Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

My May Column for the Tetbury Advertiser

Having just written my June column for the Tetbury Advertiser, I’ve just realised that I hadn’t yet posted up on my blog my column for last month. So here it is, for the record – and apologies to regular readers for any repetition, as I’ve covered some of the same ground in previous posts. More new stuff coming soon!

Cover of "Opening Up To Indie Authors"
My latest book (well, half of it – Dan Holloway wrote the other half!)

I welcome the arrival of May with a sigh of relief, as it heralds the completion of project that has preoccupied me since November: the launch of a new book, which I’ve co-authored with the writer and poet Dan Holloway. It’s called Opening Up To Indie Authors, and its purpose is to build better relationships between self-published authors and the traditional book trade.

Tetbury’s own book trade, in the shape of Yellow-Lighted Bookshop proprietor Hereward Corbett, gets an honorary mention in the book, whose launch has taken me far beyond Tetbury. At the start of the school holidays, we pointed our camper van east, as I’d been invited to speak at the Cambridge Literary Festival. The venue for my talk was the exotically-named Divinity Lightfoot room in St John’s College. I thought Divinity Lightfoot would make a great name for a Bond girl, so I was slightly disappointed to discover it’s actually just the name of a lecture room in the College’s School of Divinity.

Photo of Dan Holloway, Orna Ross and Debbie Young on the Kobo stand at the London Book Fair
Launching the new book at the London Book Fair

Two days later, I was taking the stage at the London Book Fair, officially launching the book, along with Dan and our editor Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors. (I’m Commissioning Editor of that organisation’s blog.) I admit it was a very small stage – more of a window-box, as one reporter put it – but it was exciting all the same. The huge scale of the Fair made me wonder afresh how any bookstore proprietor chooses which books to stock. I also admire Hereward Corbett’s knack for so often bringing to give talks in Tetbury authors who are on the cusp of becoming bestsellers or have just had their book chosen as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week.

Back to More Books

Then it was back home to collect a big box of books from the library. Just what our house needs, more books… Fortunately for the state of my overcrowded bookshelves, these books will soon be on their way out again, destined to be thrust into the hands of random strangers.

Photo of Debbie Young with her chosen book for World Book Night 2014Well, not quite random strangers – but, as part of the World Book Night initiative, I’ll be giving them to adults who don’t normally read books, to encourage them to enjoy reading. It’s a bit like the World Book Day event for children, but for grown-ups. World Book Night kicked off in 2011, and, to my delight, I’ve been a designated book giver every year. Being able to give away free books, paid for by The Reading Agency, makes you feel like Father Christmas, and recipients are always grateful , especially when they realise there’s no catch. To volunteer for next year’s event, visit http://www.worldbooknight.org.

On the Run from Books

HU5K logoAfter that, I’ll be moving on to a much less bookish project: rounding up runners for the next HU5K Run. This takes place on Saturday 14th June on a mostly flat stretch of the Cotswold Way, starting and finishing at Hawkesbury Upton. If you’re interested in taking part, you’ll find full details on the website: www.hu5k.org. Funnily enough, I’ve got quite a few books about running …

Posted in Writing

My Book Launch Speech at the London Book Fair

 

Taking advantage of some of the amazing technology that has helped make the self-publishing revolution possible, I’m posting up today the text of the speech I made to launch the Alliance of Independent Authors’ groundbreaking new book, “Opening Up To Indie Authors”, which I’ve co-authored with the wonderful Dan Holloway, under the wise editorship of the visionary Orna Ross.

More detail will follow on the ALLI blog tomorrow, including an extract from the book, but for the moment, sufficient to say it was a really successful launch, kindly hosted by the fabulous Kobo team in their vast and elegant stand at the heart of the exhibition hall. The picture of me here looking unspeakably pleased with myself is the result of having self-publishing superhero Hugh Howey congratulate me straight afterwards, saying “That was the best talk I’ll hear all year.” (I’d just read the closing chapter of the book, after my speech.)

You can read that chapter on the ALLi blog tomorrow, and I’ll add a link to it here once it’s gone live, but for now, here’s my speech. (You can also read Dan Holloway’s, which preceded it, on his blog http://www.danholloway.wordpress.com, where there’s also a great group selfie that he took of the team with Hugh Howey and Jessica Bell.)

Dan mentioned his theological training, which, although now overwrittten by atheism, provides valuable reference points for the Open Up To Indies campaign. I’d like now to touch on my own background, because it’s shaped the way I approached the task of co-authoring this book with Dan and Orna.

As my bio in the back of the book explains. I fell into self-publishing almost by accident. Like the curious Alice falling down the rabbit-hole, I stepped out one day and found myself in this extraordinary Wonderland in which old laws had been overturned, new rules were rising up, and I could never be entirely sure of what was coming next.

The Alice analogy is particularly apposite because not only are Alice’s adventures my favourite books of all time, but also Lewis Carroll self-published them. And having discovered self-publishing, my life, like Alice’s, will never be the same again. This has to be the most exciting age ever in which to be an author.
Sadly, I was persuaded by my school careers advisors. Long before the heady arrival of the modern self-publishing age, that my childhood ambition to become an author was unrealistic. I therefore channelled my love of writing into a career largely spent in public relations.

Public relations is all about fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between clients and the various parties who determine their success – not only the end-user of a product or service but anybody who may influence that end-user’s purchasing decision: the rest of the industry, the trade media, national press, Joe Public -whatever.

Co-authoring this book required me to tread that same old PR ground again. It was an exercise in stepping beyond my self-published author’s mindset to empathise with the parties that influence that important end-user of all authors’ products: the reader. It was about viewing the bookshop from the other side of the till; seeing the literary festival from the frantic desk of the event manager; perceiving librarians as mire than just the people who stamp your ticket.

Empathising with others is something that comes naturally to authors. But empathising is not always easy or straightforward, as I learned very early on in my first flirtations with PR: when I took on the role of playground peacemaker.

As a child, I instinctively wanted to help people get along. I wanted to unite people in friendship and cooperation and eradicate playground conflict. I remember spending one school dinner time being pursued round the school playing field by two angry groups of previously feuding girls. They were cross with me because in the hope of restoring their friendship, I’d told each separately – and inaccurately – that the other one wanted to apologise for the conflict. Appreciating their former adversaries’ apparent conciliatory attitude, they immediately made up. And then were after my blood when they realised I’d duped them.

Back to the present, I don’t think that my part in this book will inspire aggrieved gangs to chase me around the aisles of the London Book Fair. Instead, I hope I’ve helped build ling-term partnerships between all those parties who aim to bring great books into readers’ lives. Because books change lives. Books change lives for the better. And ultimately, the desire to do that is what unites all the parties served by this book: the desire to present great reading experienced that will change the lives of book lovers all over the world.

I’m confident that ALLi’s Open Up To Indies campaign and the Opening Up to Indie Authors guidebook, will only do good in making the wider world more receptive to self-published authors’ books, and so enable us all to change lives for the better through the power of the written word.

So let’s get out there and spread word about the campaign, and then – spread OUR words. Because together we can.

Posted in Writing

The Eventful Lives of Authors

Debbie Young and Sandy Osborne with a copy of "Sell Your Books!"
Me with Sandy Osborne at the launch of “Sell Your Books!”

(A new post about author events, including two of my own coming up in Cambridge and London)

As an author who daily spends hours in front of a computer, I’m a great advocate for getting out and about to meet “real” people, even though I have many online friends too.

I also enjoy supporting other authors’ events, as no matter how many I attend, each one is different and inspiring in its own way.

Last night’s talk by novelist Sandy Osborne was no exception, when she came to my village to talk to the local WI (Women’s Institute) about how she wrote and self-published, via SilverWood Books, her debut novel Girl Cop.

If You Want Something Done, Ask A Busy Person

Sandy Osborne outside Waterstones in Bath
Sandy Osborne with her pre-launch window display in Waterstones’ Bath branch

I’ve known Sandy for a couple of years, having been introduced by SilverWood Books, who also commissioned my book promotion handbook Sell Your Books! I helped Sandy set up her website ready for the launch of Girl Cop, and it’s been a pleasure to follow her emerging career as an author.

And very busy it is too. While holding down a full-time job in the police force, she’s written a super romantic comedy novel and has two more in the pipeline. She also somehow squeezes in to her timetable a series of author talks at leading bookshops, special interest groups and literature festivals. (Her recent event at the Bath Literature Festival was a sell-out.) Anyone who claims they have no time to write needs to hear one of Sandy’s talks to convince them that if they have the will, they can find the time.

Now It’s My Turn on Stage

But so much for relaxing and enjoying other authors’ talks. Looming up next week are two author events of my own:

  • Cover of "Opening Up To Indie Authors"
    To be launched at the London Book Fair on the Kobo stand next week (Tuesday, 2pm)

    running a “Masterclass” (crikey!) with Rebecca Swift of The Literary Consultancy at the Cambridge Literature Festival on Sunday, talking about the changing nature of publishing in the 21st century (more details and ticket booking here)

  • attending the London Book Fair, at which I’ll be helping launch Opening Up To Indie Authors, a new book that I’ve co-authored for the Alliance of Independent Authors as part of their Open Up To Indies campaign (you can preview the book here on the Kobo site)

I will happily talk about writing and self-publishing till the cows come home, and having spent decades working in public relations, and being the youngest child in my family, I’m comfortable in front of an audience. For me, the most worrying parts of the process are getting to the venue on time (assuming I can find it), and what to wear.

Dressing the Part

The good news is that I’ve already cracked  the last of these points. On Saturday I snapped up in John Lewis a new dress that seemed singularly appropriate: a loose, 20s style viscose dress with a cheerful print of retro telephones. It could have come straight out of Virginia Woolf’s wardrobe.

This pattern boded well: after all, my events are all about making connections and communicating with others. When I looked at the label, to check whether the dress was dark blue or black, as it was hard to tell in the windowless store, I discovered that the colour was “ink”. What better omen could there be for an author?

Or so I thought, until I tweeted this detail that evening, with typical Twitter-induced confidence that the world was breathlessly awaiting news of my new frock:

“The label on the dress I just bought to wear for my book launch at London Book Fair says its colour is “ink” #appropriate #LBF14″

A speedy response pinged back across the ether from my wry Welsh author friend Andrew Peters (@andynpeters):

@DebbieYoungBN Blue, black, blue-black, red, green or invisible?”

And there was I thinking that as an old PR pro, I wouldn’t miss a trick. But an invisible dress – how brilliant is that? I may have foregone this opportunity to make the headlines, but if any authors out there would like to pick up Andy’s suggestion, I’m sure he’d be the first to approve.

Sample of fabric of my new dress, showing telephone print