Tuesday 21 June 2016

Liz Fielding on Newsletters!

I've known Liz Fielding online since I first joined Twitter in 2011, and was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to write a post on newsletters. Thank you, Liz, and over to you!...

Liz Fielding on Newsletters:

I began writing before the digital revolution. Before the explosion of romance titles and women’s fiction hit the market after the Bridget Jones phenomenon.

Back then, there was only one major publisher of romantic fiction; the shelves of every book store and supermarket were loaded with them and they sold in millions. Three or four dozen new titles appeared every month and then were gone, thereafter only to be found in charity shops.

Do you remember those bookstores? Waldenbooks, Borders (with their wonderful Romance Experts) and the revolving shelf in every Mom and Pop grocery store and newsagent?

Marketing by authors was almost non-existent – it was all about the publisher “brand” — and it was expensive, especially if you were based, as I was, in the UK. No web pages, no email, no social media.

If they did it at all - and I did - it was snail mail. Sending out bookmarks, postcards and maybe advance reading copies to stores and book reading groups.

Times have changed.

Now there are only Barnes and Noble and supermarkets to move the big numbers of books and all of them are cutting back on shelf space. At the same time publishing has exploded and it’s not just the new titles appearing by the thousand every month. The long backlists of all those authors (mine included) are now back in the market competing for the reader’s dollar.

Discoverability is the buzzword, marketing is a necessity for any author hoping to get noticed and the newsletter is at its heart.

I did start a newsletter some years ago – a very dull thing using Yahoo. No header, no pictures.
A couple of hundred people signed up (incredibly they’re all still with me) and I’d occasionally send out a newsletter. These days, when there are fewer and fewer stores carrying genre romance, when the possibility of an impulse buy along with the groceries is becoming ever rarer (you have to see the books to get the impulse!), the author’s newsletter list has taken on the core role in getting news of your latest book into the hands of a reader.

I asked my lovely web designer, Ally Oop, to create a newsletter for me at MailChimp to match my website, Facebook and blog pages. You can have up to 2000 subscribers for free. There are additional benefits for paid membership. I transferred my existing list, posted clearly visible sign-up links everywhere, then set about building up my numbers.

There is only one way to do that. You have to offer people an incentive.

Everyone who signs up for my newsletter gets a free digital download of one of my books. I use one of the backlist books to which I regained the rights and published digitally and I use a Smashwords coupon which is reclaimable anywhere in the world. It costs me nothing.

I have built up a following on Facebook by giving away copies of my books — negotiate with your publishers for extra copies for promotion — and occasional other treats.

Once in a while, to coincide with Mother’s Day or a holiday, I create a special prize which is only for my newsletter subscribers and post a picture on Facebook.

This is enticingly bigger; chocolate, a cute toy, socks, a notebook, a scarf – something you make yourself is especially nice. I also cross-post on Twitter and on my blog. I might spend a few dollars to boost it on Facebook.

People are busy and once you’ve got your subscriber, you have to keep her. More importantly, give her a reason to open your newsletter.

Again offer them an incentive. A regular draw for a signed book and other goodies. Something related to your book is good.

I’ve written a series of books around a group of sisters who have an ice-cream events business. I found some great socks and little erasers with an ice cream design which are lightweight for posting internationally. Sarah Morgan has made her Puffin Island series into a brand.

Share scenes that had to be cut from the book because your editor thought they were too hot or maybe write something that develops backstory (an incident from the past that gets only a passing mention in the book). Maybe offer a link to a spin-off short story that other people (who foolishly don’t subscribe to your newsletter) will have to pay to download.

You could invite a limited number of people to be part of your Author Club. Offer advance copies in return for an honest review. Carole Matthews, who writes books with chocolate in the title has her Chocolate Lover’s Club.

Make your subscribers part of your team so that they are invested in your success. Even better, make them feel special — they see your new cover before anyone else, get sneak peaks of the book you’re writing and little extras available nowhere else.

When you’re promoting your latest book, make it fun, not hard sell — write your newsletter as if you're writing it to your best friend. That said, make sure you have solid buy links. This is the era of instant gratification and if your reader has to hunt you down on Amazon or iBooks or Nook she may be distracted by another book on the way. And even if she doesn’t buy, Amazon will be alerted to her interest and send her one of those “you may like” promotional emails to remind her.

While the number of newsletter subscribers is important, it is the link clicks to the book that will send it flying up the charts.

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter (and get a free download of The Bride, the Baby and the Best Man), you can do it here.

Thank you, Liz for writing such an interesting, and informative post (and for all the lovely photos too)! Find out more about Liz in her bio, below: 


Multi-award winning author, Liz Fielding, has more than 15 million books in print. Her latest, The Sheikh's Temporary Princess will be published in Harlequin "Romance" in February 2017.


Wednesday 15 June 2016

9 Ways to Engage a Blog Audience

I’ve been blogging since October 2011 via my neetswriter blog, and since January 2015 via my neetsmarketing blog (this one). Both blogs between them have received 200K page views during that time, and they receive together around 7-8K page views per month, depending on how often I post and how much I promote the blogs on social media. Sometimes they get more. You may not mind whether anyone reads your blog, you may be writing it for friends and family, or for fun. But if you want your posts to be shared on social media and to receive comments (although often these days, comments are left on Facebook instead of the post), here follow a few points on blogging, and some ideas on how to engage a blog audience. This post is aimed at writers/authors.

How often should you blog?

I don’t blog daily or weekly; I aim to post on each blog once a month (which I suppose is the equivalent of fortnightly on one blog), and often I include a guest post on my neetsmarketing blog too. I try to make the content interesting on the neetswriter blog, and useful on the neetsmarketing blog; sticking to my brand in each case.

I’d rather write one good quality post per month that gets some attention than four posts that nobody reads (sometimes it takes me a while to write a post, especially for this blog). There are many thoughts online about how often you should blog. I’ve known authors who have blogged daily or weekly, and after a year or two they’ve stopped blogging altogether because it was too much. If you blog daily or weekly, are you getting the page views to make it worth the time you spend writing the post? Do you need to blog weekly, could you blog fortnightly or monthly and write posts which get the same number of page views, or more (of the daily/weekly posts combined)?

There are a lot of posts out there saying how important it is to blog daily or weekly, but if you're doing that and your posts aren’t being read, and you’re spending a lot of time writing them; as well as leaving comments on other blogs so someone reciprocates on your posts, and reciprocating for comments left, is it worth it? If your daily/weekly posts are being read, and you have time to leave/reciprocate with comments, then it's worthwhile.

Quality over quantity

My thoughts are quality over quantity-you can milk the same post, especially a popular one on social media for a week at least. I wouldn’t expect my loyal blog followers to visit more often than they do (I'm grateful to anyone who comments or shares via social media), and I can’t commit to reciprocating with reading or commenting more often than once a month. Because, don’t forget, blogging isn’t just about writing a post, it’s about promoting the post on social media, and commenting on other blogs. And if you’re not careful, it can eat time you need for writing (been there early on with the neetswriter blog).

Why should someone read your posts?

There are so many posts out there, why should someone (hereafter referred to as “blog reader”) read your posts? Aim to make posts thought-provoking. Your blog reader needs to feel: empathy, inspired; and/or that they’re learning something new.

And you want the blog reader to return. When they see on Twitter, Facebook etc that you’ve written a post, the ideal scenario is that they click through straight away, or make a mental note that you’ve got a new post out, and that they’ll read it later.

Social Media promo, Title and Photos

Before you can engage a blog audience, they need to find your post in the first place. This will mostly be via social media, especially initially, but once your blog has a few posts, you’ll probably find that some views come via Google searches (this is great!)

You need to entice the blog reader with a title which makes them want to find out more. Be punchy, use a question, or a number as I’ve done with this post, or perhaps a title which could have more than one meaning. A photo which relates to the post in some way can draw your reader in, and if you include a photo at the top of the post, Facebook (and possibly Twitter, depending on whether your blog has Twitter cards set up), should pick up the photo when you and others post the link. You can include other photos throughout the post too.

Here follow 9 Ways to Engage a Blog Audience


1. Move your blog reader or give them something to think about

My most successful neetswriter posts have been ones where the blog reader can empathise. The most recent neetswriter post, My Mother and The Durrells, inspired by the anniversary of my mother passing away and the TV programme, The Durrells was my most popular neetswriter post for a while. This was probably because many blog readers could empathise with losing someone, and The Durrells was a big hit on TV, so using #TheDurrells hashtag on Twitter helped. The post came to me fully formed when I woke up at five in the morning, the day after a trip to the National Gallery, which I used to visit with my mum. Often I use what I’ve been doing, how it relates to my writing/books and turn it into a blog post.

My most popular neetswriter post to date is: The Pros and Cons of Writing in the First Person Present Tense, closely followed by If only I’d known this when I wrote my first draft. The first post from October 2011 still gets views now, with no promo, via Google searches. I wrote a Part II in 2013 which again did well, and I linked the posts to each other. If you read these posts, you’ll see how my writing may have evolved since those earlier days of blogging...

2. Provide useful information

My neetsmarketing blog is packed with advice for writers on how to use social media, inspired by client and course attendee questions. The most popular posts are about Twitter and Facebook, and there are lots of helpful posts written by guests too.

Top three posts:

3. Use your brand to engage potential readers of your books

If you write historical fiction, you can write about the history relating to your book. I have a series of eighteenth century and art posts waiting to be written for if/when my book 2 is published with photos all ready. If your book is set in Spain, write about Spain. If your books are about dogs, write about dogs. If there's a popular TV programme or film which links to your brand, use it, and then you can link to the hashtag on Twitter too (eg. The Durrells above). Some authors choose to write about writing, and some prefer not to. I've heard that posts about writing can be popular, and I guess if they bring page views, you could do a few here and there to gain followers.

4. Have an angle

Often, I write a post and return to it later on. Then I ask myself what I’m trying to say, and amend the post so that it has an angle. 

5. Get your facts right

If you quote someone or something, check your facts, so that your blog reader trusts you, and returns for more. When I write posts about the history relating to my novel, I wouldn’t want to get any of my facts wrong. Because then who is going to trust the information in my books?


6. Use photos

I test out photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, using the most popular ones for my blog posts.

7. Format nicely/break into sections

Use headings in bold and make them bigger, use numbers, break the information down into sections so that your blog reader can skim the post if they want to, finding what’s relevant to them.

8. Make sure links work (obvs!)

9. Avoid typos (obvs too!)

My posts on hosting and being a guest:

That’s it! This post was inspired by the blogging part of my course in May 2016.

In other news:

On 18 June, I wrote an article for the online magazine, Women Writers, Women’s Books: 

My Social Media Course for Writers, 8 October 2016 in London:

My next Social Media Course for Writers is at the same venue as in May 2016, and there’s an early bird discount of 10% until the end of June. Bookings have been coming in and places are limited.

See Facebook photos and comments from my course in May 2016 here .

Find out more details and see quotes from previous courses via my website here

Book by sending an email to anitajchapman at gmail dot com.

And I shall be at the RNA Conference in July 2016! Look forward to seeing some of you there. Here are my posts from last year's conference in London:

If you missed Sue Moorcroft's recent guest post on Street Teams, you can read it here

On 21 June 2016: author, Liz Fielding will be a guest with her fab post on newsletters (now published, 21 June 2016).

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Sue Moorcroft on Street Teams!

I've known author, Sue Moorcroft for a few years, through an organisation where I've made many good friends, the Romantic Novelists' Association ("RNA"). We've seen each other at RNA events, and Sue appeared here a year ago with a very popular post on Balancing Writing with Social Media. Sue set up a street team last year, and I asked if she'd be interested in writing a post about how it all works. I am of course a member of this lovely, supportive group, and you can find out more below.

Thank you Sue, and over to you! 

#TeamSueMoorcroft, by Sue Moorcroft
When a reader, Louise, suggested that I have a street team I was taken aback. The only thing I felt I knew about street teams was that big American writers had them. I asked Louise what to expect and she said street teams broadcast news and enjoy a bit of gossip with the writer. She made it sound so simple that TeamSue Moorcroft evolved organically from that conversation.
Here’s what I’ve learned, both from researching other street teams and the experience of having a team of my own.
 What is a street team?
-      A group of people who ‘hit the streets’, spreading the word about a person, brand, group or product, though it’s probably more accurate now to say they hit social media. The term seems to have come from the music industry.
-      It's a way of harnessing the power of your readership and utilising their networks.
-      It’s also … whatever you want it to be. You can shape it.
What isn’t a street team?
-      It’s not to be confused with mutual support writers frequently give each other. A street team is more focused on the person or group it supports and generous on the part of its participants.
What do Teamsters get out of it?
-      Access to me.
-      Snippets of news before news goes public. Stuff that never goes public, which I usually term ‘gossip’.
-      Fandom. (That’s not even said tongue in cheek. Some people like to support writers in return for the pleasure given by the books they write. I’m humbled by this.)
-      A little support from me if I can give it, ie sharing posts or answering a writing question.
-      Bookmarks and cards if wished.
-      Giveaways and competitions exclusive to the Team. If it’s a comp I turn it into promo by asking them to use a hashtag such as #ReadSueMoorcroft in order to enter. (NB I have a different hashtag for every comp or I mix up the entries for one comp with the entries of another.)
-      Occasionally I can negotiate a discount for Team members for workshops I lead or events I’m involved in.
-      My grateful thanks.
How did I set it up?
-      I made the decision. This wasn’t particularly easy. I felt presumptuous and a bit big-headed.
-      So I talked about the prospect of having a street team on social media, my newsletter and my blog.
-      And people began to sign up!
-      I asked my web designer to add a button enabling people to join the street team prominently on every page of the website and I added one to my blog.
-      One of the early teamsters created a ‘secret’ Facebook group so that we can talk and I can ask for shares etc.
-      I created a TeamSue Moorcroft header for the website and the Facebook page.
-      I asked Team members to use the hashtag #TeamSueMoorcroft on social media where possible.

How does Team Sue Moorcroft work?
-      When someone signs up via the website or by approaching me through social media, I send them a welcoming email. I have a slightly different one for if they’ve enquired about what’s involved but not signed up, which includes links to blogs written by others on the subject of street teams to help them get an overview.
-      If they opt in I add them to the Team Facebook group and welcome them and introduce them to the other team members.
-      I post on the Facebook group as many days as I can easily manage. I put up photos I may not have put on other social media, I’m chatty and sociable.
-      I also share secrets and, so far, nobody has broken any news I don’t wish broken.
-      And, of course, I post news about promos, workshops, events, radio interviews, anything that I’d love promoted to the wider world, for Team members to share to their own networks. I usually get a great response and Team members frequently go the extra mile by recommending my books to their friends on social media, Goodreads and beyond.
-      Recently I organised the first Team Sue Moorcroft meet up, a lunch in a hotel in Leicester. We had a fabulous time and you can read about it here.
-      Although I’ve seen it written that it’s quite in order to ask people if they’d like to join a street team if they like your work, by trial and error I’ve found the most comfortable fit is with those who join of their own volition. They’re wonderful advocates and can become personal friends.
Summary of benefits to the author
-      Utilising the networks of others to spread the word about my books/events/promos.
-      Benefiting from the contacts of others in gaining radio interviews or other exposure.
-      Advocacy. Personal recommendations carry such weight.
-      Support. How can I be anything but thrilled by such fantastic back up?
-      Help. When a Team member has been present at an event he or she has provided a welcome extra pair of hands.
There’s a little more information on my website, including quotes from a few Team members. I’m thoroughly enjoying Team Sue Moorcroft and love the chat that takes place in the Facebook group as well as being appreciative of the advocacy and sharing. I’ve never regretted setting Team Sue Moorcroft up. Every Team member is a volunteer and participates as much as he or she likes or has time for. I don’t see any downside and my feelings of presumptuousness have segued into feeling hugely appreciative of my good fortune and blessed to have such lovely readers and Team members. 

Thank you for such an interesting post, Sue. And I look forward to seeing you at the RNA conference in July! 

Find out more about Sue, and see her website and social media links below.

Award winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. A past vice chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and editor of its two anthologies, Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor. She’s a winner of the Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award and the Katie Fforde Bursary.
Sue’s next book: The Christmas Promise (HarperCollins) Available for preorder now.
Facebook sue.moorcroft.3
Twitter @suemoorcroft