Saturday, 27 May 2017

Southern Virtual Mini Book Festival - Introducing Su Bristow

Welcome back to my mini book festival. The second author I'd like to introduce you all to is Su Bristow. Her book Sealskin is one that has certainly been creating a buzz in the Blogosphere. I've heard so many wonderful things about it from fellow bloggers and I know that I'm going to have to sneak it into my schedule very soon, so I was delighted when the author, Su Bristow, agreed to take part in my little event.

Su's chosen to talk about things she didn't know before she became a published author, but first here's a little bit about the lady herself.

Photo courtesy of Su Bristow

Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes ‘Troll Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and ‘Changes’ which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Her novel, Sealskin, is set in the Hebrides, and it’s a reworking of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been described as ‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.

          10 things I didn't know before I became a published author 

1.         It doesn’t stop when you’ve written the book!
This is one of those things that’s obvious when you think about it, but you don’t much, because you’re too preoccupied with the actual writing. In order for your book to do well, you’ll need to write articles, be interviewed by anyone who’s interested, give talks, and travel here and there. And if it does do well, you will be in demand for much more of this.

2.         Social media are essential.
Like it or not – and plenty of writers I know are still determined not to go there – social media are part of the writer’s toolkit. The main places I go are Facebook and Twitter; there are plenty of other platforms, but you have to set your limits somewhere, or you’ll spend all day trying to keep up. How much should you do? The jury’s out on that one, and the terrain is changing all the time, but there is general agreement that if you don’t have much social media presence, agents and publishers will find you less attractive.

3.         Be your own publicist.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a publisher – Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books – who works very hard to publicise her books. She sends out hundreds of review copies before publication, organises blog tours, submits to literary festivals, radio, newspapers and periodicals, and a lot more that I haven’t been aware of. Some publishers don’t do much at all; and even if they do, you have to play your part. If you self-publish, you’ll have to do it all yourself, or pay someone to help.
There really is no choice about this. There are several million ebooks out there now, and more appearing all the time. Why should anyone find their way to your book, let alone buy it? Self-promotion is part of the package.

4.         You can’t please everyone!
Well, of course not, but somehow you still hope that everyone will be nice, even if they don’t love your work or it’s not their preferred genre. Seasoned writers know not to look at the one star reviews, or engage in conversation with trolls. It won’t be useful feedback, and it can get under your skin and sap your confidence. Just don’t go there.

5.         People are curious about you.
Back in the day, you read the paragraph about the writer inside the back cover, and that was that. That day is long past! Nowadays, people will find you on social media, and if you are interviewed for articles or radio and television, you will be asked about anything that the interviewer thinks may interest the public.
Long before Sealskin was published, my publisher asked me if I had a ‘unique selling point’ or USP. If you don’t decide what your USP is, and make sure it’s at the forefront in any presentation, other people will decide for you. They might do that anyway! In my case, it’s my profession. I’m a medical herbalist, and in all the radio interviews I’ve done, herbal medicine has had almost as much air time as the novel. I didn’t plan it that way, but I’m very happy if herbalism gets some publicity.

6.         What comes next?
Your next work, if there is one, will be public property. Everyone wants to know what it’s about, how much you’ve written already, and when they can read it. Some writers have a sort of back catalogue of novels that haven’t been published yet, ready to be polished up and put on display, but if you haven’t, make sure you have some good answers ready. Everyone, including and especially your agent and your publisher (yes, Broo and Karen, this means you!) wants to hear that you have something else up your sleeve. If they don’t, you should be worried. No pressure…

7.         Quid pro quo.
Writers, on the whole, are fantastically supportive of each other. And there’s a huge and growing community of online bloggers and  reviewers who look out for each other too. If they like you and your work, they will be an amazing source of support, not just in terms of publicity, but in sharing information, offering congratulations, consolation, commiseration and much more.
What do they want in return? Certainly no financial reward. It’s do as you would be done by: share their posts from time to time, retweet their tweets, comment – favourably, or not at all – on their blogs, and  recommend them to your followers and friends. It’s one of the lovely things about the internet: what goes around comes around.

8.         Protect your thinking time.
A lot of my creative thinking happens when I’m doing something else, like walking or gardening; simple physical activity that allows your mind to float free. You have to be alone for that, or with a companion who doesn’t need to talk all the time. And it’s easy for it to fall off the bottom of your list of things that have to be done. But it’s an essential part of the process of writing, and if you don’t make time for it, your writing will suffer.

9.         It changes the way you read.
Once you’ve started writing yourself, you can’t help noticing the way other writers do it. And if you judge competitions, as I do for Exeter Writers, what you read varies enormously in quality. Some of it is marvellous, some is frankly terrible, and most is somewhere in between. You really appreciate those writers who are good enough to make you stop noticing, and just get lost in the reading. And you become more careful, when you’re reading just for your own pleasure (which becomes a treat rather than the norm!), to choose books that will do that for you.

10.       It changes your relationship with non-writers.
If you’re in a book group, being a writer may divide you from the non-writing members. You learn to critique in a different way, as though you were a beta-reader rather than a reviewer. There’s a world of difference between giving feedback that will help the writer to improve their work, and cleverly picking holes in it. It can sometimes be hard to listen to book group criticism, when you understand more about the tortuous process of writing.
And of course, your friends and family will look for reflections of themselves in what you write! No matter how much you deny it, they will always suspect you of ‘using’ them as material. There’s been a lawsuit in the news recently, in which an ex-boyfriend sued the writer – now very successful – because, he said, the horrible husband in her latest book was actually him. Well, she may not have intended it, but if the cap fits…

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How lovely to see you mention bloggers in your list Su. I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the blogging community to you and all the other lovely authors out there that make book blogging such a pleasure, we couldn't do it with out you. 💗

You can find out more about Su and connect with her using the links below:


 I'd like to thank Su for taking the time to write a guest post and for stopping by today, it's been a pleasure having you here. If you've read Sealskin please share your thoughts in the comments below, you might persuade me to bump it up my personal TBR quicker!


  1. Another very interesting/informative stop Neats...LOVING it!!

  2. Thanks Sue! I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying it 😉

  3. I recognise all of the above... I've already bought my copy of Sealskin and am looking forward to reading it.

    1. I can't wait until I can get to read my copy either Jan. I'm looking forward to comparing thoughts once we've both finished.

  4. Great post, Su. As a newly published indie author, I'm learning all these things too. 1,2 and 3 I definitely recognise, and 7, I've been discovering - as here, on Neats' lovely blog, and with you, I'm finding the blogging and writing communities wonderfully supportive. PS Sealskin awaits me on my Kindle - really looking forward to reading it!