Friday, 28 February 2014

Wearing Two Hats at The Same Time

lynne garner author visit
I was recently contacted by a teacher who had set hedgehogs as the theme for a class project. She asked if I could visit the children and talk to them about hedgehogs and the volunteer work I do rescuing them.  I suggested as part of my visit I also put my author hat on and read my picture book 'A Book For Bramble.'

As I spoke to the children I was amazed at the number of facts they already knew. These included:
  • They are nocturnal
  • Their main defence is to roll into a ball
  • They eat slugs, snails, caterpillars, bugs etc. but you can also feed them hedgehog food or cat/dog food
  • It's good to leave water out for them during hot weather 
  • There are different types of hedgehogs
  • Hedgehogs are quite good swimmers
  • A hedgehog can run up to 4 miles per hour (although I know they are fast, as I've had to chase escapees, I didn't know it was that fast)
Although I enjoyed the visit what arrived in the post really made the visit special, an envelope containing hedgehog themed thank you cards. These cards will go onto the hedgehog shed wall but before this happens I wanted to share them.

The hedgehog themed thank you cards kindly sent to me after my school visit
Hedgehogs galore!

More hedgehogs plus a little mouse called Teasel
I hope you've enjoyed seeing these images. 

Note to teachers:

If you're a teacher about to cover the theme of hedgehogs and would like me to visit please click on the 'support us' button for more details.


Sadly many hedgehogs may have died in the floods this year, so those that have survived will need our help more than ever. So if you have a hedgehog who visits your garden then you may wish to supply it with a new home or perhaps leave some food out. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Picture Books Aren't Just For Kids

When working on a new picture book I'm not just writing it for children, I'm writing it for a list of people. This list consists of:
  • Commissioning editor
  • Marketing department
  • Bookseller
  • Purchaser

That is a lot of people to get my book passed before it lands in front of the eyes of a child. I therefore have to ensure my story fulfils the criteria each one of the above has. I therefore  have to consider many different things as I work on a new title. These are: 
For the commissioning editor I have to try and produce a story that is often character led. So I need a strong character that has to overcome a conflict or one that 'grows.' This means I have to have a plot with a strong start, an interesting middle and a satisfying end. Editors often like a lesson to be learnt, even if this is subtle as in my picture book 'Dog Did It' where the message is not to blame others for your own actions.

The marketing department are looking for a book that can be sold globally and will sell year round. This is why some publishers prefer animals as main characters because they can cross most borders. The marketing department also wants a book that will sell well to a parent or grandparent but also someone buying for an institution such as a school or library. Lastly they want a book that has something they can use to help sell the title for example it has a clever twist to the ending as in 'Tadpoles Promise' written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Tony Ross.  

A bookseller has similar needs to the marketing department. They want a book they can place on their shelves and sell itself. This is why humour often works well. If the adult who picks up the book smiles as they are reading it they are more likely to buy it. A bookseller not only needs a book that looks good but also one a child will want read to them time and again. 

Although a picture book is aimed a children it is an adult who purchases it. They are not just looking for value for money but also something they won't mind reading 10, 20, 30 or more times.

So next time you pick up a picture book remember it's been written with you in mind, not just the child you'll be reading it to. 

I have three new distance learning courses commencing soon via Women On Writing:

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Seven Tips For Improving the SEO of Your Blog

Just so I can tick I've followed tip four
Just so I can tick I've followed tip four
Those of us who blog do so for different reasons. Some just for the pleasure of it, some to increase our exposure, some to build our USP and others like myself for all of the above. Now over the last couple of months my partner and I have started a little sideline (building websites that sell product). Part of our marketing strategy is to blog about the subject and sometimes the product we're selling. As I'm the writer the blogging has fallen firmly in my lap. This has meant a steep learning curve because for the first time this SEO stuff if quite important.

Now whilst I was trying to decide what to blog about this month I decided what I've learned might be of interest to fellow self-published authors. So here's what I've discovered.

Tip one: sub-headings

You should try and include sub-headings in your blog post. These are included by clicking on the box labelled 'normal' and choosing sub-heading. In Wordpress it's 'Heading 2.' I don't 100% understand the logic but apparently it's something to do with how the Internet and how SEO works. Also it helps the reader following your text, as people like small chunks.

Tip two: word count

Word count should be more than 300. This apparently is the ideal length for the modern reader and gives those algorithms looking for good content something to work with.

Tip three: external links

Where ever possible you should try to include some external links. So as I'm trying to follow my own tips I've added some of these at the bottom of this post - they are a blatant plug for my new venture but at least at the bottom you can just ignore.

Tip four: images

Include an image or two and make sure they have captions plus ensure you also fill in the alt tag. This is done by clicking on the image and choosing 'properties.' Then fill in the alt tag space with some relevant text.

Tip five: focus word

Pick a focus word and use it in your title (near to the beginning of the title if you can) and a few times in your post. Do try not to use it just for the sake of it. In Wordpress you can set this in the SEO section at the bottom of the page.

Tip six: title

The title length in search engines is limited to 70 characters so try to keep under 70. Also try to pick a title that will catch peoples interest. For example top tips, how to, discover the secret etc. etc. 

Tip seven: labels or tags 

People place terms and words into their chosen search engine to find information related to the subject they are interested in. So pick appropriate tags or labels for your blog post and ensure you include these in the relevant box. 
I hope this has been of some help to those who blog and want to make their blog posts more SEO friendly.


P.S. As I need to include some external links here is a link to one of my e-courses
How to Write a Picture Book