Sometimes as writers we need to push ourselves to do things we don’t necessarily feel comfortable with. I’m not talking about the content or the writing process here, but the stuff that comes after publication. The promotional side of things.
Like a lot of writers, I am fairly introverted and a fairly private person. So it has been a real push for me to get up in front of rooms full of people to talk about Celia and Nonna. But I’ve done it, and it’s been so rewarding as well. A few damp eyes out there, and many thankyous from people who feel the story has struck a chord.
I spent most of this week obsessing about one appearance in particular: live, on national radio. Did I mention it was live? And national? Since you asked, here is the podcast from ABC Radio National’s Life Matters show with Natasha Mitchell, a wonderful daily smorgasbord of stories about life in general. The show runs for one hour every morning on Australia’s national broadcaster, and the discussion took up more than half the show.
I wrote long lists and short lists of points I wanted to make. As a seasoned journalist, I’m not used to being on the receiving end of pointy questions. I’m more used to asking them. This was way outside my comfort zone. But I knew it was a golden opportunity to not only discuss the issues raised by Celia and Nonna, but also to introduce it to potential future readers who would otherwise never come across it.
All up, I think the interview went pretty well. The show was set up with three guests: myself, a counsellor from Alzheimers Australia (Vic), and a young man who was 19 when his grandfather was diagnosed with dementia. The ABC billed the segment as: “How can we help children to understand dementia?” And that was spot on. With Celia and Nonna, I really hope to reach out to other families who are going through this difficult time and perhaps help to get the conversation started.
Was it worth all the personal angst in the lead-up to the show? Absolutely. I thought in detail about what I wanted to say, and wasn’t too badly thrown by some unexpected queries. I probably didn’t need to plan my commute into the studio quite so carefully, but it’s good to arrive early!
Especially in this brave new era of publishing, you really need to think about your book project in three stages.
First comes the writing, rewriting and redrafting.
The second stage is the submissions process, if you choose to go down the route of traditional publishing. I keep a long list of my various picture book submissions.
And finally, you need to get out there and back up your story in the flesh. A large publishing house will have a marketing and publicity person who will help a little; with any smaller house, it will be entirely up to you. One way to attract attention for your new book is to go on a blog tour of websites in your genre.
Book bloggers are a willing and receptive audience who will host you with interviews or guest posts that spread the word about your work to their own followers. You can spread out your visits if you don’t have a lot of time to write the posts, or write some in advance so that you are not overwhelmed during the tour.
Once you have a guest post up, make sure you visit the site a few times that day so you can interact with any readers who take the time to comment. Once it is up, extract a few nice lines and put them out on Twitter and your FB author page.
If your book has a particular social theme, you will have a ready-made niche audience for your work. But it’s up to you to go out and find those people. I have found this to be the single most productive way to reach new people to unveil the existence of Celia and Nonna, a story in which a young girl comes to terms with her beloved grandmother’s dementia and move into a new home.
I’ve found and spoken to people at aged care organisations, and swallowed my nerves and spoken at two conferences about the experience that informed the story. In addition, my wonderful publisher at Ford Street arranged an email campaign to the managers of a few hundred aged care homes around Australia.
So, take a deep breath. Make a long list of targets to approach, and then trumpet the news about your new release. Talk to people about your book. Tweet or blog about it. Even if you just reach a few more readers, it will be worth it.
Victoria Lane is an award-winning journalist and writer who has lived and worked In London, New York and Sydney and now calls Melbourne home. Her career as a correspondent and editor spans more than 25 years, including seven in New York where she won two journalism awards. She spent 17 years as a correspondent for Reuters, the international news wire, where she reported on fun stuff like economics.
Her articles have been published in the world’s leading media including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian. Celia and Nonna is her debut picture book.