How not to promote your book on the radio

"Ah, Gordon, I know exactly how you feel" (image source:

“Ah, Gordon, I know exactly how you feel” (image source:


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.


26 thoughts on “How not to promote your book on the radio

  1. Shame you won’t have a second chance to talk about your book on this show (yes, I know that was obvious, but I thought I’d better get it out of the way).

    It’s hard to be prepared if you’re virtually a radio virgin or, worse, you’ve not been told about the show’s format, both of which have happened to me. Everyone has a first time — I dried up to start with but luckily it wasn’t live. My second time was down the line to Radio Scotland from BBC’s Bristol studios, where no-one had been expecting me and I didn’t get any real inkling of precisely why I was there (it was to talk about King Arthur) until they got the feed up as the programme began and the introductions made. You were at least lucky you really did have time to prepare! (Not that I’m unsympathetic or anything.)

    My wife is a spokesperson on her specialist topic for the British Psychological Society so, dozens of radio interviews on, she is word perfect whatever questions she is asked. So my advice is: keep writing your novels and twenty titles later you’ll be thinking ‘Why was I worried?’ when you’re interviewed for the umpteenth time.

    • Ha! I look forward to talking to you again twenty books down the line. As I’m only two-thirds through the first draft of book two, that looks a long way away.
      Yes, at least I knew what I was getting into, it was my own naïveté that let me down, but as failures go, it was an enjoyable one.

      • As a teacher I’ve come to realise it’s an illusion to think you know what people take away from an encounter with you: it may be what you planned but more likely it won’t. Your friendliness, tone of voice, choice of music, interaction with hosts, the possibility that they associate your first name with literature or music — any or none of these things could predispose them to remember you wrote some book they’d never heard of until that moment. Or not. So, chill…

      • I’m chilled, never fear. I loved the experience and don’t regret it for an instant. The blog was really to help prepare others who may have the opportunity to go on the radio in the future. I just hope they won’t have to face the “dick, doc or duck’ quiz. 😉

  2. Great advice! Thank you for sharing your experience to us. I was very interested to know how that went. You should post a video on your next blog if you can.

    Perhaps the PR is still good. Sometimes just getting your name and title out there is enough. Hopefully, you will see some encouraging increases in sales:)

    At least you’ve learned from your mistakes, but I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was.

    Oh, if you are interested, I do host a blog in which I feature an author monthly. I do not have an April author yet. I’d be more than happy to interview you and discuss your latest work. I can get a set of interview questions to you asap. If you are interested e-mail me at

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Hi Kylie, thank you for the kind comments. No, I don’t think it was terrible, far from it. In fact as an experience it was excellent. It was just that I wasn’t so great at promoting my book. Live and learn as they say.
      Thanks also for your kind offer. I’ve sent you an email.

    • Thank you, Shane. It was a pleasure to finally get to meet you and I did really enjoy myself (which I hope comes across in both the blog and the broadcast).
      At the very least you have gained one new listener (though possibly on repeat as I like my sleep).

  3. Great lessons here, Dylan. I just hope I have the chance to put them into practice one day. I can only imagine how tough it is, doing your first (think positive!) radio interview, and on a show which is all about witty banter too. Speaking as a listener (albeit in the cold light of this morning, not the wee small hours), I think you acquitted yourself pretty well. You sounded great, and you melded neatly with the style and format of the show.

    So… what else are you doing to market Second Chance? Book signings perhaps? (or Kindle signings…). Readings? What about some more radio? How about some talks in clubs and pubs about balancing your dual responsibilities of writer and… cleaner? See now, you’ve only just begun!

    • Thank you, Jools, you are very kind. I’m not doing a huge amount of marketing at the moment. I’m looking to get reviews, asking people to promote it when possible and, of course, blogging where possible. My aim is to make a bigger push when book 2 is launched. I can then do a free promotion of Second Chance (with paid advertising on sites like bookbub etc) to act as a loss leader with the aim of attracting a percentage of those to pay for book 2. Then once book 3 comes along, I can drop the price of book 2 so by the time people have got that far, they’ll pay good money to read book 3. It’s a long game but I think probably more effective over time.

  4. Oh Dylan, I felt so bad as I really wanted to listen to the show but I’m away house-sitting for my son and his girlfriend while they are away California Dreamin’ and guess what? They don’t have single radio in the house! So, I’m really pleased that you included the link. I’m so glad that you felt overall it was a good experience despite your ‘book promotion’ misgivings. I can imagine it must have been very difficult to keep on target with what you hoped to say but I would think that just by being on the show at all would have raised your profile somewhat and made people curious about you and your book no matter what you said! You might be in for a pleasant surprise 🙂

    • Thank you, Sherri. I hope you enjoy listening to the show. I didn’t think it was a personal disaster at all, quite the opposite in fact, I really enjoyed taking part. It was more that I failed in the book promotion part. Still, as you say, you never know…

  5. Well Dylan, I am finally getting back to you, catching up and having at last listened to your radio show! I thought you came across very well when talking about your book, and that’s the truth! And yes, I really enjoyed detecting your Suffolk accent, slightly 😉 Brought back good memories!!!
    I enjoyed listening to how you came about writing your novel and your premise for it. That, as a listener, sticks with me and I’m sure did with others listening in too. You can be proud, you came across very well and I hope that sales did well afterwards because you deserve it 🙂

    • Sherri, you are very kind. I didn’t realise my Suffolk accent was that noticeable given that my mother beat it out of me as a child (sorry mum – she didn’t really beat me). Perhaps these past few years back in the county is starting to have an effect.

      • No, I’m just kidding Dylan, I actually barely noticed it 😉 I know what you mean. We moved to Suffolk when I was 10 years old and my mum wasn’t happy when I started coming home from school with my newly acquired Suffolk accent, a mere passing phase 😉

  6. Perhaps surprisingly, although you’ve written about being on radio, it struck me that pretty much everything you mentioned is relevant to promoting your book. I’m fast realising that I shouldn’t even be self-deprecating with friends. Really useful reminder that we need to be more prepared – because some of those opportunities to promote won’t be pre-booked.

    Great blog, by the way.

    • Thank you. Yes, it’s true, especially your point about being self-deprecating with friends. I think a few of mine have been a little surprised about how ‘sensitive’ I am about my novel – because if I don’t take it seriously, why should anyone else.
      I’m glad you enjoyed it and thanks for dropping by.

  7. I just did the same thing the other day. All of the intelligent things you plan to say somehow vanish from your brain. No worries, I’m sure you did better than you think you did. We are always our own worst critics.

    • It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it. I’ve presented to the board of large corporations without an issue yet when I entered a small room with two middle-aged (sorry Shane and Neale) men, a microphone, and the knowledge that friends and strangers were listening in, my plans turned to ashes. I hope you at least were able to give a better summary of what you book was about than I was!

      • I’m not so sure! I’m still waiting to hear if they will even put the interview on the show. It was recorded and then (I hope) edited. We had some technical difficulties right when I was talking about paranormal research, weird, huh? It’s all experience, so that’s how I’m looking at it. 🙂 Cheers!

  8. As a professional Flemish author for 22 years, recently – April 15th – published in the US, I’ve already noticed that the Anglo-Saxon way of promoting novels is different from ours. An author has to do much more self-promotion than for instance in Holland or Belgium (two countries wherein I publish). It’s a very learning experience for me, but, coming out of a different book-culture, I would say that, on the radio – and, without bragging, I’ve given hundreds of radio-interviews over here, or on TV it’s not Always good to be “too slick” and “too promotional”. Listeners have an ear for that. Your advice for self-promotion is sound (especially: reread your book before going to the show, especially if you have published more than 30 books like I have :-)) but riding “the wave” of the conversation is also good, natural and sympathetic. So, try to get the best of both worlds…yourself as an enthusiastic writer and yourself as a promotor of your book…..Cheers…..

    • Hi Bob, thanks for dropping by. I’m very jealous that you have managed to publish over 30 books; that’s a fantastic achievement. I agree with what you said, coming across as too slick can be off-putting for many people. Readers like to know the person behind the book and that can only come across if you relax and be yourself. Good luck with your new adventures in the US market!

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