Monday 8 February 2016

Advice For Authors On Getting Involved In The UKYA Community

This was originally posted on Bookish Peeps, but gets referred to quite a bit so thought it made sense to have it over here too!

So quite a few people have asked me about this, and while I'm not claiming to be an expert, I got feedback from half a dozen or so others to knock this together. Thanks to everyone who helped out! If people want to add their thoughts, would be v welcome.

Okay, this is aimed at authors - especially recently signed ones - working with trade publishers in the UK. Some of it may be useful to authors abroad, and some may be useful to self-published authors - but a fair amount of it boils down to ASK YOUR PUBLICIST, who you may not HAVE if you're a self-published author, so that might change things!

 Do I NEED to get involved?

If in doubt, ask your publicist. I am in contact with numerous publicists (in-house and freelance) who, between them, work with nearly every major YA/MG publisher in the UK. Things they have in common? They're passionate about children's books and they're REALLY good at their job. I think it's awesome to talk to bloggers and get involved in the incredible UKYA community because it's FUN. This does not make it a career requirement; if you don't want to (apart from anything else, there's only so much time in the day!) you can leave it to your publicist and have faith that they will be doing a great job.

Assuming yes, you do want to get involved, meet bloggers, etc, just don't know where to start, then I will try and give you some tips. But firstly, the GOLDEN RULE FROM #Batnon - be nice to people! Simples. This was the key advice both Non and Robin gave for dealing with anyone, and I totally agree. As a debut author, you are INCREDIBLY unlikely to run into issues with people online if you follow this. (Disclaimer: sadly, if you get REALLY successful then random nastiness seems more likely.)

Meeting in person

Come to events! Lots of publishers do 'meet the author' type events and it's great to ask if you can get involved in these. Most events at Waterstones Piccadilly have several bloggers around - the big ones may have dozens. In addition there are usually LOTS of other authors around as the UKYA/UKMG community is so supportive! There's also #drinkYA and #picnicYA (which I run with @LouieStowell), #drinkYAMidlands and #picnicYAMidlands (which @ChelleyToy runs), and lots of other opportunities - follow @MeetUKYA on Twitter for details of these. If you're shy and socially awkward in big crowds you don't know (like me!) and you're not keen on walking into events by yourself, you can always try seeing if anyone you know from Twitter is going and asking if you can meet for a quick coffee or something before the start. I've done this with a few people and it's always great to have a little bit of extra time to chat!

ALSO – not everywhere has a literary scene quite as vibrant as London. I know there are other cities with amazing events going on, but if you don’t live near one of them, this can be frustrating. If you live elsewhere and feel disappointed by this, why not try and start something? Reach out to local authors/bloggers/bookshops, perhaps? I am always willing to use @MeetUKYA to promote events further away if anyone wants extra visibility!

Meeting on Twitter

Hashtags are your friend - in particular #ukyachat and #ukmgchat, but also #bookadayuk and my own monthly #CountdownYA. Use these hashtags to talk about books you enjoy, and to find people with similar tastes to you. PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT USE THEM TO RELENTLESSLY PLUG YOUR BOOK. That's not to say you can't mention your book when appropriate to the hashtag; that just means that constantly spamming them with Amazon buy links is counter-productive.

Also commenting on blog posts and/or sharing them via social media is really awesome!

When you've found bloggers you like, follow them on Twitter. DON'T necessarily expect them to follow you back - I don't follow everyone who follows me. However I will try and respond to people who tweet me and if I find myself talking to people a lot I'll naturally follow them then. Also, if someone does follow you, please don't immediately DM them saying BUY MY BOOK. It looks needy.

Join in conversations! If someone asks for book recs, etc, share yours - it's a great way to meet new people. Also it doesn’t have to be just books; plenty of authors and bloggers talk about lots of other things as well. (If you’re a Dance Academy fan there are probably half a dozen bloggers who’ll be keen to discuss that! And there are even people who talk about Harry Styles quite often.)

(Also from #Batnon last year - like bloggers, don't be unkindly negative about books you don't like. If there's a real issue and you think something is genuinely harmful it may be worth saying something, but for the majority of the time, it's more worthwhile to focus on talking about things you really enjoy.)

The balance between talking about your book/other books/general stuff on Twitter is an interesting one and I don't think there's a RIGHT answer. Some of my favourite authors barely even mention ANY books on Twitter, others flood me with so many recommendations that my bank balance will never forgive them. At the end of the day, talk about things you're interested in, and are comfortable talking about in a public setting. This CAN include your books - I think it was Adam Christopher in 2014 at NineWorlds who pointed out that most of your followers have presumably got at least a slight interest in your writing so it's bizarre not to mention it ever. Some people take being modest too far! 

Speaking of picking your battles, DON'T RESPOND TO NEGATIVE REVIEWS. I have seen numerous negative reviews go viral. This has only ever happened when an author has responded. In 2 cases, there have been genuninely funny, self-mocking, responses from the author which have made me think "Hey, they seem like a cool person." In every other case I have facepalmed HARD. And long. Again, I have NEVER seen major attention focused on a negative review without an author (or someone close to them) fanning flames.

Review copies

Firstly, if you are approaching bloggers yourself and offering review copies, PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR PUBLICIST THAT THEY CAN SEND THEM. Sometimes it's just not possible to send to all bloggers interested especially if there's a limited number of proofs available - offering before checking just puts EVERYONE in an embarrassing position. To repeat the earlier advice, going through your publicist is a REALLY GOOD IDEA.

If you do find bloggers you like - especially if you get to talking to them a bit - and they follow you back, then I'd say it's perfectly acceptable to message them to see if they want to read your book. I would STRONGLY advise checking their blog for a review/recommendation policy before doing so, though, as many people are closed to requests. If they say they're closed to requests, respect that. (The exception here would be if someone's specifically tweeted you and said that they're interested in your book - in that case, even if closed to requests, I'd say that offering them a copy would be fine, although it's great to acknowledge you've read the policy - even something like "Hey, I know you're currently not accepting copies but you mentioned on Twitter that you really wanted to read my book - would you like me to send it to you for when you have a chance to read?")

I would seriously advise AGAINST chasing up bloggers to ask if they've read books. (As I mentioned at the Batnon event, apart from anything else, if I've read it and haven't mentioned it to you it might mean I didn't like it, and that's just an awkward conversation.)

On that note, I would generally avoid joining in conversations about your book on Twitter which people aren't using your Twitter name in. Some people can feel awkward knowing that authors are reading their tweets. Not everyone, by any means - but I think it's probably more tactful that way. Also, I know some people feel they have to respond to EVERYTHING when they’re tagged. I don’t think you do. Firstly, don’t feel guilty if you’re just flooded with notifications and don’t get a chance to answer them all. Also, if it’s something you’re tagged in but don’t feel comfortable responding to, leave it. (Or DM to explain this if you’re worried you may offend the tweeter.)

Guest posts

If a blogger contacts you and asks you if you'd like to take part in a feature, YAY! This is good, as it shows people want to read what you are writing - yay! Two things - firstly, DOUBLE CHECK WITH YOUR PUBLICIST. They may have lots going on for you and may need to think carefully about the best time to schedule something so it doesn't clash, etc. Secondly, if someone asks you to do something then it's good, as I've said, but YOU DON'T NEED TO SAY YES. It is perfectly and completely understandable if you want to concentrate on writing BOOKS rather than blog posts. No-one should be offended by this. Again, if you don't feel comfortable refusing, put them in touch with your publicist who will be able to explain how busy you are.

Also you are MUCH better off concentrating on doing a few good blog posts than trying to do a couple of dozen short ones. People are more likely to read your posts, and far more likely to spread the word, about one really great post than they are about a number of less great ones. Oh, also, if at all possible, please get posts to the blogger a few days in advance of when they're going up, to allow them to schedule without being rushed!
On that note, it was pointed out at the Batnon event that there's not as much of a need for everything to be close to publication date in the world of YA and MG as there is in adult fiction. You'll find new fans between releases when doing school events, etc. I think that that's also true online - great if you can get a blog tour near your publication date, but the occasional feature in between is awesome too.

To recap – the TL;DR version.

1. The book community is AMAZING!
2. Publicists are FANTASTIC!
3. Talking to people can be nerve-wracking and make you panic (or is that just me?) but it is also SO MUCH FUN!

I would LOVE other people's thoughts - I'm definitely not claiming this is THE ULTIMATE GUIDE!! (Although advice from lots of smart people has moved it closer to being so - thanks everyone!)

If you have thoughts, please leave a reply!

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