What to do if your writing’s great, but your marketing sucks!

Writing a book is a lonely business. The stereotypes are true, I mean, I’ve been sitting in my office since 8am, unshaven – I use that word figuratively – and I probably won’t see another person until my son comes home from school. I watch people walking up and down the street with dogs, buggies and earphones, which doesn’t really count as social interaction.

On one level, it’s blissful, I write, dream and research to my heart’s content. I play what my husband, calls ‘whale music’ to help me focus. So far, so idyllic. But attending The Author School was a rude awakening – I need to get myself and my work out into the daylight  – IRL and online.

 

 

Who are you writing for? They’ll never read your words if you don’t market them.

To be a successful writer, which I define as someone who writes what they love and sells decent amounts of it, requires consistent and concerted marketing and PR input.  I used to work in corporate comms and PR before I became a writer. Being tangled in my love affair with words, I had unceremoniously kicked my steady former love to the curb. Shame on me! All of the tools are at my disposal but I’ve left them to rust.  But, like an autumn breeze, change is in the air.  It’s time to polish my press release writing, tinker with my Twitter and sex-up my blog. (Not like that!)

Songs of My Soul on shelves at the Black Cultural Archives

Attending the Author School reminded me to look up from behind the screen, pause my book writing and start flexing my marketing muscles.  I had fallen into the trap of building an irrational resistance to self-PR and book promotion, for fear of being too ‘in-yer-face.’ The truth is, being in-yer-face/BOLD/CapitalLetters, is what gets people’s attention. It has always been this way.

So join me in giving your book a boost. Whether you’re still writing it or it’s already published, turn some of your writing attention to writing about your book, in detail. Plot development, characters, themes, why you’re writing it etc., that is as important as the end product and will help you to sell copies when you’re finished writing it.  It’s time to work our socials, and stop hiding out at home or in Costa. My PR self is telling my writer self to GET OUT THERE! My pledge:

do more social media – keep it real – do more Facebook live – blog regularly – blog/gram/tweet on the go (so it doesn’t feel it’s a job) – write about writing and poetry, my core themes & ENJOY it. 

If it gets too much, I will call in an expert.  I’d love to hear how you get on,  and if you don’t already, please connect/follow/like me…

@radiantlady

@schoolhappyin

https://www.instagram.com/suzysongsofmysoul/?hl=en

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S.E.N.D in the Clowns: (VIDEO) my non-fiction project, I’d like to share it with you..

I’ve been working on a non-fiction book for the last few years, bringing together my experience of being an autism mum, an educationalist by osmosis and a firm believer in the transformative power of education.

Like many writers, we can be so much in our heads, it can be tricky to articulate clearly. So I took a public speaking course… how did I do?
© Suzy Rowland

The drunken master of insecurity [FLASH FICTION]

She felt like an imposter… ‘Who do I think I am, calling myself a writer?’ Where’s the deal, the positive acclaim, cosy interviews on TV sofas headphones on, waiting in radio studios for the ‘on air’ button to glow red? This is my life! she whispered to herself through frustrated tears.

Her life story was similar to many others: the longing, the personal and financial struggles and finally  – the success! It’s so funny, she grinned – flirting with everyone in the studio – achieving your big writing break when you’re in your fifth decade…flutter, twinkle, wink. Everyone in the studio laughed along with her, but thought to themselves, ‘It won’t take me that long to get to the top of my game!’

Her gloomy thoughts reflected the sky-full of rain, after a string of sunny days. This mood will pass, she thought, closing her eyes in mini-meditation. I will poke my head through this web of despair, but today is a wallow sort of day.  Eyeing her white bookshelves groaning with self-help books, she acknowledged the wisdom of surrender to the drunken master of insecurity. She smiled at this, reminding herself these funks were transitory and usually  followed by periods of frenzied activity, globs of creativity and furious connecting with fellow travellers on the creative road.

The room was quiet, as her eyes moved from the bookshelves to the window, and rested on a smudge of yellow emerging from the grey clouds. The soft yellow grew brighter, shining directly onto the rage and beauty of her core.

© Sukie Rose

If you’re a writer, or any sort of creative, can you relate to this post? Let me know! We’re in this crazy game together. How do you get yourself out of the doldrums and back on your energizing game?

Memorising poetry – a piece of Gateau?

You’ve heard the one about the woman who ate a dictionary for breakfast? No, it’s not rude, it’s all about the love of words and the sounds of words. Honestly. I taught myself rudimentary Italian, with a bit of help from Google translate, so when I arrived in Venice, I could confidently order a water taxi to our hotel and understand where we were being directed to. I may have a slight linguistic advantage, having studied French and German up to ‘A’ level, but still. I got my head in the Italian zone and off I went.

Burano: I memorised snippets of Italian, now I’m committing verse to memory

Absorbing new languages, or even memorising them well enough in your own language to be able to regurgitate them later, is not a skill that everyone finds easy, as this article from the Daily Mail expounds, with unflattering references to ‘snowflakes.’

Christina Patterson’s piece about memorising poetry is more optimistic; any pain involved in committing a verse to heart is worth the effort in spontaneous and sometimes unexpected recall! In it, Salman Rushdie bemoans the fact that reciting poetry is becoming a lost art.

When I wrote Songs of My Soul, I envisaged a close one to one relationship with my readers, it was a personal exchange; a gift from me to them. In the comfort zone of being a writer of poetry, the act of performing my poems seemed exposing. I know that’s part of the thrill, but if you’re not prepared to really perform, or act out your poem, it can all fall horribly flat. Almost imperceptibly, my poems are becoming more edited, starker pieces. I’m not sure if this is a response to the other poetry and literature I’m reading, or simply a stylistic development. Either way, I’m starting to commit them to memory; a skill I first learned at school, aged 15. I’m also learning them, to provide a deeper level of connection to the people who are kind enough to listen to my words. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Suzy Rowland-Rigg

The more, the Maya

‘Describe impact of her words?/her work to my life../feelings of her readings!/lumps of unspoken words swelling my throat/her words articulated delivered/pricked my mind’s unformed ideas/shook establishment from complacent chairs/held steady eyes of uncomfortable stares/her body a theatre of one/bold colours brave voice/honesty of ancestors/visions, dark sorrows of night/will of oak/bright green leaves/it’s going to be alright.’

 

SuzyRowlandRigg

Writing a book when you have a day job

Long before Songs of My Soul was conceived, I remember the living room floor at my mother’s house strewn with handwritten manuscripts, paperclips, highlighter pens, squiggles on note paper and lots of colour photos. It looked like a crazy unsolvable jigsaw   – it was to become my mother, Cas Walker’s, first edition of Focus on the Caribbean, published in 1988. Her book was one of a series of books aimed to assist the primary classroom teacher, to help kids in their increasingly multicultural schools, to learn and understand more about the cultures of some of their classmates.

It seemed hideously complicated to me, writing a book; I was glad it was my mother who was battling with research and deadlines and not me, as I slunk up to bed at about 11pm. She often worked well into the night, ‘burning the midnight oil’ she called it and was up early the next morning for her job as schools’ curriculum adviser at Birmingham City Council.

She was tired but she also exhilarated at being commissioned to write this book; born and brought up in Jamaica, my mother was proud of her country of origin and keen to share the rich culture of it in a simple and digestible way to help promote greater understanding. One of the remarkable things about my mother was her beautiful speaking voice – she sounded like a BBC Radio presenter – precise, yet warm and clipped, with a dash of Birmingham and the merest hint of the Caribbean! She spoke highly of the English schooling she received in Jamaica and was often shocked about how kids with Caribbean parents who were born in the UK, seemed to lack the basics in terms of English diction and grammar. Perhaps it was a Brummie thing and wanting to fit in?

Mum’s signature in a copy of Focus on the Caribbean and a photo of her holding a copy of the book in the back garden.

The work continued and the book was finished – it was beautiful and I treasure the copies I have with photos of her in them and her signature.  Even though it was hard work, there is always a sweet spot in writing – when you are immersed to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Bound up in the words, characters, history, stories within stories – everything is suspended in the thick gloop of everyday soup, but you fly in the cloudless sky of your imagination. For me, this is where bliss resides. I’m sure mum would have had a more pragmatic approach – just get your head down and keep going until it’s finished! She was a no-nonsense lady in many respects.

Colours that bind us – holding a copy of my book, Songs of my Soul, 29 years after mum’s book was published.

Who was to know that years later, I would write a book of my own, with a bright yellow cover? Our books define our differences, hers: factual and educational, mine: fanciful and spiritual – but both bound in the yellow glow of a hopeful future.

You can download a copy of Songs Of My Soul here 

I’m hoping to work with a publisher to update Focus on the Caribbean.

Conway Hall – a lively Poetry Book Fair

A short video in between me rushing around the stalls at the Poetry Book Fair..click the link below…

Half-time at Conway Hall

What a better way than to spend a Saturday afternoon in the centre of London on a bright, chilly Autumn day, in the company of poets and more books than you can read on a wet afternoon in November. Welcome to ‘Free Verse’ the Poetry Book Fair. I hadn’t visited this event before and found it very well run and stimulating. I particularly enjoyed the live mash-up session with Michael Horovitz, Vanessa Vie and crew. I left feeling energised, and buzzing with ideas about how to improve my own performance and written poetry!

 

Kind words that keep a writer writing

I had the delight to read the following words on Instagram recently by a warm and talented entrepreneur, and Founder of My Ebony Box Jenaitre Farquharson:

'We believe very strongly in supporting phenomenal women and the work that they do, we have chosen to support and acknowledge the work of poetess and writer, Suzy Rigg. After meeting the wonderful Suzy, early this year, we were charmed by her warm spirit and striking energy. We were really excited to hear about the release of her brand new book, Songs of My Soul. The beautiful poetess and writer sent us a copy of her brand new book to review and we really enjoyed taking a moment out to appreciate the exciting and raw work by Suzy, we felt a deep connection while reading Songs of My Soul and what we loved about reading this book was that we felt her poetry took us on a journey of life, we felt her passion while she kept stimulating our minds, page after page. She covers many diverse areas of the shared human experiences from falling in love, womanhood, motherhood, ageing and heartache. Our favourite poem in the book is called Maya, and inspired by our phenomenal woman Maya Angelou.

I'm still stunned, it feels like reading about another person. I am truly humbled to have created deep feeling in another human being - all I can hope for is that everyone who reads Songs of My Soul, closes the book feeling hopeful, positive and connected. The winding road of life is something we all tread together.