whole.

'Author Showcase' at Waterstones, High St Kensington:
Adrienne chats to Kate Bradley from HarperCollins
Your website and flyers look so professional. Adrienne runs a PR practice in Leicestershire and is editor for the RNA magazine, Romance Matters (the latest edition was fabulous, by the way Adrienne!). Does Adrienne come up with lots of your marketing ideas?

Adrienne: Thanks Anita, but again it really is a collaborative – we’re all creative peeps from professional backgrounds and have definite ideas of how our book covers, flyers and posters should look.

June and her film-maker daughter Mary are responsible for the video, Mags’ son created the artwork for her cover, and Lizzie and hubby ‘Bongoman’ work hand in glove on Lizzie’s corporate image too.

It is important to point out that when we go about a project we do engage professional help, for example we work with an entire team of editors, proof readers, graphic designers, website creators, photographers etc., and we each pick individuals that suit our style, way of working and budget. Oh, and we do have a ‘Budget’ or War Chest as Lizzie likes to call it, and yes, she holds the key, it’s her Scottish blood, and besides, I’d blow it all on champagne …so PR sweetie!

Adrienne meeting one of her heroes, Bryan Ferry
You all live locally to each other, in Leicestershire. Were you friends first? Do you meet often to make plans, and do you workshop each other’s writing? Is it important that you know each other’s books inside out, so you can promote them for each other?

Mags: The bedrock of our friendship is a shared passion for writing fiction and the ambition to have our work published and read.  Lizzie, June and I first met at Leicester Writers’ Club. Then, a little later Adrienne joined us at the Leicester Chapter of the Romantic Novelists Association formed by Lizzie and June in 2009. At the end of a Chapter meeting - on 4 May 2012 - the four of us were bemoaning our frustrations to author, Amanda Grange. Thanks to her, our Guru, the New Romantics 4-New Romantics Press were born.

We held our inaugural meeting on 27 June 2012 at The Yews, a local gastro pub, where else, and it has been non-stop regular meetings, making plans for launches, promotions, publicity, for reviewing progress, for re-focussing ever since.

As writers we are all quite different – Rom-Com, Historical-Period, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Relationships - and we each have our own strategies for testing our work. Lizzie and June critique each other’s work as they go along. Adrienne submits her finished draft to her mentor, author June Tate; Me to the critical ears of a dozen other writers at a weekly Workshop. We each admire and enjoy reading each other’s novels, and as friends and collaborators are, of course, committed to promoting them.  

How has being members of the RNA helped with your writing careers? Do you find it essential that you attend the RNA conferences and events, and meet other members through social media?

Mags: As members of the RNA's New Writers’ Scheme, we all agree the Scheme has been an enormous help providing constructive criticism of manuscripts we have submitted, and encouragement to continue writing. Also, as you suggest, over the years we have been members, RNA conferences and events have provided invaluable insights and essential information about the publishing industry as a whole. They are also fun where we meet lots of other lovely writers. So, yes it is important to meet other members through social media, and make their acquaintance in person at RNA events.

You’ve put on some great events, such as the Literary Lunch mentioned above. How do you sell most of the tickets, via social media or by promoting them locally, or a combination of both?

Lizzie: Local events are a great way of getting news about your books to a wide range of readers.  Reach those readers by email, word of mouth and posters in shop windows. Use a mixture of social media contacts – Facebook, Twitter, emails, and face-to-face contact. Our Literary Lunch came about through Adrienne’s business contacts and her lovely bank manager who is very supportive of local initiatives. We’re already being asked when we’re holding the next one. Maybe a pre-Christmas lunch, next time  . . . just to ring the changes.

Our best event was, without a doubt, the author event we held in Waterstones, High Street, Kensington in November 2014. A different crowd that evening – a mixture of RNA members, publishers, editors, agents and business colleagues of June’s son Patrick (a lawyer). 

How do you manage your Twitter account and New Romantics Press Facebook Page as a group, do you take turns? Do you use your individual Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote your novels too? How often do you blog and update your Facebook Page?

June: Regarding Twitter, we all have individual accounts, as well as access and responsibility for @NewRomanticsPress.

The problem is that Twitter’s such a time-consuming beast! Although we all accept its importance – the fact that it introduces us to an incredibly wide audience and (there’s no doubt) sells books - it can feel overwhelming. Especially as we’ve discovered that promo-ing and retweeting isn’t enough. You need to talk to people, make friends, support others. Eek! If you’re out all day, it’s just too much.

That’s definitely the advantage of a team. We can support each other in ways, and at times, that suit us best. The same applies to Facebook accounts and pages. Lizzie set the example here. She had an account long before having books to sell, and had already built up a strong following of friends and supporters.

One of us posts a blog on the New Romantics Press page every month (topic of our own choosing) and we reblog others that we’ve posted elsewhere. We are all now asked to contribute to other people’s blogs. This has increased our visibility.

Do you think you sell more books by working together as a team?

June: Oh, we certainly sell more books by working together. Again, this is where the team comes into its own. We share ideas, industry info, promotional hints and tips – and most importantly, promote and support each other.

Best of all, there’s always someone to say: ‘Why not try this?’ and ‘I can help you with that.’ Invaluable!

Which three tips would you give to someone about to self-publish?

Lizzie: Write the best book you can and then . . . canvass some honest opinions about it (not your best friends!). If you can afford it, have it critiqued by someone reputable. I used the Hilary Johnson agency for Tall, Dark and Kilted (the agency is known to the RNA.) Or, join the RNA/NWS and send your novel in to be read by a published author. But remember, no one knows your book better than you.  Next, pay for a good proof-reader. Readers might forgive a weak plot line here and there, but they won’t let you get away with sloppy grammar, typos and continuity issues. Finally pay someone to format your novel for Create Space and Kindle – I’m pretty techie, but I willingly hand that bit over to someone else.

Thanks to you all for being such fantastic guests! I’m sure that anyone intending to publish a novel as an indie author or via the traditional route will find your answers informative, and inspiring.

I wish you all much success with your writing careers. Hope to see you at the RNA Summer Party, (next Thursday!) and at the RNA Conference in July.

Find out more about New Romantics Press publications here.

Take a look at Adrienne’s beautifully presented author page, and here's her ‘Escape with Me’ video:

My next guest on the neetsmarketing blog will be Sue Moorcroft on 5 June with a post on 'Balancing Writing with Social Media'

Saturday 9 May 2015

What Can Twitter Lists Do For You?

I recently ran a course on social media for writers in Surrey, and a popular question was:

How do I use Twitter Lists, and what can they do for me?

Twitter tells you how to set up lists here.

Why use Lists?:

When you first join Twitter and are only following a few people (who I'm going to refer to as 'users' from now on), it’s easy to keep up with your timeline. And a lot more fun really because you get to know everyone. But as your 'following' number grows, it’s easy to lose track of who everyone is. Some users you follow may tweet information which is more relevant to you. Some may tweet lots of promo, or over-retweet. It is possible to mute or unfollow in those cases, but if you're following a lot of users, this could be time-consuming. Some users may be ‘must-follows' because they always provide great content-perhaps about the publishing industry, the best blog posts on writing, writing competitions etc.

Managing time on Twitter efficiently:

Lists can help you manage your time on Twitter more efficiently, and they work well with Tweetdeck (and Hootsuite. I'm a fan of Tweetdeck, so will use it in the below examples), because you can dedicate a column to the Lists you check most often. Columns can also be used for hashtags and other searches, but I'll talk about that another time.

When following 5000+:

If you're following 5000+ users, it’s worth using Lists, because once you reach that magic number, you’re restricted on how many users you can follow. Find out more about this here. If a user has 50K followers and only follows 10, meaning they'll never follow you back; adding that user to a List is a way to limit your 'following' numbers. I.e. You don’t have to follow someone if you add them to a List. You may wish to do both, of course.

Organising 'must-follows' into groups:

Lists are a way of separating who you follow into groups, relevant to you. For my neetswriter profile, I have private Lists for Romantic Novelists’ Association (“RNA”) members, Writers, Historical Novel Society members-and then Lists for subjects relevant to my work in progress: Georgian, Art, Italy, Country Houses. I also have lists for book bloggers, agents, publishers, press; and more.
Columns in Tweetdeck-the timeline on the right is for my own RNA list
I have columns for most of these Lists in Tweetdeck and I can see the bulk of my timeline nicely organised into groups. Say I have ten minutes to spend on Twitter and I want to find new blog posts written by RNA members, I scan the RNA column and retweet links to the blog posts I like. I also retweet interesting Tweets from Georgian, Art, Italy and Country House Lists because many of my followers are interested in those subjects. I check Lists on my iPhone when I'm out, by pressing the wheel, then Lists. And Lists can be checked on by clicking on your profile photo in the top right hand corner.

Add a column for your list in Tweetdeck by clicking on the +sign, then selecting Lists
Setting up your own Lists:

You can set up your own Lists-private or public (see how to do this in the link at the top of this post). Remember that when you add someone to a public list, they will get a notification, so if you place someone in a category they may not wish to be part of, they’ll be notified of this by Twitter. 

On, you and other users can see how many Lists you've set up, and/or are subscribed to in your profile.

Here I have 24 Lists
Subscribe to Lists:

You can subscribe to lists set up by someone else, e.g. the RNA Members list set up by the RNA. 

Or, you can combine the above.

Adding/being added to a List:

On Tweetdeck you can see how many Lists you are a member of via your profile
When you add someone to a public List, don't forget they'll see how you have ‘categorised’ them! 

If you are added to a List, it’s worth looking through it (if you have time, it can take ages), to find new people to follow.

So, if you aren’t using Lists already and you've been tearing your hair out trying to keep up with all those Tweets, it’s worth having a go. This is definitely a way to save time on Twitter, and all writers want to do that don’t they?-so they can get on with some #amwriting.

On, you can see which Lists you are a member of
You can read all of my posts on Twitter here, including My Beginner's Guide to Twitter for Writers and 3 Ways to Retweet on Twitter.