Friday 26 February 2016

Linda Chamberlain on Finding Readers!

I first met Linda Chamberlain at a Romantic Novelists' Association ("RNA") London Chapter meeting a few years ago and she made me feel very welcome when I didn't know anyone there. These days, Linda helps to organise the speakers for RNA London Chapter meetings, which have recently moved to a lovely pub near Marylebone, and the sandwiches aren't bad at all, especially washed down with a glass of wine or two. Linda has self-published two books set in the world of horses, and when she recently explained at the Christmas lunch how she sells her books at horse-related events, I invited her to write a post for this blog. Thank you for taking the time to write this interesting post, Linda! Over to you...

Linda Chamberlain on Finding Readers!

I’m in a niche. It’s a big, fat niche and it means I know what my readers wear, what they get up to at the weekend and where they like to shop. I can find them quite easily in person and on social media.
You see, my books are unashamedly horsey and so are many of my readers - although they don’t have to be. You might find me on a trade stand during the international show jumping at Hickstead where I sold out of books last year. Naturally, if Waterstones begged me to do an event I would probably find room in my diary but I’d be much better off where there is a certain animal smell in the air. I am in my element talking to like-minded folk who complain there aren’t enough books like mine to satisfy a summer holiday. And I have the support of a friendly feed company and an equestrian magazine who have made these book signings at top events possible.

With more than 1500 self-published books sold in just over a year I am told I’m doing well. There are nearly a million horses in the UK and more than three million people who rode a horse last year – I could do better!

I’m about to tell you how I did it although analysing my method sits uneasily  - I can only do it because my passion for horses and my love of writing have combined to become my raison d’ĂȘtre.

So, first of all meet the books. The First Vet is the fictionalised story based on of one of our early vets. It has a bit of crime in its pages, a bit of corruption and a central love story. A Barefoot Journey is an account of my high-risk riding…without shoes on my horses. Trust me, it’s controversial in my world and it’s as cheap as chips and that’s important if we’re thinking about marketing. The little non-fiction book helps to sell the novel. Both carry the other’s first chapter at the end and having a 99p ebook on Amazon is a great help.

I did all the usual things in advance of publication. I launched a blog, I worked hard at Facebook and I tried to get my head around Twitter. Which worked? Finding your home is the key.

Facebook groups about natural horse keeping and riding barefoot horses were places where I could chat for hours about my equine friends and how I like to keep them. Every day would find me there to the point where I neglected my own timeline and hardly gave a toot for Twitter. I joined many groups that interested me but one became favourite, the Barefoot Horse Owners Group – my home. I started giving advice, joined in discussions and gradually assumed the role of press officer. There is a widespread view in the equestrian world that if you ride a horse without shoes you might not get very far or have much fun.

Whenever we saw such an out dated, daft opinion in the press, I would get my members to disprove the lie with examples of their prowess which I put in a letter to the editor. I had such fun, my letters were sometimes published or led to articles while membership of our group began to soar. In less than a year we more than doubled and there are now 11,000 of us.

When The First Vet was published its author had an attack of shyness and it took me a little while to put up an announcement. Facebook groups often don’t like adverts and I was reluctant to overstep the mark. I got permission first and then put up a picture of the book with some info and a link. I will never forget the thrill of that day, how Facebook kept making that pinging noise as people commented on my post, how many people applauded me, said they would buy it, that it was too cheap. For many, it was a book made to measure. It was about a true historical figure, one who some of them had heard about, a man who was way ahead of his time and said the sort of things we were saying today about the treatment of the domestic horse.

After I was made one of the admins of the group I didn’t like to advertise too much. The next book got an announcement, I would always mention if I had a book signing but readers began to do the job for me by posting they had enjoyed it and that’s how it should be.  I was asked to do a special group promotion at Christmas which was lovely but other than that I am there to do what I love – talk and advise about horses.

I could never understand when fellow authors told me they had made friends on Facebook and Twitter. The group has enabled me to mutter the same thing. People who are good at marketing might call it networking but really these are my mates and we share a common passion. If you are struggling with social media, Facebook groups might be worth a look. Find one on a subject close to your heart that is well run and popular. Keep searching if no one has posted for weeks. Be wary of those that descend into bitching sessions or are dominated by a bossy clique. My own group is highly active, posts regularly get hundreds of comments but it is run like a tight ship by a group of six committed admins.

You need to give your time generously, comment if you have thoughts or wisdom to share and you will soon get to know people. Approach with the motto – what can I contribute, rather than what can I take?

The group gave me a springboard for my book-selling career and for that I am grateful. 

My blog, though, is probably my greatest book-selling ally. I am told it is content marketing. I write about something that people hopefully want to read and at the end of each post there is an advert for my books.

Happy book selling, everyone…and please remember if you include a horse in your book that the echoing sound of metallic shoes is being replaced by the softer pad of a natural hoof. Just in case you’re interested…!

Thank you for writing such an informative post, Linda, such valuable advice on how to find potential readers! Congratulations on all your success, and best of luck for the future. See you at an RNA London Chapter meeting, soon.


Linda Chamberlain is a journalist and writer and she has ridden all her life. She also helps to organise the speakers for the Romantic Novelists' Association's London Chapter meetings.

Twitter @lindyloocher

Saturday 6 February 2016

12 Tips on How to be the Ideal Blog Host!

I wrote a post for this blog, 19 Tips on How to be the Ideal Blog Guest! in December, and here follows its companion post about how to be the Ideal Blog Host. Again, these bullet points suggest how to be the most ideal host possible, and there's no need to follow all of them; they're intended as a guide for anyone who has no idea how to go about inviting guests to write for their blog. It’s nice to be invited to appear on someone else’s blog, but also the guest is giving up their time to write a piece or answer questions for your blog; and both guest and host can gain from the visit, especially if they work together to promote the post on social media. 
  • Google the guest you’d like to approach, to see if they’ve done guest posts before. If they haven’t, or they don’t do many, they may prefer not to, and be prepared for them to say no.
  • Contact your ideal guest with a direct message on Facebook/Messenger or Twitter DM, if you don’t already have their email address and ask if they’d be interested (not everyone reads Twitter DMs though due to all the spam, so you may prefer to use the Facebook/Messenger option), and if they are keen to appear, ask for them to send you their email address. You can email via their website, but I've found in more than one case that emails sent via websites can disappear. Give further details in your email with one or two dates to choose from or a date range, and ideas re what the post could be about, suggesting one or two titles. The more you drive the content of the post, the more of a time-saver it is for the potential guest (unless they have lots of ideas already). Emails from new senders can go into spam folders, and if you don't receive a reply after around a week, it's worth sending a message as you originally did to check that the email has been received.
  • If the guest isn’t able to do the dates you suggest, offer alternatives. Usually a guest will want to be around when the post is published so they can promote it (and that's helpful to you too). Or they may be too busy to write a guest post or not wish to appear on your blog (don't be offended, thank them anyway, and approach someone else instead).
  • Some guests prefer to be interviewed, so be prepared to put some questions together if they ask for this. You could send more questions than needed, and suggest they choose the ones they prefer. Or, you may wish to completely drive the content of the post by asking the guest to do an interview in the first place.
  • Explain in advance what you need and when by: The post (with a word count range if you wish. I don't do this, but some guests prefer to be given a word count so they may ask), bio, profile photo, book cover photo, Amazon links, blurb, social media links, website and blog links etc; around 5-7 days before the post is published.
  • When you put together the post, include the profile photo at the top, and the book cover photo with all the rest of the info at the end of the post.
  • Make any links that the guest sends (website, blog, Amazon, social media etc) clickable, opening in a new window, so it's easy for anyone reading to view them quickly. And you may help your guest make some book sales or gain them new followers on Twitter/Facebook friends.
  • If your guest writes something in their post that you don't feel comfortable including on your blog (eg a very controversial statement), then go back and explain that you aren't able to include it with the reason. This is fair enough, and they're likely to understand.
  • Email your guest before the post comes out, perhaps the day before with a link and ideally the time that the post will be live. I send a final version to my guests, which is worthwhile if you change anything they’ve written (best not to, but sometimes you may need to), or add anything new. I add an intro and final paragraph, and I want my guest to know what I’m publishing in advance, in case I've got any facts wrong in the intro paragraph. I copy and paste the post from Blogger into Word and email that doc to my guest with the time the post will be published and link. 
  • Schedule the post nice and early (I do for 1am), and check that everything is as it should be. I check the post at around six thirty/seven o'clock in the morning to make sure the links work and open in a new window, and I reformat the post if it's turned out to be a bit all over the place. Many guests are likely to have day jobs and will appreciate the post being live before they go to work so they can schedule tweets and Facebook updates.
  • Promote the post heavily on social media when it comes out. Post on Google+ (if you use), Facebook, tagging the guest so they can see, and on your Facebook Page if you have one, mentioning your guest's Facebook Page if they have one. You can also mention the post in any Facebook Groups where you're sure it fits in with the rules of the group, and in relevant forums that you're a member of. Promote daily on Twitter, @mentioning your guest (two or three times spread over the first day) for the first week and every now and again after that. If there’s a good photo, include that with your tweets (the book cover, if they have one). Retweet your guest's tweets mentioning the post, and search Twitter for your name, the title of the post, and for the guest's name after the post comes out, so you pick up mentions relating to the post. Then you can thank and retweet where appropiate.
  • If the post is a hit (which of course it will be!), let the guest know as it's nice to hear this, and if anyone comments on the post and the guest hasn't replied, let them know this too in case they haven't seen the comments.
So, there you go, good luck hosting guests on your blog!

Similar post: 9 Ways to Engage a Blog Audience 

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In other news, I'm running my third Social Media Course for Writers on 7 May 2016 in London at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Kenilworth Hotel (in the lovely private room above), a stone's throw from The British Museum. You can find out more via my website here, where you can view the flyer and there's an early bird discount of 10% until the end of February.

To share info about this course on Twitter, click here

Also, neetsmarketing now has a logo, designed by Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics!

And my website is due to be rebuilt very soon.

I'm speaking at the Freelance Media Group  in London on 14 March about Social Media for Writers.

Anne Cater appeared on this blog last week with a guest post about the Facebook Group, Book Connectors.

And I appeared on Wendy Clarke's blog recently with a guest post, answering questions about Social Media for Writers.