Our February blog is by the author and journalist, Sandra Danby.
The motivation to start a blog was the humbling process of Googling myself. It was Christmas 2012 and some time since I had checked my online profile. My last search had yielded results including freelance articles written during my journalism days for magazines ranging from The Bookseller and MsLexia to Furniture News, Allergy magazine and What Mortgage?
This time: nothing. Well, not quite nothing. I have a very unusual surname which means there aren’t many people out there called Sandra Danby for me to be mistaken with. So there was nothing about me but lots of results for Sandra Danby, the character in a movie called Pineapple Express.
Once I’d got over the shock that my name was deemed glamorous enough to be a character in a film, I started to get worried. Exactly what sort of film was it? Something about the title suggested it may be a little saucy. Actually it isn’t, it’s an action/comedy/crime movie about a process server and his marijuana dealer who go on the run after he witnesses his dealer's boss murder a competitor. The film stars James Franco and Seth Rogen. Jeanetta Arnette plays Sandra Danby. It's a small part, basically she just has some papers served on her and that's it. A bit of an anti-climax.
I originally searched Google to check what literary agents and book publishers may find when they Googled ‘Sandra Danby’. After the Pineapple Express experience, I decided that 2015 would be the year I would develop an online profile for my fiction. Step one was to start a Wordpress blog. My ultimate aim was to promote my own writing but, as I am a readaholic, in was inevitable that I would also blog about writing in general and celebrate the books I love to read.
I learned along the way, gradually collecting followers. Wordpress is an easy way into blogging, the templates are easy to set-up and if you make a mistake you can simply take the post down again to correct it. What are the key lessons I learned? Network with other like-minded bloggers (many of whom were tremendously supportive when my novel was published in 2014), blog as often as you can, and don’t make your posts too long. Most of my posts are around 500-750 words, though some of my short stories are longer.
Feeling an amateur, last year I attended an SoA Blog Surgery with Kristen Harrison. This was a well-spent hour as Kristen suggested easy ways I could make my blog’s design more effective, in particular emphasising the links to my other social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Goodreads) and including value-added content where suitable, such as links to an author’s website or book trailer. To date, my blog has 751 followers.
In 2015, with the publication of my debut novel looming, I decided the time was right for an author website. I commissioned Nicky Stephen Marketing to produce the website, still within Wordpress, and wrote a short brief of what I wanted. It had to incorporate the static features of an author blog (author information, book information, newsletter sign-up, contact page) plus my existing interactive blog.
Fortunately Wordpress allows this transfer to be done. My novel Ignoring Gravity is about adoption and family history, and the imagery of trees features throughout, so I was keen to echo this theme in my website. I was thrilled with the photographic image we finally chose for the home page.
The website went live in November 2014 and I’ve had such a positive response. There are still things to add. I write a second blog – Notes on a Spanish Valley - about my life in the Spanish countryside. This second blog is now accessible via a simple ‘Spain’ tab on the website, and I will add more website content about Spain as time passes. I plan to turn this Spanish blog into a memoir about our life in rural Spain, an account of nature, wildlife and daily life growing and eating our own fruit and vegetables in our beautiful valley in rural Andalucía.
Yes, the website is more complicated to manage than the blog, but although I post my own content I do not tinker with any design features. I leave that to the team at Nicky Stephen Marketing. The recent SoA seminar ‘Websites, Security and Maintenance’, run again by Kristen Harrison, helped me to understand the basics of search engine optimisation, so I hope there will now be more consistency in the search results for ‘Sandra Danby’. I have learned that my website is an ongoing project. In order to achieve the most from it, I cannot afford to simply leave it alone. So it’s lucky that, as a former journalist, I am never short of ideas to write about.
Sandra Danby lives in England and Spain. She turned her childhood love of stories into an English degree and became a journalist. She now writes fiction full-time.
Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Ignoring Gravity is her first novel. Her next novel, second in the series about ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’, is Connectedness, to be published in 2015.
Ignoring Gravity book trailer: