by Victoria Bennion
You’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months writing and editing your book and finally it’s about to be published. Your publisher expects you to do the majority of the promotion of your tome. So how do you go about marketing a book?
Award-winning author of guidebook Wild Times, Jini Reddy (pictured right) did a phenomenal job of promoting her debut book which no doubt contributed to its success. Jini talks to us about being a writer and shares with us her recent experiences of marketing a book.
When I was six, I remember trying to write a book. It was some kind of extended journal! So I think the urge to be a writer of some kind has always been there.
In my 20s I worked as a blurb writer for Penguin Books, writing the back jacket book blurbs, which I loved. Then, roll on a few years and I tried to write a book (travel lit) which no one wanted. Later, I trained as a journalist, wrote features for 14 years and a couple of years ago, segued into books. But there was always some kind of writing going on.
I’d been exploring wild places, but I was also very drawn to delving into themes around spirituality and personal development.
It felt to me like I needed to bring the two together somehow but I wasn’t too sure how to. I began to seek more meaningful experiences out on the land.
One summer, I went off and did a vision quest, high in the Pyrenees, fasting and drinking water and wild camping alone for 5 days.
When I came back, I was chatting about the experience (and other offbeat ones I’d done) with a fellow travel scribe who also happened to be a publisher. He said he thought there was a book in all of this, and suggested I send him some ideas. So that got the ball rolling…
I had about nine months to research and write the book, so I had four months for the actual writing – not nearly enough time. Good writing needs time to breathe. It was pretty full-on, giving the research involved travelling all over Britain.
I did a lot of my own PR – I emailed editors and journalists I knew (and others I didn’t). I had contacts so being a journalist helped in that respect. I also decided I wanted to have a book launch, and ran around trying to find sponsors for it. It turned out to be a brilliant night – a full house - at an art gallery in town, my publisher came and spoke it, and I sold a crate load of books, but I organised every last detail myself. I didn’t get any financial help from my publisher. (I did ask!)
They promoted the book on their website, Twitter and Instagram feeds and did manage to get me into a few magazines, so I’m grateful for that! I appreciate that they had a small marketing department, but I have spoken to author friends with big contracts at major publishing houses and they’ve had to do a lot of their own promotion too.
As a writer, I can’t get my head round the fact that many publishers expect you to do the lion’s share of the marketing. It doesn’t make much sense to me. Why pay someone to write a book and then not invest in publicising it? Obviously it’s different if you’re JK Rowling. But with the book, other doors have opened for me, so it has all been worth it.
Oh my God! Weeks and weeks and weeks!!! It was a hard slog.
That’s a big question! I began by dissecting the book – looking at every conceivable angle and then matching angle to editor/publication. It’s so important to do this, to look at your book laterally, to pick it apart, to see it from a perspective other than your own. I think this is easier with a non-fiction title.
With fiction, I imagine it is more of a challenge, but not impossible (and part of the consultancy work I do involves helping people to explore the marketable angles for their book or venture or retreat, or ethical business or social enterprise or whatever….) Fortunately Wild Times was a book that had a multitude of themes: eco-travel, nature, wellbeing, spirituality, ethical living, land art and so on.
How I presented the book to a particular editor depended very much on the publication. I knew of many newspapers and magazines that I could approach, but I researched many more, and sent out lots of ‘blind’ emails. I also told virtually everyone I knew about it and posted on social media.
There was a push in the month or two before the publication date which carried on for another two to three months after. It took over my life. But you have a relatively small window in which to push a book so you need to make the most of it. With newspapers and magazines, you have to approach them before publication date, and to take into account their sometimes long lead times. If you wait too long, it’s no longer news.
See above! I didn’t. I juggled it very badly. I basically stopped everything else and ended up in debt. Not something I recommend. But I was determined to spread the word.
I focused on both print and digital.
It’s hard to say. On the day of my book launch, the Metro ran a double page spread. That was brilliant timing, and a lot of people commented that they’d seen it.
Any newspaper press is good – the Weekend Telegraph ran an extract before Christmas and there was a small mention in the Guardian. I’m not sure how many sales those elicited but it was all good PR because word (hopefully) gets around and other editors read them too.
An inflight magazine put it on its page two and made it part of their hot list for the month. It went out on all flights for the airline over a period of a month so I think that was excellent coverage.
Obviously anything online that is googleable is good – and some consumer magazines that weren’t able to run anything in print were willing to run extracts online.
I approached membership magazines for organisations like the Wildlife Trusts and the John Muir Trust – which have several thousand members. I think having coverage in there and other niche magazines probably had a big impact, and maybe more so than mentions in general lifestyle consumer mags. I also did Q&A interviews online.
As above and see here, under: Wild Times news
I gave a talk with a slideshow at a festival – my throat dried up, I could barely get the words out and had problems with the PowerPoint, so I wouldn’t want to repeat that particular experience! Particularly as a well-known TV presenter and an ex-BBC producer were in the audience. All grist for the mill though.
Get creative and try all avenues.
Thanks! I’m writing a new, non-fiction narrative book for Bloomsbury. I’m bringing more of my voice to it and I’m really excited about it.
Many thanks for joining us Jini.
You can buy Wild Times from the Bradt Guide website
Learn more about Jini at www.jinireddy.co.uk
Follow Jini on Twitter @Jini_Reddy
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