Five ways to support your friendly neighbourhood author

A lot of books are published every year. In fact the UK publishes more books per capita than any other country. So from an author’s point of view, no matter how good your work is, its success will depend entirely on whether it gets noticed.

I’ve been in Writers Unchained for a few years now, and whenever someone’s work finally hits the shelves, we are all delighted to see it, aware of how many years it has taken to achieve. We also know its shiny new cover will be competing with countless others. None of us have money to burn on marketing, so we try to do what publicity we can, often relying on our lovely readers to help spread the word.

So if someone who has written a book you really love, and you want others to find and enjoy it too, here are some ways to support your local authors…

1 Review it

Much as we’d all prefer that Amazon had not cornered the market, the reality is that people buy books there and a certain number of reviews can help boost a title’s ranking.

There’s a jokey adage going around among authors that if you get fifty reviews then Amazon ‘gives you a unicorn’ (ie the algorithm shows it to more potential buyers). I’m not sure how much truth there is in this, but a decent number of reviews is certainly going to improve a book’s performance on the website.

You don’t have to have bought the book from Amazon to review it there, though it will only let you do so if you’ve made other purchases.

If the thought of Amazon brings you out in a rash, it’s also really useful to leave reviews on Goodreads, Google Books, Bookbub, or other bookshop sites like Waterstones and Foyles. Or for a gold star, copy and paste your review to more than one!

2 Recommend it to a friend

Who would enjoy this book? Tell your bookish friends about it. If you use social media, post a picture of it. If you’re in a network such as Mumsnet that has discussion forums about books, mention it. People are more likely to buy a book if they see its cover more than once, so exposure is something that will really help an author.

3 Suggest it to a book club

If, like me, you’re in a book club (or three) then you may get the opportunity to suggest a title. Or perhaps your mum is in a book club and might be thinking about the next read.

Word of mouth is the most powerful form of publicity, so if you think the book raises some interesting topics and would make for a lively discussion, please do mention it.

If you’re a member of one of the many online book clubs (especially on facebook), then there are often ‘recommendations’ threads where you can post pictures of books you like.

4 Request it at the library

With several hundred thousand books published in the UK each year, libraries have a lot of choice. Most libraries give people the chance to request new books – you can often fill in a card at the desk, or request it using the online system. Library sales are of great importance to authors, and even the 8 pence or so that the writer gets from someone borrowing their book all helps.

Photo by Josh Felise on Unsplash

5 Buy it

Sounds simple, but if people don’t buy books there’ll be no publishing industry and we’ll all end up staring at our phones in between clubbing each other to death (can you tell I’ve written a lot of dystopian stuff lately?!)

If you have money, please do consider buying books. If you don’t, you can always tick off number 4, and support your local library into the bargain.

Consider using hive.co.uk which supports independent bookshops and allows you to collect your book from a shop of your choice. If you really must buy from Amazon, authors often have affiliate links from their websites.


The added bonus of championing the books you love is that the industry becomes more reader-directed, more people enjoy what they read, and read more of it, people improve their empathy, and generally lead us away from a future of smartphone addiction and blunt instruments. Result!

Announcing our special guest Lucy English

Lucy English

In an exciting update to our Story Sunday ‘Tales of Our City’ event on  October 20th we’re thrilled to announce that we – and you – will be joined for the evening by Bristol’s favourite writer and spoken word poet Lucy English.

We’re sure that you have either met Lucy or know her work; from her acclaimed novels Selfish People and Our Dancing Days to her recent achievements in poetry, digital writing and film. Lucy recenty organised the brand new Lyra  Poetry Festival in Bristol and you may also know her as a tutor  on the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing.

Lucy will give a short performance as part of the Tales of Our City evening alongside  a selection of other local writers who have submitted for the event.
Speaking of which, to have a chance of joining Lucy on the Southbank stage, you still have penty of time to SEND US YOUR STORIES!

Of course non-writers are also welcome to an evening of diverse and diverting performances from our talented local writing pool,  all in the laid-back atmosphere of Southbank Club in Bedminster.

Tickets £5 in advance from Bristol Ticket Shop, or £6 on the door.

No more suspension bridges, easy on the balloons! Inspiration for October’s #StorySunday

So with submissions open for Tales of Our City, here’s a blog post from Ali Bacon who has been looking for some visual inspiration.

The tag line ‘no more suspension bridges…’ is taken from a project which began a year ago when Bristol photographer Colin Moody and community arts group the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft found themselves bemoaning the restricted and stereotypical images of Bristol seen in holiday postcards. A competition was mooted and Bristolians invited to send in alternative images.

A set of finalists was chosen and the winning entry (Big Jeff by Paul Blakemore) decided by a public vote last January.

However I was lucky enough to be invited a few weeks ago to the public presentation of prizes and the first chance to buy postcards, singly, in sets or as bigger prints.

There was a really good vibe at the launch event with a piano player helping things along as slides of all the competition entries, not just the finalists, were projected above him. This was a nice touch that recognised everyone’s contribution and showed the quality and range of the entries, upbeat, downbeat and off-beat, from conventional city views with a twist,  to ironic juxtapositions and downright craziness.

Chatting to Colin after the official speeches he was at pains to emphasise the democratic and accessible nature of the project with the official judges as diverse a group as possible and final voting spread around city venues so that anyone could get involved – no internet required!

Several of the finalists were also at the show  including Daniel Durrans – (whose  Bristol July 2017 and Bristol July 2018 both made the final selections) and Phoebe Flint whose M32 Comfort Break was one of three adult runners up.

Phoebe Flint and ‘M32 Comfort Break’

Finalists were each presented with a parcel of postcards which it’s hoped will be posted far and wide and start to change the image of Bristol around and beyond the city. Postcards will soon be on sale very soon from the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft Shop and hopefully city tourism outlets.  

So if you are looking for writing inspiration that goes beyond the obvious, we think Proper Bristol Postcards are a great place to start.

Here’s a selection for starters. More can be found on the Proper Bristol Postcard page or maybe in a shop ner you!

Intimacy, Roo Morgan
The Silence of Maes Knoll by Edward Field
Surveillance, by Rebecca Doe
It’s a wall, Dave Beech

From the Spanish Civil War to Snakes and Ladders

Book launches

Two book launches in the last month! It’s been a bumper summer for Writers Unchained members.

A Forbidden Love

Kerry Postle launched her fabulous second book A Forbidden Love at Max Minerva’s Marvellous Books in Bristol this July. The audience were fascinated to hear about where Kerry’s research had taken her – into the intricacies of the Spanish Civil War and, in particular, the experiences of women caught up in it. We’re all looking forward to reading this gripping and heart-rending historical novel.

Buy A Forbidden Love

The Undoing of Arlo Knott

This was followed in August by the launch of Heather Child’s second novel The Undoing of Arlo Knott (Orbit), about a man who has an ‘undo’ button for life, at Storysmith books. At this sold-out event, Heather talked about themes of regret and hindsight, snakes and ladders and quantum physics.

Buy The Undoing of Arlo Knott or read an excerpt.

Save the date! October 20th: Tales of Our City

We’re delighted to announce our next Story Sunday will be on October 20th and in conjunction with the marvellous  Bristol Festival of Literature we’ll be celebrating Bristol and its environs with the theme of Tales of Our City.

We’re putting together some new ideas for this special evening but as usual we’ll be inviting  fellow writers to contribute their stories and friends far and wide to come along and join us.

Submissions open August 12th. Details on our submissions page

Look out for announcements here and on social media, or ask to join our mailing list so that we can contact you!

Story Sunday, June 9th. Unreality bites!

After a short intermission, our next Story Sunday is announced with a theme of UNREAL, our first venture into fantasy, altered reality, speculative fiction or the surreal.

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As ever we’ll choose around ten of you – and us – to read on the night.  We love to be shocked, stunned, terrified, amused or just plain bowled over by your writing talent. Any interpretation or genre is acceptable as long as there’s a bit of unreality in there somewhere!

We’ll be open for your submissions from April 22nd until midnight May 26th     

Please only submit if you can read on Sunday June 9th 2019 between 7 and 9 pm at Southbank Club, Dean Lane, Bedminster, Bristol BS3 1DB.

Check our submissions page for our simple rules.

The rest is the same as before, even the audience entry fee of only £5 cash on the door.

Get thinking, get writing – and we’ll see you there!

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Writers Unchained and in the wild

A round-up of our summer adventures – and it’s only July!

Heather Child: ‘Uplit’ at Edgelit

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Heather (far left) on the Edgelit panel

As well as an appearance at the Dark Societies dystopian book club in London, Heather was in Derby last week running a workshop and speaking on a panel at the popular sci-fi, fantasy and horror event EdgeLit 2018.

 

The recent boom in dystopian fiction was the topic of discuss

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Everything About You

ion, though with political decisions made in the last couple of years starting to bed in, it seems the incoming trend is ‘uplit’, or more uplifting fiction. All events were well-attended and people enjoyed meeting their favourite genre authors and getting books signed.

Heather is also at this week’s lunch-time lecture at Bristol City Library on Thursday July 26th at 12.30 in the old library foyer. It’s free, so get there if you can!

Jean Burnett in the Dragons Den

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Jean conquers the dragons

Jean  pitched her unpublished novel to the Chudleigh Dragons at the Chudleigh LitFest last weekend in Devon – and won the prize!

Her cosy crime novel wins a critique from novelist Sophie Duffy from Legend Press.

Jean is also working n a new historical novel and looking forward to a writing retreat in Greece.

 

 

Ali Bacon around and about

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Signing ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ at Wickhambrook

Having survived a book-selling trip to France, Ali set out for Suffolk where she was part of the Wickhambrook literary lunch in late June.

As well as talking about In the Blink of an Eye she had lunch with afternoon speakers Nicci Gerard and Sean French and has been name-dropping ever since.

She is now emerging from a stint on the golf course to do a book signing at Books on the Hill in Clevedon this Saturday 21st and dropping in to the Flash Fiction Festival on Sunday in Bristol.

 

 

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Ali will be at Books on the Hill , Saturday July 21st  Clevedon,  BS21 7PL,

Scottish readers should also check out her website for news of Scottish shenanigans in September and October.

And yes, our next Story Sunday will be in the early autumn, so please watch this space and keep writing!