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When Grandma’s Poetry Book was published by Matador in November, I must have been the greenest, most self-absorbed, self-published author on the planet. So I had a website www.dicastle.co.uk and my book was listed on the Troubador site. I had paid for basic marketing packages on both paperback and ebook and I just thought …..

It would all happen …………..

Ha ha, big joke. Briefly, I mused how much better it would have been if I could have secured an agent or a publisher. Then it would have been so easy. They would have done it all wouldn’t they?

Well …. actually no, that is not the case. Even mainstream traditional publishing houses cannot give close attention to every book they publish and it is up to authors to do their own promotion and to ‘get out there’ and sell books.

So there I am last October with some books delivered to me and some waiting in the publisher’s warehouse. I have a website and I do twitter much to the amazement, scepticism even abject horror of my friends. I actually have about 150 followers at the time but I don’t understand hashtags, other author posts with weird abbreviations and I have never seen a DM – isn’t that something to do with being tied up? Well I had some when I was hacked about two years before. To my horror ‘porn’ messages purportedly from me went to my followers but thanks to posting an apology and explanation, several twitter acquaintances helped me out. Change your password, ignore it, get on with life. Yay, thanks all!

In October 2014 I do have a Facebook page with about 100 friends and a writer page with about thirty likes. I have tried getting on LinkedIn without success. I think I am quite a wily bird until I look at the number of followers some authors have – whaaaaat! How do they do that?

I am fortunate that staff at Matador patiently answer all my newbie questions and provide advice about how to increase likes on my writer page and how to get more followers. They tweet my website when it is launched and tell me that if I put @matadorbooks in my tweets they will RT. What is an RT? No, I don’t really understand retweets either and it is some time before I link RT to this.

I begin tweeting, and finding people to follow and my list of followers begins to grow – slowly, very very slowly that I could easily fall asleep at my computer. I follow everything! Regardless.  A few days pass. Suddenly Twitter stops me following anyone. No reason given. Ugh.

Then I remember 2012 at Winchester Writers’ conference when I attended a workshop run by Sally Tickner http://www.sallytickner.co.uk/workshops.html . I had been in contact soon after. I resume contact and she looks at my twitter page. I can only guess at her initial reaction. I suspect she may, in her next workshop, use me as an example of the dumbest way to use Twitter.  I am following too many people. I need to prune my following and up my followers, produce good content and interact with potential readers. So I trawl my tweets and unfollow all those I deem unnecessary. Oh all those holiday places, tourist offices, publishers, famous authors, actors, Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry!! Hoards of accounts which are NEVER going to follow back. A daily trawl takes time. There are about ten accounts connected to the Edinburgh Festival, several for the Lake District, more for the Peak District and anything to do with Swanage doh. I am also following several accounts connected to the Deaf community. I AM passionate about raising deaf awareness but in October I wanted to get people to buy my Grandma’s Poetry Book. I need to get followers who may spread the word, read the book or buy for a relative. Sally gives me a link to justunfollow.com which tells you who is not following you back. I spend evenings tweeting some, pleading ‘pls follow back’ followed by a link to my website. Much later, I learn it is important to provide the link to the BUY page on the site. Keep learning. Gradually my following numbers drop. Good thing as Twitter stopped me following new people once I was up to 2001. I have to get more followers before I can add. So shed a few and add a few.

I am now in twitter fog, my head spinning, my rear end stiff from sitting on my chair. I dream about the @ symbol. I haven’t found notifications. I can’t find my way around my own twitter account let alone someone else’s. Whatever happened to writing? I haven’t written anything for weeks. My blog is about to die. But I want to sell books. Ha! I read that to sell books I should write a second as quickly as possible. I have millions of words on my computer in various manuscripts, drafts and redrafts. But I have lost the will to live where writing is concerned. Actually I have a severe case of Writer’s Block. My life is consumed by Twitter.

Training. I need training. I put myself on any available social media course. A morning here, a full day there. I learn what social media means and write snippets in my notebook which might be useful. Good for networking and handing out my author cards if nothing else. I learn about interaction!  Hmm. I read blogs about spreading the word and using social media. I read advice that I should start conversations but I am not quite sure how to do it. There is a reply button, yes? Where? One of my followers on twitter begins a conversation about my book and Amazon. Interesting but what do I do about it?

Ah the Purbeck Literary Festival, February 2015; an opportunity for a morning course in the hotel a few doors up the road from where I live in Swanage. I sit numbed and braindead. I don’t understand this Twitter stuff and what is ‘Call to Action’? Oh that’s on Facebook, But the speaker Andrew Knowles begins to get through my fog and his wife explains about scheduling tweets on sites such as https://hootsuite.com/. I leave with her words ringing in my ears that one should not write a blog and tweet it only once. Waaaa that is what I’ve been doing since 2012 when I began blogging. Tweeting it once and getting a couple of likes and one follower if I’m lucky.

Scheduling? It means you can go on holiday and your Twitter feed still churns out tweets as if you are at home. Good for keeping burglars at bay if nothing else. It takes a while to get my head round Hootsuite but boy when I get going there is no stopping me. The same tweet at different times of the day, over the next week or ten days, change it slightly and re-schedule. It is such fun! I slow down when one of my much pasted tweets has an incorrect link – typo! I have to work through the schedule and delete but not before the wrong link has been retweeted to some 100K twerps. Ugh.

Andrew also teaches us Twitter etiquette. Do this or get unfollowed! Do that and get more followers. I begin slowly with a Thank you for following message that I paste into tweets of new followers. It includes reference to Grandma’s Poetry Book and gives my website.

Marketing at Matador suggest asking on twitter for people to LIKE my FB page so I try it. Twenty identical tweets sent at different times. Change the hashtags – yes I do understand them now – and do it all again.  I join a few author forums and friend a few authors. Some have twitter handles (yes I am getting the language now) and I tweet them. They begin to retweet my tweets about my book. I search local organisations, organisations of which I am a member and follow.

Sudden inspiration! An IDEA! If I can follow mothers with babies I might be able to persuade them to buy the book as a present for the grandparents. I now add Ideal gift to my Thank you tweet and I find they are favouriting my tweets as well as retweeting. What’s favouriting you ask. I don’t know. Perhaps so they can find it again? Yes!  I trawl my Facebook friends list as I have been friended by a few people who might spread the word. I message a baby photographer who puts a post and a link to my website on her Facebook page. She has 1600 likes!

Then the realisation that everyone who likes a page gets an update. So her post is reaching out to new parents and new grandparents who may also like the page. She herself buys two books from Amazon for the two grandparents for Christmas and puts glowing comments on her page. She reads them before gifting them. She puts a review on Amazon. I am getting there. I AM finding my readers.

In Part 2 of Finding Your Readers I will own up to getting rather pushy and cheeky and the fantastic results I had. And those hashtags! Great fun!

Grandma’s Poetry Book was published by Matador in November 2014. There are 16 4 and 5 * reviews on Amazon. A nostalgic memoir of a first-time grandmother’s sometimes wobbly journey with laugh out loud illustrations by Denise Horn.


In MsLexia issue 64 Adrian Magson suggests not to overwork an idea but to go back, adding to them from time to time. Rather than sit and sweat over an idea and will it to become something more, he reckons it is best to let things lie, quieten down. His view is an overworked brain stunts creativity.

Adrian uses the term ‘writing in layers’ and on reading his super piece in my favourite writers’ magazine I immediately identified with his purpose. For that is how I write. I jot down an idea and at some stage go back to it in my notebook and add something to it. Then I put it on the computer and more creative juices flow to find more to add to something that is now perhaps a paragraph or a few lines of a poem.

Grandma’s Poetry Book began in just that way. I would jot down in my writers’ notebook an idea or a chance remark and sometime later, the next day or even a few days after some more words would spring to mind. I would add another layer to what was a fairly short verse. I am a great believer in printing out drafts however short and however bad they seem. I carry the print out around and on the bus or the train I might pick it up and scribble further ideas on it. When I thought Grandma’s Poetry Book was ready to go to the publishers I found many poems incomplete and sparse. Again I printed the needy ones out and took them around with me. I don’t know where my writing comes from. It is said writing comes from the sub-conscious which is why we can never be sure why we have written what we have put down on paper. This is said to account for the healing power of writing and why writers will say they ‘have to write’. I have written about writing as therapy for depression on my blog http://www.dimindmatters.wordpress.com

I have never been a writer who can plan and plot and work from A to B and I tend to write my books ‘all over the place’. I write something I have thought of in the place where it is the most appropriate and it fleshes out my previous draft and ideas. Never more so than on writing my memoir, Red House to Exodus, growing up in Harpenden in the 1950s, which should be completed by this spring. I wrote memories down in a log as and when they came to me and then researched around the dates, the ideas and concepts so that I could make links with the state of the country, society and family life around that time. Even now, at the editing stage, I am finding more crucial, life changing events, which have made me the person I am.
One aspect I am writing about is my interest in the Second World War and the plight of the six million Jews who perished in the concentration camps. Some of the war films I saw in my teens at our local cinema affected me deeply and I have, since then, held a deep interest in the affairs of Israel and the anti-Semitism that still persists today. It has led me to book a trip to Krakow in March and include the trip to Auschwitz and Birkenhau. I am firmly of the belief that everyone should make this trip or a similar one to remind them of a horror that must never be repeated.
I know that when I return there will be more layers to add to my memoir and not necessarily directly related to the event. The visit is about re-engaging with emotions and stirring ideas and hopefully putting them across in a way that will delight and interest the reader.

I do hope you enjoy my memoir when it comes out. Watch this blog for more details.
Meanwhile, Grandma’s Poetry Book, is available from me by post. Email me at dcastle32@talktalk.net with your address and the number of copies you want. Yes, they have been selling in twos – one for each grandmother in the family.

Now to get back to some more layers. Thank you, Adrian, for such a lively and thought provoking article. You made me realise that what I am doing is OK. So I will keep going in my rather chaotic fashion, adding and layering my writing until I am satisfied it is fully fleshed out.

MsLexia comes out four times a year.
Visit my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk