Friday, 18 August 2017

Working with television

It is actually quite rare to be invited to talk on television, even local or very local, unless you're very well-known or are doing something controversial.

Creating controversy

I once invited a children's writer to come and talk to my students at the university. She immediately attracted a lot of attention. The university's TV crew came to film and interview her. They chose a spot near a fountain just off the busy A6. It was also a windy day. Fortunately, perhaps, the interview couldn't be heard at all. Not that there was anything wrong with the writer. She is excellent and writes everything form picture books up to young adult texts.

So, why all of this interest? Well, her latest book at the time was a story about three girls who become prostitutes. I always argue that it's a very moral book because it ends badly and gives the message clearly "Girls, don't go there." However, it was enough to get her banned from one school and appear on the BBC local news. She had warned the librarian that she might not want to include this book in a school visit. Knee-jerk reaction was to pull all of her books out of the school library -  and she writes about seal pups being saved and feral kittens in the Med region finding homes – as well as prostitutes. The school said there were technical reasons why they were cancelling the visit. I don't think so.

Approaching a TV Company

Now, I'm not suggesting you go to those lengths to secure an interview. Yes, she did manage to get on to the BBC but her visit to my place of work only attracted a very local TV company. Anyway, it wasn't deliberate. It's still worth sending your carefully crafted press release to TV companies. Can you find that unique selling point? Does your work tie in with something important going on locally?

Be prepared

Should you then be invited to appear in a show, you'll need some preparation for this. Think about what to wear . What are your best colours? Avoid stripes, spots and intricate patterns. Practise. Get a friend to ask you questions and record yourself answering them. Is your voice warm enough and clear enough? Do your eyes smile?  

An alternative way of being seen

If TV work really appeals and you're getting no take up from TV companies you can always make your own video and load it up to You Tube. Then, take as many opportunities as you can to embed it in web sites.          

Monday, 31 July 2017

Working with local radio



The big guys, of course are the BBC and crucial to remember here is that the BBC is not allowed to advertise. However, they'll often ask when your book is out and where it's available. The other trick is to find ways of talking about your book in such a way that it isn't advertising it. You might talk about how you came to write the book, whether it has a local connection or whether it deals with a topical subject.

It's often easier to get radio coverage for non-fiction rather than fiction though if you've had to do research for fiction there may be an angle you can find there.

Usually, the programme editor will discuss with you before the recording what s/he will ask in the interview. Sometimes they will do this well in advance, other times it will be just before the you go on air.

Being everywhere at once

Very often these days the interview will be conducted by phone so you can work form the comfort of your own home. It's an idea though to dress as if you were going to work – and this can mean casual for a writer -  but don't stay in your pyjamas. It might also be an idea to stand or sit at your desk. This immediately makes you more business-like.

Sometimes also you may be called into your local studio to be connected to another.  For instance, I was interviewed for Radio Leicester in the studio at Bangor, North Wales.

How to find who does what

The radio Times is your best friend here: Dip into it now and then to see who does what sort of programme. Ascertain the name of the producer before you approach them. Carry on building that database of contacts. (See previous posts) Your press release is important here again but do cover it with a personal note. Make it clear why they should be interested in interviewing you.

Preparing for the interview

If you've had a lot of warning, you can get a friend to play the part of the interviewer. Record your interview. It's a little shocking if you've not heard yourself before, but get used to it now. Does your voice need softening or lowering a tone? Don't go as far as Maggie Thatcher did, though. Are you humming and ahing a bit too much? Are any of your answers inadequate or too defensive?

If you don't know what you'll be asked far in advance, listen to a few interviews and use some of those questions.

Nurse your voice. No dairy just before the interview. Gargling with red wine is supposed to be good.

A few nerves are productive – they keep you on your toes – but you shouldn't be petrified. Take a few deep calming breaths before you start.  

Then just enjoy.

Other than the BBC

There are other companies who do spoken word radio broadcasts but they are more difficult to find and won't give you as much coverage as the BBC. They may nevertheless be worth pursuing if you enjoy talking to other people about your work.

Doing your own thing

You can of course simply make your own podcast. Load it up to You Tube. Embed it in all of your sites. Again, take your cues form radio interviews you've enjoyed.         


Friday, 14 July 2017

Working with the local press

You've created your very professional press release now. What should you do next? Yes you need to contact the local press. However, don't just send the press release to everyone you can think of. They get hundreds of these a day. A phone call or a personalised e-mail works better.

Build yourself a database

Keep a list of any contacts you've found and of which information was sent where. Build up your personal contacts within the media. Look out for networking opportunities. Read your local press and note which other authors they feature. Look for a by-line on the feature to find the name of the journalist. Consider pooling information with other writers you know.

Start small

You may be more successful starting off small. Is there a local online publication or even a blog? Sometimes such publications welcome you writing your own copy. If you do it really well you may even be asked to contribute regularly. Take care that that is what you really want, though, and that it doesn't take up too much of your writing time.

Your unique selling point

Journalists always want a human story. What is special about you that can also be related to your book? It may be there in your press release but you should emphasize this when you approach the press.

Back to the all-important press release

Yes it is still important to have this as polished and as professionally presented as possible. As soon as one of your contacts bites, you need to be able to give them all of the information they need in a form they will recognise.          

Friday, 23 June 2017

Creating a press release

It’s good to have one of these prepared as soon as you are ready to start marketing your book. These step by step instructions are for promoting a book written by school children, but it is easily adaptable.
1.      Start with a headline. Include something about the book and where it is created e.g. Willmonston High Create Book about Animals in Support of RSPCA
2.      N.B. If sending your press release by email, include your headline in the subject line. If sending by snailmail, remember to double space.
3.      Create a “grabber”. You might type this in a slightly bigger font than normal. What is the most exciting aspect about this project? An example might be: “Best-selling author K L Towling assists Willmonston High students with their story-telling”. 
4.      Do you want you press release to go out straight away? In which case, type IMMEDIATE RELEASE above the headline.
5.      Make sure to keep the school name in the headline and any sub-heading. Repeat it again as you start writing the text.
6.      Now on to the body of the press release.  Keep the information concise. Make sure you include and make clear:
a.       What the actual news is
b.      Why this is news
c.       Who is involved
d.      What they are doing
e.       Why you are making this news available.
  1. Include a call to action. What do you want the public to do? Buy the book? Attend the launch?  
8.      Next write something about who you are:
a.       Give this section the title About Willmonston High School.
b.      Write five to six sentences.
    1. Try to identify what is special about your school.
d.      Give your web-site address.
9.      Now mention one more fact about why what you are doing is important.
10.  Finally, give contact information:
    1. The name of the school
    2. Contact person (you may have a PR person who liaises with the media)
    3. Full address of your school
    4. Full telephone and fax numbers
    5. Contact person’s mobile number
    6. Time of availability
    7. Web address
  1. Signal the end of the press release with three # symbols, centred directly underneath the last line of the release. This is a journalistic standard.

Here is a sample press release.
Immediate release

Spooking by Gill James

Paranormal Romance for young adults by university lecturer 

Spooking tells the story of a premature death and an unfinished love affair. Yes, this is a paranormal romance but there are definitely no vampires.
It isn’t too scary and there is certainly some humour in it.
Spooking appears in paperback on 28 September 2012. It has already been out as an e-book since April 2012.
Gill will do a tour of Greater Manchester secondary schools to promote the book.

About Gill James

Gill lectures in English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford. The first draft of Spooking was written whilst on a writer’s retreat on Tenerife. Gill also writes short stories and flash fiction for adults. Her main area of expertise however is the young adult novel.

Contact Gill for interviews at  or on 0161 295 6792.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Finding reviewers

It’s good to build up a team of reviewers. I’ve started that and I give you access to them: You can see it’s small as yet but we’re constantly adding to it. Would you like to join? You can find more detail here: and sign up for any of the DreamTeam opportunities.

There are also various lists of reviewers. This one is quite good: However, you have to work carefully with it. Often you’ll spend a lot of time finding the right reviewer, only to find that they’re not taking on any more reading right at this moment.

In the end, you will need to create your own team of reviewers. This will probably depend on you keeping a well-curated mailing list. This will take time to build up.

There is another side to this: we should all make the effort to review. It need only be a couple of lines sometimes and a star-rating. Naturally, though, this mustn’t take away too much of your own writing time. I’ll qualify this a little, however, and say that reviewing is writing – but you know what I mean.

I give a 4* or 5* review to anything that really wows me and I’ll also put that on my site If I’m invited to review I’ll be brutally honest though I will try and contact the author if I can if it’s going to be dire.

You do have to be careful that you don’t get into a tit-for-tat situation. You can’t offer good reviews for the sake of obtaining good reviews. That could be worse that fake news and alternative facts. Just as you should only like on Facebook and Twitter what you genuinely like.