Hello lovely friends!

Writing a debut novel can be a lonely business – all the false starts, never-ending drafts, the rollercoaster as confidence grows then plummets again – so it was a real treat last weekend to feel part of the writing community, as the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) held their first online conference. This year is extra special for the RNA as it celebrates its 60th anniversary, and although many of the festivities have been postponed until next year, it was wonderful that the conference went ahead. I’ve attended several conferences over the years, where I learnt loads and made new friends, so would a virtual conference offer a similar experience? Would I finish the day happy, exhausted, my mind buzzing with ideas?

The short answer is YES! And to share ALL I learnt would take WAY too long, so I’ve summarised what I took away into 5 TOP TIPS (in no particular order!)  

TIP 1 – The synopsis is a helpful resource, but the pitch is KEY

Therese Keating, Commissioning Editor at Bookouture explained that if an author pitches their novel well, then it shows they understand where their work sits in the market.

Here’s what she looks for in a GREAT PITCH –  

  • It MUST tell the reader what it’s about (sounds obvious but remember when a writer spends months amongst the weeds, it can be hard to step back and enjoy the wider view!)
  • It must include a compelling HOOK
  • The GENRE must be distinct, unambiguous, CRYSTAL CLEAR
  • Include examples of authors who write in a COMPARABLE STYLE (Be realistic here)

TIP 2 – Plunge your reader into your character’s world and SHOW what they are like through actions…

Bestselling author, Julie Cohen led an excellent, practical workshop on how to create characters out of thin air. As a writing tutor, her enthusiasm for the topic was infectious and this is one tip in a whole host she so generously shared. Her latest novel, Spirited, is a Woman & Home book of the month.  

TIP 3 – Create A Habit (Write Every Day)

Being a fan of the Bestseller Experiment podcast, it was a real thrill to hear from podcast co-host, author and script writer, Mark Stay. Mark shared the eight and a half things he’s learnt in over three years of interviewing BESTSELLING authors but the one tip that ALL bestselling authors share is to WRITE EVERY DAY. And if that sounds impossible because of other commitments, Mark recommends setting aside 20 minutes EACH DAY to at least think about your novel.

TIP 4 – Add body language to create snappy dialogue

Historical romance author, Virginia Heath explained how body language (including facial expressions), pauses and internal thoughts are all ways a character communicates, adding meaning to what they say (or don’t say), in a session entitled The Dark Art of Snappy Dialogue… Interesting to note that babies are fluent in body language from about four months old!

TIP 5 – Be CREATIVE when engaging with book bloggers

Julie Morris, who blogs at alittlebookproblem.co.uk explained that as book bloggers are readers on steroids, they should also be an author’s best friend… However, there are limits on a book blogger’s time (most blog as a hobby, fitting reading around family life and the day job) so they can’t review every book they are sent. But bloggers LOVE bookish content and there are a number of ways authors can help bloggers too…

  • Take part in a blog tour (Remember tours can be arranged for cover reveals, ebook publication, paperback publication, hardback publication etc…)
  • Offer to take part in interview slots
  • Guest posts are always welcomed
  • Offer Promotions and Giveaways
  • Volunteer to take part in Special Features (e.g. Julie’s Friday Night Drinks feature)
  • Consider Blog Takeovers (When an author takes over a book bloggers blog for the day)
  • Share extracts of your work
  • Offer exclusive content
  • Link a post with upcoming events
  • Invite a blogger onto your blog and interview them (remember they will re-blog and share)
  • Collaboration – put a series together with a group of author friends and approach a book blogger who may be happy to host

Before signing off, I would like to send huge congratulations to Linda Corbett in winning the Katie Fforde bursary 2020 and Celia Anderson on winning the Elizabeth Goudge trophy. I also send a heartfelt thank you to Alison May and all involved in the RNA in organising such a fantastic conference.

Until next time… happy writing!

Published by Rae Cowie

Check out my bookish chat at raecowie.com


  1. Great read Rae and jam packed with really useful info for aspiring pre published and published authors alike. Great ideas to engage the readers too.

    Liked by 2 people

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