Check out an Independent Book Shop during the Lockdown

This blog post was inspired by a Twitter chat this morning all about helping out independent bookshops.

3 bookshelves containing a mix of colours and sizes of book

Here is a link to the amazing chat:

https://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane/status/1253073923916402689

although you will have to have an account with Twitter to see it. I know that Twitter can be toxic, but I also really enjoy hanging out there with other writers. On this thread, lots of independent bookshops tweeted back that they were still open for business.

You could also try a search on Facebook, as lots of bookshops will have pages there too. The aim of this post is to encourage you to use your spending power to support smaller businesses.

In this lockdown time, why not support your local small businesses? You can find a good-sized list at Indie Bookshops.

One of Jane Austen’s characters said,

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Caroline Bingley may not have been entirely honest when she said this. She was trying to compete with Elizabeth Bennett for Mr Darcy’s attention by reading a book, at a time when Elizabeth was really trying to avoid conversation with people that she felt uncomfortable with, by reading a book.

Reading a book is a great way to get away from our tablet screens.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading ‘The Tennant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte. It was bought it when we visited the Bronte’s old home last year while on holiday in Yorkshire. I had previously read ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’. It is a great read – took a while to get going, but now I am really into it and not far from the end. I am already planning which book to read next.

Five reasons to look at a smaller bookseller:

  • They really appreciate your custom
  • You may find some unusual books that you may not have found anywhere else
  • It is so easy to place an order and pay online – good for socially distancing too! Check with each shop how they would like you order – some take orders by phone.
  • Browsing books is so similar to the actual experience except you are probably wearing the right glasses already
  • You can often find unusual or specialist books at smaller bookshops.

Some Midlands independent bookshops that are open for postal business:

The hive offers a selection of books and supports local booksellers through the purchases made. You can choose an independent to send some money too. The hive offers both books and ebooks and book-related gifts.

AbeBooks offers a network of independent booksellers which offer rare, used and out-of-print books which can be posted to people through internet orders. Books are shipped directly from the seller.

  • Astley Book Farm in Bedworth, Warwickshire offers the ability to buy online. It looks an amazing place to visit and seems to have a vast array of books
  • Warwick Books in Warwick are currently selling books online. You can request books through email from this page, and they are putting together book bundles too.
  • The Chaucer Head Bookshop, Stratford-upon-Avon are selling through AbeBooks or you can call them directly from the number listed on their website, including a number for overseas visitors
  • The Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham is able to sell existing stock. They are also offering mystery boxes. You can email them from their website.

I have only been able to include bookshops with an online presence. Many independent bookshops have bricks and mortar only and so I could not include them. This is a list for Midlands-based booksellers and I will be doing more blog posts about other areas of the country. If you have had good service from an online bookseller, do let me know in the comments below.

The fact is, that we need independent sellers as well as the big giants. If the big giants are able to capture all our sales and shut the independents down, then the lack of choice will make us all captive audiences. Bigger is not always better.

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Writing a CV, online networking, avoiding scams and losing a freelance writing job – the best of the last 9 days of the 30 day blogging challenge

I had great fun taking part in the 30 day blogging challenge this year, writing about a number of different subjects and adding 30 posts to my blog. My new challenge is to carry on taking it forward and keeping it up to date. So in the spirit of this (after a few days off to rest and recover) here is a round-up of the best posts in the last 9 days.

daisies-in-the-shape-of-a-heart

Freelance CV help

Writing a freelance CV is an essential part of being a freelancer. Job opportunities often require you to send one off. You should never just drag up an old CV however, you need to tailor it to the requirements of the person description. My CVs have got me a lot of interest over the years, so here’s one way to write a good one.

Write what you know

That old adage should you write what you know, brought a lot of interest from the other bloggers in the blogging challenge group. It was a different way of looking at an old subject.

How to avoid scams

Avoiding scams should be on everyone’s radar, particularly in these days, when it can be difficult to know who is contacting you and whether their intentions are good or not. Always question everything.

Things to do during lockdown

Some great ideas to get involved in while you stay safe at home, were the subjects of two blog posts during these 9 days. I have already started taking a look at my old photos and enjoying the memories.

Lost a freelance job?

Lost a freelance writing job? Here is a personal post with my take on it. There are many people losing their jobs at the moment and it is important to take time for yourself, to grieve and to come up with a new plan. Since this post was written, I have been let go completely, thanks to the lockdown. I choose to look at this positively. There will be someone else who will appreciate my skills – I just have to find them.

Other bloggers who managed to finish

Shout outs go to Cindy Fox from Hearth at Home, Jacqueline Redmond, Your Story Works and Regina Byrne from Leadership & Management Coaching who also managed to finish their challenges.

Finally, I looked at my transformation through the 30 days of blog posts process. I have gained confidence and enjoyed interacting with other bloggers. I would definitely do it again and I would recommend that you do, too.

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My transformation through 30 days’ blogging

30 days ago, I was not quite at the beginning of my 30 day blogging challenge. You see, it has taken my longer than 30 days to reach 30 posts. I was at Day 7, thirty days ago, but it has still been a transformation.

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I love writing, but producing content for my own blog is a struggle. Sometimes I have lots of topics and can write easily, but at other times, ideas come more slowly. Signing up for 30 days of consistent blogging is a test of faith, but I managed it with my trusty editorial calendar by my side!

I have really enjoyed creating the round-up posts and the weird titles they create. Both round-ups consisted of a wide variety of subjects which probably best reflect my brain and the way it flits around! I found that people still commented on the round-ups, even though they had had the opportunity to see the post first time round.

The blog post that got the most attention was Blogs Interrupted, which was the week the world changed. The schools closed, most people were told to stay at home and stuff got real! None of us have ever known a time when the world as we know it changed so dramatically, and I got behind on my blogs for a few days as we learned to deal with our new reality.

Blog with a group

I wanted to join the blogging challenge in March, because I could see that lots of people were signing up for it and I wanted to be part of a group. It’s no fun blogging in isolation, you need people to take part. So many of the people I was blogging alongside, inspired me. People like Vaishakhi, who created Beads of Hope and Regina Byrne Coaching as well as Melina Abbott and Dale Darley. The people you meet while taking the challenge are wonderful and you get to read so many different types of blogs.

You learn so much on this challenge. Some of it I knew and had forgotten, other pieces of knowledge were brand new. Each email arrives jam-packed with information, things to do and actions to take. I learned how to use Canva (and pick the free images), I installed Yoast (and I still have arguments with it on SEO vs my style) and relearned the art of the round-up post (bit difficult to do when you post so infrequently but easy when you have 30 days’ worth of blogs).

Do Yoast & I have a future?

So, what of my future plans? Obviously I plan to blog more and want to work on a content series. I hope to continue with a mix of topics, completely confusing Google and I look forward to reading even more diverse blog posts on the 30 day blogging challenge group. I also intend to take the challenge again some time in the future, but possibly not yet! Yoast and I will also try not to break up, but just be like that annoying warring couple that everyone knows and tries to ignore.

Should you take the 30 day blogging challenge? Absolutely! It will hurt as you stretch your writing muscles, but it will feel so good after! Go on! You know you want to!

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How to put together an editorial calendar for bloggers

Since my first 30 day blogging challenge in 2016, I have used an editorial calendar. Different people may have different ideas of what constitutes an editorial calendar.

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I use a spreadsheet to store ideas for blog posts or other content so that I have a constant stream of ideas to use when I am trying to think of something to write. PR people use editorial calendars so that they can put useful content out when they are trying to run promotions, or publishers might use one to keep track of their publications. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, you might find this tool useful.

How can an editorial calendar help you in your business?

It’s a great place to store ideas. Ideas are all around us, but sometimes it can be hard to remember them. When I find a great story or possible blog post, I make notes about it.

You can use your editorial calendar to note the angle that you are going to take on the subject. This might not matter if it is a personal blog, but if you are working for someone else or even several other people, it might be worth making a note to ensure that you remember your original thoughts.

I find it best to keep an editorial calendar for each different blog, especially for clients. For the blog posts that I write at the moment, some can link to awareness weeks or months and it can be handy to have those planned out in advance, so that I already have some ideas for topics. Bloggers could also use the tool for planning guest posts to keep track.

Using pictures can be a good way to jog your memory. You can add a link or an actual picture to the spreadsheet if you wish.

Dates: I always date when I had the initial idea and I will usually add a date at the end of the row when I have used the idea. Sometimes I will have brainstorming sessions for a number of blog posts and it is useful to know when they came in handy.

Keeping track of sources in an editorial calendar

As well as adding the website for the source, there may be other sources linking to the idea. I will add these too, so that I can keep track of them all. I also keep notes on the possible blog posts, which may include headline ideas and possible keywords.

If you have a number of blogs, then you might like to indicate which blog the idea is for. This enables you to keep all your ideas in one place. It also means that you can repurpose ideas for different blogs, by finding a different angle.

The best thing about the editorial calendar is the ability to plan content. If there are particular dates you want to publish around, or events, then it can help you to plan this in detail. If you want to do a blog post series, then you can use your calendar to plan this. If you have some guest posts planned, then you can include these too.

You can add social media planning, include video links and plan the launch of your next ebook. You can make your editorial calendar as simple or as extensive as you wish.

Here is an example of an editorial calendar:

Date

Idea

Source

Source

Notes

Date used

Social Media Notes

5/3/2020

Using editorial calendars

https://buffer.com/library/all-about-content-calendar

Bloggers – kw

The headings can be changed to suit your own particular blog.

Do you use an editorial calendar? Do you find it helps to plan content? Comment below.

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How to connect with bloggers in your niche

First of all, I want to apologise for using the word, ‘niche’ in a heading! Getting a bit jargon-y there!  A niche is simply a narrowed-down subject that you like to blog about. The narrower the better if you really want to know your subject well.

Red-and-white-heart-connected

I have just read the blogging challenge email where Sarah Arrow encourages us to connect with bloggers who do the same sort of thing that we do and comment on their blogs, helping their visibility and ours. I already knew this, but I had forgotten it. Long ago, before Linked-In and Pinterest came along, the first thing that came up when I searched my name on Google, would be comments that I had made on blogs. I just checked today and on page 4 my name comes up linked to comments that I have previously made on blogs – the oldest of which was in 2010 when I was just starting out!

So comments on blogs can hang around for a long time, especially on high-ranking blogs. It is worth doing as long as you are happy with your comments.

I love finding bloggers to connect with in the things that I do. But how can you find people to connect with? And when you do, how do you connect?

Ask a question

If you have any burning questions, then ask them on Google and quite often bloggers who have answered those questions will come back. You can then check out their websites and look around. You may also want to see how well they answer the question as it will help you to see what their knowledge and experience is like.

Search hashtags

You can use hashtags to search on Twitter and Instagram, and even Facebook as hashtags are used there. Look for keywords that link to what you do and see what links the hashtags bring back. Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers and you can get to know people through hashtag hours as quite often the same people show up to chat.

Search keywords

Intentionally searching for people starts with keywords. The bloggers that come back are worth checking out. Again, look around the website and see what kind of information they offer. They may offer free ebooks for signing up to their mailing list or courses. I have to say that I am normally turned off by hyper-spammy websites – the kind where an advertising pop-up follows you down the page like a dog! I normally close those straight away and never go back! However occasionally you find an amazing website that’s full of useful information and those are worth bookmarking.

Facebook groups

Finding and joining Facebook groups that link to what you do is a great way to connect with other people. They can also be the most helpful in terms of giving advice and help to other people. Not all groups are public and you may need to apply to join and even answer a question or two. Of course you could start your own Facebook group too.

Blogging Challenge

Doing the 30 day blogging challenge with Sarah & Kevin Arrow is one of the best ways I know to find some like-minded people and connect with them. You are not necessarily writing about the same things, but that means you get to learn more and enjoy meeting people online. You also get to read some blogs that you might otherwise not have read. 

Other Challenges

Other blogs offer other challenges which can be just as useful. It’s worth searching out challenges to take once in a while. Pushing ourselves brings growth and change.

How to Connect

When you find a blogger that you like, how should you connect with them?

You can try a number of things:

Interview them (I interviewed Sarah Arrow for my blog once) and write up as a blog post

Comment on their blog post (if allowed)

Bookmark the website and come back to it

Even better subscribe to their feed and their email list

Follow on Twitter

Take their challenge

Join their Facebook group

Just one word of warning: try the things that seem right to you, but don’t do it all at once. You’re trying to make friends, not scare them off!

How do you get to know other bloggers online? Comment below and let me know.

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Freelancer Friday – What makes a readable blog post?

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 5

Blog post visitors are tricky beasts! We are told that we have a very short time in which to grab their attention and persuade them to stay on the blog. How can you ensure that your blog visitors might be tempted to stay? When you are a freelancer, it can be even more important – you rely on your blog to showcase your talents and your business.

Aim the subject towards your readership. It’s no good blogging about upholstery if your audience is here to learn about freelancing. Freelancer, make the subject relevant to your intended audience and even more important, use relevant images too.

 

Images

Pick your images for the impact that they will make, as well as their relevance to the blog post. I look for either bright colourful images that are not too distant or too fuzzy for the size that I need them, or distinctive black and white images can work well too. Either way, the subject needs to be clear and the background works with the picture rather than against it. I always think that the pictures you choose are individual to you and really enhance your post.

Paragraphs

Break your blog post into smaller chunks or paragraphs. When you change the subject, change the paragraph. Keep the paragraphs short and don’t use too many connectives – better to have short clear sentences. You can also divide your blog post up, using subheadings which help your reader to have a clearer idea of what the blog post is about.

Don’t worry too much about a ‘tidy’ blog post at the point of first draft. It is more important to get your thoughts and feelings on the page and shape the post. Once you have said what you want to say, then you can go back over it and polish it.

How long should your blog post be?

Blog posts are tending towards the longer end at the moment: lengths of 1,000 words or more are not uncommon. This is due to the super power of a long blog post to keep you on the page for longer (which is a Good Thing according to Google). This is wonderful for the more wordy among us, but I’ve always found that my blog posts find their own length – they just seem right when they’re done.

By the way, if you can tie blog posts together and do a series, so much the better. Hopefully you can keep bringing back your visitors for more.

Finding your voice

The most interesting blog posts for me are ones where you can hear the author’s voice. For example, I can usually hear Sarah Arrow’s voice reading her blog posts and anyone who knows her would probably do the same. My voice is not so well known, but when I use anecdotes from my life, I am at my most real. I would also say that this can be quite scary to do. Don’t be afraid to change names and make people unrecognisable to themselves, but a little storytelling can help a blog to change from a so-so blog to a post that people will remember and may come back to read again.

Finally, find time to post! You are a fine one to talk, I hear you say to me and you are right. I have been guilty of not finding time to post to my blog. I am making up for it with 30 days of blog penance and I am enjoying it – so far. Finding a rhythm and time to post ensures that when that client comes across your blog, it doesn’t look like a ghost town. You want to be present in your blog and that can only happen when you post.

So enjoy your time on the blogging challenge and keep going!

What tips do you have for making your blog readable? Please share in the comments below.

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7 retro blog posts you might like to check out

7 retro blog posts

When you’ve put a lot of effort into writing your blog posts, it can be difficult to lose them off the top page and awkward for visitors to your page to find and read them, unless of course, they found them through searching a specific topic in Google. So it is good to occasionally write a blog post review to search through your blog and find some of the highlights that may enjoy seeing the light of day again.

I have enjoyed searching through my blog and finding some of my highlights from recent years. Many of these were from a 30 day blogging challenge I undertook in 2016. Definitely think it’s time for another one!

  1. Great Hero Character Names

In this blog post, I wrote about some of my favourite character names in novels and why I liked them.

2. My Top 10 Fictional Villains

What is a hero without a villain to try to foil them? These are some of my favourite villains, but I know there are many more.

3. Writing Prompts, Story, part 1 and Story part 2, and Editing a Story

I’m cheating here – there are actually 4 blog posts in one go: writing prompts and parts 1 and 2 of a story. I had fun creating this. Then I wrote a further blog post, explaining how I might edit the story, having read it back and analysed what I had written.

4. Procrastination and the Writer

This blog post was one of the most popular on my blog at one point. I think it chimes with most people who want to be writers.

5. 30 Ways to find Blog Post Ideas

For those days when procrastination is at its highest…

6. Six Girl BFFs in Fiction

I love a story with a really good girl BFF in it and here are some of my favourites.

7. Ten of the Best Bromances in Fiction

You can’t leave the boys out! Here my top ten bromances in fiction too.

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7 Ways to Find that Next Blog Post

Blog post ideas can come from anywhere if you just look.

There are times when writing a blog comes so easily. Then there are times when it becomes more difficult. It seems that every subject that you want to write about, has been already covered many times before, by more esteemed writers, in such a better way than you could ever write.

What’s the point?

Surely, when it has been said before, there is no point in rehashing old ideas, old arguments, boring anecdotes and yawn-worthy lists. No one can possibly have any interest in what you have to say.

Well, possibly not, but do you really speak for the whole of the global population? In these days of the internet, absolutely anyone could come across your blog and read your next post. And this could never happen, if you hadn’t written it. You see, writing something, anything has to be better than writing nothing. At least then you have something to show for your time.

So, assuming that you are not going to give in to unworthy feelings, here are some ideas on where to start when all inspiration for the next blog post has left you.

  1. Read a couple of favourite blogs. Find out what other bloggers are talking about. This is not so that you can copy what they are doing, but one possible blog post is to acknowledge another author’s post and answer it, or give your own twist on it. It can be helpful to see what others are talking about. Read critically and an idea may pop into your own mind. If two or three ideas come along, then jot them down. It is always useful to have some ideas on the go.
  2. Look at news in the niche that you want to find a blog post for. You may find some inspiration in what others have been achieving. There is nothing stopping you contacting someone to ask for more information, or even an interview for your blog if you wish. Most people like the idea of some self-promotion.
  3. Are there any authors who have books coming out linked to the topic you blog about? Reach out to them and see if they would like to promote their book on your blog. You can email an interview if you prefer not to interview in person. This can also be a great way to network.
  4. Answer a question. This could be a question asked in a forum, a question that you have been asked, or even a question that you, yourself have asked in the past. If it is your own question, then research the answer and give the best two or three replies. Chances are that someone has answered it, somewhere.
  5. Write a book review. Is there a book that you have found really helpful, or that you enjoyed reading? Let others know your thoughts.
  6. Write about something controversial. Put forward your arguments, or even debate the rights and wrongs of the situation. However, be prepared that you may get some attention over this, possibly even the wrong kind of attention. It’s a good way to get yourself noticed, though!
  7. Write about a problem you are having. Explain how you solved it, including the steps you took to get there. It may strike a chord with other people.

These are just seven ideas for how to find a blog post to write when you feel as though you have written it all before. Hopefully you have found something there that will work for you.

How do you come up with new blog posts to write? Do you have periods of time where you find it difficult? Share your tips below.

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Five Good Reasons to Maintain Your Blog

website ideas
website ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Many businesses consider having a blog an essential part of their website. Blogging offers a chance to connect with your customers and enable them to see a little of what you do. Blogging brings fresh content to your website and that is a good thing when it comes to search engines.

Deciding to have a blog is a regular commitment. How often you update it is up to you, but updating it regularly ensures that visitors to your website can see that you use your website and that you still have a valid business.

1. Adding fresh content to your blog ensures that your website stays fresh and current. Coming across a website which has not been updated since 2007 says ‘I don’t care’ or even ‘I’m no longer in business’.

2. Finding new subjects to write about helps to expand your own learning and enables you to keep up with trends and learn more about your own business. It will also help you keep your brain active and engaged in your business. You might even get some new ideas to help your business.

3. Putting up a new blog post gives you the opportunity to promote your website and your business using social media. Keeping in touch with customers through social media is becoming increasingly important. You want your business website to be well-known through social media, although spam is not a good idea.

4. You can use your blog post to promote special offers or to offer other promotions designed to increase business and encourage return customers. This can be a great way to use a blog post. Design it carefully so that links leading to products or services are visible and easily accessed.

5. Regularly updating your blog will help to reassure your customers that you are a trusted company for them to do business with. Trust is increasingly important on the Internet. A trusted company will bring more repeat customers.

Regular blogging can bring many benefits to you and your business website, so stop reading this post and go and get writing!

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based writer who offers blogging as a speciality. If you would like a carefully crafted blog post on a topic of your choice, use the contact form to get in touch or email sarahthecreativewriter (at) gmail.com.

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Helpful Blog Posts

I read round the Internet avidly and every so often I come across some really great posts that I consider helpful. I am sharing them here today, knowing that someone else could find them useful too.

Guiletta Nardone wrote a fantastic guest post for Men with Pens about being bold and fearless in our business. In ‘Have You Discovered Your Fearless Why?‘, Guiletta explains her own thoughts process as she came to terms with marketing her design business.

If you are thinking of setting up a Facebook page, then Karen Gunton of Build a Little Biz explains what is and isn’t allowed. The rules can be quite strict regarding marketing using Facebook, so it is worth checking out before you begin. The cans and cannots of Facebook plus some dos and don’ts too is her sum up of previous articles so that the information is all in one place.

As Christmas approaches, the annual dilemma arrives – how to send clients Seasons’ Greetings. PS Jones in her Diary of a Mad Freelancer addresses how she copes with the problem in her post on Keeping in Touch with Freelance Clients with Holiday Cards. Well worth a read.

Jenn Mattern’s post on How to Make Better Decisions About Your Freelance Writing Career could actually apply to any small business owner. Jenn explains the steps you need to take to make your small business a successful small business.

Finally, the community of Enterprise Nation has been going for five years, but this year they have decided they are ripe for change. The community have been switched over to Bitsy where there will be the opportunity to sell your services (for a small fee) and join in the business conversations in both the forums and Twitter. The website has only just launched, but if it is anything like Enterprise Nation was, then it is going to be an invaluable website for small and medium businesses.

What blog articles have you found useful recently? Let me know if you like any of these.

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