Tag Archives: business advice

So You Want to Write a Book..?

I got my book deal in April 2018. It was a big moment of celebration for me as it’s something I’d been thinking about wanting to do for over five years. I caution my use of words here – THINKING ABOUT – because that’s really all I’d been doing. I hadn’t actively been working towards getting a deal or writing a book at all. Because of this my experience of this whole process is probably quite different to that of someone ardently pursuing it. However, I hope sharing the things I’ve learnt throughout the process will still be interesting and useful to some of you.

Did you have a literary agent? How do you go about getting an agent? What does an agent do?

I started working with my manager, Sharon, in June 2017. She approached me (we already knew each other because of her background in PR) and I signed with her to have her manage my bigger brand projects and collaborations. As soon as we started working together, she mentioned how she’d love for me to write a book. I told her it’s something I’d been thinking about but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. We had a lot of other projects on the go back then so we put the idea on the back-burner for a while.

Although not solely a literary agent, Sharon acts as the middle (wo)man between me and whichever business or brand I’m working with. In other words, she does all the negotiations/ deals with the contracts etc and SHE IS A GODSEND. Of course, I check everything over myself too, but it is fantastic having someone who can speak on my behalf and who understands more about that stuff than I do. Also, let’s be honest, it’s much easier for someone else to sell you than for you to sell yourself and for them to ask for more money or a better percentage because you’re British and a creative and generally very awkward about that stuff.

So, when Ryland, Peters and Small approached me at the end of 2017, Sharon was involved in every step. She was in every email chain, at every meeting, and she was the one that checked and double checked the contract, renegotiating parts if necessary and making sure everything was in order.

What was your initial pitch/ meeting with the publishers like? Did you have to go in with sample chapters and all your ideas laid out?

Because my publisher approached me, our first meeting was quite casual. I went in with some copies of our magazine but they already had a pretty good idea of who I was and what they wanted the book to be about.

I’d jotted down a few sample chapter ideas to present them with and I mentioned some things I thought wouldn’t work and why. Luckily, we were completely on the same page and they loved all my ideas! After this, I started working with my editor, Alice, and we came up with the chapter outline, word count and flatplan.

How did you get from having an idea for a book to knowing where to start with writing it?

The flatplan was invaluable and is something we use for the magazine too. It’s basically a document that lays out every page and shows where each chapter will go and in what order (and in the case of the magazine, where the adverts will be). Once we had this decided we were able to work out how many words each chapter had to be based on how many pages it had been assigned and how many images we’d need to source or shoot to fill the allocated space.

Having this break down made the whole process much less scary. I was basically working chapter by chapter rather than trying to think of the book as a whole. Unlike fiction, each chapter was a self-contained entity, and from my point of view they were like writing individual blog posts or long magazine articles. The whole process then felt much less overwhelming because I’d basically be practising doing that for the past decade!

Publisher vs self-publishing – how did you decide?

As someone who self-publishes a magazine you might have been surprised to find out that I went with a publisher for my first book. I’ve also have friends who have self-published books with massive success, so I guess I always thought this might be the route I’d take one day too.

However, the thing that put me off and ultimately made me procrastinate on writing a book for so long was just how much extra STUFF I’d have to do (on top of actually writing it) in order to self-publish. Things such as hiring an editor, hiring my own designer to put it together, researching printers, working out what kind of print stock to use, paying for the books to be printed, figuring out how to get the book on Amazon as well as all the costs involved in producing the photo shoot!

In the end, it actually felt like a huge relief to be working with a publisher who not only took care of all of those things but already had the expertise. If I’ve learnt one thing throughout this process it’s that publishing a book is VERY different to publishing a magazine!

Also, let’s not forget, I got paid upfront too by way of my advance. If I was entirely self-publishing, I’d effectively had been working for nothing until the book was released. I’m so happy I decided to work with Ryland, Peters and Small on this book. They were fantastic from start to finish.

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How I Started Rock n Roll Bride (AKA If I Can Do it, You Bloody Well Can Too!)

Photo by June Photography

One of the questions I’m asked the most often is “How did you start Rock n Roll Bride?” There’s a short version that I reel off without a second thought, but after reading this post by my friends at Bespoke Bride I was inspired to put digital pen to digital paper and write about it in much more detail. Maybe it will help you if you’re just starting out with your own business, or maybe it’ll be nothing more than a welcome distraction from that other thing you’re really supposed to be doing right now! Regardless I think it’ll be a fun exercise for me to journey back down memory lane for a bit.

Gareth proposed to me on April 12th 2007, exactly five years to the day since we started dating. Although I was never really the kind of person to ever think about her wedding (I knew Gareth was ‘the one’ but as a child of a messy divorce he’d told me many times he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to get married), I threw myself into wedding planning WHOLEHEARTEDLY. I have quite an obsessive personality and if I like something I REALLY REALLY like it… to the extreme!

I went out and bought every single wedding magazine and like many of you, I’m sure, immediately felt incredibly disappointed with what was on offer. I didn’t really like ANYTHING, but as it felt like something semi-traditional it was the only option, we started planning our wedding, inspired by what we saw. The thought that we didn’t have to get married in a fancy wedding venue, I didn’t have to wear a white dress and chair covers were something we could chuck out the proverbial window didn’t even cross my 24-year old mind.

A few months later, I was spending one of my many frantic Googling sessions looking for slightly cooler wedding stuff when I stumbled across some American wedding blogs: Ruffled, Green Wedding Shoes and the now defunct Eastside Bride, The Unbride and Snippet & Ink. They had all just started and they weren’t the big, glossy online publishers you see today. They were basic blog layouts with simple designs and were updated daily, being run by girls just like me who were also planning their weddings. Although not everything they shared was quite my style, the fact that these bloggers were updating their sites every day made them a constant source of inspiration. Plus, their ideas were definitely more palatable than what was being offered by Brides Magazine.

I was immediately hooked, checking in with my favourites every single day. After a few weeks, sometime around mid-October 2007, I decided I wanted in on the action and started my own wedding planning blog! With literally zero technical ability I managed to set up rocknrollbride.blogspot.co.uk (someone else now has that domain so if you visit it the stuff on there has nothing to do with me!) using some free blogging software and a design template. I can’t remember, or find, what I had as my ‘logo’ when I first launched, but after our wedding in April 2008, I took some of our wedding pictures, opened Photoshop and created the most god-awful blog header I’ve ever seen…

The name was inspired by our first meeting with our wedding photographers who said we were definitely the most ‘Rock n Roll’ couple they’d ever had! Looking back, we so weren’t that alternative (especially not compared to all the amazing couples and weddings I see now) but I’m grateful for that throwaway comment!

I blogged about everything and anything to do with weddings, posting multiple times a day. I was OBSESSED. I didn’t care (or realise) how rookie it was, or that the website was ugly as sin, or that my writing wasn’t great and was FULL of typos. I just wrote and uploaded and published on repeat for about eight months.

Oh, and I should probably mention at this point that I kept my online presence a total secret from everyone I knew in real life… yes even Gareth!

OK so fast forward to late 2008, and although by this point we were married, I still kept sharing wedding stuff (in secret) on the blog. The site had quite a loyal, if not small, following by this point. Remember this was before most social media (I had a personal Facebook but wasn’t yet using Twitter. Instagram and Pinterest didn’t even exist!) so I didn’t really know exactly how many readers I had, but I’d see the same names popping up in the blog comments.

Anyway, I heard about this thing called Google Analytics, something you could put on your site to see how many people were visiting it. And despite being completely technically inept, I attempted to install it myself and somehow, SOMEHOW, I deleted the whole fucking website. Yes, it was GONE, erased from the internet forever!!

So, I went to my new husband, who by the way is a computer genius (yet I was even too embarrassed to tell him that I was writing about weddings online) and told him I had this blog… about weddings… and that I’d kinda accidentally deleted it. TO THIS DAY Gareth has no idea how I managed to do this, and although at the time I was so gutted that all my work had gone (HA!) it was actually one of the best things that could have happened. It forced me to start again and re-evaluate what and why I was doing it. Like, if I was really into this whole wedding thing, and I wanted to keep writing about them, the website had to have a purpose. I was no longer a bride so it couldn’t just be a personal diary anymore, it had to be useful to people, it had to offer something different to the other wedding blogs I was reading. He helped me register rocknrollbride.com and start using a much better blogging platform called WordPress. I started it up again in January 2009.

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How to Get the Best Results from Exhibiting at a Wedding Show

national wedding show (2)

I’m sure you will have heard by now, but Rock n Roll Bride is partnering with the National Wedding Show, the UK’s biggest bridal event, to host an area for alternative suppliers in the spring. It’s VERY exciting indeed!

The exhibitor stands are filling up fast, and today I wanted to share some of my top tips for those of you wanting to come along and showcase your products or services. If you’ve ever wondered why some companies seem to be overrun with business after doing just one show a year, whereas others struggle to get any bookings from them, read on!

Before the show

Invest in your stand

Exhibiting at wedding shows can be expensive, not only is there the cost of the stand itself to consider, but there’s the travel and accommodation around it, as well as decking out your space and printing any marketing materials. However its true what they say, you have to speculate to accumulate and you really do get out what you put in.

If you just turn up and plonk your products on a table in front of you, don’t be surprised if you don’t get an amazing reaction, especially if the person next to you has gone all out on the décor and props! Even if their product or service is inferior to yours, if they’ve made an effort with their stand, they are going to get more people stopping by to have a look.

You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do need to get creative and put some effort in. In a sea of boring, bland, white on white on white stands, people will FLOCK to you if yours offers something interesting and different (even if its just to borrow your decoration ideas for their weddings) Hey, there’s no shame in hooking them in with your amazing-looking stand and then starting to talk to them about what you do.

Research the market

It is vital that you know what kind of audience the show is going to attract. Ask the organisers for information on the kind of brides and grooms that usually attend. Are they having city weddings or countryside ones? What’s the age range? How far in advance are they planning? What are their budgets? It is up to the organisers to know all this so that you can plan accordingly.

Not only will this information give you an idea of which of your products or services might be most attractive to them (remember you don’t have to bring along everything you’ve ever made!) but on the day it will also enable you to speak to them in a language they understand.

Ask questions 

Before you book your spot, don’t be shy about asking the organisers what they can do for you too. Find out where they’ll be marketing the show to ensure they get a good turn out on the day (wedding blogs and magazines, national press, radio, TV, email newsletters, social media?)

Be sure to also find out what your booking includes. Will your name be mentioned in any marketing? What about on the programme of the day? Where will your stand be located? Does your booking including a plug, tablecloths or any furniture? Some wedding shows will give you a booth and nothing else, others will provide a table but no sockets or walls. Does the venue have WiFi? Can you contribute items to the goodie bags?

Promote the show yourself

Getting people through the door is the job of the show’s marketing department, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help out too! Make sure you’re promoting the event on your own website and social media, and let your clients know about it. It could be a great opportunity for those that have already booked you to come along and meet you, and anyone that’s following you online also might be interested in attending if they know you’re going to be there.

national wedding show (1)

During the show

Offer a show-only discount or deal

People LOVE a discount so offering a ‘show-only’ deal is a great way to encourage people to book or buy then and there. Research shows that a discount has to be significant to really make an impact, 10% off probably isn’t enticing enough for people to make a quick decision (unless you are selling really big ticket items and the saving will be significant), but a 30% reduction probably will!

If you don’t want to discount, you could always included something extra instead, such as free shipping if they purchase on the day, or a little gift.

Be memorable but not OTT

As I mentioned earlier, its vitally important to make an effort with how your stand looks so you stand out, but you yourself must also be memorable!

Never just sit, watching people go by. There’s a fine line between being enthusiastic and friendly and annoying and pushy, but you do need to be on your feet, smiling at people as they walk past and trying to encourage them to chat. The British are notoriously reserved so this can be tricky at first (for both exhibitors and attendees) but do persevere! After a while you’ll get into a flow and it will feel less awkward. Remember, no-one is going to come up to you if you’re sat on your phone, or chatting to your friend at the next stand.

Here’s another little pro-tip for free, please, for the love of all things holy, think of a more interesting opening line than “So… when are you getting married?” Couples will have heard that so many times that they’ll probably start to tune it out. How about asking people what their favourite thing about wedding planning is? Or what they’d buy for the wedding if money was no object? You could even offer them a cheeky cocktail (have a stash at the back of your stand!) Honestly, they’ll probably be so stunned that you seem like a normal human being that they won’t be able to help themselves but stop and talk to you!

Host a workshop or seminar

A lot of wedding fairs put on workshops or seminars that attendees can book into. Why not speak to the organisers and see if you could sign up to host something? Not only are they great ways to interact with potential clients, but they showcase your product or services in a really organic, non-sleazy way.

In the past I’ve taken part in flower crown workshops, watched make up demonstrations, and once I even got to paint (and then keep!) a pair of shoes. But one of the best I’ve ever been to was a wine tasting, and let me tell you, it was PACKED. I mean, who doesn’t want to try some free wine!? The person putting it on was also offering discounted bottles if you bought them then and there and you know what, even though I wasn’t looking to place a bulk order for a wedding, I left with two!

Network with other suppliers

Wedding shows are a great place to meet other wedding suppliers. In this industry a lot of opportunities that come your way will be because of who you know, so don’t be shy, go up and talk to other people exhibiting at the show and make some new friends!

the national wedding show champagne

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