What do I talk about? 10 ideas to get you started


Maybe you’re writing a blog, or have a Facebook page to maintain… there are going to be times when you think ‘what on earth do I write about and why on earth would anyone be interested?’ Not to worry – I hear this all the time and you already have LOADS of good material to share, believe me! Here are a few ideas to get you going.

1. What I’m working on

Everyone wants to know what people are writing about, what’s coming next, sneak previews of topics or plots or characters. You don’t have to give much away, but a little sharing brings your readers along with you. If you start doing this early in the process then you will build a head of interest so that by the time the work makes it to the booksellers your audience is desperate to get their hands on it.

2. Where & how I write

Do you have a routine – 1,000 words before morning coffee, no writing until after you’ve walked the dog? Do you write in cafes, in an office, in silence or listening to Mahler? Do you favour longhand drafts or do you write directly onto a computer or tablet? Do you record notes for yourself when out and about?

However humdrum they may seem to you, these kinds of details are fascinating to your readers. You don’t have to share any personal or private information. But letting people in on your life in small ways – mentioning your dog by name, or admitting you always write in pencil – can make you stand out as someone who is not only real but memorable for being real.

3. Who my heroes are and why

It doesn’t matter how many times you see this tackled in interviews, it’s always a winner. By admitting which writers you admire and love reading, which authors have influenced you, you’re going to stimulate conversation. Encourage your readers to share in return – “over to you!”

4. How I got here – inspirational stories

Have you overcome difficulties to achieve success? Did you face 100 rejections before your first novel was published and is now a New York Time Bestseller? Did you used to work at a publishers and were you inspired by the slush pile to write your own novel, only better? Inspirational stories are always popular, and great material for sharing. Package your stories up with a hashtag such as #FeelgoodFriday, #inspiration or #howIdidit and encourage retweets and shares.

5. Writing struggles, and how I overcome them – for example creating believable characters, dealing with writer’s block

Admitting your vulnerabilities is a great tactic for creating a warm fuzzy feeling towards you. Other writers will empathise, readers will marvel at how much work actually goes into your craft. These can also be turned into ‘how to’ posts, if you’re interested in building an audience of your peers in order to market your coaching services, for example.

6. My favourite book/author/poet when I was a child/teenager

Similar to number 3 – you’re telling readers indirectly about your life and what has shaped it, and you’re giving them something to emphasise with or reminisce alongside you. Don’t forget to ask readers for their own examples.

7. Ask reader ideas about a character or a plot, or for input on a book cover

Is there anything more exciting for readers than to be consulted by authors they admire? Imagine being able to influence plot twists or character traits – it’s great fun, you’re not committed to using any of the ideas but that’s not really the point. The fact that you’re asking, whether it’s in comment-form (will take a lot of your time to reply to everyone individually) or as a poll (less personal but easier to manage the results), the consultation process is what matters.

Similarly if you have involvement with the book cover (or if the publisher can be persuaded to take part), why not run a few dummy versions by your readers and ask them to vote for the winner?

8. Write yourself into my forthcoming book (contest)

What’s in a name? You could run a simple contest whereby you outline three or four (as yet un-named) characters in your next book, and ask readers to put their own names forward. Make them work for it though – they should say why character X should be named after them. Great fun, and very memorable. This can also work well in children’s books. I still remember a schoolfriend telling me how the little dragon in ‘Ivor the Engine’ was named for her father, and how impressed I was.

9. What I think about … the shortlist for XYZ award, a recent award-winning book, etc

OR What I think about … the changing face of romance, the growth of steampunk etc

Everyone has opinions, and we love reading them – whether we agree or not. Opinions spark debate. They may (or may not) be controversial. They can be revealing, informative, entertaining … if you’re already a non-fiction writer you will probably find opinion pieces easy. If you don’t, not to worry you may prefer to
curate other people’s opinions in the form of a round-up ‘what people are saying about…’ Either way, talking about topical events, happenings and trends will help position you as a player in that world – connected, knowledgeable and interested.

10. Ask readers for suggestions of books that would make great movies, and who would star in them.

OK, it’s a bit populist but the odd lightweight topic never hurt anyone’s reputation as a serious writer! This is the kind of fun question to throw out on a Friday and again, it has great potential for multiple shares. I don’t know about you, but I could go on and on about how I was desperate for ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ to be made into a film, but when Clint Eastwood was cast rather than my own choice (Sam Shepard) I was gutted.

Don’t stop at words on a screen. Many of the above themes can be re-imagined as interviews (either you interviewing another writer, or another writer interviewing you, perhaps on their own blog), as audio posts or podcast episodes, or as video.

And if you’re thinking ‘what’s all this got to do with selling books?’ then remind yourself that buying a book is an act of trust. A reader is entrusting their precious time and emotional involvement with the world and characters you have created. If they already feel they know and like the writer, because of the conversations they’ve had or what they’ve heard them say and talk about, they are more likely to trust them. Plus of course, it’s fun, stimulating and may lead you in all kinds of interesting directions in your writing.