Saturday 27 June 2015

Why Blog?

A Blog is a Vital Extension to your Business Card

This weekend the Leicester Writes - Festival of New Writing is taking place. Most of the talks are at the Phoenix Arts Centre with some at the LCB Depot. I will be on a panel tomorrow afternoon talking about the use of social media. It is at the LCB Depot if you're thinking of coming along. In case you can't get there, the following is some of what I will be talking about:

I first began blogging in November 2009. I had attended a session at the Leicester Adult Education College and the advice was that every new writer should start a blog and get a Twitter account. The blog must be kept up to date with regular posts that are lively and interesting and you should tweet with other like-minded people promoting your blog posts as you go. So that is what I did.

When you first start blogging it's hard to know what to write and what style to adopt. (These days I never have to think. I just write!) The month after I set up my blog I saw an online challenge. It offered to advertise my site in return for me blogging about a local independent bookshop. I took up the challenge. I blogged about The Reading Shop, our very own independent children's bookshop in Oadby, and that's how I first got talking with the owner and now also my publisher, Lynn Moore. You can read that blog post here.

Not long after this, Lynn was approached by a publisher asking if she knew any local writers who could write history for children. Thanks to the blog post that I'd written and the discussion that we had, she knew that this was the job for me and put my name forward. I received the commission to write The Children's History of Leicester.

By this time I had built up a group of online friends who visit my blog regularly and I also had quite a following on Twitter. I blogged about the book. I tweeted about the book and they retweeted.

My friendship with Lynn developed and when Richard III's body was discovered under the car park in Leicester she asked me if I would be writing about it. I said I would but when my publisher said they couldn't commit to such a book Lynn stepped in with the awesome line, "If they won't pay to get it published, then I will!" And she did.

Part of Alice Povey's illustration of the Battle of Bosworth
This was new territory for both of us but I didn't have to worry because there's every kind of advice any writer can ever ask for in the blogging world. Bloggers are amazingly generous, supportive and knowledgeable.

We needed an illustrator and, if it had not been for Twitter, I would never have heard about Alice Povey. Alice's mother tweets under the name @Richard1483. She is even more obsessed with Richard III than I am and that was how we got to follow each other on Twitter. I admired the art work on her blog and she told me about her daughter, Alice, who went on to illustrate my Children's Book of Richard III.

None of this would have happened without my blog and Twitter. I am now researching for my Children's Book of the Crystal Palace and, although the contact was made when I was doing a book signing and wasn't directly due to my Internet presence, people from the Friends of the Crystal Palace were able to check me out and look at my work by visiting my blog. This is why my blog has become a vital extension to my business card.

Do share your story in the comments below if your blog or Twitter account has directly created a publishing opportunity for you.