Friday, 14 July 2017

Working with the local press

You've created your very professional press release now. What should you do next? Yes you need to contact the local press. However, don't just send the press release to everyone you can think of. They get hundreds of these a day. A phone call or a personalised e-mail works better.

Build yourself a database

Keep a list of any contacts you've found and of which information was sent where. Build up your personal contacts within the media. Look out for networking opportunities. Read your local press and note which other authors they feature. Look for a by-line on the feature to find the name of the journalist. Consider pooling information with other writers you know.

Start small

You may be more successful starting off small. Is there a local online publication or even a blog? Sometimes such publications welcome you writing your own copy. If you do it really well you may even be asked to contribute regularly. Take care that that is what you really want, though, and that it doesn't take up too much of your writing time.

Your unique selling point

Journalists always want a human story. What is special about you that can also be related to your book? It may be there in your press release but you should emphasize this when you approach the press.

Back to the all-important press release

Yes it is still important to have this as polished and as professionally presented as possible. As soon as one of your contacts bites, you need to be able to give them all of the information they need in a form they will recognise.          

Friday, 23 June 2017

Creating a press release

It’s good to have one of these prepared as soon as you are ready to start marketing your book. These step by step instructions are for promoting a book written by school children, but it is easily adaptable.
1.      Start with a headline. Include something about the book and where it is created e.g. Willmonston High Create Book about Animals in Support of RSPCA
2.      N.B. If sending your press release by email, include your headline in the subject line. If sending by snailmail, remember to double space.
3.      Create a “grabber”. You might type this in a slightly bigger font than normal. What is the most exciting aspect about this project? An example might be: “Best-selling author K L Towling assists Willmonston High students with their story-telling”. 
4.      Do you want you press release to go out straight away? In which case, type IMMEDIATE RELEASE above the headline.
5.      Make sure to keep the school name in the headline and any sub-heading. Repeat it again as you start writing the text.
6.      Now on to the body of the press release.  Keep the information concise. Make sure you include and make clear:
a.       What the actual news is
b.      Why this is news
c.       Who is involved
d.      What they are doing
e.       Why you are making this news available.
  1. Include a call to action. What do you want the public to do? Buy the book? Attend the launch?  
8.      Next write something about who you are:
a.       Give this section the title About Willmonston High School.
b.      Write five to six sentences.
    1. Try to identify what is special about your school.
d.      Give your web-site address.
9.      Now mention one more fact about why what you are doing is important.
10.  Finally, give contact information:
    1. The name of the school
    2. Contact person (you may have a PR person who liaises with the media)
    3. Full address of your school
    4. Full telephone and fax numbers
    5. Contact person’s mobile number
    6. Time of availability
    7. Web address
  1. Signal the end of the press release with three # symbols, centred directly underneath the last line of the release. This is a journalistic standard.

Here is a sample press release.
Immediate release

Spooking by Gill James

Paranormal Romance for young adults by university lecturer 

Spooking tells the story of a premature death and an unfinished love affair. Yes, this is a paranormal romance but there are definitely no vampires.
It isn’t too scary and there is certainly some humour in it.
Spooking appears in paperback on 28 September 2012. It has already been out as an e-book since April 2012.
Gill will do a tour of Greater Manchester secondary schools to promote the book.

About Gill James

Gill lectures in English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford. The first draft of Spooking was written whilst on a writer’s retreat on Tenerife. Gill also writes short stories and flash fiction for adults. Her main area of expertise however is the young adult novel.

Contact Gill for interviews at  or on 0161 295 6792.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Finding reviewers

It’s good to build up a team of reviewers. I’ve started that and I give you access to them: You can see it’s small as yet but we’re constantly adding to it. Would you like to join? You can find more detail here: and sign up for any of the DreamTeam opportunities.

There are also various lists of reviewers. This one is quite good: However, you have to work carefully with it. Often you’ll spend a lot of time finding the right reviewer, only to find that they’re not taking on any more reading right at this moment.

In the end, you will need to create your own team of reviewers. This will probably depend on you keeping a well-curated mailing list. This will take time to build up.

There is another side to this: we should all make the effort to review. It need only be a couple of lines sometimes and a star-rating. Naturally, though, this mustn’t take away too much of your own writing time. I’ll qualify this a little, however, and say that reviewing is writing – but you know what I mean.

I give a 4* or 5* review to anything that really wows me and I’ll also put that on my site If I’m invited to review I’ll be brutally honest though I will try and contact the author if I can if it’s going to be dire.

You do have to be careful that you don’t get into a tit-for-tat situation. You can’t offer good reviews for the sake of obtaining good reviews. That could be worse that fake news and alternative facts. Just as you should only like on Facebook and Twitter what you genuinely like.    

Friday, 28 April 2017

Proof-reading and grammar

You have to smile. A recent review of one out books stated: “…. does suffer from occassional misspellings and one or two grammatical errors”. Pots and kettles come to mind.  

All of the imprints I work with proof their scripts three times. The original editor,  the author and one other person in the company read the camera-ready script.

If I’m going to be picky, I could really slam the sentence above. A book is not sentient so cannot suffer. Please learn to spell “occasional”. One or two errors? How many is it?

English grammar is peculiar, anyway. There is no definitive authority over it and it is governed more by precedent and usage. Some say we should not split infinitives but part of Star Trek’s charm is how it has dared to boldly split infinitives the way no man has ever split them before. Indeed, there is a subtle difference in meaning between boldly splitting infinitives and splitting infinitives boldly. Australia has lost the accusative. Australians regularly use “I” when “me” is more normal here and in the States: e.g. “Will you accompany Jason and I?”   

I’m actually quite a fan of grammar. I went to a grammar school where in the first year three of our six English lessons were about grammar. We then went on to learn French, German and Latin via the grammatical method. It’s up there with algebra problems and crosswords. Importantly it gives a backbone to the language and clarifies. Language is more than just words. How they relate to each other is important. Noam Chomsky recognizes a universal grammar. Every language needs to be able to express certain ideas that come not from the words alone but from how they relate to each other. I have it all pretty well nailed.

With another hat on I teach Creative Writing in higher education. I encourage students to write with what might be considered “correct” grammar and take heed when the spell check says “Fragment, consider revising.” If a text is presented without “grammatical” mistakes it’s easier to sell in on the other side of the Atlantic. That of course is a huge market. Only go against the conventions if doing so allows the words to have more impact.

In the collection of flash fiction we’re looking at here some oddities of grammar are to do with the voice of the character in the story. That is fine. We distribute to the USA as a matter of course anyway.  
By the way, the average number of typos / spelling / grammatical mistakes in a publication that has gone through all of the stages of editing is fifteen. In a very few there are none at all. In some self-published books there are hundreds. I usually manage to find four or five when I’m reading.    

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Writing to reviewers

Reviewers are really our life blood. We need those all-important 50 reviews on Amazon before they’ll actually start promoting us. It really doesn’t matter if some of them are only 1*, 2* or 3*. Yes, those can hurt but I know many a book I’ve enjoyed I’ve only read some books myself because of my curiosity about why they got such a poor review.

You have to grow a thick skin.

It’s good to send a nice letter, and further tailor it to the particular reviewer.

Here’s my example:

Dear ( put reviewer’s name here),
I wonder whether you would care to review my book. I can send it to you as a PDF, an –e-mobi file or in hard copy.

(Put your blurb here and be sure to include the title of the book. In fact, what you have  here should be part way between a blurb and a synopsis. It shouldn’t give the game away and it should have all the melodrama of a normal blurb, but it may need a few more acts as well, like target audience, a sense of genre and maybe what the reader might be like. What else might your reader read.)

Your review will mean a lot to me.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Your name. 

And don;t forget to thank them after they've written your review.  

Next up we’ll look at where you might get some reviewers.