How Storytelling Can Help You Understand Your Customers

How well do you know your customers? You may have some idea – you know the demographic you’re looking to reach or where they life. But do you really know them on an intimate? In this week’s blog, I’m going to show you how authors develop their characters, and how you can be inspired by their techniques to create content that really speaks to those customers.

Authors know everything about their characters. They don’t include all those details in their stories, but they know about every aspects of their characters’ lives. That’s what helps them create a character that’s realistic and believable as a human being. They create a character sketch of their characters. It’s like a profile, a life story of a character created using various headings.

For you as a business owner, a character sketch is a great way to get to know your customers. You’d create a character sketch based on a particular customer who represents your target market. They could be a real person or someone you’d make up. The idea is that you can visualise this customer every time you write content and you can write your content for them. This allows you to create content with a friendly, intimate tone, helping your customers to feel like you’re a wise friend who understands your problems and can help them improve their lives.

So, how do you create a character sketch?

Basic Character Details

Let’s start with the basics. Give them a name and age. You can just choose a random name, but giving your customer a name makes it easier for you to imagine them as a person. Knowing their age is very useful. It helps you imagine them as a person. You can call them by that name when you’re writing your content and that’ll help you imagine you’re addressing what you say to them.

Here’s Maurice Murgatroyd, the star of my content creation course. I ask participants to practise their character creation skills on him. The results are interesting.

This is a charcoal type sketch of an old, grumpy looking mad with a pointy beard and a long face. He’s bald with spots on his head.

Another good way of visualising your customer is to find a profile picture of a person that represents your customer. You can download a stock picture from the internet and stick that photo up on a wall so you can see the customer in your mind when you’re writing your content. Or you can add a picture to the written details on your customer profile.

Life Details

This section of the character sketch is about a customer’s life circumstances. These are the circumstances that help shape their purchasing behaviour. Knowing their educational background and job will give you an idea of the income they have available to spend. Their family circumstances will determine what products and services they’ll buy. People with children will want to buy family-friendly products, while single people may want to buy high-end products to treat themselves with. Even a customer’s hobbies will shape their buying habits, as they’ll need to buy products that help them take part in their hobby.

Buying Habits

There are a few ingredients that will differentiate your character sketch from an author’s one. Where authors will identify their character’s secret power, or secret from their past, you’re identifying their purchasing power, or the ways they decide to purchase. One of the ways that people decide on their purchases is through the media. Increasingly, this means social media. If you know what media your target audience consumes, you can follow them onto those media platforms and communicate with them there. If you know where they shop, you know what types of shops they favour and what they buy when they’re in those shops. You can then appeal to customers whose consumer habits match the types of offerings you have.

Solving Their Problems

Your customers are coming to you because they have a problem they hope you can solve. This needn’t be a big problem. It could just be something they’re missing, a need that isn’t being met. The most important part of your character sketch is the section about the problem your customer would like solved. If you know what that problem is, you can create content that shows them how you solve that problem. They’ll then trust you to solve that problem, and they’ll buy from you.

How Character Sketches Help You Reach Your Customers

So, what’s the benefit of doing this character sketch? The isn’t a tangible result as such, but there is a result just the same. The character sketch helps you keep focused on your customers’ needs when you’re creating your content. When customers are reading your content, you want them to feel that they’re sitting across the table, having a coffee with you, and you understand where they’re coming from. And with that content, you can show them that they can trust you to help them improve their lives.

If you like the idea of character-driven content and you’d like me to help you create some, please give me (Derbhile) a call on 0876959799.

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Why Writing Is Like The Salmon Season

When salmon are breeding, they must travel thousands of miles to their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea. The journey is arduous, and along the way, thousands of salmon fall away. Only the strongest make it to the Sargasso Sea.

Salmon Season
Writing a book is like the salmon’s journey to the Sargasso Sea, long and brutal.

The process of becoming a published writer is a lot like that. It’s a long process and it can be brutal, and there are a lot of hurdles to be jumped.

First, you have to actually start the book. How often have you been at social gatherings and heard people say, ‘I’d love to write a book?’ For many people, the desire to write a book has never gone beyond idle conversation. So if you commit to putting pen to paper, you’re already ahead of the game.

But the writing of the book can be overwhelming for people. It’s easy to get bogged down in your story, with its many plot twists and its cast of character. And some people never make it out of that maze. They abandon their book halfway through.

When you do finish your book, it’s quite right that you should congratulate yourself. But your journey is not over yet. Now it’s time to find an audience for your book. And the main way to achieve it is through publishing. Whether you self-publish or look for a traditional publisher, publishing is tough.

If you self-publish, all the work of a publisher falls to you – publishing, cover design, editing, printing and promotion. And finding a traditional publisher can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. This is the stage that really separates the minnows from the big fish. It involves at least as much work as the actual writing of the book, if not more. If you get through it, the rewards can be great.

But your work isn’t over. If you really want to establish yourself as a writer, you have to make the journey again and again. Each book will be a new journey, but if you have the inventiveness to keep coming up with new ideas and the faith to act on them, you’ll truly establish yourself as an author – and you may even make a living from it.

So what are the qualities that will get you through these hurdles to the Sargasso Sea that is the life of a published author? I believe there is a holy trinity of qualities – talent, hunger and discipline. If you display those qualities, they’ll help you over those hurdles. And in the end, it’s what you want that matters. Maybe the simple writing of the book is enough for you. Or maybe your writing ambitions simply lie elsewhere.

Whatever route you choose to reach the Sargasso Sea of publishing, good luck. If you have reached it, what qualities or resources helped you on your journey?

Is Self Publishing for Everyone?

A self published author I know, a lively, go-getting character, posted on a Facebook I run about how fed up he is with the stigma around self publishing. He was published by a traditional publisher, but found he sold far more copies as a self published author. Yet he felt that self published authors like him were looked down upon for not being with an established publisher. Several self published authors then shared their positive experience of self publishing, and the general feeling was that self publishing was now a force to be reckoned with and snobbery should be set aside.

I would certainly agree with that. I self published copies of my novel after the publisher I had stopped printing copies. I did enjoy the control that came with self publishing, but I’ll still be trying for an established publisher next time. I still nurture fantasies of lunch with my editor in a swanky restaurant.


editor lunch
Toasting success with a future editor.

I regularly recommend self publishing as an option at my creative writing workshops. But I also believe it’s not for everyone. Here are three instances when I believe self publishing is not a good idea.

If you write literary fiction

I read an article in The Guardian which said that self publishing worked for most genres –  except delicate literary fiction. The trouble with literary fiction is that it’s quiet and understated, and needs the gentle push of  a publisher to make its voice heard. Also, unlike other genres, it doesn’t follow strict rules, so you’re creating each book from scratch. This takes up a lot of headspace. If that headspace is taken up with worries about how you’re going to get your book out, it will affect the quality of the work. Using an established publisher at least takes that concern away.

If selling gives you the shivers

Some authors are naturally quite commercially minded, and those authors tend to make very successful self publishers. As I said, you need to be able to shout loudly to be heard as a self published author. Some authors have neither the personality or the inclination needed to do that shouting. You do have to do your own publicity when you have an established publisher as well, but at least they will do the basics for you, and this gives you a leg up.

If you don’t have a specific audience

Self publishing works really well if you are writing for a defined audience. You can learn who that audience is, what they want and how to deliver it to them. You can narrow your focus and tailor your sales approach to that audience. If you write books that are very general, it will be hard for you to find people to target, and to compete with authors who know what readers they want to reach. Having an established publisher behind you gives you a platform to reach a wider audience, and from that experience, you may discover which readers favour your book.

What do you think? Is self publishing a go-to for every author? Or are there authors whose work is more suited to an established publishing model?

What Is A Big Picture Edit?

Last week, I did what I call a big picture edit for a client who wanted two short stories evaluated. Big picture edit is the writerly term that I like to put on it, but officially this kind of editing is called developmental editing. Developmental editors differ from proofreaders and copy editors because rather than zero in on spelling, grammar and other details, they look at the whole story. They give in-depth evaluations of the overall story, the bits that work and the bits that don’t. Authors can then use their feedback to drive the story forward.

Developmental editors will help you develop your story.
Developmental editors will help you develop your story.

What aspects of a story do developmental editors look at?

Storytelling Techniques: Developmental editors focus on authors use the building blocks of story: character and how they interact, settling and plot. They will tell you whether the point of view you have used for your story is convincing, whether your dialogue sounds natural and what you can do to give your story momentum. For example, I may tell an author that there needs to be more conflict in their character interactions, or that the story needs a defining event to make it more interesting for readers.

Technical Points: When I do a developmental edit, I don’t correct spelling, grammar or sentence structure, but I do highlight consistent errors that need to be corrected. They will also advise on layout issues, such as the correct way to lay out dialogue. I will comment on how effectively the author uses language overall and flag up instances where authors over-rely on certain words, or choose words that aren’t appropriate to the context of the sentence.

When should I go for a developmental edit?

It is not a good idea to go for a developmental edit until you have at least edited your first draft yourself. Any earlier than that and the editor’s input may interfere too much with the development of the story. There are two reasons to use a developmental editor. One is if you feel you’ve done all you can with the story, but it’s still lacking, and you want to know how to take it to the next level. The other is if you want to assess whether your story is ready for publication or not.

What are the benefits of a developmental edit??

A lot of authors use a team of “beta readers,” who read the manuscript and give their feedback. This is certainly useful, but the problem is that a lot of the time, these beta readers are known to the authors. A developmental editor will give you a totally unbiased opinion. This is particularly useful if you’re not part of a writing community and the only person who’s seen the manuscript is yourself. The developmental editor will also have a lot of professional expertise which the beta reader may not have, and your story will benefit from that expertise. Using a developmental editor will ensure that your precious story is ready to go out into the world.

Have you ever used a developmental editing or critiquing service? How useful did you find it? Do you offer these services yourself? If so, how do you approach it?

Make Space for Writing in 2015

This is a time of year when we’re filled with hope that we’ll achieve great things. Writing a book is up there on that list of great ambitions, and for many people, making a start. It’s pretty daunting when you’re standing at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at the peaks you’ll need to scale.

A couple of years ago, I created a service to help these budding authors reach the top of that mountain. It’s called The Writing Space and it’s based on the idea that taking the time out to figure out what you want to write is the first vital step on that journey up the mountain. It offers a map that will guide them up the mountain, with easy steps to follow, so they can break the journey down into bitesize chunks.

Put in practical terms, The Writing Space is a coaching service that helps people crystallise the idea that’s been germinating at the back of their minds, and gives them a structure that will help them put a shape to their ideas and finish their book.

The Writing Space is aimed at people who want to write a novel, a collection of short stories or a memoir. There are two types of people that it particularly suits.

  • People who have always wanted to write a book, but find it hard to narrow themselves down to one idea.
  • People who have a very specific idea for a book and need help expanding that idea to fit it into book form.

These people may never have written in their lives, or may already have started the book, but find themselves stuck at an impasse and need help continuing.

The Coaching Session

I organise one-hour coaching sessions with these potential authors, where we discuss their ideas and how to bring them to fruition. We start with why they want to write. It is that why, that passion, that will help push them forward during the tough climb that lies ahead. We also discuss their potential audience, who the book is aimed at, and what category of writing it would fit into. If people don’t have a specific idea yet, we discuss topics that could be mined for book ideas – their passions, areas of expertise and important life events.

Outcomes of the Session

Based on what we discuss, I will then give recommendations on how they can move forward. I will give advice on structure and how to divide ideas into chapters. I will give feedback on the form their book will take, whether it should be a novel or a memoir. I will also point them towards resources which will be helpful to them in writing their book, such as websites, how-to guides and courses.

I will summarise the points discussed in our session in a report, which will also include the recommendations I have given. For non-fiction works, I will suggest a potential chapter structure, which will outline the topics that will be covered in each chapter. For fictional works, I will give suggestions regardingcharacterisation, plot, setting and point of view. If the person hasn’t written before, I will suggest topics for them to write about and exercises that will help them get started.

In many people’s minds, coaching and consultancy can seem beyond the reach of their budget. If people want to avail of expert advice but are constrained by budget, they can avail of the coaching session only, as it will still give them the tools they need to scale the mountain. Also, The Writing Space gives people the chance to get one to one attention from a professional writer, and I aim to ensure that they’ll feel the investment was worth it.

Would you find a service like this useful? Have you ever availed of such a service?

Inside the Mind of a Writing Competition Judge

I received a notice recently, letting me know about a local short story competition that was taking place. Around the same time last year, the organisers of that competition rang me to ask if I would judge it. A chance to read stories? I certainly wasn’t going to turn that down.

It was my second time judging a competition; the first one was in association with a local radio programme. When judges announce the winners of competitions, they always start by saying what a close run thing it was. From my experiences, this isn’t strictly true. In both cases, I knew who the winner was straight away.

Here are the ingredients that I believe winning stories have, and they also apply to other writing forms.

  • Know Your Form

Most competitions cater to a specific form of writing: poems, short stories, plays. If you want to reach the final stages, your entry must show an understanding of the conventions of the form you have chosen. For example, a short story must be a complete story in itself, based on a central event. I disqualified stories which read like the start of a novel, or an extended character sketch, even though they were very promising.

  • Don’t reveal too much

You do need to get on with telling a story, but the most rewarding stories I judged were the ones that didn’t spell everything out, the ones that made you work a little bit to grasp their message. Stories like this have a greater emotional impact, and linger in the mind for longer. They also show great writing skill, as the author uses images and dialogue to make their point.

  • Knowledge of Techniques

Winning pieces of writing demonstrate a knowledge of the techniques of good writing. For example, a winning short story will demonstrate the writer’s knowledge of characterisation, plot and setting. What’s more, the techniques don’t dominate the story; they’re woven into it with a lightness of touch which means the reader is barely aware they’re being used.

  • And above all … passion

You can use all the fancy techniques you like, but it’s the passion you feel for your story or poem that will help it rise to the top. Telling a story with passion makes it memorable, and that’s to your advantage when a judge is wading through dozens of entries. And when it comes down to the wire, passion will give your story the edge. When I was deciding between two stories, I eventually chose the ones which haunted me, which made me think long after I’d put them down. A passionate story or poem resonates with readers, so don’t be afraid to take emotional risks with your writing – it will reap rewards.

These are my two cents worth. What do you think makes a winning piece of writing? Did you ever judge a writing competition and what did you look for? And if you entered a competition and got feedback, what insight did that feedback give you about what the judges were looking for?

Editing an Anthology

At the moment, I have some precious items in my hands (or strictly speaking in my hard drive). Some of these items have been a long time in the making, and they have a value beyond words, so I must be sure to treat them with care. They’re tie writings of Tramore Writers’ Group in Co. Waterford, who are in the process of compiling an anthology.

Most of the group are veterans of anthologies. They’ve produced two already – Ferry Tales and Tramore Tales. But in a departure from their previous anthologies, this anthology will be a mixture of poetry and prose. I’m delighted that the group has asked me to edit the anthology.

When I met the group to outline my proofreading process, they were knee deep in words and slightly overwhelmed by the task at hand. Aiming to lift a little of the mist from their eyes, I told them that I would straighten out their spelling and grammar, using the dreaded Track Marks function, the electronic equivalent with the red pen. I would do two proofreads and help them decide on the order of the pieces.

1st. Proofread

I’ve just done the first proofread. In this proofread, I’m familiarising myself with the authors’ work, the quirks of their writing, their strengths and the errors they’re most prone to. Each author will get a track-marked version of their documents, with the corrections indicated so they can see where the corrections were made, and a clean document with the corrections incorporated.They can work off this to do a final edit of their work. With each submission, I’ll send some editorial suggestions, with advice about ways to strengthen the work before the final proofread.

2nd Proofread

At this stage, I’ll just clean up minor spelling and grammar errors. More crucially, I’ll decide what order the pieces will appear in. I can choose to order them by:

  • Theme – if some of the pieces have a common thread in terms of subject matter.
  • Mood – the atmosphere of the pieces. For example, I’ll follow reflective, moving pieces with more light-hearted ones.
  • Form – I’ll measure the ratio of stories to poems and ensure there’s a good balance, so readers don’t feel they’re wading throught he material.
  • Alphabetical Order – I’ll simply order them according to the author names.

In reality, I’ll probably opt for a mixture of order and form.

Why I’m Doing It

I’m hoping that my outside perspective will be useful, as the members are familiar with each other and their work and may not spot errors such as repetition, over description and misuse of punctuation. I’ve been a little rigorous with my editorial suggestions, because I want to make sure the pieces are in the best possible condition for publishing. Above all, I need to be clued into whether the author is making a grammatical error, or just has a quirky way of wording their sentences. I will make sure I wield a scalpel rather than a chainsaw.

5 Kick-Ass Writing Blogs

There are zillions and zillions of blogs out there about writing. It can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. But over the past few months, I’ve isolated a few that are entertaining and informative, and that meet needs you never knew you had, which is exactly what a good blog should do.

I’m sharing five of them with you in this post and I’ve aimed to include a couple you mightn’t have come across before. Apologies to my international readers for the Irish bias, but I’m confident these blogs will have universal appeal. They share certain ingredients in common: a generous spirit, readability and useful information. Happy reading.

  1. Women Rule Writer, Nuala Ni Chonchuir

For information about writing events

Writer Nuala Ni Chonchuir tirelessly promotes a variety of writing events in her blog, which gives valuable promotional opportunities to other writers and valuable information to her readers. This has helped her build a strong following in the writing community, which she can then use to promote her own fine publications.

  1. Catherine, Caffeinated, Catherine Ryan Howard

For advice on self publishing

This blog is a no holds barred look at the reality of self publishing. It’s packed with hard-won nuggets of advice from a self-published author who is at the coalface of self publishing and has decided to share her experience for the benefit of others. It’s brutally honest, full of biting humour, and bound to make self publishing a lot easier for budding indie authors who need Catherine’s advice.

  1. Carmel Harrington’s Blog

For a masterclass in subtle self promotion

It’s quite an art form to be able to promote yourself without being in your face, but Carmel Harrington makes it look effortless in her blog. She chats about her writing process and about the challenge of combining writing with motherhood in a warm, friendly tone, shot through with flashes of humour. Carmel is also generous to other writers, hosting a guest blog every Wednesday.

  1. Isabel Costello, On the Literary Sofa

For incisive book reviews

If you like to read books with a bit of meat, you’ll get plenty of reading ideas from Isabel Costello’s blog. She writes book reviews with all the rigour that you’d associate with a traditional newspaper critic. She also has a knack for spotting the upcoming books that will be on everyone’s reading lists in the coming months.

  1. Tara Sparling Writes

For a touch of inventiveness

Any blog which gives a retrospective on the top reads of 2014 during the first week of January deserves a second look. Tara Sparling does just that. Her writing is full of playful humour, but she also has a sharp eye to the latest book trends and is happy to share her insights with readers.

What writing blogs do you think readers should know about? They can be Irish or international.

Interactive Book Launches

It’s a new year and my blog is back. In keeping with the stormy climate in Ireland, I’ve allowed myself to be deluged by work. But now I’ve emerged from the avalanche and I’m raring to go with a whole new year of blogs in 2014.

But for this blog post, I’m going to look back a bit, to some book launches I went to in 2013. Going to these book launches made me realise that the days of drinking warm wine and listening to a couple of desultory speeches are over. Book launches have become full blown interactive events that offer real entertainment to people in exchange for them buying and supporting the book.

The other notable thing is that even if an author is represented by a traditional publishing house, they don’t leave the organisation up to their publisher any more. They organise the food, the drink and the venue. In every sense, they are the hosts of the event.

I’ll give you a run-down of the launches I went to, to give you an insight into the inventive ways that authors are holding their launches.

  1. Escape from Eire, Jennylynd James

Trinidad native Jennylynd James launched her memoir depicting her seven years in Ireland at a bookshop in Waterford. As well as reading from her book, she displayed photographs on her laptop that acted as a perfect counterpoint to the passages she read. She also showed videos from television appearances she made during her time in Ireland. These interactive elements brought her book to life.

  1. The Priest’s Wife, PJ Connolly

I wandered along to the Irish Writer’s Centre in Dublin about 15 minutes after the start time for PJ Connolly’s launch, expecting to find the usual crowds milling around waiting for the speeches. Instead, I found an accomplished MC giving a speech. After that, there were readings interspersed with music provided by a brilliant young violinist. Cleverly, the author had decided to allow three other people to read from his work, to vary the voices. A truly classy event.

  1. Dry Tears, Matty Tamen

Again, there was plenty on offer for the audience the launch of Matty Tamen’s poetry collection at a Waterford hotel. There was a slideshow of pictures and a guitarist played soft music as people took their seats and between readings. Again, the author asked other people to read his poems and to speak about the themes of the book. It held the attention of a crowd which included quite a lot of children.

  1. Virtual Book Launches

Virtual book launches, which take place only on social media websites, are on the rise. I went to two, one organised by Lorna Sixsmith for her book Would You Marry a Farmer, and the second organised by Carmel Harrington for her book Beyond Grace’s Rainbow. For people familiar with Facebook, you are invited to the launch in the same way as you would be invited to an event.

Virtual book launches give great scope to self published authors with limited budgets. The launches featured hourly giveaways, lively interactive discussions and nuggets of info about the book. The other good thing about them was that they lasted for longer than a traditional launch would, giving you a bigger shop window.

I have to say, going to those launches made me wish I could have done my own launch all over again. Have you noticed these trends at the book launches you’ve been to?

Author Interview: Lorna Sixsmith, Would You Marry a Farmer

Lorna Sixsmith is known in Irish social media circles for being a blogger extraordinaire. Her blog posts regularly receive thousands of hits. What you mightn’t know is that Lorna’s roots lie in literature – she was an English teacher for many years. This year, she decided to return to those roots and write a book. She was inspired to write Would You Marry a Farmer when one of her blog posts went viral, and she’s hoping her blogging magic will work just as well for her book.

I’m delighted to be part of Lorna Sixsmith’s blog tour. Because I give advice to other writers about publishing, I thought I’d focus my interview on the interesting route Lorna took to publishing her book. I genuinely think it’s a viable option for other writers who want their book to see the light of day.







Lorna spared a few minutes to chat to me about her path to publication.

Lorna, let’s start at the beginning. Where did the germ of the idea for this book come from?

I had always planned on trying to write a book and wrote 40,000 words for a novel about two years ago but never had the time or the confidence to go back to it. The idea for this book came from a blog post I wrote in September 2012 entitled ‘Advice to those considering marrying a farmer’ – a tongue in cheek look at what farmers’ wives might expect.  It was always popular but when it went viral one week, I wondered if there would be similar interest in a book that covered that topic.

You’re used to writing blogs – how did you rise to the challenge of writing a full length book?

It was a challenge but having a deadline was wonderful. I can achieve almost anything if I have a deadline but could procrastinate for ages otherwise. I had a relatively short time to write it too – I wrote 10,000 words back in April but the rest was written and edited in three months. The book is divided into sections and subsections and I I faced writer’s block (partly from lack of inspiration or more so from feeling overwhelmed), I just told myself it was like a blog post and was then able to tap away at the keys until that section was completed. The blog posts I write can be anything from 400-2000 words on a normal day, so 2000 words for a section was then very achievable.

What made you choose to self publish that book rather than approach a traditional publisher?

Lack of patience I think.  Once I had decided to write a book, I wanted to get it out there. I knew the traditional route could take two years or even longer, , even if I managed to get an agent and a publisher this year.  More and more people are self publishing now too, some because they see it as the route to being discovered by a publisher, others because they have gone down the publishing route and have decided they would prefer to do it themselves.  Others prefer to keep control over their own project and I have to admit there was a little of that in my reasoning too.  Traditional publishing does add more kudos to a book but once I had made up my mind, I wanted to see it through and complete it by year end. I have another book in mind for 2014!

How did you hit on the idea of crowdfunding the book?

I had heard of crowdfunding but had never thought of it for my own project until I attended a social media conference in Wales in June. I heard a presentation about a successful crowd funding campaign for a film documentary and as I hadn’t progressed beyond 10,000 words at that stage, a little light bulb went off.

What methods did you use to reach your target?

I created rewards that centred on the book and the majority of the pledgers opted for the €15, €25 and €45 options for pre-ordering the book.  Some pledged for a social media course at We Teach Social (Lorna’s social-media training business) and some businesses were happy to increase their pledge to €100 for the 5 books and the banner advertisement on my website. These larger amounts were hugely significant in helping me reach my target.

Social media was crucial to the success too – I used blogging, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.  Twitter was the most successful tool with over half of the pledges coming from twitter followers from all over the world. The social media activity also helped in getting press coverage in local and national newspapers too.

What obstacles did you encounter during your crowdfunding experience and how did you overcome them?

I didn’t encounter many obstacles as such. There was a lull in the middle which worried me but apparently that lull is perfectly normal. In hindsight, I should have told all my contacts about the campaign before it went live and then sent another email when it was live. I didn’t do that and was left wondering if people had seen it and were ignoring it or if they were putting the pledge on the long finger or perhaps they hadn’t seen it.

Would you recommend crowdfunding as an option to other self published authors?

Yes I would, but I would advise having a significant following on social media in advance.  Very few people will pledge from an ‘offline’ mention, they need to see the link online to follow it. Apart from the comfort of knowing that a significant portion of your printing and publishing costs have been covered, it is great publicity for the book before it hits the shelves.  I found that pledgers were naturally excited about the book too. They feel they have travelled the journey with me.  I recently received an email requesting my address for a book that I funded back in May – I’m looking forward to seeing that book and knowing I was a small part of it coming about.  If it doesn’t succeed, it doesn’t mean the book will fail but perhaps it might need tweaking before it is self published.

You hired a professional illustrator and editor for your book. What difference do you think investing in professional services makes to a self published book?

I really wanted to have illustrations throughout the book and knew I would need about twenty in total. I felt they would really add to the humour of the text as well as breaking up the black text.  It was a cost but I feel it really added to the production values of the book. I also decided to opt for a hard cover – I would like it to be a ‘fun coffee table book’ that people either read in its entirety or dip in and out of.


I think it must be very difficult for writers to edit their own book – you see what you think is there, not necessarily what is written. My husband was excellent at pointing out errors and while I had a few beta readers, nothing could equal the suggestions and subtle changes made by my editor (that’s me – coughs). Even before we got to the edit stage, it was comforting to be able to send the editor a good draft of three sections to receive her feedback and take that into consideration before I submitted it for the final edit.

How do you think your social media profile stood to you in your fundraising and promotion of the book?

It has been essential.  The crowdfunding would not have succeeded but for my social media profile and my membership of various online and business communities. Even being an organiser of the KLCK Bloggers Network and Blog Awards Ireland helped in terms of getting pledges. One journalist contacted me and wrote a piece in a national newspapers because she read about the crowdfunding campaign on my blog.

This virtual book tour will also help me to reach potential readers of my book who might not otherwise have heard of it. It’s about building brand awareness too before people will necessarily click the ‘buy now’ button.  I wrote a blog post a week ago entitled ‘Ten reasons to marry a farmer’. It received 50,000 views in the week with most of the traffic coming from shares on Facebook. Irish Central have reposted my post on their site and it has received significant shares and comments on Facebook too. The huge traffic hasn’t resulted in comparable sales but it all adds to brand awareness. People came to read a blog post, not to buy a book but a fraction may return.

Many of my purchasers in the last week have been via twitter too. However, it’s not just about social media. It is important to get coverage in traditional media too such as radio and print. Hopefully more of that will be happening over the coming weeks.

Overall, what advice would you give to people who are choosing to go down the self publishing route, to avoid pitfalls and maximise their chances of success?

Ensure it is a relatively popular topic if you are going to the expense of printing your book. Test the market with a Crowdfunding campaign or know that you have a substantial following on social media.

–        Write a blog, set up a Facebook page and a twitter account. These are essential tools now for self publishing authors.

–        Write the best book you possibly can so that your followers will act as your ambassadors and spread the word for you.

–        Invest in an editor and an illustrator for your front cover.

–        Foster relationships with key influencers and journalists.

Click here to buy Lorna’s book.

Tomorrow, the book tour stops at Thursday Muddy Matches by Heather, a blog full of ideas for rural-themed events for British singles