Wednesday 1 June 2011

Girls ♥ Books – by Jo Cotterill

So what do you do when you’re writing a ‘girly’ series published by a large commercial publisher and you suddenly realise that you’re competing with Louise Rennison, Cathy Cassidy, Karen McCombie et al?
Poach their readers, of course! Or, perhaps more accurately, come up with an idea that will allow you to associate together online, in a place easily accessible to young readers and fans of each writer’s books.
There was a writers’ conference recently, and one of the topics briefly discussed was that of group blogging. An Awfully Big Blog Adventure is a fantastic example of how successful such a venture can be. And I suddenly thought, why isn’t there a group blog for writers of commercial fiction for girls? When my series Sweet Hearts launched with Random House last year, I began blogging in earnest. Over a year later and I have a handful of dedicated readers on the site. They’re lovely, and I won’t say a word against them, but goodness, I wish there were more of them. Blogging is time-consuming and one does wonder if it’s really worth it for a very small audience.
Anyway, being a big Facebook fan, I started a private group and invited other authors along – many of them unknown personally to me, but some of them hugely successful. I was really gobsmacked when almost ALL of them said they wanted to be involved in a group blog! Cathy Cassidy said yes! Karen McCombie said yes! Cathy Hopkins said yes! (Louise Rennison said no, but I’m still hoping…)
The blog idea snowballed so fast that under two months from having the initial idea, it was up, out there, with a rota and an Amazon-linked bookstore and everything. Girls Heart Books was born! And far from having to persuade authors to give it a try, I have had to turn people away! Most astonishing!
It’s still early days, but we have 31 contributors, which means we have a new blog post every single day of the month – and it’s far less work-heavy for the authors than running an individual blog. We’ve got our first competition coming up in a week’s time and have over thirty books to give away (by the publishers of the authors involved). We’re aimed squarely at our readership of 8-14 year olds; it’s lovely to have comments from librarians and other writers, but we want to reach the people who read and buy our books.
So if you know a girl who loves reading, do please tell them about our blog. I have big dreams for expansion, and publishers are also eager to be involved, which is just lovely. In fact, the whole experience has given me a wonderful warm glow (although it has, obviously, meant I haven’t actually been doing much writing) and I can’t wait to see what the coming months bring for Girls Heart Books!
Come and see us at - and find out which author once sold jars of homemade raspberry jam with maggots and which author hates holidays so much she’d rather stay at home!
Many thanks to Joan Lennon (one of our girlsheartbooks bloggers) for letting me use her slot for a guest post!


Miriam Halahmy said...

This has been an inspiring enterprise and I am so glad all your hard work is paying off. Well done Jo!

Wendy Meddour said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emma Barnes said...

It's lovely that you're aiming direct at the readers themselves. Sometimes they seem the ones that are a bit left out - when the books are for and about them.

Sue Purkiss said...

Congratulations, Jo - such a good idea!

Wendy Meddour said...

And I'm completely loving it! Getting to know everyone's secrets and hearing what the readers think. You are one top lady Jo Cotterill!

Anne Cassidy said...

With all these fantastic writers together you'd think that a canny publisher might say, What about a one day conference for this group of writers (you surely would be able to get a dozen or so to attend) plus buyers from bookshops, librarians and girls from eight to twelve. This age slot is so important. It keeps the child reader there for us teen writers.

Anonymous said...

What an excellent idea, Anne! Will drop very big hints...;-)

And thanks all for your comments, it's lovely to be part of such a brilliant group.

Jo Cotterill

karen said...

I think this is absolutely brilliant and inspiring. All credit to clever thinking and hard work. I feel the same with my writing blog - a handful of readers, nothing compared to other blogs I write or contribute to. Something isn't quite working, but is clearly fixed. Well done!