2017: Most Popular Posts

How on earth is January almost over? I intended to write up a ‘2018 goals’ post but time has escaped me – maybe I still can. As always, a big goal for me is to keep up the momentum on The Fourth Month. I’ve been posting more regularly on The Fourth Month Instagram account so it’s now time to produce more content for the blog.

The Fourth Month journey began back in Summer 2016 when I broke my leg and was relegated to the sofa for about 5 weeks. Since then I’ve focused on books, interiors, wellbeing and general lifestyle posts. Like I did last year, I thought I’d share the top posts of the year to say farewell to 2017 and hullo to 2018.

5. A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES BY SARAH J MAAS

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This review of A Court of Thorns and Roses was my first blog post in 2017 and you guys seemed to enjoy reading my thoughts. It was a book that left me feeling torn. I loved some of the characters and the magical world they inhabit but a lot of this story is problematic. Its troublesome Beauty and the Beast tropes (Stockholm Syndrome and sexual violence) made me feel uneasy but Maas created such a rich and exciting world full of powerful and mysterious characters with this series. I’ve yet to read ACOMAF and, at this point, I doubt I will. Check out my review and let me know what you think.

4. A PUBLISHING POSTGRAD UPDATE

The fourth most popular post in 2017 was my publishing postgrad update. It’s one of the few, if not only, personal posts I’ve written for The Fourth Month. This makes me wonder if you would like to see more personal blogs (let me know in the comments or send me a message). Since writing this in April last year, things have changed even more. I left my job at the Publishing Bureau to pursue work as a Library Assistant. Working with books and children is really my dream job! And, of course, I graduated with a Distinction in MSc Publishing in October last year, which was a massive achievement.

3. 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE GOING TO UNIVERSITY

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Guest blogger, Zina, makes two appearances in the Top 5 of 2017. This is a witty and in-depth look at the trials and tribulations of University life. It’s a great read for anyone considering going to University but it also resonates with anyone who is at or has been to Uni. This uplifting list hopefully put a few minds at ease last year and I’m sure it’ll stay relevant every year as new students move on to higher education.

2. INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: BOOKS BY FIERCE FEMALES

I am so happy that this list of fiercely feminist books made it to the top of my most-viewed posts in 2017. This post was requested by a friend but it has clearly been enjoyed by many readers. The list featured some of my favourite authors from Charlotte Brontë to Jessie Burton. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books or if you would like see more bookish lists on The Fourth Month.

1. VANITY FEMME GLOW DUST REVIEW

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Stealing the limelight yet again, Zina’s review of Vanity Femme Glow Dust has made the top spot for 2017 (it was also the most viewed blog in 2016). This sparkly review of a cult-classic highlighter gets hits almost every day so I’ve asked my gorgeous make-up artist sister to start writing some make-up reviews in 2018. Follow her on Instagram and subscribe the The Fourth Month to make sure you don’t miss a thing.


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Online Marketing with Google’s #DigitalGarage

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen that I recently attended a couple of #DigitalGarage sessions ran by Google in Glasgow. These workshops are free to attend and are part of a larger project that Google is working on to get people feeling more confident about online marketing.

While I’m aware this is not specific to publishing, I do think it is really important for us publishers to stay up-to-date with the latest in digital marketing. I plan to use what I learned from these sessions with my own blog and for my social media internship over at Linen Press Books. In the meantime, I’ve summarised some of the key points from the #DigitalGarage below but I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.

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What is #DigitalGarage?

“Free tutorials from Google on everything from your website to online marketing and beyond. Choose the topics you want to learn, or complete the whole online course for a certification from Google and IAB Europe.”

I attended live workshops but Google also offers free online training if there aren’t any workshops running near you. Sign up here and you can set goals, learn from experienced professionals, apply your knowledge, track your progress and stay motivated! If you are interested in a face-to-face lesson, then you can find out more about events (like the ones I attended) right  over here. They’re in Glasgow until the 31st March.

What did I learn?

  • You need to have a good website. Web platforms like Wix, Squarespace & WordPress make having a website easy and relatively inexpensive.
  • Don’t be obscure with your domain name. Indicate what you do and where you are. If you are a UK based publisher, make sure this is clear in your URL. 
  • Think about where you’re hosting your website. These things can cause delay in your ping rate and search engines will penalise slow hosting.

“Nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds.”

  • Consider the speed and user-friendliness of your website. Search your website on testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com to discover how friendly your website really is. I won a Google notepad for The Fourth Month’s pingback speed and it was only 65/100. Not only does this link give you feedback on your website’s user-friendliness but it gives you advice on how to improve it. Tips include optimising your images with a free image compressor.

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What does a successful website look like?

  • Clear purpose and goals
  • Clear layout and navigation – no clutter, minimalist as possible.
  • Strong call to action – signpost, make it easy for the visitor.
  • Fast page loading time
  • Make mobile a priority – majority of users find you first on a mobile and remember most people won’t be seeing the desktop layout at all. Always consider mobile first.

Social Media

  • 38 million active social media users
  • 1 hour 29 minutes average daily use of social media via any device (but remember younger audience = higher usage).
  • People formulate an impression within 50 milliseconds of visiting your social media profile so think about your bio:
    • Keep it relevant & talk about your business
    • Keep it clear & consistent – say what you mean and stay relevant. Don’t promise them one thing and give them another.
    • Show you personality & have fun – people buy from people
  • Consider your audience! Remember who you’re selling to and research where they are. Fasted growing audience on Twitter is 65+! 

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Optimising your website

  • Think about keyword analysis & research – what are people searching for? Set up a GoogleAdWord account and use Keyword Planner.
  • Optimise your web pages – use the right terms in the right places. Put keywords at the top of the page, on your web address, in your title and as near to the top as possible but don’t repeat the same word over and over again.
  • Check out google.co.uk/trends to find out what your customers are looking for. Know what to focus your attention on promoting and when. Use google analytics to find out where people are arriving and, importantly, where they’re leaving your site.
  • How are people finding it? Adword? Organic searches? Social media? Email campaign? 
  • Achieving goals? What are your visitors worth to you? Maximise the value of your visitors to your site.

Collect data > create goals > measure insights > take action

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This post was in no way endorsed by Google. I recommend checking out the #DigitalGarage for a basic understanding of using analytics and trends to improve your online presence.

Remember to keep up-to-date with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

How to be a Badass and Win at Life

I’m really excited to welcome another guest blogger to The Fourth Month. Karishma has written an insightful how-to guide to boosting your self-confidence with inspiration from scholars to Queen Bey. Follow these top tips if you’re needing a boost during the dark wintery nights and the assessment period at University.

There is a TONNE of material out there that highlights the importance of self-confidence in helping you achieve your dreams and I have read, watched and listened to most of them…Yep, I was once plagued with a lack of self-love, fear of failure, inability to speak to more than one person at a time and general anxiety where my brain repelled every positive thought like it was poison.

OMG, he stared at me for a whole two seconds. Is something wrong with me? This will haunt me for three years!

I think I want to change my style up a bit and try out some new clothes. But wait, I don’t want people to think I’m trying to be cool… 

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Sound familiar? Even if these aren’t your particular fears, you can probably relate to the feeling of being so unsure of yourself that you’re terrified to even try. Take a minute and think about how CONFIDENT you are in yourself? Now rate yourself between one (lowest) and ten (highest). Before you do this, you might ask:  what is confidence anyway? Why is it so important? Does being confident result in success? If so, can I become more confident and how?

Time for a little psychology lesson. There are a wealth of different theories out there but we’re going to use Albert Bandura’s (1977) definition of the term “self-efficacy” which despite the distinction he made can be interchangeable with the term “self-confidence” and describes “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” Let me put it this way, if you had an opportunity to perform with your favourite artist on stage, would you take it because you believe that you can handle it? Or would you refuse because you’re too scared that you might end up making a fool of yourself? If your confidence rating is under five, then it’s safe to say you would probably pass up this awesome opportunity. But fret not if you have a low rating because you can improve all the way up to a ten!

One of the mistakes I made during my journey to a more confident individual was confusing self-esteem with self-confidence. A lot of sources tend to use these terms interchangeably but self-esteem reflects your personal worth – it is a judgment and attitude toward oneself. How inherently valuable do you think you are? Do you think you deserve happiness? Do you think you deserve forgiveness? Do you like yourself? Self-confidence, on the other hand, is based on ACTION and related to external accomplishments. You can have a low sense of self-esteem but be highly confident or vice-versa.

For example, if you’ve always been a popular individual – straight A student, smokin’ hot and told by everyone that you could definitely be the next Taylor Swift – then this could result in self-belief fueled by approval which you tragically become addicted to. Now, you may have achieved self-confidence but because you seek external validation you have low self-esteem.

On the other hand, you can read all the fluffy Tumblr quotes about loving yourself as you are and make Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” your anthem song but it won’t help much with self-confidence unless you strive to actually achieve something concrete. Ideally, you need both self-confidence and self-esteem to be high so you can live the best quality of life possible. But, self-esteem is a deep and complex topic that I shall leave for another day.

So why should you bother with the effort to become more confident? Because confident people are attractive, interesting, more likely to be successful and generally more fulfilled individuals! Self-confidence is POWERFUL and leads to EXTRAORDINARY living.

It doesn’t have to be a temporary feeling provided by alcohol or other substances. It can be grounded in reality. It is a skill for you to achieve.

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Below, are the eight practical steps you can try (short and long term) that work for me in building and boosting self-confidence.

  1. LIVE FOR YOUR EULOGY, NOT YOUR RESUME

    Figure out who you are and then set goals that align with your strengths, personality, and interests. WRITE them down and stick it in a place where it is the first thing you see every morning and work on it every day or as often as possible.

  1. LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD

    This is a bit of outside-inside thinking. I feel better about myself when I eat well and workout. People who put effort into their physical appearance seem like they’re well prepared and ready to conquer the day! Looking confident on the outside makes you feel more confident on the inside.

  1. THE WONDER WO(MAN) PLUS THE MIRROR TECHNIQUE

    I encourage you all to go and watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on “Fake it Till You Make it” – it will change your life. She is a social psychologist who talks about how “power posing” – standing in certain postures regardless of how you feel before it can increase testosterone levels, making you more confident and even affecting your chances of success. Every morning, adopt the wonder wo(man) power pose: stand with feet apart, hands on your hips, and chin tilted upward, look deeply into your own beautiful eyes and say positive things to yourself for few minutes. Be it empowering lyrics, feminist slogans, or just plain old self-affirmation that “I can do this”.

  1. TO FAKE IT OR NOT TO FAKE IT?

    It depends on the situation. As a nurse or a doctor working in an emergency setting, faking confidence in your job will probably result in a patient’s death. It’s obviously better in certain situations to realise your limitations and ask for help. But, say you’re a teacher who needs to give a presentation on a subject you’re knowledgeable about but lack confidence in public speaking, then go ahead and pretend you’re Martin Luther King Jr. all you want.

  1. ADOPT A GROWTH MINDSET

    Your mindset determines your belief about your own abilities. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, identifies that people can have either a “fixed mindset” – belief that one’s ability is stagnant and cannot improve, or a “growth mindset”- belief that ability of any kind is not fixed but rather subject to change and growth. You can become your ideal self: smarter, faster, or even to be able to play the recorder with your nose. What type of mindset do you have?

  1. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

    Confidence, I’ve learned, is a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. You need to cross that bridge of discomfort because the only way out is through. Repeat as often as you can whatever it is that you’re scared of attempting – be it dating, swimming, or talking to strangers – until you’re comfortable with it. In the famous words of Beyonce:

I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it.

  1. COMFORT ZONE CHALLENGES

    Your psychological response to a situation also affects your confidence. Despite mastering the necessary skill – say now you can play the recorder with your nose and want to do a little street performance- you find that you become increasingly nervous or are constantly worrying about what other people think. Comfort zone challenges are one way to minimise fear and maximise courage. It is a contemporary form of exposure therapy and is also where the popular “Lay down on the street for 30 seconds” challenge originates from.

  1. CUT OFF NEGATIVE PEOPLE

    According to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, you are the average of the five people you most spend time with. Do you respect the friends you surround yourself with? Do they inspire you? Even if they don’t necessarily bring you down, if they don’t contribute to your growth as an individual, let them go. Instead, develop a community of like-minded people – ones that encourage you by example to aim high.


What do you guys think? What kind of fears are holding you back and what will you do about it? Do you have any suggestions to add? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s discuss! Tweet Karishma @karishma_roy and follow her blog This Curious Girl.

Work In Publishing Week

You may, or may not, know that it is #workinpublishing week this week. It’s basically a week where everyone in the publishing industry exchanges wise words and pass on their knowledge to newbie publishers. If you don’t already, go follow Publishing ScotlandBook CareersPublishing Interns, SYP Scotland, Hachette Careers, Atwood Tate, The Bookseller and, of course, The Publishers Association. There are loads more brilliant Twitter feeds with inspiring career advice but these are some good places to start. I guarantee you there will be loads of brilliant tips for working in the publishing industry. One thing’s for sure, publishers love to tweet.

You may, or may not, also know that I am an MSc Publishing student at Napier University. Being a publishing student isn’t just about assessments and deadlines, it also marks the start of my publishing career. With only one month left of my first trimester and #workinpublishing week in full swing, I can’t think of a better time to reflect on my time as a wannabe publisher and share what little knowledge I’ve gained with you all. A few people have already asked me about applying for publishing courses so I hope this is helpful!

Here are the things I’ve learned so far:

Get Online

Like I said, publishers love to tweet and Twitter is just one of the many tools you can use to get your name out there. There are hundreds of publishers on Twitter just waiting to hire you so instead of tweeting about your hangover, use it as a versatile CV. Showcase your talents and skills in a fun and personable way and use your social networking sites as a portfolio for your work.

But remember that while Twitter can be your best friend in publishing, it can also be your worst enemy. Be careful what and when you tweet. The same goes for Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Don’t lose your personality but maybe filter through some of those embarrassing photos of you during freshers week.

Instead, connect with future colleagues and employers. Engage in conversations about books and magazines. Make new friends. Live tweet any events you attend. Update your feed with projects you’re involved in. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of room for the odd cat meme too.

Network, network, network!

The word that instils fear into every graduate in history: networking. This runs along the same vein as my first point but making connections with future coworkers and bosses seems to be the key to a healthy career in publishing. Even before you’re ready to get a real job, it is never too early to get yourself known in the right circles.

I’ve joined the Society of Young Publishers, which is an amazing organisation for anyone with fewer than ten years experience in publishing, to keep updated with publishing events in my area. As a class, we attended #MagFest16 and are going to London Book Fair in March: all fantastic opportunities to meet new people in the industry, ask questions and impress them with our dazzling personalities and experience.

Know Who You’re Working For

This has been a big thing whenever my classmates and I have asked about CVs and job applications. One size does not fit all when it comes to applying for jobs in publishing. You can’t write a cookie-cutter cover letter and expect your dream employer to come knocking at your door.

Read the job postings – carefully! Explore the company you’re considering working for. What are they good at? What kind of books do they publish? What can you bring to the table? Do you even want to work for them?

If you can answer all these questions then it’s time to tailor your CV to fit that individual role. Make every bit of experience you have sound like it was made for this specific job and company. Cut out the irrelevant crap and focus on what makes you an irresistible candidate.

There’s More to Life Than Editorial

I’ll admit it: when I first considered publishing as a career, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or what it was that I wanted to do. A lot of people don’t actually understand what publishers do and most of us think of publishing books as glamorously editing at a candle-lit desk reading manuscripts through the night.

In reality, there are so many other exciting job opportunities beyond editorial. So far I’ve discovered that I really like marketing but there’s also sales, rights, design, production, distribution… The list is endless and it’s important to be honest with your own skills and nature before choosing your career path. Find out what each role in the publishing process requires and ask yourself if you’re cut out for it. Then curate your experience to suit that career path.

There’s Also More to Life Than The Big 4

Contrary to popular belief, the Big Four (Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Hachette) do not publish all the books in the world. There are hundreds of independent, small and awesome publishers to consider working for.

Likewise, there’s more to publishing than fiction. As much as it is my dream to market pretty novels, I am becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities in academic publishing and am even writing a case study on scientific and medical publishing. Learning to be open-minded about my future in publishing is one of the most important things I’ve picked up since starting my course in September. There is no prescribed route to success!

Volunteering

Anyone in a creative industry will read this with a heavy-hearted sigh. We all know what it’s like to work for ‘exposure’ instead of dolla dolla bills. But volunteering and working as an intern is incredibly valuable. The people you will meet and the experience you will gain is too indispensable to pass up. After all, the more you do, the more you can do.

I’ve been so lucky to have briefly worked as a PR intern for the Scottish Writer’s Centre, volunteered as a panellist for the Saltire Society shadow panel and travelled across Edinburgh for the Creative City Challenge. I’m currently undertaking a PR internship at Scottish Book Trust. I’ve been scheduling tweets for the Book Week Scotland Twitter page and editing Author Confession videos for writers like Sarah J Maas and Simon Mayo. All of this has felt more like fun than work, to be honest. The people at SBT are so helpful and welcoming and it has really cemented my desire to work in marketing.

Having said all this, it is also important during #workinpublishing week to remember your value as an employee. Take every experience that you can get and be eternally grateful that busy and important people are willing to show you the ropes. However, set goals and know your worth. Don’t take on free labour if you don’t think you can add value to the project or extract experience and skills from it.


So these are just some of the tips I have picked up about working in publishing over the past two months at Napier. There’s probably loads more and if I remember them I will tweet them over at @aprilsmyth.

For more updates follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Breaking Up With The Internet

I’ll be the first to admit I am addicted to the internet. Like most people my age, I have become entangled in the worldwide web and it’s pretty impossible to extract my ~real~ life from the one I live in front of a computer screen. And while the internet is a wonderful and life-changing piece of technology, I can’t help but think we have gone too far. There are whole lanes dedicated to Pokemon hunters in shopping centres and just the other day I was at the train station when I heard an announcement about keeping your head up from your smartphone on the train platform to avoid accidents.

The Internet isn’t all bad. Social media has been connecting people around the world for years. I can keep in touch with family who live all over the world at any given moment. Oh and the internet is an incredible educational resource! I swear I got my degree from Google.

But is it information overload? I’m not the only person that Wikipedias an entire TV series plotline while I’m watching it – crazy, right? And with new Facebook features, I can actually locate all of my friends (and acquaintances) pretty much at all times. Spooky.

So while there are many amazing things on the internet, I think it’s time we all stepped back into the real world and here’s the little things I am doing to try and be more present:


1. Set Time Boundaries.

Limit the amount of internet you consume every day. I have decided any time before 8am and after 9pm should be internet-free. I mentioned the blue light in 5 Tips For A Better Sleep and turning your phone off earlier at night to help get a better sleep. Switching your phone off earlier means you begin to unwind quicker therefore you get a higher quality sleep at night. It’s win-win.

To make sure I stick to it, I turn my phone on to airplane mode at night and don’t turn it off until 8am the next day. This also means I’m less distracted when I’m getting ready in the morning. How many of you get out the shower and sit on the bed for like 30 minutes scrolling through your news feeds? Just me? Okay…

2. Turn Off Notifications.

This is something I tried recently and it definitely works. Go on to the notification settings on your phone. Switch off all notifications for any apps that aren’t important. I’ve kept them on for phone calls, text messages and emails but everything else (yes, even Facebook) are now switched off. That means I can only access the information when I actively go into the app or visit the sites on my laptop. When your phone is constantly lighting up every time someone likes your photo or a funny tweet you are being overly stimulated and getting sucked into the cyber world every time you check the time on your phone. Be kind to yourself; remember that not every text/tweet/email/like/comment notification needs to be dealt with straight away.

3. Swap Your Apps.

Try swapping toxic, time-wasting Internet habits for more positive and life-affirming ones. Ditch your Facebook app or online games and swap them for more positive apps and websites. There are many online apps for fitness, diet, meditation and creative thinking which will all help towards a happier and healthier life. Remind yourself that you don’t need the constant stimulation of other people’s lives when the one you’re living is so important! Every time you think about checking your Instagram or Facebook why not take 10 minutes of “me-time” instead.

Try apps like 30 Day Squat, Calm or HeadSpace. Download the free Kindle app and read a chapter of your favourite book whenever you want to cruise the internet. Also use websites like StumbleUpon which allow you to find new websites catered to your interests that will feed your brain rather than turn it into mush. Let me know what your favourite healthy lifestyle apps and websites are! Are there any life-affirming blogs that you just love?

4. Create No-Internet Spaces.

Another good tip is to have “no internet zones” in the house. For example, no phones at the dinner table or keeping the internet out of your bedroom.You don’t need to know what Sarah had for her lunch or what a great holiday Tom had while you’re cosying up to go to sleep or enjoying a meal with family and friends. I’ve never been allowed a phone at the dinner table because it’s a time to unwind and talk to your family about your day. Try these 3 Fun Ways to Avoid the Silent Dinner Table post from oprah.com.

Similarly, keep your phone far away when you’re out with friends. I’m getting increasingly annoyed when I go to a party and see everyone (including myself) fiddling on their phones instead of talking to each other. We are a generation obsessed with letting everyone online know how much fun we’re having instead of actually having fun in real life. Turn off mobile data if you’re out with friends or switch your phone on to airplane mode for that extra boost towards an internet free day. If you’re feeling really brave just leave your phone at home!

5. Discover What You Really Love.

Spending less time on the internet gives you more time to cultivate good habits and discover hobbies that make you really happy. What do you enjoy doing? What did people do before the internet? Go for a walk or a cycle. Join a new fitness class you’ve always wanted to try. What about something creative like crocheting, drawing, painting or writing? If you’re not sure what gets your blood pumping, here’s 16 Hobbies That Will Improve Your Quality of Life. When you step away from the screen and take the time to remember what you love you will start to enjoy life a whole lot more! I recently saw this lovely image on the Happiness Planner Facebook page and it really resonated with me:

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Yes, the ironic thing is that I’m writing a blog about simplifying your relationship with the internet on an online blog and as part of blogging I have to spend a lot of time on social media outlets on a daily basis. However, I’m trying to separate the time spent productively using the internet for blogging and the time I spend scrolling aimlessly through statuses and photos from people I went to school with and wouldn’t even say hello to me on the street. The Internet can be an incredible tool if you use it wisely but don’t let it take over your life!

However, if you are browsing the Internet on your break… why not follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?

 

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