Sue and I are increasingly being asked to give talks about our writing and answer the question: how do two people write together? And we love it. It means we get to meet lots of keen readers, people who have read our books, or people who want to buy our books.
And it has involved quite a bit of travelling.
This week saw us driving up to Kendal in the Lake District – that is, I was driving and Sue was concentrating on her knitting (a little black, lacy cardi, since you ask).
We were guests of a Kendal writing group so the themes we usually work on weren’t entirely appropriate.
Our audiences are often keen readers and so we usually talk about our backgrounds – in regional journalism and academia – and how we started writing books together. And, of course, we talk about our characters and story lines, and read a couple of chapters to give an idea about the style and form of the novels.
But this group were all either self-published or wannabe authors. And they wanted to know how we got into print. You could sense the publishing hunger in the room.
We told the group that ours was a long learning path during which we were knocked back by several agents, and we eventually considered self-publishing.
Before taking the plunge, we took advice from a number of people in the industry, and the over-riding message was that we needed a professional editor before we did anything else.
Sue and I have written all our lives, but our work has generally been for newspapers and magazines, and the style of writing is completely different to that found in a novel.
And as with any editing – if you’ve written a piece, you generally don’t spot your own typos, spelling mistakes and word repetitions. And you also might think your writing is totally brilliant and doesn’t need correcting or changing. If only …
We were lucky in finding Kate Foster, an editor who had moved from London to set up in business in Australia. What we didn’t know at the time was that Kate was establishing a publishing company – Lakewater Press – and when she’d read our sample chapters, she asked if we’d consider letting her publish the book. Would we…?
Then the fun began – and it opened up a world that neither Sue nor I had known much about: the blogosphere.
Previously, marketing and PR meant sending press releases to the regional media. But a local newspaper is now only a small part of marketing when compared to the thousands of recipients you can attract via social media. It means networking with bloggers, reviewers and other authors on Twitter and Facebook.
And we entered a world of cover reveals and blog tours, we met bloggers whose aim was to review and promote books… books… and more books, and we listened – via social media – to advice and new ideas from dozens of writers who were also finding out about this exciting new way of promoting their work.
‘You need to start at least two years before your book comes out,’ Sue told our Kendal audience. Their reaction was one of dismay.
‘Yes,’ said Sue. ‘It’s hard work. But the harder you work, the luckier you get.’
While in the Lakes, we met up with the lovely Eileen Jones – who I first met when we both worked for the Yorkshire Post. Sue and I had also visited Eileen last year when we were invited to talk to her book club in Brathay, near Ambleside.
Eileen now runs her own PR company, @CumbriaPR on Twitter, and writes theatre reviews on her website Stagey Lady.
Another recent book talk took us to East Morton where we were guests of the local WI. They’d been let down at the last minute by another speaker so we stepped in (we’re not too proud to be a last minute alternative). And we had a fun night that included lots of tea and cake. What’s not to like about the WI?
Talks coming up in the next few weeks include more libraries, book groups and a Leeds’ coffee club.
Our next Meet the Author event is at Menston Library (near Ilkley) this Saturday (April 21) at 10.30am. If you’re in the vicinity, please come along.