Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Posts Tagged ‘Books/Book Reviews’

Twitter For Writers


As you know, respected readers, I love reading feedback from my blogs and I use it to influence future blog topics too. I have had requests for a great many subject specific blogs; Twitter for teachers, for academics, for coaches, for teenagers etc. One area of interest to several correspondents has been Twitter for writers/authors and for that I know a writer who could give the subject a better treatment than I could. What is more Gentle Reader, you have met him before!

Back in September I wrote a blog about inspirational, aspirational young people (Our Promise for the Future) and Sean was one of the young people that I highlighted then. Sean is a driven and aspiring young writer nearing completion of his first Young Adult novel. As a focussed user of Twitter he is an obvious choice to write about it and I proudly welcome him to the growing list of guest bloggers on here.

Guest Blogger: Sean Wills

If you spend any time at all browsing through the blogs of editors, agents, and other publishing industry professionals, you’ll come across the same piece of advice for aspiring authors time and time again: build an audience before you’re published. Having a viable ‘platform’ before you secure a book deal may not be strictly necessary when you’re starting out as a professional writing career, but it definitely is necessary if you want to have any chance of making a living at it.

You can never start your platform-building efforts too early, and the most important tool you can use to gather an audience is (of course) social media. But remember, as an unpublished writer, you have nothing to sell. Even if using social media as a direct-selling method for your book was a good idea (and it isn’t!), you can’t do that until the book is readily available.

What you’re selling, then, is yourself – your opinion, your humour, your reviews of the latest books or your thoughts on the publishing industry as a whole. In return, readers are willing to devote a little bit of time every day to following your updates and sharing your name with their friends, increasing your built-in audience for when your book is finally ready for sale. If you get the right audience behind you, there’ll be no need for you to ever direct-sell to them; they’ll be eagerly awaiting the release of your book from the moment you announce it.

Apart from a blog, the most important part of any writer’s social media strategy is a Twitter account. Almost all publishing professionals use Twitter these days, very often to communicate with potential clients. Look up well-known agents and editors who work with writers you’d like to emulate, then follow them on Twitter. You’ll quickly realise that there’s a vast conversation going on between these people. Tapping into it can be a valuable source of information, netting you everything from early news of upcoming opportunities to tidbits on current publishing trends that you probably won’t get elsewhere. If you have absolutely no idea where to start, find some big-name publishers in your area of interest and see how many of their editors maintain blogs. From there, you should be able to bounce from one blog to the next (look for blogrolls!) until you find the right people.

Eventually, you’ll want to get involved in the conversation. Remember, again, that you’re not trying to sell anything at this stage. If somebody tweets about a subject you’re interested in, reply to them. Don’t try to calibrate your tweets in an effort to get re-tweeted; just be yourself. Fakes are a dime a dozen on Twitter, and you’ll be remembered more for having a genuine opinion than you will for desperately trying to get in with the right people. There are many, many writers out there who built up an audience by reviewing books or writing pieces for well-known websites or even just being a social media ‘personality’. Twitter is an absolute must if you want to go that route.

Eventually, of course, you should try to get noticed (you’re platform-building, remember?). This is where FIRE comes in. Make your tweets Funny, Interesting, Relevant, and show your Expertise. It also pays to know about what’s happening in the industry at large. Guaranteed hot-button issues include bias in publishing, bestselling memoirs that turn out to be fiction, and whether e-books are going to kill print publishing. (Warning: be prepared for a drawn-out argument if you decide to jump on that last one…) This is where having a blog connected to your Twitter account comes in handy, since a well thought-out blog post about an important topic can get a huge amount of attention. A single tweet from an industry professional with thousands of followers will get you a lot of new readers!

It’s also worth pointing out that Twitter is an absolute must for self-published writer. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, self-publishing means forsaking the marketing budget and skills of a traditional publisher. It’s entirely up to you to market your book, and that means using social media effectively.

Apart from boosting your audience, getting involved with Twitter can be a fantastic way of socialising with other writers. Working on a book or a novel can be a lonely experience, and it’s heartening to know that there are other people out there going through the exact same trials as you. One of the first things I learned when I went in search of other writers online was that I wasn’t the only one crazy enough to think writing is a viable career – there are tons of other people doing the same thing, and they’re all eager to talk about it. So get out there and join the conversation!

You can follow Sean at his personal blog, or follow his reviews at the Intergalactic Academy.

Book Review: Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

(Note: This review and the comments that follow it were originally published on The Coaching Academy Website in their magazine/blog PS Online.)


“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

These words are at the core of “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl, first published in 1946. In preparation for a blog post I was writing on stress, I decided to revisit this profound work and would love to see it more widely read. It is arguably one of the most influential books published since the Second World War. Frankl intended it to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” To that end, the first part of the book describes, in harrowing detail, Frankl’s experiences as an inmate of Auschwitz and several other concentration camps.

The second part of the book serves as an introduction to Frankl’s psychotherapeutic ideas about the search for a reason to live. Drawing on his experience as a psychologist, Frankl introduces the reader to ‘Logotherapy’, his own form of treatment. After identifying the main psychological states experienced by his fellow concentration camp inmates, Frankl came to the conclusion that the meaning of life is to be found in every moment of living and that even in the most extreme circumstances life never ceases to have meaning.

If you ever need to have your life put into perspective, or your stressors diminished to their true unimportance, then reading this book is a must!

I found the descriptive writing of part one to be both moving and inspirational in its outlook. One startling observation made by the author was that those prisoners who died were often the ones who had surrendered to despair. The survivors, however, tended to be those who, despite immeasurable suffering and hardship, could still see a future for themselves. Their lives had meaning. Frankl says “We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways (1) By creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take.”

I urge everyone to read this book and to reflect on its wisdom. Some 65 years after first publication of these ideas, psychology has moved on in leaps and bounds but Frankl’s thinking still resonates and his approach fits well with modern therapies. Whatever stress or challenges you might be facing, there are many passages within his writings that will give your problems some perspective. I will end with one of my favourites: Man is ultimately self-determining. That ability to decide is at the centre of our being. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.’

1 | Amanda Stearn

April 27th, 2011 at 11:09 am

As a consultant who works primarily to help organisations learn to ‘live’ their vision and values, I discuss Frankel’s priniciples a great deal within group coaching sessions. They form a hugely powerful set of ideas, especially when combined with some reflections upon Frankel’s own life journey.

Thank you for bringing this work to wider attention – a valuable and well-written article describing some eternal and empowering truths.

2 | Anita Mattu

April 27th, 2011 at 11:40 am

Hi Tim,
Thank you for your book review, really enjoyed it. I do have the book and only have dipped in and out of it. Now I am Going to make the time to read it. Thanks for refreshing my mind to it.

3 | Tim O’Rahilly

April 27th, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I was pleased to see that on the Coaching Academy’s wonderful CPD day ’3D Stress Coaching’ this book was recommended as the one to read!

4 | Malcolm Lugton

April 27th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Hi Tim – thanks for sharing! your finnal comment also reminds me of the basis of Goal Mapping with Brian Mayne a couple of weeks back…

5 | Zophia Newborne

April 27th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

It’s important to remember not to TRIVIALIZE the sheer misery and degradation of these camps, and of how many people, indeed very brave and positive beings, did NOT come out alive, no matter what their ‘attitude’ was. It is too easy to forget this.

Nowadays there seems to be a rather easy attitude to accepting ongoing ‘horrors’ elsewhere (all types of economic and social oppression as ENTRENCHED lifestyles, even, for example, 3 generations of refugees living in tents and without passports, during 5 decades in some regions), and saying that we can just ‘choose our attitudes’…. there is really no excuse for letting some situations get so bad in the first place. It can be temptingly easy to fit Frankl into the ‘feel-good’ school of positive thinking. I just want to point out that the whole rationale of ‘death-camps’ and deliberate ‘extermination’, torture, starvation and so on goes a lot deeper than that. And it kills a lot more than just a handful.

6 | Elizabeth Milton

April 28th, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I had to do a presentation on this book last year for part of my psychotherapy training. I was blown away by the impact the book had on my life. It really is about life whittled down to the bone, and shows that even when confronted with life-threatening situations, we do still have a choice: a choice how to “be”. It certainly does put our own problems into perspective and Frankl is a truly inspirational human being. When I am feeling really down, or overcome by life, I try and remember what he wrote; “Where there is life, there is hope”.

7 | Nelun Barrow

April 28th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Hi Tim
As a general reader, this is a book that has made a difference in my life. Frankl’s optimism, his constant exuberance about life even when he was faced with so much loss and sadness is remarkable and truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing your comments.

8 | Tim O’Rahilly

April 29th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

It has been heartening to read so many thoughtful responses to my review and I thank all of you for those! I would like to respond to Zophia’s passionate comment as I would certainly not want to be thought of as trivilalising the situation in any way.
I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say. Since I have found Coaches in general to be both intelligent and caring about all people, I assumed that readers here would take all that as read.
Throughout my long career as a school teacher I did my best to pass on to my pupils a respect for all life. In fact I clearly recall one history lesson where I invited an elderly Death camp survivor to come and talk to my class of 11 year olds about her experiences. It was a moving and at times harrowing afternoon and she argued powerfully about developing a respect for human life.
It is important to remember the relevant context here. This was a BOOK REVIEW and was written with a specific audience in mind on this site. As such it would have been wrong to enter into any political or moral discussion which might have diluted the intention of the author. After all he was there and it was he who placed himself firmly into what you call ‘feel-good’ school of positive thinking.
If you have not read the book I hope you will. As you are a person who clearly cares about our world I hope it will inspire you to continue to do your bit to make it a better place.

World Book Night

Last December a Tweet from Stephen Fry alerted me to the wild idea that was coming together in the UK publishing domain. An organisation calling itself World Book Night was planning to give away one million books around the country. To achieve this they were looking for 20,000 givers to apply for a share of the books from a list of 25 titles. My choice was the wonderful Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. The application was successful and I duly collected my boxes of books from our local Waterstones bookshop.

Books and reading are, in the words of Dorcas Lane, “my one true weakness”. I have always been passionate about reading, whether for fun or to learn new things. Of course those outcomes often go hand-in-hand in a great book.

Fast forward to last Friday the 4th of March. 10,000 people filled Trafalger Square for the launch of the inaugural book night, which was to take place on Saturday. We stood in the freezing cold whilst Graham Norton introduced us to one famous author after another, who read sometimes from their own works and sometimes from the works of others. My personal favourites were Phillip Pullman’s glorious reading from his book Northern Lights, Margaret Atwood’s moving reading from her book The Blind Assassin and Alan Bennett’s inimitable reading from A life Like Other People’s. At the end of a wonderful evening we each gave away the first of our books, which resulted in a memorable scene with complete strangers giving and receiving books in a great atmosphere of smiling and sharing.

This was at the heart of the whole project. The sharing of books and the willingness to give and receive new knowledge and varied emotions relayed through the printed word. I have always believed that the writing process is not complete until the reader engages with the text on the page and brings the book to life.

“Closing libraries is child abuse.”

-Alan Bennett at Trafalgar Square.

The publishing world is on a knife edge now, with reading technology and internet marketing changing  the face of literature forever. I fear that the publishers have yet to grasp the potential for good in this and to drive the change forward in a positive way. Young writers and new works are emerging at a frightening pace. Young people must be encouraged to embrace reading and to develop a love for books in whatever form they represented.  There is a real danger that ‘commercial’ writers and their books will dictate the quality of the literature produced. Current trends in this are not always for the best,  in my opinion.  I am heartened to read many examples online of young, would-be writers sharing their work and learning their craft the hard way. I will add some links at the end of this blog for you to take a look at their efforts.

Back to World Book Night itself. On Saturday I set off for my local health club with my books all numbered and ready to give away to all the gym goers and staff. Many people turned up because they had read an article which the local newspaper had printed about what I was doing. Again, there were so many smiles and lots of grateful and supportive comments.

Remember, a book is for life, not just for World Book Night. Read your books and pass them on with a little of the joy you may have found in them. Too busy to read? Make time for it. It is a great way to relax, to feed your mind, and to let you imagination run free.

READ more and sign up for next year: www.worldbooknight.org

READ Margaret Attwood’s view of World Book Night: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8361211/Margaret-Atwood-Hurrah-for-World-Book-Night.html

READ the work of up and coming writers/reviewers:
(This is a good place to start)