The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

JACK THE HACK: Expat writers, time to crank up the PR machine!

JACK THE HACK _writingtipsJack Scott is back with his monthly column for all of you wannabe authors who are hacking away at travelogues-cum-memoirs (or cum-novels?). For those who don’t know, he was a Random Nomad for the Displaced Nation way back when we started this site. After an expat experience in Bodrum, Turkey, that was literally something to write home about, he and his partner, Liam, have traded in the dream for a less pressured existence back home in the UK.

—ML Awanohara

There’s a firm knock at your door and a postman in a tight uniform (well, we can hope!) hands you a box. You rip open the carton like an over-wrought five-year-old on Christmas morning, pull out a copy of your book, lift it to your nose and smell the pages. It’s intoxicating, better than recreational drugs. You’ve done it. For the very first time, you feel like a proper author.

Savour the moment. It may not last.

Unless you want to be stuck with a stack of books propping open a door or languishing unloved and unread in the attic, you’ll need to start phase two of your cunning marketing plan: making sure people know about your minor masterpiece.

But how do you get the message out there these days? Just what are the rules of engagement?

1) Start a blog.

As I have said many times before, blogging is a great auditioning process for writing, and the best way to experiment and grow your fan-base. In the crowded blogosphere, content is king and the best content is fresh, new and frequently updated. Aim to blog at least once a week and break up your words with interesting and relevant images. Keep your page clean and uncluttered. Fussy, multi-colored scripts and busy designs can hurt the eyes and put the reader off. Fans can be fickle and lazy. Make it easy for them to follow you by adding your social network links and the chance to subscribe to your pearls of wisdom by email.

2) Engage with social media.

Plaster the good news everywhere. Join social networks and make friends. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular and influential, although Pinterest is starting to give both of them a run for their money. Create a Facebook page and solicit “likes.” Give Linkedin a go. After all, you are a professional author now. If social forums exist for your area of interest, join them and participate meaningfully. A word of warning: Engage gently and be careful not to over-promote; otherwise, people will switch off.

3) Join book sites.

There are hundreds of book sites out there and most of them allow you to add your book. Goodreads is the biggie and most respected, Join their author programme and add your profile and book. There’s also AuthorsDen, LibraryThing and WritersNet. Make friends and become an active member of the groups you join. Reviewing the work of other new authors will help garner support and build a “bookie” network.

4) Solicit Amazon reviews.

If you’re selling your books through Amazon—an organization set on a path to either a) world domination or b) break-up by the Monopolies Commission—make sure the selling page is attractive, accurate and informative. Add an author profile, encourage people to submit positive reviews and if you do get the odd bad review (and you will) don’t spit back, it’s really not worth it.

5) Think about search engine optimisation.

Don’t be spooked by this. Search engine optimization (SEO) is just how a page is ranked on search engines and by this I mostly mean Google (another monolith on the path to world domination). If your blog doesn’t appear in the first few pages of Google then you might as well not be on the internet at all. There are many companies that claim they will increase your ranking for a fee. Don’t waste your money. Follow a few simple steps and you’ll soon by up there with the pros:

  • Reply to comments left on your blog. It’s the polite thing to do.
  • Engage with your blogging peers with comments and guest posts.
  • Add share buttons to your posts so your readers can spread the word effortlessly.
  • Create reciprocal links by listing your favorite blogs and Websites on your blog.
  • Join blog directories. Most are free and some specialize (women bloggers, expat bloggers, for example).
  • Post to Facebook and Twitter (at the very least).
  • While you’re at it, you may as well post to Google+, Pinterest and Linkedin (and any other social network you join). All that activity will help you clamber up the rankings and increase your visibility.

6) Get yourself interviewed.

Online interviews are a great way to increase your profile. Expat and book sites (notably, The Displaced Nation!) are always looking for interesting people to chat to. It provides them with content and you with exposure—a perfect double whammy.

7) Create a personal Website.

Creating a personal Website isn’t the expensive faff it used to be and the days of paying top dollar for large-brained web-designers to give birth to your labor of love are over. These days, get the right help and you can end up with a fully functional and integrated site for a fraction of what it used to cost. (PLUG ALERT: You could do worse than checking out author2author, my new low cost Website, blogging and social media service for authors.)

8) And finally…keep chipping away at it!

Exhausted? You will be. This PR lark takes a lot of graft. I know. I’ve never worked so hard. The good news is that once you’ve set the wheels in motion, you just need to keep a light touch on the tiller. Then before you know it, you’ll start getting that exposure you’ve always dreamed of and, who knows, the agents and distributors knocking at your door instead of the pretty postman.

Until then, I’m afraid there’s no substitute for

Master the rules of engagement!

* * *

Readers, any comments, further questions for Jack the Hack? He’ll be back next month with some more writing tips…

Jack Scott’s debut book, Perking the Pansies—Jack and Liam move to Turkey, is a bitter-sweet tragi-comedy that recalls the first year of a British gay couple in a Muslim country. For more information on this and Jack’s other titles, go to his author site.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, another installment in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Images: from top, clockwise: Hand with pen /; Boats in King’s Lynn, Norfolk /; Jack Scott, used with his permission; Turkish boats /

14 responses to “JACK THE HACK: Expat writers, time to crank up the PR machine!

  1. YusefWateef July 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I recently watched someone take a very random blog, separate it into three distinct areas of interest, then publish three medium-sized books. I enjoy a wide range of topics and seeing people with scattered interests like mine succeed at publishing have made me take a second look at possibly becoming an author. Thank you for this article and your insights.

  2. expatlog July 10, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I love this monthly post Jack – always got my eye out for when the next one’s rolling around. Your straight-shooting, friendly “word-to-the-wise” style helps demystify the whole process, making it seem a more achievable goal for us ‘wannabes’.

  3. Jack Scott July 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you. Now all I need to do is start following my own advice!

  4. Adventures (@in_expatland) July 17, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Excellent post, one for newbies and not-so-new writers to print out and post by their laptop, pen and paper, quill and parchment. Since circumstances have temporarily conspired to keep me from being fresh, new and frequently updated (my content, that is), this post serves as a refresher. I’ve been missing a lot lately, but not Jack the Hack column on The Displaced Nation 😉

  5. Pingback: Rules of Engagement | perkingthepansies

  6. Let's CUT the Crap! July 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Wow, Jack. Let ME catch a breath. Sounds harder than a full-time job. Congratulations. Read you in the WP interview. Congrats again.
    Now I need to take a nap. You go ahead. You’re doing a fine job.

  7. The Writing Waters Blog July 29, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Yes, authors have to do all that and more…very, very well.

  8. David Gee July 30, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Solid advice, Jack. Keep on keeping on. THE BEXHILL MISSILE CRISIS is getting close to publication (Sept/Oct) and I’m trying to build up a head of steam under it!

  9. Russell VJ Ward (@RussellVJWard) September 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Great summary and advice, Jack. Think you covered it all of nicely. The SEO part is the bit that always gets me to some extent but the tips you offer are very useful and we should all be doing these things (as bloggers and writers). Cheers mate!

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