Romance in the Court, hosted by David Headley, managing director of Goldsborough Books and literary agent is a fabulous event and one of the highlights of my summer. On Thursday, I travelled down to London with fellow New Romantic Press author, Adrienne Vaughan to join writers, agents, bloggers and publishing representatives at Cecil Court WC2.
Adrienne had to buy ‘emergency shoes’ from Dune in St Pancras en route (as one does) and I waited patiently, knowing resistance was futile. A taxi ride through London always sets us up for these events and we really felt the buzz on this warm, summer evening. First stop was Cote Brasserie across the road from Cecil Court to refuel. As we sat sipping our wine, Sir Roy Strong walked past looking very dapper, which was apt considering it is Chelsea Flower Show week. Last time Ade and I had a similar outing we bumped into Dustin Hoffman. Well, I bumped into him, Ade was too busy looking at shoes in Tod’s window on Kensington High Street. Shoes, again? Honestly!
David’s hospitality is legendary and his young staff so friendly and accommodating (thank you Emily et al) that in no time we had picked up our author badges, a glass of ice cold prosecco and started mingling. As you can see from this photo, the court was soon buzzing as we met up with fellow RNA members and others from the publishing industry. I was able to hand out promotional postcards announcing the publication of my latest book: GIRL IN THE CASTLE, which I am very thrilled about.
The interior of Goldsborough Books is fascinating, with many signed first editions behind glass-fronted bookcases.There are also many contemporary novels on sale, and I spotted many favourite authors on the shelves. There is a sign on the stairs suggesting that it leads to Hogwarts, but I was having too much fun to follow it.
Sadly, we had to leave to catch a taxi back to St Pancras for the ten o’clock to Leicester. We are very much looking forward to the RNA Summer Conference when we will meet up with our writer friends once more. Here’s my blog post about last year’a Romance in the Court if you would like to read it.
Footnote: many friends at the event wanted to know more about our caravan trip to Cornwall (where I did a fair impersonation of a drowned rat), and to hear more of the antics of our parrot, Jasper, who travels with us. Here he is, and here am I with writer Rosemary Smith, who I met up with in St Mawes, presenting her with a signed paperback of Girl in the Castle.
If you would like to read a sample, share or buy Girl in the Castle please click here
So – here’s to Romance in the Court 2018 when I hope the weather gods smile on us. Thank you for reading this blog post – if you feel like sharing with others, the buttons can be found below.
This week, June Kearns and I travelled to London for Trisha Ashley‘s book launch at Daunt’s, Marylebone High Street. Our plan was to spend the day window shopping, have lunch and then head for Daunt’s – all part of my birthday celebration. An unexpected guest turned up at Daunt’s and really provided the icing on the (birthday) cake . . . as you will see, if you read on.
I love London and luckily, there is a direct line from Leicester to St Pancras. The whole London vibe really inspires me as a writer. The first time I bought a Diptych candle I was in Notting Hill researching my debut novel, Tall Dark and Kilted. June very kindly bought me a tuberose candle in the Marylebone High Street shop as a birthday present. I will be burning it in my study as I get on with book #5.
Marylebone High Street has lots of niche shops and cafes and June and I plan a return visit later this spring with friends. In one of the pubs, I visited the ladies’ loo and the cubicles were decorated with reclining nudes – there was a purple velvet chaise longue to languish on, should the mood take you. Recline and Sprawl ?
We eventually remembered that we weren’t there to enjoy ourselves (hah!), we were there to attend Trisha’s book launch and meet fellow writers and readers. So we got down to it.
We hoped we might meet fellow Romantic Novelists’ Association members at the launch and we weren’t disappointed. I was especially thrilled to ‘bump into’ Kate Hardy who is on the short list for a Rona Rose award on Monday with: Billionaire, Boss … Bridegroom? In 2012, Kate dedicated her book : The Ex Who Hired Her to my naughty parrot Jasper, and me (he appears on page 6).
Here is a slideshow of other RNA friends who rocked up at Trisha’s book launch –
I’ve been a Doctor Who fan ever since I watched the first episode back in nineteen sixty – something. So, the unexpected appearance of Peter Davison at Trisha’s book launch really was the icing on the cake and topped off my Birthday Bash in London. He was charming and agreed to pose with some of his fangirls. Not every day a girl meets a Time Lord, is it?
The Five(ish) Doctors, reboot – video BBC.co.uk
To sum up – it was so good to kick back, chill, and every other adjective I can think of because (drum roll) my new novel has been returned from fabulous proofreader, Julia Gibbs and is now in the capable hands of Sarah Houldcroft being formatted. And breathe.
Pre-order date coming soon
January kicked off with a BANG. New Romantics Press put on their best bibs and tuckers and headed to Lunnon Tah-an for Jill Mansell’s Book launch. There we bumped into many fellow RNA members who’d wandered over from another book launch to join us. A great time was had by all and we went away inspired to finish our WIP in 2016.
Read on to see if we achieved our goal . . .
In February, our baby boy Jasper was 20 and he received lots of cards. One from a Facebook friend and reader Lotte Sutton in Australia, which was such a kind thought. I just hope he appreciated it. He’s 21 on February 2nd 2017 – I predict that there might be a little celebration on that day involving the Bridget Jones DVD, cocktails, canapes, cake and coffee. All the things he likes (cough, cough).
Adrienne and I have both had parents who’ve died from cancer, so we decided to raise some money for HOPE AGAINST CANCER, in their memories. In February we organised a literary lunch at swish Kilworth House Hotel, gave a hilarious (if I say so myself) talk about writing romance – and raised over £500 for the charity.
I also gave a talk on self-publishing to the Birmingham Chapter of the RNA, and to students at De Montfort University during February. March was a busy month, too. Apart from it being my birthday, I made the final of the Exeter Novel Prize with Scotch on the Rocks so we took the caravan down to Exeter and fitted in a spring-break holiday after the ceremony. I took good care of my precious trophy, but a certain person thought the award belonged to him!
April was rather more family orientated as it was my father-in-law Geoffrey’s 90th birthday which we celebrated in style. A moment to cherish. A friend of long-standing, Maggie, who regularly buys several paperback copies of my novels and POSTS them to Australia (at great expense) joined us for the celebrations.
I got stuck in with the WIP and vowed to finish it before Christmas.
May was a busy month with the fabulous Romance in the Court which Adrienne and I attended. Passing through St Pancras I bought something in Aspinall’s and, after talking to the manager, we were invited back to hold an author event there in November.More of which in part #2. I’m looking forward to attending the same event in May of 2017, thanks to Goldsboro Books and David Hedley.
Next, I gave a talk in Chippenham, to aspiring authors to prove to them that self publishing was within their grasp and took along novels which New Romantics Press have published to make my point. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
What we didn’t plan on last year, was trading in our caravan for a slightly bigger one with a FIXED BED. But that’s what we did, two days before we set off on our month’s stay in Bonnie Scotland . . . No more setting up/dismantling the bed every morning so we can have breakfast. I’ve also gained more writing space, so #winwin. Just writing about it makes me long to go on the road again.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the first half of 2106.
Do join me for #2 when I’ll mention:
- a character from Scotch on the Rocks who came to stay
- the historical novel society conference in Oxford
- NRP book launch and another author presentation
- our gig at Aspinall and meeting Tom Parker-Bowles
- the RNA winter party
- Chatsworth all decked out for Christmas
- the last chapter meeting of the season and some surprise guests
- a cover reveal for #4
One of the great things about living in Leicester – apart from The Foxes winning the Championship League, and finding The King in the Carpark (Richard III), is being on the main line to London.
Yesterday, fellow New Romantic – Adrienne Vaughan – travelled with me to London for the best event of the summer, so far. For a mere £5 we bought a ticket to Romance in the Court, a fabulous event organised by David Headley’s Goldsboro Books.
The event was held in historic Cecil Court on a beautiful summer’s evening.
There, amidst a fabulous gathering of romance writers, readers and supporters, I met old friends, made new ones and got down to the all important business of networking. As a writer, I’m never sure if the time I spend away from the WIP is really productive, so it was reassuring to meet new readers who said they knew me from a variety of social media: Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. And, as a result of ‘getting my name out there’, one reader had downloaded all my books. RESULT!
However, before I upload more photos, let me digress and share our bit of good fortune with you. En route to the event, I popped into Aspinalls in St Pancras (as a girl does) to buy the Swarovski ‘bag hook’ I’d been promising myself as a reward for working hard on #4. In a scene reminiscent from Love Actually , the manager wrapped my present in an four different types of gift wrapping. He also put four boiled sweets in the bag. I know, I know it should have been a cinnamon stick, but I’m not complaining for the best was yet to come!
He asked us what we were doing in London. Quick as a flash we handed him our business cards. Mightily impressed, he asked if we would come down to his store in the autumn to an author event which he would organise: prosecco, nibbles, book signing etc. He also mentioned that he liked to’ take care of his girls’, which made Adrienne think (optimistically) that she would be getting a set of matching Aspinall luggage. A girl can dream, can’t she? So, before we get ahead of ourselves,here are the rest of the photos.
And there’s more. Click on each photo to see who’s who !
And, finally, a great photo of David Headley with Carole Matthews (courtesy of Carole and Kev). Many thanks to them for allowing me to use one of Kev’s photos at the top of this blog.
As you can see, a fabulous time was had by all. The best five pounds I’ve ever spent. I’m hoping that David will host a similar event next summer . . . no pressure, obvs.
And, just before I sign off, keep your eyes peeled for an exciting announcement coming from New Romantics Press this summer. But, hush, hush, it’s top secret . . . for now!
Any teacher will tell you that some children get a new concept first time. But for most children a new concept has to be presented in a number of different ways before they gain full understanding. This is referred to as ‘the spiral of learning’ (i.e presenting the same piece of information in as many visual and kinetic forms as possible. This is just as true when we are attempting to bring our novels to the attention of agents, publishers and readers.
Consciously or unconsciously we are applying a method known as The Reticular Activating System.
Pay attention (!) Here’s the science part – The Reticular Activating System acts as a filter for all of the sensory inputs we receive. It decides what is and is not important and what we need to pay attention to. Otherwise, we would suffer from information overload. The ‘filter’ sits between the subconscious and conscious minds, and is programmed by the conscious mind. It is this ability to filter information which makes the Reticular Activating System so important in achieving our goals.
The short version: to make YOUR novel stand out from the ‘crowd’ you need to get your name and book title across in as many different forms as possible so that it ‘sticks’ in people’s conscious minds. I know this works because when I attend conferences, book fairs and writing events (wearing a name badge) I am often approached by other writers who ask: ‘how do I know your name!?’
How do we achieve an on-line presence?
I believe through some of the following . . .
- updating your own blog and/or guesting on other blogs
- following favourite blogs, ticking ‘like’, ‘sharing’ blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Linked In
- by sharing through these media your profile, avatar and/or your novel thumbnail will, hopefully, appear in different versions of internet ‘paper.li(s)’ out there – for example The Famous Five Plus, thus widening your appeal
- through activation of SEO (search engine optimisation); every well-aimed click and share will have an impact on your place on the social network rankings
- ensure that your avatar and your profile on Twitter publicise your novels
- don’t forget to include links to your books on amazon etc (using viewbook/bytly/tinyurl shortened links
- ensure that your tweets are a mixture of things about yourself, your writing, use trending hashtags; don’t forget to promote other writers generously
- promote your novel by quoting a review/ or dialogue from your novel in your tweets
- make the potential reader want to download your work by utilising hashtags such as #Fridayreads. #amwriting, #Mondayblogs and genre specific hashtags to bring more traffic (and potential readers) to your door
- widen your net of social contacts – don’t just befriend writers, befriend readers, too. I’ve made lots of friends on twitter and they have loyally downloaded my novels and left reviews
- don’t forget to thank people for promoting you and ALWAYS return the favour
- have your own page where you engage with potential readers, many of whom will go on to become your friends. I try to include a photo in my status updates as this draws friends to my page.
- minimise your ‘writer news’ on this page otherwise people switch off and unfriend you
- join some of the many sub groups and dip into them once a week or whenever to talk about your writing and establish a friendly Facebook presence
- build up an author page(s) and LIKE others’ pages when asked. Don’t be shy about asking for LIKES to be reciprocated. It takes a long time to build up these kinds of relationships
- I try to post something every day on my author page, not only about me and my writing but about other authors, too. @sharing’ other author’s posts works well in this case, too.
- I find that Facebook friends like to read about your pets. When it was my parrot’s birthday in February he got over seventy ‘happy birthday’ messages (!)
- join in with Facebook ‘events’ you’re invited to, even if it’s only to leave a passing comment. SEO comes into play with every click.
Consider joining Watt Pad, Instagram, Goodreads and Tumbler etc to get the message about you and your books ‘out there’. Build up your social networking presence gradually, mix it up, be creative. You’re in charge, so make it work for you – – – and remember the Reticular Activating System and utilise it. It’s a scientific fact.
I’ll leave you with the million dollar question:
Does social networking help to sell books?
The jury’s still out – but I believe that (as an indie author) having a social networking presence has helped me to bring my novels to readers’ attention. Finally, I would just say to any unpublished authors out there that, while your time is your ‘own’, get your social networking ducks in a row. When publication day arrives, you won’t have time to establish contacts, develop friendships and ask potential readers to buy your book – you’ll be too busy using social networking to get word out about the marvellous book you have just written.