Tag Archives: Publicity

Pitch battle

Writing West MidlandsPhil: We’ve mentioned in the past that one of the trickiest stages in getting a book out there is working out how to pitch it. We know what’s on the pages and reducing this down so it can be explained in the duration of an elevator journey has always proved impossible.

We’re not alone. Nearly everyone who has completed a novel feels the same way. Which bits do you leave out?

Luckily, Writing West Midlands runs a day-long course to help. We both paid up and went along – two heads are better than one after all.

The 14 attendees first had to talk to someone else for two minutes about themselves. Not easy, but I managed it without boring my victim to death. Then we had to do it again. At this stage, the rules said no mentioning your writing.

Then we moved on to proper pitching. Pair up (Candice and I were deliberately and sensibly kept in separate groups) and explain your novel in 2 minutes. Repeat another 3 times to different people.

The repetition is important. Each time you find yourself modifying your pitch to pack more in, or to keep it under the time limit. Doing this several times in quick succession sharpens you up.

After lunch and a pep talk from the tutor, we were back at it again. This time there were another 7 attempts.

I felt I was getting better at this each time. My best effort was 1:53 and that seemed to be pretty good. I’d managed to get the start of the pitch down pretty tightly I thought and as I went around the room, the second half where I tried to include more details of our characters exploits was coming together.

Finally, it was time to pitch to the room. Speaking to the entire group was more of a challenge to most and pitches I’d heard earlier got a bit less focussed when faced with a crowd and no time limit. One thing became apparent as we went through this process, most people were writing literary fiction, not our commercial stuff. I guess that’s no surprise, Arts (with a capital A) organisations like “serious” material. There doesn’t seem to be anyone supporting those who just want to write fun stuff. Maybe there should be.

My effort seemed OK to me, but then Candice had a go and dropped the listener straight into the middle of our first scene. I didn’t feel so clever after that…

It was interesting that our efforts were more performance than a straight pitch. We were selling the book rather than just trying to distil the contents into 350 words. That might be something to do with our backgrounds and past experiences, or just that we are a bit more flamboyant than most. It’s possibly down to the type of book we are selling too. I don’t feel the need to take anyone through the wringer on my pages. That’s not to say you shouldn’t, a couple of the books sounded really interesting but not a light read, it’s just not our style. The tutor also suggested that our book was very filmic in style – something others have said to us. Perhaps we should be pitching a screenplay, but where do you start with that?

Anyway, as far as our pitches go, do we have the right approach? Apparently not quite but we got some pointers at the end and a few things to go and think about, but that’s why you go along to these events.

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Storytelling time

Phil: We came, we saw, we read out a few pages of our book.

Last week, at Storytelling Corner, team NolanParker got up on stage and did their best to bring a tiny selection of Kate vs the Dirtboffins alive for the audience.

We’d picked the very first scene Candice wrote when we were still back at the quango. I’d suggested that we read mine too, but this was vetoed as being too dull. As it was, we were on stage talking about pole dancing and the joys of a busy bar full of rugby players when you are wearing a slip of a dress…

Before the event, and during the interval, we were chatting to some of the audience who seemed very interested in how we manage to write as a duo. It seems that this really fascinated people. We’ve explained that neither of us would have completed a book without the other, and even if we had, the result would be very different. I couldn’t put the correct fashion references in for a start!

Candice was full of cold, but we both enjoyed ourselves a lot. Maybe the sugar rush from the excellent cakes eaten before things kicked off helped, but I think it’s that we love appearing before an audience. I really envy authors who find themselves regularly invited to festivals where they get to talk about writing and stories.

For our part, we’d like to do that but also help people to get into writing. As we both said several times, we really enjoy the process, so why shouldn’t everyone share the pleasure?

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Flogging books

Phil: You’d think with 15 best-selling novels under your belt, when your next book appears on the shelves, you’d be able to sit back and take a bit of a break. After all, success breeds success, doesn’t it? 3 million readers will be waiting for something new and will run out to snap up a copy.

It seems not, or at least if you follow Adelle Parks Twitter or Instagram accounts it doesn’t.

The arrival of I Invited Her In has seen a rush of promotional activity. There are appearances at shops up and down the country for a start, with an awful lot of book signing. Several radio interviews in a day last week, a blog tour, an interview for Hello and even a short story in a Sunday supplement magazine. In addition, there are poster campaigns at railway stations.

It all goes to show just how much marketing work is required to flog books. Considering this is from a well-known author with an established track record it makes me wonder if this is a chicken and egg situation. Finding a budget to promote a successful author is easy as the bean counters are confident of a return. This is a crowded market and resources need to be targeted carefully.

It makes you realise just how much extra effort it takes to launch new authors. If no-one has heard of you, how do you change that? It’s not like radio stations are queuing up to chat with new writers, selling a chat with someone the audience have heard of is far less likely to lead to anyone switching off. Social media matters and for that, you have to rely on having a marketable writer who can promote themselves. Mind you, since the main requirements are an imagination, it’s probably an area where an author has the advantage!

And if from this you think I’m a bit jealous – too right. Running around the country plugging our books? Team NolanParker would be well up for that. But then having legions of fans telling you how wonderful your latest story is, is all part of the writing dream. We’re not the sort of shrinking violets who just want to hand down our work from an ivory tower!

Still, having a goal makes us want to work harder. Now, I better go and write some more for book 3…

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Discover your characters with Instagram

Phil: Why was I in London last weekend looking at posh products in St Pancras station?

It’s all down to Candice’s latest marketing wheeze. We’ve set up an Instagram account for our main character, Kate Smith.

On her account, Kate posts pictures of things she sees and likes. Along the way, she comments on the photos, mostly about how much easier life is without children, but there’s also been musing on Jane Fonda and the being able to enjoy chocolate cake after working out.

All this is great fun to do and it’s made me really get inside her head, especially for me as Candice is normally firmly in charge of Kate on the page!

On my trip to London (not just for this, I just had time to kill), I found myself walking around in Kate’s shoes (not literally, I don’t think I could manage high heels) looking at the goodies on offer in the posh shops section of the Eurostar station undercroft. I snapped away with my phone, sending the results to Candice to post on Instagram over time. She will add comments and hashtags to each before it goes up on the site. Or just deleting the picture if I get it wrong.

Hopefully, later in the week, we’ll be meeting up to write and chat and I’ll receive further instruction in “Kate thinking” – it’s all very educational and helps to give Kate an added dimension, at least in my mind. I suppose this is a little like “method acting” where you immerse yourself in a character. It’s certainly not the sort of thing I thought we’d be doing when we started writing our books, but then why not have some fun along the way?

Kate Smith on Instagram (katebooks)

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Selling books and meeting readers with Pauline Hazelwood

Phil: Last week, Pauline Hazelewood of Saddletank books told us how she goes about writing train-based children’s stories. This time, she moves on to the exciting (for prospective authors) task of selling books and meeting authors. As I said, Pauline has been a memorable presence at a number of exhibitions I’ve attended and gets out and about to meet her readers in a way many authors need to consider if they want to sell copies.

I’ve met you at several railway events, and you list more on your website. How many do you attend and what sort of events do you attend each year?

I thought I’d try to do one a month. I need to see people and find out what they think of the books, but I am a bit swamped with the other work that I do. I like meeting the enthusiasts that go along to the railway events. You meet genuine, kind, interesting people, often very knowledgeable.  I do a few model railway events, some steam fairs and of course my annual trip to Bala Lake Railway, where it all started with the book on Alice.

The kids are very cute and entertaining. It’s a lot of fun with the props that I take along. My model railway and soft sculpture steam engine entertain and draw people in. I often pretend that the model engine is voice activated. The kids will shout ‘GO!”, and ‘STOP’ to the engine while I work the controls out of sight. Sometimes a deluded adult will believe  it too, which is a hilarious.!

This is a lot of effort. Do the sales at an event justify the travel, or are there more reasons to get out there?

I don’t generally travel that far or that often, but this book business has introduced me to some fantastic people and places. Actually on reflection the research part is definitely growing and becoming more exciting.  the sales events are a different thing.

I’ve done quite a few art shows and the camaraderie is part of the fun. You always feel that the circus is back in town. The steam fairs draw a fantastic relaxed bunch of enthusiasts that aren’t  so commercial and are so knowledgeable about history and mechanical engineering. And there’s often a beer tent and music, crafts and so on. I love it. It’s fascinating.

Feedback and meeting the public is great too. I sometimes wonder if it’s worthwhile carrying on with the books and what have I got myself into, but the positive feedback from total strangers amazes me and encourages me to  do more. People actually enjoy reading them to their children, just as I’d hoped. Some kids know the words by heart from some of the books. I re-read one that I was sending out the other day to sort of remind myself what it was like and I liked it.

You’ve built a strong brand with products beyond the books and this extends to your costume on the stand. Was all this planned or did it evolve? Where did the hat come from?

I love dressing up! I think that when I put on an outfit the show is on. You need to stand out a bit from the people buying. I like that steam punk look. Bowler hats are so cute. You know the ladies of Bolivia wear them because the British Railway workers went there to set up the railway. They must have swapped a few favours to get their hands on them. Nowadays they’re actually made in Bolivia.

I’m glad that you think it’s a strong brand. Perhaps that’s just because it’s only me working on it and I  just do what I like all the time. I have some very lucky breaks. The very smart expensive stand that I now use I found in a skip! I can’t believe my luck with that. The display company near my studio was filling a skip with loads of brand new display stuff. I can’t bear to see things not being recycled so I and another mad lady kept climbing in and we filled the boots our cars with all sorts of new things.

This links up with the products in a way, as I’m keen to get everything that I sell, made in Britain. The books, magnets, bags, etc are all made here and there will soon be an eco friendly, british made, non plastic, wonderful little toy engine on sale too!

How important do you feel it is for authors to go out and meet readers?

I suppose it depends on the individual, but I love it. It’s great to meet all the children. I run occasional art classes for kids, it’s good to show them the roughs of the books, so that they can see how a book is developed. and it’s fun chatting with people. I want girls to see that the railways aren’t just for boys, that mechanical engineering is an option and that painting and drawing engines is fun for anyone to do.

I’m  also learning Welsh because I go to Wales each year. I love learning languages and you can download podcasts of Welsh from the ‘say something in Welsh’ website. I already speak Spanish ( my mother is Gibraltarian), and some French, so I enjoy practising with people who can speak those languages.

When I do art demos for  art societies, it’s a performance. I paint a picture and tell funny stories at the same time . I like making people laugh and I like sharing skills and tips, passing on ideas, so it’s very much the same thing.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Don’t forget, you can find Pauline’s books here.

 

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Timetable for launch

Phil: We have a plan. After a lunch that was so serious we swapped cake for sponge pudding and custard (a move the BREXIT negotiators would be wise to copy), a plan has been formulated for the launch of our next novel Kate vs  The Navy.

*

Gareth Fothrington-Thomas has made a huge mistake. He’s given Dave Thomas a job without consulting Kate. And Dave and Kate have history – embarrassing, complicated history.

But the Ministry of Defence have just asked KoD Associates to oversee the closing of an almost-forgotten naval base. It’s the company’s biggest contract yet, and a good performance could mean Kate can finally buy Gareth out.

However, nothing is ever straightforward. Tracey views work as a chance to have fun. Kelvin’s virtual life is far more exciting than his real one. And Captain Norris and his crew not only want to stay employed, they’re also keeping a secret. A rather large grey secret.

When Kate misses a key meeting she feels the whole process slipping out of her hands. Even an unexpected upturn in her personal life can’t compensate for the worry that things are about to go horribly wrong …

Join the team who first appeared in Kate vs the Dirtboffins as they become reluctant and unwelcome guests on a tiny island, battle local wildlife and tackle the Royal Navy in another madcap adventure.

*

So, dear reader, you will now be champing at the bit to crack open our latest work. Well, here is the timetable:

8th November – Chapter 1 on-line

15th November – Chapter 2 on-line

22nd November – Chapter 3 on-line and book available to buy from Amazon

29th November – Book reaches the top of all sales charts and we are the toast of the literary world. (I might have made this one up, it’s not actually on the plan)

Along the way we’ll be showing you the new cover and talking to bloggers to sort out some reviews. In the meantime, you lot start saving your pennies and clearing your calendars, you have reading to do!

 

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Kate vs the Dirtboffins – Chapter Three

That evening, Kate had had enough.  The day’s events had destroyed her wardrobe.  Her best suit was a disaster. The stains would probably defeat even her trusty dry cleaner.  She’d be claiming the whole lot back on expenses.

Driving back home for fresh clothes seemed like a better bet than sitting in the boring hotel bar and rehashing the day with her colleagues.  Pulling up into the underground car park beneath her apartment block, she sighed with relief.  The car had tested the speed cameras on the A14 to get back here, but all she wanted to do was collapse in her own bath with a glass of sauvignon.

Kate turned off the ignition and stared into space for a moment trying to think positive thoughts.

Great job – tick

Great flat – tick

Great wardrobe – big tick.

But in the back of her mind she felt maybe something was missing. Upstairs in her stylish home, the only welcome would be the faint meow of Olly the cat.

Turning to pick up her take-away from the passenger seat, a smartly printed business card was dislodged from the gap it had been jammed into in the dashboard. On the front it read:

Kate Smith. Chief Executive.

K.O.D. – Change Management. We make the difference.

She looked at the words for a minute and smiled; that was her, MD of her own company, something that gave her a warm feeling that wasn’t attributable to the heated seats in her car.

For Kate, her business was more than just a job, it was her life. Solihull born, educated at an average comprehensive, and the youngest of three children, her two older brothers had made sure she stayed the bottom of the pecking order at all times. Her mother had always shrieked in horror when Kate had appeared from an afternoon playing with the boys. She would be covered in mud, her clothing all torn yet there was always a big smile on her face.  Growing up a tomboy thanks to years of fighting with her older brothers had ensured she developed a tough shell, essential for climbing the corporate ladder in later years.

Hitting the business world running after University, Kate had discovered that she needed more than just a brash attitude and the ability to throw great insults to get on in the world. She had worked her way up by quick thinking and building an armour of designer suits to keep everyone at arm’s length. But behind this tough exterior, Kate’s life didn’t extend very far beyond her work. Obviously, she had acquired the usual disparate collection of Facebook “friends” but these were mainly old workmates and people she half knew from University. Most wouldn’t recognize her on the street, far less cross the road for a chat. It didn’t matter to her, she had crawled her way to the top kicking and screaming and wasn’t about to let a little thing like friendship get in the way of her career goals.

K.O.D. was really Kate’s baby and she had poured all her love and affection into getting the business off the ground.  Opening the door of her apartment, Olly mewed a greeting and curled himself around her legs, purring contently.  She walked across to her SMEG fridge and pulled out a bottle of a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Grabbing a glass from her cupboard, she made short shrift of the cork and enjoyed the sound of the crisp, clean wine as it glugged into her glass.

Curling up on the sofa in her Juicy tracksuit she stroked a purring Olly.

“Oh puss, what a nightmare day I’ve had.  I’m wet, dirty and knackered. To cap it all I saw Dave. You remember me telling you about him?  The one that got away.  Well Ol, he’s back, looking cute as ever. I just don’t know what to do.”

She buried her face in his warm, furry tummy.  Anyone watching would have thought she was just cuddling the cat but silent tears fell from her eyes as she snuggled him.

Seeing Dave had left her so confused and she really wanted to avoid talking about that in the hotel bar. If they guessed at a connection, her staff would all want to grill her about him, the man who knew ‘Ice Maiden’ Kate before she was so frosty.

A career girl through and through, the brush with Dave all those years ago had left her only interested in one thing, work.  Falling in love with a man, well that was a weakness and Kate didn’t admit to weakness.  As far as she could see it only got in the way of her true goal – to own her own successful company – and she was well on her way to that.

Only sometimes, when sat in the lounge of a friend’s house as toddlers ran round their legs and their husband made the coffee, did she find herself wondering what it would be like to be involved in a more personal kind of partnership.

Walking into her bedroom, Kate pulled a dusty box from the top of the wardrobe.  Opening it she looked down at the piles of curling photographs.  Rifling in the bottom there was a faux leather photo album.  Sitting on the bed she began flicking through the photos, taken from her university days.

Staring out from one page was a photo of her and Dave, in full rock climbing gear, on top of some mountain or other.  Kate had first met him on a trip to the Peak District and they’d bonded over crampons and Kendal Mint cake.  Something seemed to click between the two of them and it quickly became coffees and lunch every day at Uni.  She had a boyfriend, but quickly realised her feelings for Dave were different.

Leafing through the pages there was another memorable photo – her perched on the end of Dave’s hospital bed. They’d taken off climbing for a day for a break from the last minute exam cramming. Bravado and his Ford Escort had taken them to Wild Cat Crags in the Peak District where even hardened climbers had second thoughts about some of its heights.

Dave had saved her life, she’d lost her footing and found herself hanging 100ft in the air with only the rope and Dave between her and certain death.

The memory was still vivid enough to send a chill through her bones. Somehow Dave found enough inner strength to pull her back from the edge.  She’d never been so frightened in her life. It was a turning point, nearly dying sealed a determination that nothing and no one would get in her way.  Her time with the boyfriend was done, she wanted to be with Dave.

Sadly, things hadn’t turned out that way, Dave ended up in hospital after the climbing accident and by the time he came out the job he’d applied for had come through, in Washington DC working for a senator.  In a week he was gone.

Closing the album, she piled all the photos back in the box and returned it to the wardrobe.  Rubbing a tear from her eye, she turned towards the bathroom.

“Enough of this rubbish,” she said, looking down at a purring Olly, “time for a nice hot bath, a few glasses of vino and a good night sleep.  I need all the beauty sleep I can get these days!”


Candice: So, there you go, a taste of the fun that is ‘Kate vs the Dirtboffins’.

We’d love to know what you think, so to encourage you to read the rest we’ve reduced the price of our e-book to 99p

And for the first person to comment on this blog post we’ll send you a signed paper copy (worldwide postage, you will need to supply postage details).

Yes, a copy from Candice and Phil, just think in a few years it might be worth something!

So go on, buy either the  paperback  or e-book from Amazon NOW, have a read and then write us a review on Amazon.

And if you really like it tell all your friends.

Once we’ve got you hooked then ‘Kate vs the Navy’ will be out soon.  It’s got the same core team of Kate, Gareth, Tracey and Kelvin, but with thrills and spills with the team all at sea closing down a naval base.  Of course, things are not as simple as that, with Dave re-appearing Kate’s life and the Navy crew having other ideas about what the Ministry of Defence should do with them.

But hey, life would be boring for KOD if not.

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