#SBS winners inaugural meeting

Yesterday saw Fiona, Sherlock, Dr Whiting and I driving down to Birmingham for Theo Paphitis’s inaugural #SBS meeting.  Sherlock has his own take on the day… but you can find that on his blog.

I think he has designs on Theo’s car… fortunately he didn’t set off the car alarm!  We might have had some explaining to do if so…

It was a great afternoon, and as it was totally sponsored by Ryman Stationery everything was free, including the bar!  (I hate to think what the bar bill was at the end of the afternoon!)

We even got a goodie bag to take home at the end which included all sorts of useful things including a business account with £50 pre-paid on the card!  Thanks Ryman!

There must have been over 400 people there, at least… and it was wonderful meeting all the tweeps I’ve been tweeting with face to face at last.  Sadly I couldn’t get around everyone, but thankfully my trademark “Knife through head” prop meant that even if I didn’t find the people I wanted to see – most of them found me!!  (Next time perhaps I’ll invest in one of those Think Bike signs with “Jo Smedley Red Herring Games” flashing above my head!)

This is Fiona, Sherlock and I with Jacqui Thompson who was the tweeter who told me all about how to enter #SBS and thanks to her RTs during the week to Theo probably gave me the leg up I needed to win!

The big announcement, and the most exciting part of the day was that Ryman Stationery and Theo Paphitis are launching a new #SBS winners website designed by @MetalFrogstudios one of the early #SBS winners – which will contain all the information the press need to know when they run articles on winners, and also the facility for the winners to upload all their information onto the website so that they are easily searched.

The site will provide back links to winners websites and also there is a separate members only section which provides useful business tips and also networks winners and their special offers.  We’re also all going to have access to new badges which will be great!

The #SBS website will be getting populated over the next few weeks as the #SBS winners are sent out their user log in details.  In the meantime you can find the website here:


It also has some tips on how to enter and what Theo is looking for.

Again the website is free to #SBS winners and we’re all really looking forward to using it!

Theo ran a question and answer session during the meeting.  There were a LOT of questions and I have to say, Theo came across as really sincere and “down to earth” with his answers.  How he can think on his feet that fast, I don’t know, as he fielded questions from things like “What is the future of the highstreet?” through to “Will you run for prime minister?”

Thanks to waving Sherlock around in the air we actually got to ask the one question I know everyone keeps asking me.  Namely:

 “How does Theo Paphitis pick his #SBS winners each week?”

The answer:  Well, it isn’t random chance (Which is really nice to know if you’ve been picked).  Instead he uses the following criteria:

1)      The tweet must catch his eye.

This means it could be cheeky, interesting, or it might just be related to something he’s been doing that week so it attracts his attention.

It has to be a good tweet.  And the avatar can’t be an EGG! Theo also checks out your bio on twitter when he does his research – so ensure the Bio is up to date and friendly.  Theo values the personal touch.

As there are so many tweets week to week Theo also has help from his wife and Tina at Ryman when it comes to selecting #SBS winners – as he has so many to look through of an evening he needs help to do a proper job.  So even if you miss Theo’s attention you might still be noticed by Tina or Mrs P and forwarded onto his shortlist.

2)      The tweet must have a website link – and the link you post with the tweet must work!

Once Theo has his shortlist (and he does create a shortlist) he then clicks through to the website link posted.  The website must be functioning, clear and appropriate.  It doesn’t need to be all singing all dancing – and can just be a “gallery website” for those who understand that term (one page website for those that don’t), but it does need to be working!

If he feels your business has the “basics” in place, that your website is effective and that you will make the most of the RT then he’ll RT you.

3)      Catching Theo’s eye might be something you do during the week.

Theo looks for tweeters he recognises in the #SBS line up.  He looks for regular tweeters, not people who ONLY post each Sunday or who have very little to do with twitter week to week.  If you are going to make the most of your #SBS win, then you need to be making the post of your marketing on Twitter already.

To catch his eye, might mean that you might have tweeted him during the week, or that you’ve been regularly tweeting with someone he follows on twitter so he’s seen your posts regularly throughout the week.

He doesn’t like people repeating tweets during #SBS – that is more likely to put him off RTing someone.

So are there any “hot tips”?

I think so… given that you need to be catching Theo’s eye to get that RT then I’d suggest the following techniques.

1)      Follow everyone Theo is following and speak to them on twitter.  Theo only follows a select group which means he does actually follow what they are saying.

2)      Reply to Theo’s tweets during the week.  There were a few winners he called “Stalkers” at the meeting in jest – but clearly stalking got them their RT.

3)      If you think you’re doing something interesting then include @Theopaphitis in your tweet during the week so he sees what you’re up to.

4)      Write a really “eye catching” tweet.  Say something unusual and something that will get you noticed.

5)      Have an eye catching avatar so it stands out amongst the rest – NO EGGS!  It doesn’t have to be pink, but it needs to be clear.

6)      Make sure your Bio on twitter is accurate and has a friendly, personal feel.

7)      Make sure your website is top-notch.  It WILL be looked at.

8)      Be persistent in your entries and adjust your tweets week to week.  If it didn’t catch his eye the first week, it probably won’t next time around either.

And that’s my hot tips.  Good luck with your own #SBS entries.  With the new website launching this week and all the benefits that’s going to bring – Theo is expecting increased traffic to #SBS and as a result there is talk of him changing the time he RT’s to Monday evening to give him a chance to look through the entries properly.  So get those entries in and then just wait and see!  Next week it could be you!

What next?

Well, Theo recognises that small businesses need leverage to obtain attention, so he kindly posed with all the #SBS winners for a formal photo at the end of the meeting in the hope that beeing seen with a TV personality will provide some leverage we can use to obtain further media attention.

We also have a nice certificate which we’ll be framing for the office…

Also – given that the #SBS winners website has a “county” winners area – we in Lincolnshire are hoping to arrange a regional lincolnshire #SBS  meet up of our own.  so watch this space!

#SBS win!

This weekend, which the christmas rush over – I took the plunge and sent my primary computer in to get serviced with SMEIT services locally.  Nothing was likely to happen… I’d done the post run for Saturday and I was promised it back on Monday morning.  As I don’t work Sunday’s anyway… what would I need the computer for?

Well…  THIS!

Red Herring Games only went and won Small Business Sunday!

What is Small Business Sunday – or #SBS?

Firstly – it’ s a twitter competition.  For those of you who don’t know what twitter is… well, it’ll probably mean very little to you – so check out this first:  What is Twitter

Small Business Sunday (#SBS) is the brain child of  Theo Paphitis one of the Dragons from BBC Dragons Den.  (If you don’ t know who Theo is… pull your head out of the sand and click on his name – I’ve hyperlinked it to his website!)

Theo runs the #SBS competition on twitter every weekend to help raise the profiles of entrepreneurial small business owners.

Each sunday between 5.00pm and 7.30pm (GMT)- small business tweeters (that’s people who tweet) from all over the world send Theo a short 140 character message to promote their business.

There are a few rules for entry.

1) The tweet MUST be between those times

2) the tweet MUST include the hash tag #SBS

3) The tweet MUST be directed to @TheoPaphitis

Of the hundreds he receives Theo then reviews them and selects 6 to Retweet (thats repeat to non twitter users) to his followers.

This week he has 215,560 in total – which means my business has just had a mention in front of over 200 THOUSAND people!

This lovely badge came as courtesy of Aqua Design Group Who won #SBS themselves last year.  They now help other #SBS winners by generating a badge of their very own.



From what I’ve seen so far membership of the #SBSwinners group is very elite and everyone is there to try and help other businesses get ahead.

Needless to say I’m looking forward to a great 2012!


Well… as promised… there is a list of people to thank for this #SBS win as without these people I would NEVER have got Red Herring Games off the ground let alone winning #SBS… and there’s a LOT of people to thank… so sorry if I miss anyone out – email me if you feel omitted and the chances are you were overlooked by accident and I’ll add you on!

Website Thanks:

As ever – The first thanks have to go to Mark and Gill Hardy for their continued support from the inception right through to the creation and sustension (is that a word) of the website Red Herring Games!

Alison Clynes of Kinetic Marketing and Design – for intial help Marketting the business and then rebranding the logo!

Paul Fairhall for his tireless editing and voice over work!

Julia from East Coast Pictures for her fabulous You Tube work recently on our behalf!

Fiona and Sharon – the hard working “behind the scenes” girls who do most of the packing day to day! (and Fiona’s mum who’s just started rolling tape for us too!)

My team of authors: Mark and Kathy Pitchford, Kathy Roberson, Michelle Crowther, Tracey Latham, Kit Walkham, Paul Fairhall, Gordon Thorburn, John Waterhouse, Lissa Gibbons, Tony Brown,  Julieta Mitnik and Debbie Gooseman.

BNI members (past and present) who’ve supported me in business these last few years (In no particular order): Steve Thickett, Steve Sherwood, Mel and Ben Chase, Dan Reeves, Alison and Steve Clynes, Mark and Gill Hardy, Chris Waud, Mel Sharpe, Fiona, John Tucker, Heath Johnson, Jeremy and Jude Bass, Malcolm Cooke, Simon May, Andy Inch, Jon Ashley, Michael Leadley, Victoria Hearsey, John Booth, Geoff Christie, Alan Young, Mark Jones, Emma and Paul Fairhall, Helen Spauls, Emma Faulkner and Phil Hewson.

Friends and family (I’ve been told I can’t mention names as some of these are teachers – so I won’t mention any – that way I can’t offend anyone – but you all know who you are!!

My acting friends who’ve supported me in the arrival of the events side of Red Herring Games:  I don’t know you all by name ( and I’m sure to miss some people off – just ping me an email so I can correct it)!  But Bill Jellyman and team from Sale, Marie Shirley Lewis and Phil Armstrong from Durham, Steve Brennan/Bellamy (whatever you’re going by at the moment), Nick Adams, Craig Thurlow, Sara Beasley, Staurt Owen-Howard, Gareth Arthurs, Mike Wilson, Stephen Rayner, Helen Slater, Helen Kent, Jeanine Ridha, David Phillips, Johnny Allbones, Dean Wright, Dean Wilding, John Litchfield, Derek Hodges, Susan Everatt, Alison Bottomley, Matt Storey, Kelly Meacock, Kerry Buckley, Lorraine Laird, Tim Rutherford, Jeff Riley, Tom Wright, Joanne Abbon, Penny and Bob Seymour and many more!

Efactor and Jacqui from PulseCSI who told me all about #SBS!

Finally my customers – of which there are over 12,000 already – and so I can’t name you all one by one!

Thank you ALL for your support to make this possible!




Strings, bings, blogs, netlogs, linkedIn, libboo, podcasts, facebook, twitter and You-tube…

Argh! Haven’t you found there’s just such a plethora of social media these days? Not a day goes by I don’t get an email inviting me to watch a podcast, add a string or story to a social media networking storyboarding site.

Question is – is all this media actually helping writers or is it just yet another distraction?

Networking – as I’ve said before is a must for new writers. Phil Berg said at a business conference I’ve been to recently: “You don’t have to be the best in your field, you just have to know the most people.” That’s as true for writing as it is for business.

You can be THE best screenwriter there is, but if you aren’t known, then how are people going to approach you to give you the contract?

Now I’m not talking about simply “putting yourself about”. Everyone hates someone who is just there for themselves and never contributes. As I’ve said before, it’s not enough to just “friend” people on twitter and the like, you need to interact.

So where do you start?

Well, for a start check out my post below on networking for writers.

And with regards to social media, I would suggest all writers have these basics in place and know how to use them effectively.
1) A blog. This should be informative, not just a list of personal acheivements. And don’t write and abandon it – point people to your blog on the other social media sites you frequent. e.g. facebook and twitter.
2) LinkedIn – it may seem like a business network (which it is) but if you’re taking your writing seriously, then writing is a business, whether you want to believe it is or not. Learn how to make LinkedIn work for you. Grow your connections and then do a search one day in the company field and see if you happen to know, or can get introduced to the person who you need to speak to.
3) Twitter – yes I know everyone likes facebook better – but if it’s connections you’re after, trust me, Twitter is a) quicker and b) easier. Use twitter to create contacts, not just as a means to itself, and make sure you plug your blog on twitter by creating a link to it! Also – let’s not forget, you can make twitter comments post to facebook and linkedIn, so that saves you a lot of time!

What about the rest I hear you ask?


Facebook. Everyone’s on facebook these days… but does it help you make any good writing connections? Probably not. Do you speak to writers on facebook? er… no. I speak to my contacts on twitter and on UKwriters when they happen to drop in.

Never visited UKwriters? Why not?

UKwriters is a joint social media site. You can post blogs, join discussions or just ask for advice. You can email authors in your own field and communicate on a meaningful level. It’s gone a bit quiet lately – but that’s only because people haven’t got their head around how to use it, and I’ve been too busy to drop in. But why not drop in yourself and start a discussion?

Libboo / Stringsta I’ve taken a look at both now, and other then “bigging up” their creators I can’t honestly see these going anywhere long term. Yes, I agree it’s a lovely idea, let’s all collaborate, but truthfully? How is it going to help writers earn any money long term?

I agree, it sounds like a great idea that you can create a joint effort book / script / storyboard, but royalty rates for authors are pittance at the best of times, so how exactly is splitting a book royalties 60 different ways going to help? Also… who get’s the publicity from the book sale? Er… would that be Libboo or Stringsta themselves? So no. I can’t see this taking off long term.

One to watch and put some time into if you’ve got a lot of spare time perhaps, but if you’re busy – just avoid them!

You-Tube For writers… er… No. I can’t think of anything more boring then watching me type up a script! But for film makers, or as writers if you can get your short film on there – then YES! Great idea, especially if its good. But don’t post any old rubbish. You want something that’ll show case your work, not a camcorder video!

As for the rest?

Well, make up your own mind. If you’re wasting more then 15 minutes a day on them, ask yourself how many contacts you’ve made and how useful they are to you. If they’re not getting you anywhere then drop them. You’ve got more important things to do… like write!

Final words…

Competitions As new writers a competition is probably one of the few ways you will actually get noticed from a cold start. However, be wary. Don’t pay to enter anything. All you are doing is lining someone elses pockets!

After al, I could set up a great competition to write a new murder mystery game. Prize? Oh… let’s see… you could become an author on Red Herring Games (something I’d do anyway if you’re good enough). I could charge £2 entry fee, which sounds reasonable… and I’d probably get over 50 entries so I make a straight £100 profit for doing nothing! (Maybe I should try it!!)

Also – stick to entering reputable competitions. The BBCwritersroom is a good place to find out the best ones. They screen all their competitions to make sure they’re fair to writers.

5 top tips for dealing with rejection letters.

Rejection letters are standard when you’re an author. Like it or not, not everyone thinks the same way as you and the things you think are great, just aren’t someone else’s cup of tea.

If you’re a writer then you’ll get rejection letters. J.K. Rowling got them, Tom Clancy got them, in fact, you name an author, I expect they all have a drawful of them. But how should you deal with them?

1) Firstly – breath a sigh of relief. The wait is over. You aren’t suddenly going to have to put your life on hold while you write your “approved” project. You can keep that holiday date in Spain rather than booking into a residential course, you can take time out to research, you can do whatever it is you do – and most importantly you can revise and resubmit your manuscript again! (Or bin it and start a new one). For places like the BBC writersroom, a rejection letter means the submission process is over and you are eligable to submit a new work. So firstly – Relax!

2) Deal with the letter. For most, it’ll be a standard rejection letter. You know the type. “Many thanks for sending us your manuscript, we’ve decided at this stage not to take it any further” or “I’m afraid our books are full at present” or words to that effect. The standard rejection letters are the easiest to deal with – you can shred them, burn them, turn them into scrap paper, write on the back of them or file them. It doesn’t matter. They don’t say why they’ve rejected you – just that they have!

If on the other hand you are fortunate enough to have actually received feedback in the rejectin letter – then you need to action this. Firstly decide if it’s feedback you are willing to accept – you don’t have to accept EVERYTHING. After all, your writing style should be unique to you – and your aim is to find someone else who likes your writing for what it is. So don’t change things on someone else’s whim. Only you can decide if the feedback IS something you want to do something about, and if not – then file, burn, shred etc or actually take the advice and do something about it.

3) Avoid the miry pits of writing depression. Some people (like me) are sneaky. We time our submissions at “certain times of the month”, this means, I submit when I’m at a low ebb and I can’t feel any worse about myself or my writing, and generally the rejection letters will come back when I’m not at a low ebb and can just fling it to one side nonchalently! (Hey… we all have our tecniques!)

That said – when the rejection letter arrives – don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are a terrible writer. Remember all the authors who have gone before you! You aren’t the first, you won’t be the last! Eat a bar of chocolate, have a hot bath, seek out company. Whatever works for you – do it. Nobody likes being rejected and as most writers write alone, it often helps to go out and find a friend who “likes you” as a person to get over the hump. The rejection isn’t a personal slight, but it often feels like that. So do something you enjoy, and get some positive feedback. You are great! Honest!

4) Embark on a new project or revise the original. Rejection letters usually take 6 weeks (at least) to come back. This means you’ve had 6 weeks to “sit” on your work. So take another look at it again with a fresh head. Was it rubbish? You might well find it was (I know I sometimes do!) Revise it, or bin it and start something new! Learn from experience. Don’t just send it out again unless you are supremely confident in the piece. Use the rejection as a prod to take another look. Nothing is ever “finished”. I often go back to something after a year and tweek it again.

5)Find a good critic. Rejection letters with feedback are few and far between. If you think you can stand the pain – find someone who will read your work critically and GIVE you that feedback. They might be able to work out why you are getting regular rejections.

Couldn’t resist having a go.

So… not content with murder mystery games half way through, the BBC launches a new opportunity (5 days in May) and I get arm twisted into having a go.

“It’s only an afternoon’s work” says Laurence Timms on Twitter.

Afternoon’s work… heck… I have an afternoon, surely I should at least TRY? (I’m easy to brow beat.)

And so… here it is:

I don’t want to know about any spelling or grammar mistakes. It was a challenge, I rose to it, it’s now done.

Good luck everyone with their own entries!

Off Cut festival closes – no luck. (no surprise)

Another rejection. But I’m not really worried. It was a last minute submission of something I found funny and I figured only a few would too. I’m not a comedy writer. As I was explaining to @laurencetimms on ukwriters just the other day, my humour is usually in written form and what makes me laugh doesn’t always tickle anyone else. It’s one of the reasons I’m not entering the BBCwritersroom sitcom competition.

Still – no time to ponder anything else – I’m too busy with mystery game writing right now to consider another screenplay. For now…

Deep Rising – log line and synopsis.

For those who are interested in what Deep Rising is actually all about, part of the competition application form asked for a one sentence logline and a one page synopsis.

The logline

Deep rising explores one of man’s last frontiers, the ocean, and the small group of marine specialists who are drafted in to deal with the latest threat to come from the depths.

The one page synopsis

Dr Julia Taylor, an eminent marine biologist, is recruited by the military to investigate a series of unexplained and possible threatening behaviours exhibited by marine life around the UK.

Feisty and distrustful of the military Dr Taylor is coerced into reviewing the reported phenomenon, but what she fully expects to be a pointless research project suddenly becomes extremely serious when her husband is killed repairing the Flannan Islands Lighthouse by an enormous and previously unrecorded sea anemone-like creature.

With the mounting threats posed by previously passive sea life, further specialists are called in and SMRT, the SubMarine Research Team is born. Its remit: to uncover the cause of the danger now posed by sea life around the UK, and if possible to stop it.

With new incidents occurring all the time and worrying reports of the sea anemones working southwards time is pressing and Julia finds it hard to reconcile her relationship with the lone survivor of the sea-anemone attack, Steven with whom she had had an affair before her husband’s death.

Meanwhile the rest of SMRT form close working bonds through repeated adversity and all of them pull together as a family to support Nat, a divorced mother struggling to raise her family single handed.

Over a series of exploratory dives, and while following up new incident reports, Steven and other members of the team, all now dear to Julia, are placed continually in jeopardy, yet despite this SMRT manage to identify the epicentre of the new problem: the North Atlantic oil fields west of Shetland.

Using innovative techniques SMRT construct countermeasures for the marine threat and decide to dive directly to the sea bed in the epicentre to uncover the exact nature of the threat.

In a daring attempt Steven joins Mac, SMRT’s stoic dive expert, in a mini-submersible. Realising that Steven might not return Julia finds herself finally able to admit something she knew all along, that she loves Steven, regardless of the guilt she feels that he survived when her husband died.

As the mini-submersible’s lights finally fix on what might be the cause of all the difficulties the mini-submersible is itself attacked and the visual and audio feed is lost.

Cue series two!

The fish have commenced battle

Finally, at long last “Deep rising” is finished. The fish have had their say, and what remains to be seen now is whether the critiques at the writersroom like their long tails or whether the drag of “over large sea anemones” proves too much and the screenplay is consigned back to the depths where it belongs…

The closing date on the “Northern Writers” is 28th of August and the script will be in the post tomorrow. So what can I say but… watch this space.

Sample scripts

I see no point in blogging in two places, so this is just a quickie to writing folk who read this blog who don’t already know about or read UKwriters to tell you that I’ve posted two links to some very rough draft screenplays. Both were originally written for the local camera club, one I’ve blogged on here about before “With Jane in Mind” the other was the original proof draft for the same club which they decided not to take further and which, if time allows, I might rework for the latest competition.

so if you do fancy a look at some “work in progress” just mosey on down to UKwriters.