TOP TIPS: Ten things to consider before blogging…

Considering setting up a blog? Do you really need a blogThese days it seems every business and individual is blogging away. But before you jump in, consider the following…

Weigh up whether you really need a blog

Blogging on your website can increase content and therefore bring more visitors to you. But many businesses survive perfectly well without a blog. Not every business lends itself to a blog – and not everyone can be bothered to do one. If the thought of blogging doesn’t inspire you, think again.

Plan what you will write about

To be successful at blogging, you need a theme and you need to be focused. You then need to be able to come up with something to write about. If you find writing difficult, or struggle over what you will write about, having a blog probably isn’t for you.

Consider if you have the time to devote to blogging

Blogging is a commitment. Most people believe you should be posting a blog at least three times a week to gain visitors – and the very minimum is once a week. Will you be able to sustain writing pieces a this rate? Nothing looks worse on a website than an abandoned blog – if you’ve abandoned yours, it is probably best to get rid of it completely.

Think where your blog will be located

You can either blog on your website – or set up a separate blog, with a link to your site. Which you choose depends very much on what you want to blog about. A blog on your website might be your best bet if your articles are all going to be related to your business and you are writing them with a professional voice. But if for example, you decide to use your blog as a platform for strong views – that might not be the sort of thing you want clients to read – your best bet might be a separate blog.

Choose the blogging platform you will use

If you don’t put your blog on your website, then you can use free platforms such as wordpress.com or blogger.com. These are great because you just sign in and off you go. They also have a mechanism that can hide your blog from search engines at first – this can be a good idea while you experiment with your writing style and get into the swing of blogging. Once you’ve got some posts, you can lift the mechanism and let the world see!

Consider how your blog will be designed

WordPress.com has a host of themes, which you can customise to a degree. But if you want it to look the same as your company website for example, you will need to invest in a web designer. At the same time you need to consider what to call your blog. Your name or company name can be used within the wordpress theme – or you can opt to use a domain name you already have or buy another one altogether. For example, there is an option on WordPress.com that allows you to do this.

Decide if your blog will just be written by you

Many people now set up a blog between them. So several people might contribute to a company blog or a group of people might set one up together. This can be a great idea as the amount of work can be spread amongst you. But if your blogging partner doesn’t pull their weight and leaves all the work to you – or is a lazy blogger and lets things slide, it can be frustrating. Another option is to have contributors writing on your site too – this can work well as long as you like what they write…

Ask yourself if you’ll want to have advertising on your blog

For many people, a blog is a way of promoting their business, books or themselves in some way. However, actually monetising your blog with paid-for advertising such as Google Ads or even paid for posts is not permitted on a platform such wordpress.com and if you allow this, your blog can be taken down. So if you want to make money from your blog by allowing ads, you will need to invest in your own bespoke blog or website. Most experts also believe you need to have hundreds of posts on your site and to be getting at least 1000 daily views on a blog before you have enough visitors to make advertising worthwhile.

Think how you will promote your blog.

If your blog is on your own website, it will simply come under the umbrella of promotion you have do for your site. But if it is separate from your site, you need to think of ways to get it known. In this case, as with a website, you might want to get it linked to a Facebook or Twitter page or have it listed on blog websites so it gains visitors that way.

Consider paying a professional blogger to blog for you.

Finally, if you’re keen to have a blog but you’re not a professional writer or simply don’t have the time, you could think about paying someone to blog for you. Many marketing companies will, for a price, take care of all your blogging requirements and can write posts so they stand the maximum chance of being ranked well in Google. They will think of ideas and also be able to promote your blog. Bear in mind however, you will still need to regularly provide them with the basic information they need to write about.

Media agent Written by journalist, media agent and blogger, Alison Smith-Squire.


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Best PR journos and best PR bloggers named…

The shortlists for the Communicative Relations Awards from PR Professionals (The CRAPPs) have been announced today, with finalists in categories ranging from ‘the most likely to tell you to sling your hook’ to the ‘least twattish Twitterer – the must-follow journo’. Crapps Award scheme for journalists

To celebrate the relationship between journalists, bloggers and PRs, http://www.theCRAPPs.com was launched by national PR agency 10 Yetis in 2010, returning again this year, in association with DWPub.

The awards have received thousands of nominations but here are the finalists in each category:

1. The journalist that makes you feel warm and furry on the inside

• Adrian Bridgwater – freelance
• Amy Duncan – Metro
• Becca Caddy – Shiny Shiny
• Hilary Osborne – The Guardian
• Jane Hamilton – The Sun
• Matt Warman – The Daily Telegraph
• Olivia Solon – Wired
• Stuart Dredge – Freelance
• Vicki Chowney – Econsultancy
• Vicky Woolaston – WebUser

2. The ‘most likely to tell you to sling your hook’ award

• Alan Burkitt-Gray – Global Telecoms Business
• Charles Arthur – The Guardian
• Fiona Harvey – The Guardian
• Gary Flood – Freelance
• Geoff Ho – Sunday Express
• Joe McGrath – Insolvency Today
• Lisa Salmon – Press Association
• Sean Poulter – Daily Mail
• Pete Swabey – Information Age
• Ruki Sayid – Daily Mirror

3. The ‘best PR blogger’ award

• Adam Vincenzini – COMMS Corner
• Ben Cotton – Social Web Thing
• Brian Solis – briansolis.com
• Drew Benvie – Drew B’s take on tech PR
• Jon Silk – PRGeek.net
• Max Tatton-Brown – MaxTB.com
• Stephen Waddington – Wadds’ PR and Social Media blog
• Steve Earl – Earlin’ PR abuse
• Stuart Bruce – stuartbruce.biz
• Will Sturgeon – The Media Blog

4. Least twattish Twitterer – the must follow journo

• Adrian Bridgwater – Freelance – @abridgwater
• Caitlin Moran – The Times – @caitlinmoran
• Fleet Street Fox – Unknown – @fleetstreetfox
• Josh Halliday – The Guardian – @joshhalliday
• Harry Wallop – The Daily Telegraph – @hwallop
• India Knight – The Sunday Times – @indiaknight
• Neal Mann – Sky News – @fieldproducer
• Olivia Solon – Wired – @olivia_solon
• Sally Whittle – Freelance – @swhittle
• Tom Wiggins – Stuff – @wiggowiggo

5. Least twattish Twitterer – the must follow PR

• Andrew Bloch – Frank PR – @andrewbloch
• Andrew Smith – Escherman – @andismit
• Beth Murray – Lansons – @bmbm
• Camilla Brown – Manifest Communications – @girlterate
• Dan Bulteel – Hill and Knowlton – @danbulteel
• Neville Hobson – Freelance – @jangles
• Rupert Walker – Immediate Future – @rupinjapan
• Sherrilynne Starkie – Strive PR – @sherrilynne
• Stephen Waddington – Speed Communications – @wadds
• Steven Davies – Freelance – @stedavies

6. Journalist you’d most like to bring to the dark side (employ as a PR)

• Amy Duncan – The Metro
• Dave Masters – The Sun
• Emma Barnett – The Daily Telegraph
• Harry Wallop – The Daily Telegraph
• Jack Schofield – Freelance
• Jane Hamilton – The Sun
• Mark Dye – Freelance
• Stuart Miles – Pocket-lint
• Tim Weber – BBC
• Verity Burns – MSN

7. Most approachable daily national newspaper

• The Daily Express
• The Daily Mail
• The Daily Mirror
• The Daily Telegraph
• The Daily Star
• The Financial Times
• The Guardian
• The Independent
• The Metro
• The Sun

Voters now have the chance to vote for their favourite per category.

Final results will be made public in time for Christmas, on Wednesday 15th December.

Rich Leigh, account director at 10 Yetis PR Agency said: “Our intention has always been to highlight the relationship between the PR industry and journalists.”

Daryl Willcox, chairman of Daryl Willcox Publishing, http://www.dwpub.com, said of his company’s involvement in the awards, “In their second year it looks like the CRAPPs have already become a bit of an institution and it’s great to see both PR professionals and journalists getting stuck in with the nominations. The next phase of voting will be great fun and I’m looking forward to discovering who the CRAPPS winners will be!”

The CRAPPs can be found on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/thecrapps


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I dressed as a chicken to promote my novel…

How do you get your novel out there? From dressing as a chicken to singing Frank Sinatra songs – MANDY BAGGOT reveals the lengths she goes to all in the name of book promotion…I dressed as a chicken to promote my novel...

BY MANDY BAGGOT

I always had a passion for writing. When I was at senior school I wrote an on-going EastEnders’ style saga featuring my school friends, various members of the Italia 1990 England football squad and New Kids on the Block. They would eagerly grab the daily four or five A4 pages to read what was happening to them next. When it eventually came to an end it was over 4,000 A4 pages long! It was a bit like an early Footballers’ Wives I guess! I was robbed!

After I left school I didn’t write that much and the bits and pieces I did write I never thought too seriously about. It was a hobby and that was all. I had my dream romance (yes they do happen!), I got married and then I had my first daughter.

After having my daughter I started to write again.

I wrote my first novel Excess All Areas, a holiday romance about a large, feisty girl called Freya and a Hollywood heartthrob. I don’t really know why, but I sent it off to Headline publishing. Their response was really positive, but ultimately they turned me down. At the time I put it down to experience (after crying for a couple of days!) and put the novel away. However, another baby later, despite advice to the contrary, another novel written (Breaking the Ice) and I stumbled upon a website called Youwriteon.com. They are funded by The Arts Council of England and were creating a scheme to get a certain number of new authors published before Christmas 2008. You had to pay £49.99 to allow your book to go on Amazon, Waterstones etc. but they would do the rest. I saw this as my chance to get my book out there. And on December 8 2008 Excess All Areas was published and showing on websites for people to buy. It was a landmark moment but I wasn’t fully satisfied. I had got the writing bug back but I knew Excess All Areas wasn’t as polished as it could be and I wanted more.

I made a decision then to keep sending manuscripts out to agents and traditional publishing houses knowing that if they all rejected me I could fall back on self-publishing. I am still agentless, but now the industry is changing that doesn’t seem such a daunting position to be in.

In 2010, when my eldest daughter was going to need mum at home for the long summer holidays, I made the decision to give up my job as a Probate paralegal at a firm of solicitors and be a full-time writer. I didn’t go into this lightly. I knew I wasn’t going to suddenly be able to create a Booker prize winner and lie back and reap the rewards, but I knew I had to concentrate on my writing if I ever wanted to make a career out of it.

In February 2011 Knowing Me Knowing You was published, again by Youwriteon.com, but it was really in preparation for launching Strings Attached in November this year, that I stepped things up a gear. I knew I had to do something to attract people to my book. I was serious about this, I wanted to make a living from it, I needed to be professional.

I found an amazing cover designer and together we came up with a fantastic cover that people love. But the cover alone wasn’t going to be enough. I needed more and it needed to be different. So, I set up a Twitter profile for the male lead. He can be found at @quinnblakemusic. It was amazing how many people responded to his tweets and enjoyed interacting with him. I also set up a blog and website tour for launch day and the two weeks after, on sites in the UK and Canada and I really pushed my novel to book review sites and bloggers. I also created a trailer for Strings Attached to increase interest and get anticipation going.

And then there are the singing videos! Yes I love to sing and perform. This year I joined a local vocal group called Raise the Roof. We are a group of all different age ranges, male and female, who sing an eclectic mix of songs from Lady Gaga to The Everly Brothers, from Take That to The Beach Boys, from Alexandra Burke to Frank Sinatra. Well, I had to make use of singing to promote my books didn’t I? So I loaded up a video of me singing Poker Face and left links to my novels. To date it has had 477 views! Not exactly viral but a lot more than I would ever have dreamed of. I don’t know whether this has directly affected sales, but it has definitely attracted interest! Around the time the video was put on Twitter The Hoff began following me! Now that is A-List!

So I sing for promotion and I dress up. This year I dressed as a chicken at The Festival of Romance in Watford, to represent my character The Love Dove who stars in my Mr and Mrs meets The Generation Game novel, Knowing Me Knowing You. I was probably the most photographed individual of the weekend and the great writer Carole Matthews was also in attendance. It’s all about the outfit Carole!

There have been other bonuses to promoting my book. I have made loads of new friends and supporters on social networking sites, through book websites and blogs and I have also joined two websites helping self-published and new authors raise their profile and connect with readers. These are Loveahappyending.com and Famous Five Plus. We work as a group to proactively support each other and our writing.

At the moment I am self-published, using a new website called FeedARead.com. I would really recommend them for anyone who wants to self-publish their novels. It costs £88 to have your book published and made available on Amazon and Waterstones etc. Presently they only deal with paperback versions so I upload my books onto Kindle myself.

So what’s next? Well, I am signing copies of Strings Attached at Waterstones Salisbury on 8 December from 5.30pm-8.30pm and I have numerous other store signings booked in for 2012. Waterstones have been extremely supportive to me as a self-published author and this year I have approached stores further afield. I just dropped them an email with a press release and had a fantastic response!

And as far as the actual writing goes, I am doing final edits for my summer 2012 release Taking Charge and have put the trailer on YouTube.

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have a great book cover, a great story and you’re singing and blogging royalty! Watch out Jackie Collins, Lady Baggot is on her way!

Mandy Baggot Mandy Baggot is the author of four novels, Excess All Areas, Breaking the Ice, Knowing Me Knowing You and her latest novel Strings Attached is out now in paperback and on Kindle. She lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire in the UK with her husband, two daughters and two cats. When she isn’t writing she likes to read, sing and travel – sometimes all at the same time!

Find out more here: Mandy Baggot’s website


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IN THE NEWS: Celebrity stories…could they be a thing of the past?

If you like reading celebrity magazines or about celebrities in the newspapers, according to an article in The Times, such articles might eventually not exist – at least in their current form. News about celebrities - will it end? Writing in the paper, Phil Hilton, Editorial Director of Stylist magazine says the Leveson inquiry – which has seen celebrities such as Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller and JK Rowling giving evidence – could mark the end of this celebrity-led era.

Writes Hilton: “Having worked in magazines for all my adult life, I now feel nothing will ever be the same again. And despite the snarky commentary about the testimony of those richer and better looking than ourselves who sought fame, I believe we are all sick of haunting them too.
“I’m not immune to the odd fascination we all have with the famous – but Leveson has exposed the ugliness of our national addiction, and I suspect, ended an era.”

The article also quotes two readers. However, they don’t agree. Nicole, 24, who works in recruitment says: “Everyone loves a gossip and it can be inspirational to see people who’ve made a business out of being a nobody.”

And another reader quoted in The Times – Nicola, 22, who wants to work as a showbiz reporter, says: “It’s unrealistic for a celebrity to expect their life to stay completely private and maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is so integrated into our culture people would still speculate even without the celebrity magazines.”

Meanwhile, some of those who represent celebrities are also appalled at what they see as ‘censoring of the media’.
PR guru Richard Hillgrove, who has consulted on PR to BBC Dragon’s Duncan Bannatyne OBE and James Caan, says: ” Far from being an intrusion, being covered in the tabloids and celebrity magazines is why so many people see Hugh Grant or Sienna Miller’s films and why they achieve such high fees for advertising endorsements.

“But if the media is completely neutered, then next step will be people’s personal email on Google and Facebook being monitored through automated keyword searches. Ultimately, legislation will make all media data, including social media, becoming the property of the State. Censoring will create a police state.”

Whether this inquiry signals the end of celebrities being in the news remains to be seen. It might be celebrities are only featured in a paper or magazine with their approval – for example when they have a film or book to promote.

What are your views? Let us know below…


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IN THE NEWS: As Pippa gains a book deal, why getting published is still harder than ever…

The news that Pippa Middleton, younger sister of Royal Kate, is to be paid £400,000 by publisher Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books, to write a guide to being the perfect party hostess is bound to irritate many authors. Pippa Middleton to write 'perfect hostess book'After all, as far as we’re aware, Pippa isn’t known for any writing talent – although as previously she worked in the family business, Party Pieces, she must have picked up some tips there.
But it seems her publishers are already predicting big things for her book, which is likely to be launched next Autumn after the Queen’s Jubilee but in time to catch Christmas sales.
A report in The Telegraph quotes one literary agent as saying of the advance: “It is a massive amount of money, particularly in the current environment.” Indeed such an advance shows Michael Joseph, the Penguin imprint that won the auction over her book, is expecting high sales.
Apparently ‘everyone who was anyone’ in the industry was after the book. The Daily Mail says there was a ‘fierce bidding war’ and others who wanted the book included publishing giants such as Harper Collins and Random House.
One reason is privately educated Pippa, who is apparently not going to use a ghostwriter and is already immersing herself in writing the book herself, is impeccably placed to be an expert on the subject of parties. As well as working for the family firm Party Pieces, she also worked as a professional party planner at another company, Table Talk.
And undoubtedly the book will sell well. It is bound to be the sort of inspirational must-have book for anyone giving a party – from the mum who wants to give her child a birthday to remember to a corporate event. Parties – particularly childrens’ parties – seem to be one of the only things to have escaped the recession. A recent survey revealed four out of ten parents think nothing of spending between £100 and £500 on their child’s birthday party. And what to do for a party, who to invite and how to make that party special is one of the most discussed topics on parenting websites, such as Mumsnet.
Although Pippa is reportedly keen to not be seen to be cashing in on the fact her sister is the Duchess of Cambridge, one glance at the publisher’s other bestsellers clearly shows it believes celebrity does equal sales. After all, on the Penguin website, Michael Joseph is described as ‘being principally interested in publishing Top Ten Bestsellers’ and other authors include Stephen Fry, Michael McIntyre, Jamie Oliver, Jeremy Clarkson and Ant and Dec.
Generally of course, over the past decade, the publishing industry has been busy tightening its belts, dramatically reducing the number of new concepts or authors – particularly unknown ones – it takes on. Instead there has been a rise in celebrity-led books.
The reason of course is it is much less work – and is much less costly – for publishers to promote a book written by a well-known celebrity than it is for them to push forward a previously unknown author.
And it’s another reason why for most unknown authors – who might well be extremely talented – getting a book deal is proving even harder and why so many are now turning to self-publishing.

You might also like: How I published my own Chick-lit novel


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TOP TIPS: Ten ways to gain publicity for your book …

So you’ve written your book – and self-published it. Gaining publicity for a novelNow what? Getting a book known enough so people know it exists can prove to be the biggest hurdle of all. Here, we give you ten ways to get your book out there…

1. Announce your book with a press release.

If you have published your book with a big mainstream publisher, this is likely to be one of the first ways they announce your book. Google free and paid for companies that will send a press release out. Don’t forget to make your press release interesting by making you, the author, memorable. Too many authors fail to give information about themselves but this is a mistake. If you are a mum of three say so, if your book is based on your own personal experience say so – even saying ‘Secretary publishes first novel’ will make someone read on.

2. Hold a launch party

You might not be able to afford a party in a top London restaurant attended by celebrities. But even a small party at your local toddler group to celebrate your launch will help spread the word.

3. Get local publicity

Many people are so focused on getting a review in a national newspaper that they forget about the local press. Write a special press release, focusing on the fact you live in the area (which is what makes it interesting for them) and send it to all the local papers, magazines, radio and TV stations in your area. Always include a photo of yourself, preferably with book in hand and your contact details. This will enable anyone to simply publish your press release complete with your photo without even talking to you.

4. Approach your local bookshop and library

Even big chains are often very supportive of a local author. Ring up the manager, send him or her a copy of your novel and your special local press release. Offer to do a book signing in the store.

5. Use social media.

A website to promote your book can cost nothing – you can set up a blog free using WordPress.com. A diary about your journey from pitch to publication can make a fascinating blog and gain followers as you write. If you link this to your Twitter and Facebook account, you are immediately publicising your book. When it’s published, consider investing in a small website to promote and sell your book – perhaps as an e-book where people can instantly download your novel onto their computer.

6. Sell your own real life story.

This is the fastest and easiest way to gain major publicity. I have helped many authors gain recognition and even to gain a plug of their book in a national newspaper by selling their story – but you do need to have a story to tell. Your real life story doesn’t need to be connected hugely with your book. For example, if your divorce gave you the impetus to write a book, this might form the basis of an article for a women’s magazine.

7. Become a speaker.

Local groups are often interested in having an after dinner speaker. A witty account of how you overcame writer’s block to pen your novel, a story about the ups and downs of getting published or again, the story behind writing your book – all these things make good after dinner talks for local charity groups. Again, you are spreading the word – and don’t forget to take a few copies with you to sell.

8. Leave business cards

Leaving a business card in a hotels and restaurants, perhaps in the rooms if the manager is happy (and perhaps for a small price) can direct people to your website where perhaps they can download your novel. If someone is away on business and has a few hours to spend, they might well decide to spend it reading your book…

9. Send it out to review for journalists, papers and magazines

I have purposely not put this too high up as it is the route so many authors go without much success. While approaching a few well-chosen editors or journalists who are known to review your genre of book is worth doing, mass mailing books to national papers, magazines and TV can not only prove to be incredibly expensive but there is no guarantee your book will be picked up. Unless you are already a known author, a piece in your local paper might well prove more beneficial – and it might also be picked up by a local journalist or agency in your area.

10. Offer to write on blogs and writing websites

Get your story out there by offering for free to write a piece about you and your book. If you manage to gain publicity on a popular blog for example, it might be picked up by a national journalist to review. And if you can gain a link to your website where people can buy your book, it could well take off.

* Sell Your Story UK is about to launch a new facility to help authors gain publicity and sell their books – meanwhile, if you have written a non-fiction book or a novel and had it published, we would love to hear about it – tell us about your book here: My book.

You might also like: Writing a Press Release

And: Five ways to create a buzz

Media agent Written by Publicist and Media Agent Alison Smith-Squire.


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I draw cartoons for a living…

Do you ever read a cartoon in a magazine or website and wonder about the person behind the cartoon? Here, cartoonist Mike Flanagan, talks to Sell Your Story UK about his ‘Flantoons’ and how he has become so established in such a niche industry…

So where do you live and how old are you?

In a great little village in Hampshire, top right corner of the UK and I’m 64 (going on 24).

Is being a cartoonist your full time job?

I’ve been a full time cartoonist for 30 years. I was born in South Africa, and have also lived in Australia and in Britain for the past 35 years. I’m an ex art director from big advertising agencies in Jo’burg, Sydney and the UK.

When and why did you start doing cartoons?

I started doing cartoons during science classes at school mainly because the lessons were totally baffling – I had to spend my time doing something!

When was the moment you realised you could sell your cartoons?

I posted some gags off to a small magazine when I was living in Johannesburg. They published three of them, which earned me a grand total of 30 Rand (£3 in real money) which started the ball rolling and now I charge around £60 to commission.

Do you have any formal training?

My parents sent me to art school for three years; great training for partying; this was the swinging sixties remember.

Where have your cartoons been published – Where might we see them?

A very wide range of business magazines, specialist magazines and websites, text-books, you name it. Some of my clients include Travel Weekly, British Telecom and publishers Hodder & Stoughton! A while ago a New York plastic surgeon asked me to do 30 cartoons all based on cosmetic surgery; quite a challenge… After all, how many boob-job gags are there? Only I know…

How do you think of your ideas? Mike Flanagan Cartoonist

It mainly comes from the text, the article and the subject matter. I put a humorous spin on an otherwise serious piece of material. People also email me their text and I will come up with a custom-made cartoon illustration to complement it.

Which ideas and cartoons are the most popular?

My cartoons are custom-made to complement an article or product, so I have to take care not distract from the sense of the article or product…. while at the same time make it amusing. I then do a first draft pencil sketch for the client’s approval and if they like it, the finished high res jpeg goes off by email.

Any advice for other budding cartoonists?

Start with a small portfolio, make your presentation as polished and professional as possible. Scruffy scraps of paper are a big no-no, then spend most of your time spreading the word on the internet, and hardcopy mailers to editors.

On second thoughts, pursue another career. The last thing I need is competition 🙂

Mike Flanagan, Cartoonist

 To find out more and view some of Mike’s other cartoons go to http://some-recent-cartoons.tripod.com
Or contact mike on flantoons@btinternet.com


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