Welcome to NinaBell.co.uk

Welcome to my website. My books, published by Sphere, are about big family dramas, such as wills (The Inheritance), in-laws (Sisters in Law) and who you can really trust (Lovers and Liars). My latest, The Empty Nesters, asks which relationships - and friendships - can survive once the children have left home.

I'd love to hear from you via this website or Twitter and if you've been affected by any of the issues in my novels, see the Survival Guides (in the From the Author section) and my Links page.

Latest News and Updates

Facebook for authors

June 8th, 2013

Yesterday I messaged someone on Facebook and the message disappeared. Maybe they got it. I’ve no idea. And I’d only ‘friended’ them by accident when I was clicking on something else. So I thought it was time for ten great tips from authors etc who do know how to use Facebook.

1) Facebook works best as a way of communicating with your most loyal fans (rather than the best place to acquire new ones). ‘Have conversations, ask them for advice and give them something back, like a competition or a preview of your new covers’ says Felice Howden of Little Brown.

2) BUT Facebook has strict rules on running competitions and if you fall foul of them, they will shut your page down. You must use an app like Rafflecopter (www.rafflecopter.com) to run the competition within all the various rules and laws. Check that whatever you’re doing is allowed. I have seen several authors run mini-writing competitions on Facebook where there isn’t a ‘prize’ – just a ‘the winner is…’ I have no idea if this is allowed. Google it. And good luck with that.

3) Don’t post every time you open the fridge door. Media analysts SocialBakers say that businesses need to post 5-10 times a week. Less than twice a week, and you won’t ‘engage’. More than 10 posts a week starts to turn people off. One of the world’s biggest companies, technology giant GE, posts ’0-3 times a day.’ These guys spend a lot of money finding out what works. (They post videos, photos and questions, by the way, not updates that they’re just about to catch a train).

4) Have a weekly ‘event’. Author, speaker and writing coach Nicola Morgan ( www.nicolamorgan.com) posts a weekly writing tip. ‘Like all social media, Facebook takes time, commitment and humanity,’ she adds. ‘See what works and what doesn’t, and only do it if you enjoy it. Reluctance will show through.’

5) Photos, videos and links have more ‘weight’ on Facebook than words – in that order. (Don’t ask. Facebook has something called an Edgerank Algorithm. You will not find out more about it from me). But you get the picture. ‘Words only’ entries are the least popular. Black Roses author Jane Thynne (www.janethynne.com) works this beautifully with snippets of historical research linked to her World War II spy novel, accompanied by archive photos and film.

6) Facebook is a great way of interacting with other authors. Award-winning author Rowan Coleman (www.rowancoleman.co.uk) also teaches at the Faber Academy (www.faberacademy.co.uk). She says that her students love hearing advice from other writers, so she posts questions to fellow authors about how they handle, say, characterisation. Which is interesting for all of us.

Next few tips in a few days time. You could always cheer me up by clicking on my Facebook page (see right) and ‘liking’ it. I’d be very grateful.

Posted in: From the Author by Nina Bell on June 8th, 2013
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Twitter for authors – What do you say?

June 3rd, 2013

New Twitter-ers (or tweeps) often think their first tweet is like entering a crowded room and shouting. In fact, it’s more like going into an empty room and muttering quietly to yourself.

That’s because only your followers see what you say. At first, you don’t have many followers. So feel free to experiment.

Social media company @Hubspot analysed the most popular tweets by measuring the ‘most and least retweeted words’. The most popular words include ‘you, please, retweet, post, blog, free and great’. The least popular words include ‘I, bored, tired, bed and watching’. They concluded that people want positive things from Twitter - your followers don’t want to hear you moan, and they are interested in new posts, as well as anything relevant to their own lives. Although Twitter can be very supportive when you are ill or have a disaster.

Hubspot’s analysis also suggested that, if you’re on Twitter to raise your profile, the most effective number of tweets a day is 4-5. And Social media trainer @zoe_cairns suggests that your Tweets should fall into four roughly equal categories: conversations, articles, tips and promotions.

Start with conversations. You can click ‘reply’ to anyone about anything. Saying ‘I loved your book’ is a good way to start tweeting without feeling too silly. The tip here is that if you start your tweet with the other person’s @name, then only people who follow you BOTH will see the conversation between you.

So if you want to be generous in your compliments, use their @name later in the tweet. If I tweet: ‘@louise_candlish I loved The Day You Saved My Life’, that tweet will only be seen by those who follow both me and Louise. But if I tweet ’I loved The Day You Saved My Life by @louise_candlish’, then everyone who follows me will see it.

In theory, it is poor Twitter etiquette to have long exchanges with the same people all the time, because it clutters up the Twitterfeed of people who follow you both. You’re supposed to take it to text, email or direct message. But that’s how some people like to use Twitter. Those who don’t like it can unfollow them.

Now for articles. When you write something new on your website, tweet about it. If you find an interesting article in a newspaper, magazine, or on someone else’s website, tweet it, with full credit and a link. It’s good publicity for them, and it makes your twitterfeed a useful source of information. If you’re a writer, tweet articles about writing and publishing. And follow people who tweet articles about writing and publishing. Everyone gets to hear what’s going on, and it’s always interesting to hear how other writers work. Both @SophieHannahCB1 and @elizabethbuchan have tweeted links to some unpublished writing – for example, a passage which the editor has cut, or which has relevance to the news today. This offers interesting insights, and helps build interest for the book when it is published.

Next up is tips. You can tweet writing tips like ‘The best advice my writing professor gave me: convert exposition to ammunition’ from supreme story coach Robert McKee (@McKeeStory) . Or you can tweet tips on the latest good read, such as @mandybaggot’s ‘Amazing book reviewer @DizzyCLB  gives 5 stars to @patriciasands The Promise of Provence’. If you write in a specialist area, you can tweet snippets of interest – historical novelist @chadwickauthor has been giving King John’s itinerary for 1205AD in a series of daily tweets. Crime writer @MRHall_books links tweets to tips on crime writing (his seven secrets of crime writing series on Facebook is excellent).

I’ve left the tricky one till last. Promotions. How much self-promotion should you do? In theory, one in four tweets could be promotional.  ‘Promotion’ means news of your book, competitions, and RT-ing reviews and compliments.

The last two are the subject of much ‘Twitter etiquette’ indignation. RT-ing good reviews is a nice way giving the reviewer or blogger more publicity. Everyone does it. But ‘Your book was so fabulous, I cried all night’ is a little trickier. Even so, I’ve noticed that many people who complain most about others RT-ing compliments do it themselves occasionally. So think about the 1 in 4 rule. If you’ve tweeted about your book a lot recently, RT-ing compliments is probably too much. But if you get the odd compliment, you’re maybe entitled to pass it on. What do you think?

And one more tip from @zoe_cairns: find out what days and times your followers are on Twitter using a programme called www.tweriod.com . Then schedule your promotional tweets, articles and tips, so when you check into Twitter during the day, you can enjoy just having conversations. For information on scheduling tweets, RT-ing and other technical terms see my earlier articles. What’s your best tip? Let me know.

Posted in: From the Author by Nina Bell on June 3rd, 2013

Twitter for authors – who to follow in the book world

May 28th, 2013

Most writers are advised to go on Twitter by their publishers. Or if you’re hoping to be published, you’ve heard that Twitter is where authors, agents, publishers and booksellers hang out. But it’s also a resource. You can ask questions, hear about publishing news, debates, competitions, awards,tips and deadlines. If something big is happening, your Twitter friends will tell you to turn on the TV, and when you’re stuck in stationary train, you’ll probably find out why on Twitter. And if your books are about a particular topic or location, you can stay on top of what’s happening there even if it’s miles from your desk. Best of all, it’s a place where writers chat to each other. So it’s much more than just somewhere to promote your books.

I wanted to suggest a comprehensive list of book people to follow, but as I tried to compile one, I realised that the brilliant thing about Twitter is that my list will never be your list. You tailor-make your own. But I can suggest a strategy for compiling an interesting and rewarding Twitterfeed.

One of the best ways to get new followers is to follow people. A percentage of them will follow you back. Social media trainer @zoe_cairns suggests following 20 a day. But there are no shortcuts. Don’t use those ‘get more follower’ programmes. You want interesting people to chat to, informative people or those who might actually read your books not herdsmen in Ulan Bator. Read every profile yourself, then decide. But it’s in the spirit of Twitter to be generous. If in doubt, follow.

Start by following other authors, especially those in your genre. Some authors only follow or chat to a small number of people, others may not necessarily follow back, but do engage widely. In my Twitterfeed @susanhillwriter (Susan Hill), @joannechocolat (Joanne Harris) and @SophieHannahCB1 (Sophie Hannah) are good repliers, as are @rowancoleman, @alimcnamara, @judithkinghorn, @veronica_henry, @chadwickauthor and @dorothykoomson. @MarianKeyes does interesting things, like create Twitterfeeds for her characters. Male authors seem to come in two categories: obsessive self-promoters who pound your timeline incessantly with their 5 star reviews, and charming chaps who barely mention they’ve, er, got a book out, and who say interesting things.  Try @peterjamesUK and @sjtoyne for starters.

A few male authors also set up automated direct messages that say ‘hi, thanks for following. Check out my website/download my new novel and tell me what you think.’ Sometimes, if you DM them back, you find that you have already been automatically unfollowed, as they move onto fresh prey. I’m sorry to be sexist about this, but I get about one male author a week (that’s over 100 since I started Twitter), and I have never experienced it from a female author. Unfollow, unfollow.

Next up is bloggers. Lots of bloggers are authors and vice versa. Some, like @novelicious, have even developed into publishers. They’re increasingly influential in the industry, and are very interactive, following and replying freely. Bloggers come and go, as many stop to write their own books, so it’s very difficult to find a definitive list of who’s good at any one time. Claire King (@ckingwriter) has recently done a series of bloggers on her blog, so check that out for ideas. Most bloggers guest blog, so once you’ve found one you like, they will be interacting with others. Good publishing industry bloggers include @samatlounge and @danoosha. @cathryanhoward is always interesting on self-publishing.

See who other authors and bloggers are following by clicking on ‘Followers’ on their Twitter page or seeing who they interact with. Then follow away! You will soon feel part of a community.

Follow your publisher, or any you’d like to be published by, but many publishers have so much to read and write that they don’t tweet or follow back as much as writers do. Agents have just as much to read and write, but are less weighed down by corporate structures, so can be a bit more trenchant: @caroleagent (Carole Blake) and @missdaisyfrost are the two grande dames of agent tweeting. Add lots more agents if you’re looking for an agent, because they do often tweet illuminating advice.

Bookshops. Follow your local bookshop, and any bookshop that has more to say than ‘this is our next author appearance’. @gulliversbks (Gullivers Books) in Wimborne tweets nicely. Some branches of Waterstones are good to follow, too. After that, there are the organisations: the Public Lending Rights (@PLR_UK)  the Society of Authors (@Soc_of_Authors) The Authors Licensing & Collecting Society (@ALCS_UK) etc. Plus the writers’ associations (@RNAtweets, @the_cwa etc) They tweet interesting and relevant information for writers.

Obviously, if someone has 8,000 followers and is only following 217, they’re not likely to follow you back, but they could be interesting. If they’re not, unfollow them later on. It’s not like a party, where you could get stuck with someone. It’s quick and easy to unfollow, (via www.justunfollow.com) or click on the ‘following’ button below their profile. They’re unlikely to notice.

So, finally, if someone follows you, or Twitter suggests someone who looks like they might be interesting or read your book, check out their profile and follow them. They might be fun. They may follow back, or check out your website. I used to worry that if I followed too many people, my timeline would get clogged, but most people cope successfully with following 500-1,000 or more. Every so often, do a bit of unfollowing, then follow some more.

And while you’re about it, please do follow me (@ninabellbooks), my publishers (@BTweenTheSheets) and my literary agency @marigoldengreen at David Higham Associates. Thank you.

Next blog is ‘What do you actually say on Twitter? Twitter etiquette and the rest…’ And is it really OK to RT compliments?

Posted in: From the Author by Nina Bell on May 28th, 2013
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Twitter for authors

May 25th, 2013

Every few days an author emerges on Twitter, often because their publishers have suggested it. Some take to it quickly, others make an embarrassed stab at it, before giving up. I initially found Twitter baffling, so I decided to find out more. Now people are referring friends to me for advice, so I thought I’d sum it up.

Firstly, do a bio and photograph. Nobody wants to follow a blank head. Use a photograph, however obscure. The cover of your book is OK, but not forever. Then do a sensible bio. All that ‘I write therefore I am’ or ‘I am a creature of the universe’ will turn people off. You write x, you like y, you are published by z. Maybe add your home town. Writer @benjohncock says that you should say what you want to be known for (ie ‘writer’ rather than ‘unpublished writer’ or ‘wannabe writer’).

Then make sense of the stream of tweets with a programme like www.hootsuite.com . This organises your Twitterfeed into columns. The first is your ‘Timeline’ or the tweets that arrive every minute from the people you follow. The second is the ‘Mentions’ or people who have mentioned you or directed a tweet at you. The third is the DMs (Direct Messages), which can only go from you to someone who follows you and vice versa. The fourth is the ‘Sent’, which is the tweets you’ve sent. If you don’t see your ‘Mentions’ easily, you will ignore people trying to communicate with you. Twitter is a conversation, so if someone replies to you, it’s nice – but not compulsory – to reply back.

Hootsuite means you can also schedule your tweets. Click on ‘compose message.’ Write it, then look at the symbols below on the right. One is a calendar. Click on that and you can specify what day and time your tweet goes out. So you can send out all your tweets for different times at once. But check back every so often to see if what’s going on, or if anyone has replied to you. Twitter can be unexpected fun, and you don’t want to miss out.

The key to getting lots of followers, unless you really are terribly famous, is to follow people. Social media trainer @zoe_cairns recommends following 20 people a day. Follow people who might read your books. Follow industry pundits and other authors who might be fun or interesting. Follow writers you’d like to talk to. Follow agents or publishers if you want an agent or publisher. Check everyone else’s lists of ‘followers’ and follow them. Follow people who follow you unless you don’t like the look of them. Don’t ‘buy’ followers. Social media analysts @socialfresh warn against automatic programmes that promise you thousands of followers – they’ll be any old person in Outer Mongolia. You want people who are interesting, from whom you can learn about the publishing industry, who might read your books, or who you’d enjoy chatting to. I’ll do a list of good booky tweeps in a few days time, but essentially what you read on Twitter is just as important as what you broadcast about yourself.

Every so often, sign onto www.justunfollow.com and see who has followed you back. If someone isn’t interesting, and/or they haven’t followed you back, then unfollow them. That means holding the cursor over the ‘following’ sign and clicking. Hootsuite also has an ‘unfollow’ button. Sometimes unfollowing happens by accident, so if you find that someone you know in real life has unfollowed you, don’t take it personally. People fall off Twitter feeds all the time.

Hashtags are the next important thing. A hashtag # is a topic or an industry. Including a hashtag means that your tweet will be seen by everyone who follows you, plus anyone who clicks on that hashtag. So hashtags increase your profile. If you reply to a tweet with a hashtag, use that hashtag. It will mean you’re properly in the conversation. Book-y hashtags include #writing #writetip #amwriting #fridayreads (books to recommend, on a Friday) and so on. Look up popular hashtags on www.twubs.com. Another hashtag on Friday is #ff or Follow Friday. It means you’re recommending tweeps for other people to follow. So, on Fridays, you might tweet #ff lovely authors @elizabethbuchan, @fannyblake1, @alimcnamara and so on, so that other people can follow them. They often do the same to you and you all get more followers. You get the idea. Twitter is about being nice to each other. Up to 2 hashtags increases people’s interest in your tweet. More than that is spammy. I’ll be doing Twitter etiquette in a later post.

Next up is Retweet or RT. Hover the cursor over the tweet and you will see RT pop up. If you click on RT, you can send that tweet to all your followers. If it’s interesting, your followers will like it, and it saves you thinking up something new. If someone RTs you, that gives you more publicity. It’s win-win.

Links are important, too. Say you have a new launch or blogpost, or you have found an interesting article online. Click on and highlight its web address. Then click on ‘compose tweet’ and write your tweet. Then hover the cursor over the other symbols until you find ‘links’. Hootsuite has a shortening links box. Paste the link in, click on ‘shorten link’ and it’ll be inserted into your tweet. I like to put Amazon links to people’s books when I wish them ‘Happy publication day’. It gives your followers something to check out, and maybe other authors will include my Amazon link back on my next publication day.

Ann Patchett recently said that publishers should involve authors more as part of the publishing industry. I think one good step would be to engage authors like me (or even me – I’m for hire!) to help other authors get started with social media. It would be a relatively inexpensive way of making a big difference, rather than simply setting up a Twitter and Facebook page for a new author, then letting them muddle along with just a few starter tips.

My next blogposts will include ‘Good Book People to Follow’ and ‘But What Do I Actually Say in My Tweet? And What Not?.’

Posted in: From the Author by Nina Bell on May 25th, 2013
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