How not to promote your book on the radio

"Ah, Gordon, I know exactly how you feel" (image source: mostlyrandomphotoseh.blogspot.com)

“Ah, Gordon, I know exactly how you feel” (image source: mostlyrandomphotoseh.blogspot.com)

 

So, last Thursday saw my maiden journey into the weird and wonderful world of radio promotion. It wasn’t my first time on radio – my voice had been broadcast on Radio 4 singing at the Aldeburgh Festival (with a few others) way back in the mid-1980’s – but it was my first time as a guest in a radio studio.

I was nervous, as I may have mentioned previously, but I’d had a good chat with Shane – one of the hosts and the person who had written the lovely review I posted last week – and felt fairly comfortable. With ten minutes to go I still had no idea what would happen and was yet to meet one of the hosts, but I wasn’t worried. Some friends had contacted me before hand to give their support. The most common piece of advice I received was “you’ll be fine, just be yourself,” or less politely “you talk a lot and have a face for radio, what could go wrong?” As I walked into the studio I felt I was ready.

The good news

I really enjoyed the experience. Both Shane and Neale were very friendly, kept me involved during the full two hours of the show, and even allowed me to play some songs that had inspired me during my writing process. I managed to promote one of the musicians (the wonderful Stephen Hodd) and my friends who run an excellent music night in my village (Live at the Cottage). I also didn’t make a complete fool of myself (at least, I don’t think so) and I didn’t freeze in front of the microphone, which I’ve been told happens a lot. I was even told by one of the listeners that I sounded around 25 which was a bonus.

The bad news

I was pretty rubbish at promoting my book. Yes, I know, it was the reason I was there, but as soon as we went on air all the lovely plans I had in my head disappeared. It wasn’t a complete car crash, but from a promotional point of view, it wasn’t great. Worst of all, the only person to blame was me. So, in case any of you have the opportunity to go on the radio to promote your book, here are my 5 top tips.

1) Don’t forget to promote your book

It seems an obvious point. How could you forget to promote your book? But the thing is, once you become embroiled in the conversation, you forget what you are there to do. It wasn’t like I didn’t have the opportunity. Shane kindly set up a a number of different questions about the book of which I failed to take advantage. I forgot to mention the four intertwining stories, the fact that event though my book is set in the future, it’s really talking about today and where we are heading. I didn’t mention that the book deals with modern politics (and politicians), the privatisation of state services (like policing), abuse of power and how even the highest ideals can be corrupted over time. I didn’t mention the themes of love, loss and its impact over a lifetime, or the fact it raises questions about what makes us who we are? So the people who listened in had no real reason to buy my book.

2) Remember, it’s their show, not yours

As mentioned before, both Shane and Neale were very accommodating, but it is their show. They have regular listeners who are used to the show being run in a certain way. I had to fit into how they worked, not they had to change the show to accommodate me and my book. It may sound naive but I thought I may have been given a bit more space to wax lyrical about the book, but of course they are looking to entertain. The show is built around a ‘banter’ style of presenting, where the hosts riff off each other. What this meant was that I had to be quicker on my feet than I was. I’m still thinking up snappy retorts I never said.

3) Work out before hand what you are happy to reveal when promoting your book, and what not

Another problem for me was that I was so terrified of revealing too much of what happens in the book that I hardly revealed anything at all. I should have worked out beforehand the information that would attract potential readers to my book without spoiling the story.

4) Take pre-prepared answers to obvious questions

It seems obvious but my mind went blank when asked the question “what is the book all about.” I had prepared an answer in my head but as soon as the question was asked I was grasping at smoke. Instead of reeling off my elevator pitch, I froze momentarily, before reverting to self-deprecatory mode – which is fine amongst friends but comes across as lacking confidence in your own book to strangers.

5) If it has been a while, re-read your book

The other problem I had is that I’m now two-thirds of my way through writing book 2. For me, the characters have moved on, new characters have emerged and what was understood to be the truth in Second Chance may not be as simple (that’s as close to a spoiler as you’ll get). But I was there to promote Second Chance, so despite thinking I knew it all (because I’d slaved over it for so long), the details were’ fresh in my mind. I should have re-read the book in the days leading up to the show, from start to finish.

This may sound like I regret going on the show but I don’t. It was a great experience and I can’t thank Shane enough for giving me the opportunity to take part. Yes, as a book promotion it was a bit of a flop, but as an experience it was fantastic, and one I can’t wait to have again – though hopeful better prepared next time.

To hear the full show in all its glory, click on the link below.

Update 15th April 2014: Sadly my radio debut has gone to the big radio graveyard in the sky and is no longer available. Part of me is very sad, another part relieved.

 

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I’m going to be on the radio

Good evening Ipswich Town! (image source: fan pop.com)

Good evening Ipswich Town! (image source: fan pop.com)

I’m just breaking my self-imposed blogging embargo to let you know that I’ll be on the radio to talk about Second Chance this Thursday! How exciting is that? Frankly, I’m slightly terrified at the thought but it should be good fun. I’ve been allowed to choose a few songs that helped inspire my writing, so even if you get bored of my voice you should stay entertained – and it may give you a better insight on how my mind works, for better or worse.

The show is ‘Why the long face?’ with Neale and Shane on ICRFM (105.7FM if you live in Suffolk) or via http://www.icrfm.co.uk if you live elsewhere and is on this Thursday between 10pm and midnight GMT, which is an ideal time for my family in the USA. If, however, that’s a little past your bedtime, I’ll post a link to a recording of the show early next week.

The very nice Shane invited me on the show having read Second Chance. He also wrote a very nice review on the Afterword website including the following:

Set in the near-future (no, come back….) – you know the sort, where they have psychotropic drugs in nightclubs but you still need a good cup of coffee to get you going in the morning – a small cast of characters gradually becomes entwined when someone mysteriously goes missing, the detective assigned to the case is baffled and politicians seeking poll boosts become involved. So far, so Phillip K Dick, yes? Although Hearn wears his influences very clearly on his sleeve, he also has a conversational tone, keeps the rhythm of the writing brisk and has well-developed characters who are easy to become engaged with, whatever their moral stripe. Cleverly blurring the lines between whether this is ultimately a Utopian or a Dystopian society he’s also not afraid to plunge into a bit of casual Nihilism as the mood takes him.

How about that to raise your appetite? After such kind words, I’m hoping for a gentle ride on Thursday but you never know. It could be radio gold or it may be a train wreck, but what better reasons could you need to tune in.

As for my writing, I’m over halfway through the first draft of the followup to Second Chance and it appears to be going well. As always, the characters keep surprising me and there are a number of new characters that have appeared fully formed out of the ether. It has been great fun to write and I hope you enjoy how the story develops. Once the first draft is finished I’ll be back to regular blogging – unless of course I come down with a severe bout of procrastination. We’ll see…

In Memory Of Czeslawa Kwoka

A very thought provoking and moving tribute to a young girl who was killed in the holocaust.

City Jackdaw

The last post that I added to City Jackdaw was all about the wonder and splendour of this beautiful world that we live in. Today’s post is about a darker aspect of this same world, an aspect that we shamefully bring to it. I came across the story of Czeslawa Kwoka by accident.  I had never heard of her before, but it was the photograph that drew my attention. I could not stop looking at it.

Czeslawa Kwoka

Czeslawa Kwoka was born in Poland in 1928. This beautiful girl was to die in Auschwitz in 1943. Not a Jew, she was a Polish Catholic girl who was sent to Auschwitz along with her mother in December 1942. Within three months, both were dead.

I have never been to Auschwitz. I did go to the Terezín camp when I was in Prague a few years ago. Although used as a ghetto and not…

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Top 10 tips on becoming a more productive writer

How to improve your productivity

How to improve your productivity

Writing is a funny old game. Some days the gods of writing smile on you and you write effortless reams of beautiful prose, compelling dialogue and tense action. You cannot wait to write, your every thought focussing on when you can get back to your novel/blog/poem/script. Those are the easy days, the summer’s days you look back on from your childhood. This post isn’t talking about those sun-kissed moments. This is about the other days, where things aren’t so easy; normal writing days as I like to call them.

Here are my top ten tips on how to be a more productive writer.

1 Complete any outstanding chores before you start

You have never known how attractive cleaning a toilet can seem until you’ve sat in front of a computer hoping to write. Or the washing. Or the vacuuming. Chores that can be done at any time of the day take on a sense of urgency only previously known by bomb disposal experts. If your partner has a list of jobs that have been outstanding for the last six months, persuade them to start writing. The list will be cleared within days. In order to write you need to be fully focussed on your task, so finish your chores before you start.

2 Recognise when you are procrastinating

Doing the washing is a necessary chore. Sorting your bookshelf in to alphabetical and chronological order at the time you specifically set aside to write is not. Neither is rearranging your computer files into a more logical structure. Or – as in my case – is tracing your family history history back to 1640. You are procrastinating. Stop it. Go write.

3 Never wait for inspiration

I find that writing is like parties; some of the best are the ones you didn’t want to attend. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat in front of my computer without any idea of how to continue, only to find one of my characters does something unexpected that leads to a whole new creative spurt. Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for a warm British summer; yes, you may have sun three weeks in a row but you could wait another five years before it happens again. Just write.

4 Make sure your family know not to interrupt – including the children

Unless there is a fire, you need to make sure your family know that your writing time is precious. It is not a time to ask you questions, say hello, tell you about their favourite toy or to discuss items on a credit card bill. If they have trouble doing this, just chat to them, loudly, during their favourite TV program or film. They’ll soon get the message.

5 Set yourself a goal each time you write and don’t stop until you’ve finished

Just sitting down to write isn’t enough. To be really productive you need to have a goal. Some people set themselves a word count they want to achieve, others target finishing an article or a post (as I’m doing now). I write to an outline, so I set myself the target of finishing a scene or scenes, depending how large Ive planned them to be. If it helps, give yourself a treat whenever you complete your task. If it’s good enough for dogs…

6 Tell people what you are doing

Another method is to go public with what you do. Tell your partner or a friend your goal and keep them updated with your progress. There is nothing more motivating than the sense of guilt when a friend asks you how you’re getting on and you know all you’ve done is sat in front of the TV in your underwear eating nachos.

7 Write every day

After “start with one word, add another, repeat”, this is the best writing advice you will ever receive. Writing every day keeps the brain’s writing and creative centres lubricated. If you are writing a novel, it’s much easier to slip into a character’s skin if you had only been there the day before. If possible, try to write at regular slot each day, but if that’s not possible, find a time in the day when you can write, even if it’s a half hour here, another half hour there. Anyone who has taken on evening classes knows you have much more free time than you think.

8 Destroy the internet

Just while you are writing. This means your computer, your phone, your datalenses. Like chores, internet distractions have an increased sense of immediacy if you are struggling to write – “what, I can get pharmaceuticals for only a few dollars – I must find out more.”

9 Learn to write tired – at least until you are successful enough to write for a living

Most writers have to find other ways to make a living, meaning that your writing time gets squeezed to the peripheries of the day. Forcing yourself to summon enough enthusiasm to write is difficult enough at the best of times, but being tired makes it so much tougher. Yet, while you may not feel like writing, sometimes a tired brain can spring ideas on you that you would never have thought of otherwise. Remember daydreaming in class, well writing while tired is virtually the same thing, and you know how wild some of those daydreams used to be (or maybe that was just me).

10 Prioritise

There are lots of distractions looking to take up some of your free time. Blogs/Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads/TV/Movies/Music/Games all vie for our attention. We can often manage these very well but if you are committed to writing, something has to give. The irish comedian Dara O’Briain once said that the first casualty of becoming a parent is you knowledge of the music charts. The same could be said about writing. Did you notice the one thing I didn’t say? Books. Reading lots helps you to become a better writer so never give up on your reading. Just don’t use it as an excuse not to write.

Normal service to be resumed shortly

Time for a rethink

Time for a rethink

My life tends to work like this. I publish my book, get excited, decide to write the follow up (and the follow up to the follow up) and at that point all the other things I agreed to do at various points have now come to fruition. I’m doing some consultancy for a friend’s business, building a website for the local pre-school (with two others lined up), have my normal childcare duties and, of course, I’m on a purple patch with the first draft of book two. Something has to give and sadly that something is this blog.

It won’t be for long.

Just for a bit

Until things calm down.

I may also be less active reading and responding to many of the blogs I follow. It’s nothing personal and I can’t wait until things quieten down so that I can catch up with you all.

So many apologies in advance. I hope it won’t be for too long but I’m sure I’ll find time for the odd tweet before I’m back with a post about how terrible writing is and why the hell did I agree to put myself through this again.

I look forward to catching up with you all shortly. Until then, here’s a lovely song by Stephen Hodd, recorded live at Live at the Cottage last year and which I wrote about here. If you get the chance, look up Stephen on Soundcloud and listen to the whole set. Simply beautiful.