How to Organise a Blog Tour and how to limit Google searches to recent results

I gave a talk at the Romantic Novelists Association conference this year on ‘Organising a Blog Tour; A Guide For the Terrified’. I promised the people who came to my talk, that I would post my notes on my website. So Ta-dah! You can download them by clicking on the pretty picture below – it should download as a Word document.

Notes from my talk at #RNAConf15 "Organising a Blog Tour; A guide for the terrified"
How to organise a blog tour

I mentioned in my talk that you could limit your Google searches to the most recent results. Here’s how you do it:

Put the name of the author/book/thing you are searching for into Google. If you want to exclude the main site (in this case, I don’t want to see any updates from my own site, I know about those already), then use can use “-site:websitename.com” in the search. This effectively means ‘NOT this site’.

Screen shot of a Google search

Click on the Search Tools button (on the right of the second row down). This will bring up some drop down buttons. Click on ‘any time’ and change this to the time frame you want.

Incidentally, if you already know how to use Boolean search operators, you can use them in Google searches. Or, for ever more bells and whistles, try Google Advanced Search. (Yes, I know. I need to get out more).

Have you got any neat hints and tips ? Please leave a comment below and share!

Why an unpublished author needs an online presence

Do you need an online presence if you’re an unpublished author? Yes. Oh yes. Here’s why.

Social media wordle

 

4 reasons to start engaging with social media before you’re published:

  1. These days writers have to do their own marketing. An agent/publisher who likes your writing is likely to Google your name, just to see what presence you have online.
  2. You never know who might be listening/reading. If an agent/publisher has heard your name mentioned on social media, they might give your submission a little bit of extra attention.
  3. Readers are hard to find. If you can interact with a particular group as a fellow reader, they will have already hear of you when you make the move from reader to writer.
  4. If you make friends with other writers, you’ll probably pick up tips and bits of useful gossip. At the very least, you’ll see pictures of some nice shoes.

It’s a good idea to have a vague plan. I didn’t have a plan (or a clue?) when I started and I wish I had. My engagement with social media goes something like : Check Email every hour or so, check FB once a day. Sometimes go on Twitter (and inevitably get sucked in by something and waste time). Fail to do any writing. Eat chocolate. Feel fat. This is not a good plan. A better plan would be:

4 step action plan to start out with social media:

  1.  Get a gmail address for all your non personal stuff. (I love Gmail. Google Docs is awesome).
  2. Join one or two forums on Goodreads. Post on there often. Get to know people. Review books that you read.
  3. Set up a website with blog (see here for instructions). You don’t have to update the blog much until you feel you have something to say. You can get your Goodreads reviews to automatically post to the blog so that it gets populated without you having to do much.
  4. Start commenting on other people’s blogs in your genre. If you have to login to post comments, use your website as the login account so that people can track back to your site if they like what you say.

This way you only need to update Goodreads and/or comment on some blogs for a few days and eventually things will add up. 20 minutes each day (or most days), do one thing per day. Only do it at the end of your writing time or you’ll end up wasting all evening. Don’t be scared. You just have to dive in and hope for the best.   Are you terrified of social media? Or have you taken the plunge? How do you do it? Let me know in the comments.

Finding ‘free’ images for a blog

These are series of notes I wrote for my writing buddy Jen (writer of fast and funny YA fiction –  still unpublished, but it’s only a matter of time!). She was not totally sure how to go about this social media mullarkey, so I wrote her a set of ‘how to’ notes, based on my own experience of setting up an online presence. I’ve posted the notes here in case they’re of use to people. The first of these is  a step by step on how to set up a website using WordPress.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about scientists watching Sherlock. I wanted a picture of Sherlock (or of Benedict Cumberbatch, at least) so I looked for one. Being that sort of a geek (I blame the day job), I looked for the BBC policy on using their images in blogs. The policy isn’t aimed at blogs as such, but the basic gist of it was ‘if you want to use one of our images, ask us. We’ll probably charge you for it’. So the post remains photoless.

So, where can you find copyright free images for use in a blog?

First, a word about copyright. Copyright is an automatic right that exists in any creative work. This includes pictures. The copyright belongs to the person who made the creative work (unless it was created under contract – whole complicated other story; always read your contracts). If you’re into that sort of dry detail, there’s a whole load of info on copyright at the UKIPO. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy.htm

If you reproduce someone’s work without their permission, you are infringing their copyright. Besides, it’s not polite.

There are hundreds of images on the web. Some of them are available under a creative commons licence. The best way to find ‘free’ images is to put your keywords and “creative commons” into a Google image search. Click through to the website and see if you can use it. Flickr has a fair number of images with creative commons licenses.

What is a creative commons licence? There’s a good description here http://creativecommons.org/about

The most permissive type of CC licence is an Attribution Licence. Broadly speaking these are images that people don’t mind you using, so long as you acknowledge whom it belongs to. Attribution is a minimum requirement. If you adapt the image, you should still attribute the initial image to the person who made it.

Some licences specify ‘non-commercial use only’. Does my blog count as commercial use? Arguably, I blog for my own amusement, but eventually I hope my blog is to raise the profile of me as an author and, by extension to sell books. This makes it sort-of commercial. So I tend to steer clear of the non-commercial use only images – which is a shame because some of them are really, really stunning.

Now to find an image to go with this post. How about this one?

If I were a bloke, I'd wear cufflinks. I like cufflinks.
Creative Commons by Kalexanderson

(Actually, I love the rest of the images this person has, but they are for non-commercial use and/or sold through Getty… )

Or this one?

Cartoon Bookstack
Bookstack by Hiking Artist

Or, by now, probably this?

For Goodness sake, make her stop!
CC photo by Pink Sherbert Photography

How to: Set up a (cheap and simple) WordPress based website

These are series of notes I wrote for my writing buddy Jen (writer of fast and funny YA fiction –  still unpublished, but it’s only a matter of time!). She wasn’t sure how to go about this social media malarkey, so I wrote her a set of ‘step by step’ notes, based on my own experience of getting and online presence.  I’ve posted the notes here in case they’re of use to people.

 

SET UP A WEBSITE ON WORDPReSS

Building your own web platform.
A couple of things to know – the ‘brand’ is you. The products are your books. The web platform is to introduce people to you first, then your books. Think of it as making friends, rather than selling books. The selling books part is just a bonus.

Setting up a cheap and cheerful website

I didn’t know anything about setting up websites, so I did a lot of Googling and found out how to do it. I’ve listed what I’ve done here, so that you don’t need to waste as much time as I did.Before you start you need:

A list of possible titles for your website/blog. Have at least 3.

A photo for the header (I’ve used a section from one my book covers)

A picture for the background

A credit card

Some idea of what you want the text on the website to be.

Ready?

You can set up a blog fairly easily, and for free, using WordPress or Blogger. You can then customise the way the blog looks so that it looks more like a web page. I looked at a few author sites and found I liked the look of the WordPress based ones better.  (If you scroll to the bottom of the site, there’s usually a sentence saying ‘X theme by XX provider).

 

I’m no expert, but here’s what I did:

Go to wordpress. Click on ‘get a blog’.

Type in the name of your blog. If your chosen name is taken, try your backup ideas.

Sign into WordPress.

You can pay for the more expensive http://www.example.com URL, rather than the free http://www.example.wordpress.com one. The other option is to get the free version of the blog and map an existing domain name that you bought from somewhere like GoDaddy.  – this means you need to map domains. It’s a whole bag of hassle and costs 12 dollars extra. But it means you’re not tied to WordPress.com. Techy explanation here: http://www.dearblogger.org/wordpresscom-domain-or-godaddy)

(I got my domain name from GoDaddy for the ridiculous reason that I dithered it about getting it from WordPress and then changed my mind.)

Pay for privacy – it means that people can’t put your URL into Whois and find your registration information.

Set the domain name to autorenew for 5 years, or set yourself some reminders to do it every year.(I’m a bit hazy on whether WordPress does this – GoDaddy which lets you autorenew). If you forget to pay the domain name fee, your registration will lapse and there’s a chance that a Cybersquatter type person will register the domain name for the next year – so that you have to pay them over the odds to get it back.

It takes a couple of minutes for WordPress to set up the blog.

BOOKMARK your blog in your favourites. Because you can!

That’s it. Now you have a blog. Hooray! Have some celebratory chocolate.

 

Now to make to look less bloggy and more like a webpage.

In WordPress:

Go into the ‘Dashboard’.

On the left hand side you have a list of things. Go to ‘Appearance’ (near the bottom).

Choose ‘Themes’

Pick a theme – 2011 is a good one. So is Pilcrow. Both are free. There are loads to choose from. I tried these ones because they looked simple to use and had could have Twitter and a Facebook ‘Like’ button integrated into them. You can change your theme easily later, if you want to.

Still in Appearance, go to ‘Header’

Follow the instructions to upload your own header image. WordPress will help you crop it to size. Choose your picture/photo as your header. Save. You now have a unique picture heading up you blog. Time for more chocolate.

Making a home page

Go to ‘Pages’ on the left hand menu.

Create a new page with some Welcome info on. Name the page ‘Welcome’ in the Title line. Upload. You should now have two pages on your blog – one with the starter text from WordPress. One with your new text.

Click Edit for the starter page from WordPress. Name it ‘Blog’ in the Title line.

Go to ‘Settings’ on the left hand menu:

Click on ‘Reading’.

The top line should say ‘Front page displays’ – select ‘static page’

On the drop down that says ‘Front Page’ – select ‘Welcome’

On the drop down that says ‘Post page’ – select ‘blog’

That should give you a rudimentary website – with a static Welcome page and a blog page that you can post new blog entries on to.

Whenever you want to edit your blog, just log into wordpress.com and go to ‘my blogs’, then ‘dashboard’.

If you try this, let me know how you get on. If I need to refine instructions, please tell me!

You can find  info about how to find web images for your blog here and here and info on how to link your blog to other social media here.

[Edit: The instructions here are for a blog on WordPress.com. This version gives you a blog that is held by WordPress itself and (in theory) WordPress can pull it down anytime. Also, you can’t use a lot of the plugins that third parties provide. On the other hand, you get all updates/ security etc automatically. Once you get going and have a huge number of pages and posts on your blog, it’s a good idea to back it up from time to time. Y’know. Just in case.

The other option is to get a wordpress.org blog. There are hundreds of blog posts on the difference between the two. (Just Google ‘WordPress com org’). I stuck with wordpress.com because the techy words scared me, but I am aware that I’ll have to pull my big girl pants on and look into it one day.]