I’ve come across a few articles recently huffing and puffing about the awfulness of the concept of paying for book reviews. I can’t understand why some people get so worked up about it. What is so morally wrong about an author paying an experienced book reviewer to review their book and post the review in the relevant places, such as their own book blog if they have one and on Amazon, Goodreads, and so on? You’re not buying their opinion – just their time and expertise. You’re paying for a service, in the same way that you might pay an editor to edit your book, or an architect to design you a house.

Relying on friends, relatives and the general public to turn out reviews is usually very disappointing. It takes a very committed person to regularly turn in reviews voluntarily. Even if readers enjoy your book and thoroughly intend to write a review of it. often as not life gets in the way and then they forget.  And on top of that they may not be very good at reviewing. Book reviewing is quite a skill and not everyone can write interestingly about something they’ve read. The secret is to give a brief synopsis but without revealing too much of the story, and then to express a considered opinion of the book’s and the author’s merits. You need to touch on characterization, plot, language, pace and so on, not simply trot out a few sentences about what happens to the heroine.

Book reviews are considered very good publicity and no one complains about authors paying for advertising space on relevant websites or in magazines. That’s not seen as somehow underhand or disreputable. I think there’s a slight case of double standards going on out there.

If you’re prepared to pay for a timely, professional book review then that’s your choice and, in my opinion, it’s a very wise one.

There are lots of posts appearing about how writers can use QR (Quick Response) codes, but to my mind a lot of them are missing the point. (A reminder. QR codes are those square shaped bar codes that smart phones can scan and read if the necessary app had been uploaded.) Many writers are talking about putting these codes in blogs or emails so that people can be directed to where an author’s book is for sale on the Internet, or to a review of it, an interview with the author etc. Well, a hyperlink does that just as well and more efficiently. Not everyone has the necessary hardware yet. Well, I don’t! The point of the QR code is take you from printed media to digital media. There is simply no need to have them take you from digital to digital.

They’re free to create. Here’s one I just created at http://goqr.me/ to take you to my other blog: Blog in France. It took about 10 seconds! I can now print this out and use it on any press releases or posters or such like publicity, were I ever to create any!

So, QR codes certainly have a role to play for writers but do remember that they’re intended to go from paper to digital. Here are 9 non-nonsensical places to consider incorporating them:

Poster

Press release

Bookmark

Book cover

Letterhead

Postcard

Christmas card – well, it’s that time of year!

Promotional notebook, calendar, ruler, pen, mug etc

Business card

 

 

 

OK, so which groups of Tweeps are the most egocentric? First of all, for those of you not hooked on Twitter yet, Tweeps are people on Twitter.

Following John Locke’s advice, I’ve set up a Twitter account solely to promote my upcoming book, Something Fishy. It’s a fishing mystery story – honestly, it’s far more exciting than it sounds! Anyway, I’m writing it under the pseudonym of Rorie Stevens as it’s a bit racy in places, and I’m known so far as a children’s author. I need an image change. So, I’ve brought Rorie S to life. Like me, he/she (I’m being vague on purpose) is a fishery owner in France, and, less like me, a keen carp and trout angler.

So, I had to find followers for Rorie. To get followers, you have to follow. Over the course of a few nights, I tracked down prime targets to follow, and I duly added them to my ‘following’ list. I put up a good few fishing related tweets to show willing. But certainly to begin with, I got less than a 10% rate of follows back. That’s improved slightly now – 11 followers to 70 following – but it’s not great. However, it’s typical of the fishing fraternity. They aren’t keen on following other anglers. They want to be followed. I was rather surprised by this egotism, but it’s definitely out there. It’s also odd, since surely Tweets are about information sharing. It’s hard to share if you insist on one-way communication. You see, only people following you get your Tweets. Unless you follow them, you don’t get their Tweets. Anglers, it seems, are happy to preach to others but not to listen in return. Shame.

This is in stark contrast to writers. Almost everyone in the authoring field follows a lot more people than are following them. They’re open to advice, hints, encouragement, tips from others. They’re friendly people who are delighted to make new Twitter friends. In a lot of cases, they’re working to build a platform for themselves and their books, but then everyone who Tweets is looking for attention. Picking three people that I follow from my @Booksarecool23 Twitter account and we have one author following 1340 with 998 followers, sample 2 following 1,998 and followed by 1,663 and sample 3 following 75 and followed by 49. (One of them is me, but I shan’t say which one!)

Let’s take scientists as well. They put even anglers to shame. Prof Brian Cox, for example, has nearly 400,000 followers, but only follows 94. Now that’s pathetic! An American scientist, Sean Carroll, has 8,000 followers but follows only 100.  Ed Yong has a slightly better 10,000 to 700 ratio, so Jonathan Eisen with his 6,400 to 1,500 is a quite a breath of fresh air.

So it would appear at a quick glance that the more creative you are, the more generous you are in the Twittersphere. And the more you get out of Twitter.

 

 

My children's names are Ruadhri, Caitlin and Benjamin - not on the top ten lists

How many boys’ and girls’ names are there? Hundreds of thousands I imagine. So why is it I have managed to use the same name twice for different characters in Something Fishy? Because I wasn’t keeping a list. This is something else I’ve learned the hard way writing my first adult book. The problem never arose with my children’s books. They were short enough to keep a tally of the names in my head, and I tended to write them quickly. But here with my 150,000 word project which I’ve been writing over about five months now, and a largish cast of characters, it’s a different kettle of fish. So over the weekend, I shall be rereading and drawing up its dramatis personae. From now on, every book will have one from the first word.

Live and learn!

In case you were wondering, the most popular names in the UK in 2009 were: 1 Oliver; 2 Jack; 3 Harry; 4 Alfie; 5 Joshua; 6 Thomas; 7 Charlie; 8 William; 9 James; and 10 Daniel. For girls: 1 Olivia; 2 Ruby; 3 Chloe; 4 Emily; 5 Sophie; 6 Jessica; 7 Grace; 8 Lily; 9 Amelia; 10 Evie. Mohammed would in fact topple Oliver if all the different spelling variants were aggregated. There are plenty of lists of most popular names on the Net which can be a very useful resourse. I’ve only used 7 out of the above 20 ones. I should probably include more to be as modern as I can.

In my career as an editor, both in-house but mainly freelance, I must have worked with hundreds of authors on hundreds of books.

But I have to say that the nicest author I’ve ever come across is Lucy Hamill. Lucy, a retired teacher and department head, has written some wonderful French textbooks for Edco in Ireland. They are modern, lively and inspiring. Lucy is permanently brimming with brilliant ideas. It’s hard to keep up with her!

Lucy is also incredibly kind. Today she sent my Irish-food-deprived family a box of goodies, pictures above, to say ‘thank you’ for the work I’ve recently been doing with her on her latest book, Panache. Last summer, she came to visit with husband Sam and little dog Todd, and treated all five Daggs to a wonderful meal at La Bonne Auberge in Nouzerines. It’s not often editors get such treats from authors. Thank you Lucy!