Monday, 20 August 2018

Fans, not friends and family

This is something I've also come across with my choir. We put on a grand concert for friends and family in a beautiful old Tudor hall in the town where we rehearse. There was some lovely music, gorgeous home-made cakes and glasses of wine. It was very well attended and the applause was warm.

We repeated it a few months later. This time the concert was quite well attended but the applause was a little less enthusiastic. When we offered a third one, hardly anyone came. Apparently they'd heard our repertoire. Choral music wasn't really their thing. There was a limit to how many times they could support us. On the other hand there's that couple who will travel 120 mile to hear us who don't mind at all that they have to listen to some firm favourites…

One writing friend of mine sold over 150 copies of one of our books in the first six weeks. When the second was launched, many of the same friends attended the launch but didn't buy the book. "We bought a copy of the last one," they said.  Yes they'd been proud that she'd been published but actually they weren't really bookish people.

So, the trick is to find those people like the couple who adore choral music. Find those, who love your work, then make sure they're on your mailing list and that it's easy for them to find and buy your books.

When you think of it that way, too, isn't it also about writing something really special that speaks of your own particular brand?        

Find this tip useful? Read more here. 

Saturday, 21 July 2018

That all important mailing list

Email, Newsletter, Marketing, Online
One of the most effective strategies for connecting with your readers is to build up a mailing-list of all the people who are interested in your books. These may also be people who will in the future act as beta-readers and reviewers.  

You can create this list using your group facility in your normal email client. However, some of these limit the number of emails you can send at a time.

You can also use a company such as Mailchimp. Mailchimp is free until you have over 2000 subscribers or sending more emails per month than you'd actually be able to send. With Mailchimp you can:
·         Make your email look very attractive – perhaps including your branding images
·         Keep multiple lists – perhaps different ones for different types of books
·         Combine lists when need be
·         Segment lists when you need to – e.g. only send a follow up email to those who haven't responded to the first one
·         Embed sign-up forms into your website, blog, Facebook page, and end pages of your book   
·         Set up autoresponders so that you can send a series of welcome emails to new subscribers. I've included an example below.
·         Add people to the list yourself. Take a little care with this. You must have their permission to do this.

My auto responders

This is what I sent out to my School Visits list. You can also set the interval at which you send out the letters. I programme the first one to go out one day after sign up and the rest at one week after the previous one.
See some examples here:

School Visits Automations

Here you'll read all about the workshops in schools that I offer and I'll send you reports about the ones I've conducted.  I also post them on my blog that you can see here.


Letter 2

I thought I'd just give you a head's up about how often you might expect to hear from me.
I'll send out the big newsletter once a month, usually shortly after the end of the month.
In the middle of the month, I'll give a short update on any progress, if appropriate, on any of the matters I've mentioned in the main newsletter. 
Occasionally if anything very exciting and time sensitive happens, I'll send out a Stop Press- type message.
I'll often post on Twitter. Find me @gilljames   


Letter 3

I hope you're continuing to find my newsletter interesting. If you're looking for work on the Holocaust you may find The House on Schellberg Street useful. You may find the Books and Other Resources particularly interesting. I'm continuously adding to this. Each book / resource description gives an indication of age-group suitability. Take a look here.  
Enjoy exploring.

Letter 4

If you're looking for a few creative writing ideas for yourself or your students, take a look here. There are also links on the site to where you can download a handy PDF. Alternatively, of course, you can copy and paste into a Word Document and thereby make a document that you can customize.  

Letter 5 

Are you looking for more reading material for yourselves and your students? Try my Recommended Reads.  Yes, many of these books are aimed at adults but I also include several children's and young adult books. My Recommended Reads includes only those books that take me out of my editor's head. 
I post slightly shortened versions of these reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.  You will find extra reviews on those two sights also. I can also recommend Armadillo Magazine and IBBY  that offer slightly more unusual books.
So, three ways of finding something a little bit different.

Letter 6

I maintain a blog about writing. You may find this of general interest. Take a look here.   If your students are reading my books, you may find some of the following materials useful: Questions for Schools. I am gradually adding to these resources and certainly updates on these will feature in notifications I send to this list.  

Letter 7

Would you like to try before you buy?
If you are interested in one of my workshops based on The House on Schellberg Street, creative writing, creative writing in other languages, or on a workshop on any of my titles, I’m offering you a copy of any one of my books. If you go on to book a workshop, or you purchase ten or more of my books, you may keep the book free of charge. Otherwise, you may return the book or if you decide to keep it but not book a workshop or buy any more books, I’ll invoice you for the book.
Just email me to order an inspection copy.  

Letter 8

With this letter, I am offering you a 20% discount on any workshop, quote code AL8CW20%, when you contact me by email.    


Workshops offered:

Creative writing

I work with your students on producing some good quality writing. We invent, write, edit and perform. Suitable for years 5 – 13.

Creative writing in other languages 

Years 5 - 13, any level of French, German or Spanish. Get your students writing in their foreign language, even if they've only been learning for a term. 

Build a Book 

Actually write, design, publish and market a book that can be used to support your favourite charity, your school library or even cover the cost of my visit. Suitable for years 5-13.



The cost is normally £400 (£200 for half day) plus travel expenses. This fee covers all materials but not student stationery.
I also offer to tailor workshops to what you feel you can afford. Please email me about this. 


A free visit

Note, however, I do ask you to cover travel expenses. This will focus on one of my books or perhaps a group of them. It will include an introductory talk, some readings from the book, a Q & A session, one short creative writing session and a book-signing session.
Length: up to two hours. 
I expect to be able to sell books but all that teachers will need to do is distribute the information about them to students and parents. I handle everything else including the money and advance order copies. 


My credentials

I am very used to the secondary school classroom. I taught modern languages for 23 years in various schools and have continued to make school visits, to both primary and secondary schools, as a writer of fiction for children and young adults. I have been a university lecturer in Creative Writing since 2005. 
Remember, you may also like an inspection copy of any of my titles. Request that from gill dot james at btinternet dot com.      



Letter 9

If you are thinking about the Schellberg Cycle Workshop you might consider going it alone and setting up the workshop yourself.
Or you might prefer to run your own workshop. Preview the teacher's notes here.

 You can purchase your kit here for £50.00.
(here I include a PayPal button)

Letter 10

If you are thinking of running a Build a Book Workshop, you may be interested in my guide that tells you how to do this. You can find this here. There is a companion book of photocopiable resources available here.        

What to include in your news letter

My Gill's News newsletter includes:
·         General news about my writing
·         Books
·         Bridge House
·         CafeLit
·         Creative Café Project
·         Red Telephone
·         Past events
·         Future events
·         School Visits
·         Dreamteam
·         A reading recommendation
·         A giveaway
This is rather a lot and yours probably wouldn't include all of that. However I also work as an editor and a publisher. In addition I send out several other lists, very often recycling the same material. Sign up here if you're interested in seeing this in action:
There is a useful facility on Mailchimp to replicate an email and send it to another list. You can edit it before you send it out again.
You should also send out snippets of what I call "stop-press" news:
·         your book is out
·         your invite to your launch

Motivating people to sign up

Get that sign-up form everywhere you can. It should certainly be on your blog and your website. Can you link it to a giveaway?
You can store your link to your giveaway in Dropbox or Google Docs
 You include a link to the document in your welcome email.

Giveaway ideas

Here are a few ideas for your monthly or sign-up giveaway.
·         A backlist novel (as en e-book)
·         An extract from your work in progress
·         An unpublished or out-of-print short story
·         A creative writing exercise
·         A lesson plan for a creative writing teacher
·         A critique of another writer's work
·         A discount on a school visit

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Working with the Creative Café Project

Any of you published by CaféLit are probably familiar with this project. You can read all about it at
Here are a few ways in which the Creative Café Project can help a writer lead a free-lance writing life. Some help the writer to earn money, some help to raise the writer’s profile, some do both and some will raise money eventually.
Advertise all events at the café itself, local libraries, local adult education centres and on your Facebook page. Create your own newsletter - Mailchimp is good for this – and ask people to subscribe. 

Writer’s surgery

Offer a script surgery. Offer a fifteen minute session free of charge. The writer comes with the script, buys a coffee from the café and you discuss their script with them for fifteen minutes. If you offer editorial services, you can give them your price list.
Raises profile, may lead to payment

Creative writing workshop

Offer anything from a couple of hours to a whole day. This works especially well if the café has a function room. Negotiate with the manager / owner to have the function room for free if the delegates buy drinks and lunch from the café. Charge a modest fee. If you can’t have the room for free, you will have to charge a more realistic fee. You may get a reasonable charge if you ask for an all-in package – drinks on arrival and / or mid-morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea.
An alternative model is to arrange a course over a few weeks, with each session being up to a couple of hours. You might charge by the session, perhaps making a taster one free.
Makes money straight away but take care to budget properly.

Be a writer in residence

You spend set amounts of time at the café, perhaps spread over anything up to a year. You offer all of what is mentioned here. If doing this on a small scale, you may simply “camp” at the café for a day, chatting to people interested in reading, talking about your books, offering advice on writing and selling signed copies of your books.
Makes money eventually. Raises your profile.

Launch a book from the café

You might make a loss on this unless your publisher agrees to pay some costs. You will need to provide some refreshments for your guests. They may not all buy a copy of your book but they will now be more aware of it.
Makes money eventually. Raises your profile. 

Author readings

Work with a couple of other writers and offer readings, Q & A sessions and sell copies of your books. You can share the costs.  You’ll probably make less on your books than at a single launch – most people will buy just one book. However, you have access to each other's fans.
Makes money eventually. Raises your profile.

Hold a literary salon

Ask the café to put on an evening or afternoon event at a set price. Charge your guests a little more – to cover all costs and perhaps reward you a little for your hard work. Invite all of your writerly / reader friends and fans. Ask two or three people to come and talk about their work – probably best to ask published writers. Agree to pay them a fee and expenses. They can bring copies of their work to sell.
My first salon was free of charge but I charged for subsequent ones to make a profit for the project. I asked people to donate as they saw fit. It worked – some made a lot of money, others less. It averaged out to cover costs and made me a small payment.
You probably wouldn’t sell any of your own books here. But see my more detailed description of the literary salon on the blog You can put one of your own into the book swap.      
Do this often enough and it will raise your profile anyway. 
Raises profile. Makes money eventually.

Start a reading group

Perhaps make this a couple of hours long and negotiate for the café to waive charges but encourage members to buy drinks and cakes. Take it in turn suggesting books. Never one of you own. But you can invite your group members to your launch and give them flyers about your books. Curiosity will probably make members try one of your books eventually.  
Raises your profile. Makes money eventually.

Writing project

Organise a writing project. Arrange meetings at the café. Perhaps you’d like to collect ghost stories from the old town in which you live, for example. Discuss ideas. Offer workshops on the writing. Hold critiquing, editing and design meetings. You become the publisher. You may even be able to get an Arts Council grant for the right sort of project. The Creative Café Project can help you with the publishing process.
Raises your profile. Makes money eventually.   
Of course, if you come across any more creative cafés, or any more ideas of what you might do there, do let me know on   

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Working with Libraries

Architecture, Building, Structure

It's worth getting to know your local library and librarians. They will often be willing to stock your book if it can be ordered through the distributor Bertrams. All of ours can.

Can you offer your library something else? Can you give a talk? You won't be paid for this but you may be able to sell a few books and you can raise awareness about your writing.

My own local library network has been offering something rather nice recently: early evening or Saturday "afternoon" tea with an author reading. These have generally been authors published by the small press, so we live in hope.

If you know your librarian well, you can often organise a bigger event such as a half day workshop for which you can make a charge. Some libraries have access to funds they can use to pay you a fee which will be about the same as a day's supply teaching.
If you're planning to offer a bigger event, prepare some detailed plans before you pitch to your librarian even if s/he has become a good friend.

Your library will be able to help publicise your event. They can have it on their website, put it in their newsletter, have leaflets in the library and pass on details to other libraries. However you will also need to do your bit.

Of course any reading groups may be willing to read your book. They might even invite you to attend though that might be a little scary.

It's not a bad idea anyway to join your local library. It's a great way of accessing free books and getting to know what is going on locally.   

This is an extract from   So Now You're Published, What Next? If you are published by one of our imprints, this book is free of charge. Contact me if you have had a problem downloading it.