Five things I’ve learnt since getting published
Schedule your tweets
A key part of being an author is social media promotion. Social media is great – it’s a free accessible way to connect with readers, spread the word about your books and network with authors, but it can also prove distracting and time-consuming.
Since I got published, I’ve felt I need to remember to tweet on a daily basis and keep my feed updated about my books. But sometimes, if I’m busy or have other stuff to deal with, feeling like I should be tweeting creates a sense of pressure and guilt, and makes me worry that I'm neglecting my books. I recently decided to look into scheduling my tweets. Using TweetDeck, I now spend a couple of hours at the end of each month scheduling book promotion tweets for the following month. It takes me around three hours to schedule about 150 tweets, and it’s time very well spent. With my tweets scheduled, I no longer have that guilty feeling that I’m neglecting social media. Since I started doing it, it's really taken a huge load off. I now use Twitter when I feel like it - for fun rather than out of a sense of obligation. Apparently, you can also schedule Facebook and Instagram posts using Buffer, so I’ll be looking into that soon too.
Facebook groups are invaluable
When I first got published, I really wanted a group of author friends to share thoughts and questions, and just generally support one another. I didn’t know quite how to access this since writing is so solitary. I had a few author friends on Twitter, but I didn’t want to hassle them too often. Then I got talking to another author at the HarperCollins Summer Party, who recommended I join the Savvy Authors’ Snug on Facebook – an author group ran by author Tracy Buchanan. Joining this group was game-changing for me.
Unlike many online groups, which can often be characterised by drama or trolling, the Savvies is the warmest, kindest and most supportive online community I’ve ever come across. I’ve learnt so much about publishing from the other authors, the camaraderie has been invaluable and they inspire me so much with their achievements, passion and drive. I’ve often sought advice from the other members, and just knowing the group is there is incredibly reassuring.
Authenticity is key
I decided to set my last novel, When Polly Met Olly, in New York. There were several reasons for doing this: New York is an exciting, inspiring place, I like setting stories in big cities, and I thought it would be an interesting change from my last two books, which were set in London. I also thought that setting a novel in New York would help me gain readers in America. On that front, I was mistaken.
My most popular book among American readers is my debut, Perfect Match – a rom com about a copywriter who lives in Lewisham - a run-down part of southeast London. Lewisham isn’t the kind of place you’d expect US readers to be interested in and the novel is full of British slang and details about London life, yet American readers seem to really love the book. What this taught me is that readers crave authenticity. Your book can be set in the most unremarkable place, but if it’s heartfelt and realistic, it will be far more effective at engaging readers than setting your book in a glamourous place that you don’t know as much about.
Balance isn’t always everything
We’re constantly told to achieve balance, practice self-care and de-stress, but sometimes those well-intentioned messages can just add to stress levels, making you feel bad if you’re burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline. I got to the point where I just thought, ‘Screw it, I’ll work my ass off and balance can go out of the window until my deadline’s out of the way, and I’m not going to feel bad about it.’ I knew it wasn’t forever and immersing myself in a project until it’s out of the way is actually less stressful to me than desperately trying to cling to a semblance of balance when really the pressure is still there. Obviously, it’s not sustainable long-term, but sometimes just accepting your lack of balance and not feeling bad about it is an act of self-care in itself.
Microsoft Read Aloud is amazing
Microsoft Read Aloud is a feature under the ‘Review’ tab of Microsoft Word. It allows you to play your text aloud. I discovered the feature towards the end of editing my debut, Perfect Match, and I wish I’d found it earlier. You reach a certain point during editing when your eyes become tired, you’re struggling to concentrate on the words on screen or your body is stiff. With Microsoft Read Aloud, you can simply press play and listen to your book. The automated Microsoft voices don’t provide the liveliest narration, but it’s good enough. Hearing your writing aloud helps you catch missing words and clumsy sentences that are harder to detect when reading. The Read Aloud function is also great if you’re like me and you like multi-tasking. I’ll press Read Aloud and do some stretches, do the washing up, paint my nails, etc. It’s so useful!
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