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 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!

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

Story Sunday – Submissions Open

Stop all the clocks! We’re having ‘A Moment In Time’

Momennt in Time Header
After something of a lull at WU Towers we’re delighted to be open for submissions once more for our first 2018 Story Sunday event on Sunday April 29th with the theme of A Moment in Time when around ten writers will be invited to take to the Southbank stage in Bedminster and enthral us with their talent.

Submissions Open Now

Any genre is acceptable, a historical tale or an imagining of the future, or maybe just a moment, crystallised in words. As ever we love to be shocked, stunned, terrified or delighted in any way.
Please check our submissions page for full instructions on how to send us your finely-wrought words.

All welcome on the night

Our promise to writers is a friendly audience – to our audience a night to remember for a mere £5 entry.
Sunday April 29th
7 – 9 pm
Southbank Club, Dean Lane, Bedminster,  Bristol BS3 1DB

Readers at our Night of Crime. This time it could be you!


Submissions closed

Thanks to all those who submitted. Participants will be announced by October 15th.

You are invited to submit stories from 500 – 1500 words on the theme of Crime for our Story Sunday on October 22nd.

Deadline October 1st.

Check out how to do it on our submissions page. 

A Night of Crime_flyer updated-page-001

It’s all happening at Unchained Towers (yes it really is!)

Emily Koch reading Scratching at the Grey

Any minute now we’ll be opening submissions for our next Story Sunday event whose theme is Midsummer Madness (submission details here) but here’s a quick run down on what we’ve been up to since the Love Hangover evening which as hangovers go was a whole lot of fun.

We had great stories and performances from all the writers who came from near and far. Sadly none of the rest of us remembered a camera, but thanks to guest writer Debbie Young you can see a few more snaps on our Facebook page.


Louise Gethin
Louise Gethin starred at Bristol Old Vic

Since then we’ve had quite a few adventures, starting in February when Louise Gethin performed Ship’s Diary – a short fictional piece inspired by a visit to the SS Great Britain and narrated from the Ship’s point of view – as part of the Bristol Old Vic Open Stage event. If you want to catch Louise again, she will be one of the poets and writers reading on the 9th June at Life, love and Mortality: A Literary Night. For further information:


Shirley in Teignmouth

Meanwhile Shirley Wright enjoyed a visit to the seaside when she took part in the Teignmouth Festival and came second in the Teignmouth poetry prize then ran a poetry workshop at  Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival which was hugely appreciated.

Jean Burnett and Ali Bacon also took part in the Hawkesbury festival  where Jean had the Georgians voted second in the ‘My era’s better than yours’  historical fiction panel. More pictures of the whole day are on Ali’s blog.

Ali reads at Stroud

No prizes (so far)) for Ali whose short story Silver Harvest has been listed in more than one competition, but she did enjoy reading it at the Stroud Short Stories spring event on April 24th. Here’s a great review of the whole evening by Leah Grant of Good on Paper which really captures the atmosphere – and reveals some enticing news for Stroud Short Stories fans.

What’s next?

Our next ‘outing’ before or own Story Sunday will be at the Talking Tales evening in Bath on June 5th.  ‘More Banksy than Bonnets‘ is a chance for Bristol writers to go large in the sedate (?) city which is our neighbour, so thanks to Stokes Croft Writers for inviting local writing groups – and watch out Bath!

Eleanor Matthews

Heather Child

Perhaps best of all, we’ll be joined at upcoming events by new members who’ve recently joined our Writers Group. We’ve been enjoying their work immensely, so please take a look at  Heather‘s and Eleanor’s websites and join with us in giving the a warm welcome.

Like I said, it’s all happening 🙂



Panning for gold. Gail Swann is resting (not rusting).

Let the wild seeds of your imagination flourish where they will. (Photo by Evolybab)

Gail Swann writes:

Finding myself in a period of writerly pause, or to put it more succinctly, ‘stymied by having too many beginnings’, I have been filling my head with the work of others. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a run of cracking good reads (thanks to Nina Milton for book reviews at, I’ve watched a few outstanding films, too much absorbing trash TV, and dipped in and out of Facebook. Yes, a mixed blessing but it’s all art of one kind and another. Well perhaps not what your mate had for dinner, but that gorgeous photo captured on a morning walk (check out, or the one out of a hundred (mostly irritating) poetic proclamations about life that just hits the mark when you’re feeling anxious or sad. I love it that we can share so easily, even if you have to pan for the gold sometimes.

Larger than life at Comic-Con San Diego*

At the other end of the scale, my business is lucky enough to have the world’s foremost entertainment company as a client. Tasked with translating storylines into commercial graphics, we get to see some of what goes into the making of epic movies. Rising majestically from their comic strip origins, Super Heroes are trending right now

Those early twentieth century cartoonists in their shadowy world of pen, ink and midnight oil had no concept of the cultural phenomenon their work would become.

This summer some of my colleagues went over to Comic-Con in San Diego (strictly business of course!). The scale of this convention is bewildering, and goes to show how much we mere mortals love to escape into a parallel universe of storytelling and dress up, given half a chance! You might say ‘only in America’, but actually we do it here too

So, what am I trying to say (did I mention that I was a ‘resting’ writer – perhaps rusting is more apt)? I think we must appreciate creativity in all its forms and tap into whatever sparks our imagination at the time. It might be a novel, a blipfoto or Facebook post, a cinematic battle to save the world, or a fairytale told to a child. The human appetite for sharing stories prevails. It comes in many forms and it takes all sorts.

*Comic-con photo

You are invited!

We hope that friends old and new will join us on Saturday 11th October at Foyles in Bristol.

If you think you can make it, you’ll need a ticket, so please don’t forget to register
on Foyles’ website