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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