How Much Should An Author Be Paid for Speaking? Should You Speak for Free?

March 16, 2016

I’ve been intrigued to read the furore in The Times that Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, has pulled out of a book festival because organisers are only paying her a £50 fee.  Even more so, that other luminaries such as Philip Pullman are springing to her defence and calling for a boycott of literary festivals that don’t pay fees. Of rather more concern to me would have been the fact that festival organisers were trying to tie her into a six-week exclusivity clause – though this is mentioned as something of an aside.

As someone who has organised literary festivals and conferences for over 20 years (for organisations ranging from The Arts Council of England to the Oxford Literary Consultancy), as well as being an author-speaker in my own right, I like to think that I can see both sides of the debate.

I know the superhuman effort that goes into organising an event: working 60-hour weeks and having sleepless nights in order to ensure a full house. I also know what it’s like to spend half a day traveling to an event, then be expected to give your all on stage without so much as a loo break or a cup of tea.

First, before we look at the specifics of how much an author should be paid and what can reasonably be expected of you when you speak, let’s look at the benefits of speaking at an event and why you might want to do it in the first place:

1. Bums on seats

People mistakenly assume that once an event has been organised, the tickets will automatically sell themselves. This is far from being the case, even if you have an extraordinary line-up of big-name speakers. It can take months of hustle to sell-out an event and ensure a full house. This means calling in favours and mailing to other people’s newsletters. It means shamelessly asking friends, family, work colleagues, and everyone else you know, to buy tickets. It means promoting the event in newspapers and magazines. It can mean setting up an affiliate scheme so that commission is paid to anyone who sells your tickets. To sum up, it is a big hassle and a big headache – regardless of whether it’s a big event for 1000+ or a small event for 50 people.

It’s a joy to arrive at an event and see that there’s standing room only. What you don’t see is all the hard work and hassle that brought those people in.

2. Events cost big bucks.

A venue for around 500 people in central London can cost around £5,000 to £10,000 per day. That’s before you even pay for the “extras”: the sound system, the white screen, the microphones, the stage, the curtains, the lighting, the roller banners, the flipchart and pens, even the jugs of water at the back of the room. That’s before you get fancy and start offering attendees cups of coffee or a buffet lunch. Everything in a venue costs money. You’re usually expected to book upfront based on numbers that you can’t be certain of.

Then, there’s the liability insurance and cost of the marketing; the online and offline advertising. All told, the standard costs for hosting a 2-day event for 500 people in London are around £40,000. And the organiser gets to take all the financial risk. Do you really want this level of financial risk? Are you willing to survive on 4 hours sleep per night for weeks on end? Or would you rather keep your sanity and save your energies for writing and promoting your next book?

3. You’ll need back-up

Every event needs a crew. If there are more than 30 people in the room, you’ll need stewards to check tickets and direct people to their seats. You’ll need runners to fetch and carry microphones and flipcharts for the speakers. You’ll need technicians to put up the staging and lightning, and stick gaffer tape over the wires so that no-one trips. You’ll need security staff in case there’s any “trouble”. Even if you use volunteers, they’ll need refreshments: a breakfast, a lunch or a tea and sometimes all three. And when people don’t show up due to illness, broken-down cars or injured cats, you’ll have the worry of how to make do with a team that’s several people short.

4. Blowing your own trumpet

Most authors are clueless when it comes to marketing or are wary of sounding like a used car salesman. But as a speaker, someone else blows your own trumpet for you. You roll up to a venue amidst fanfare, speak for 90 minutes, then bask in the applause. You sign a few books, have your photo taken with attendees, then you disappear home to a glass of wine. You needn’t think about the emergency exit that’s been broken or the laptop that’s gone missing while you were on stage.

5. Stress levels

You don’t have to worry about clearing up dirty teacups and notepads. You don’t have to deal with Mrs Brown who left her favourite scarf under a seat on the back row or her companion who dropped her mobile phone into the toilet in the break. You don’t have to worry about the man who punched his neighbour for sitting in his seat or the footlight that set fire to the stage curtain setting off fire alarms. You don’t have to calm down tipsy speakers who show up several hours late without their Powerpoint slides; or who swear on stage offending a large percentage of your Muslim audience. Nor do you have to deal with the whinges about the heating being too hot or too cold, or attendees asking why you’re not offering a free organic vegan lunch. (Yes, all these things really have happened). If you have a sideline as a stand-up comic, you will gain lots of absurd, and often dark, new material. But if you choose to speak at an event, rather than hosting one yourself, you are saving yourself from ridiculous levels of stress.

To sum up: assuming that the festival organisers have done their job properly, you’ll be getting massive exposure for little expense or aggro. You get to swan in after all the work has been done, grab the glory, and disappear.

I know dozens of incredibly successful authors all over the world who speak for free. Many of them regularly fly in to London from places like America, Canada or Australia, paying the cost of a long-haul flight and overnight accommodation out of their own pocket.

Why do they do it? Because standing on someone else’s stage is a privilege. Because even if they’re offered a £10,000 fee, it’s a drop in the ocean compared with the amount of money that flows in in other ways after an event. Some speakers choose to sell their products (books, DVDs or seminars) at the back of the room and make over six-figures in 60 minutes. Others “skim” the room – they simply offer a free gift or invite the participants to sign up to their newsletter or blog. They then contact them at a later date to politely ask if they’re interested in their products or services. Where author-speakers fail to make money from a festival, it’s usually because they don’t have an enticing enough “offer”. They give their talk, but they don’t give their audience a big enough incentive to take action.

So yes, it’s great if you’re paid as a speaker. But to insist on a fee at all times, and to boycott literary festivals and events that don’t pay, in my opinion is short-sighted. When considering an invitation to speak, the main question you should be asking yourself should not be: how much am I being paid? Instead, assess where the event is being held, the type of people in the audience, the number of attendees, and the track record of the organisers.  The chief question you should be asking yourself is: how much would it cost me – timewise and financially – to get this same level of exposure?

Ask for a fee, yes. But don’t make it your be-all and end-all.

This weekend I’m driving over a hundred miles – a trip of 5 hours there and back – to speak at a literary festival in Cambridgeshire. I’ve done this for three years in a row, and I’ll be happy to continue for another three. Why? Because I have multiple clients from the previous festivals I spoke at. Because I know what it takes to host an event of that size and calibre. And because it’s an honour to be asked.

How to Host a Book Launch that Doesn’t Suck

February 11, 2016

The most memorable literary event I’ve ever attended was held at an art gallery in London. I’d been a judge for some writers’ awards. It was a black tie event so everyone was dressed up to the nines.

Half-way through the evening, the doors were sealed, security guards appeared and a “surprise guest” was announced. Salman Rushdie walked in looking defiant, gave a speech, mingled, and promptly disappeared again.

It was in the early 1990s, just after he had gone into hiding. But I still remember it like it was yesterday. I can still see those canapés dusted with gold icing, the artistic bowls they were served in, and the strategically-placed minimalist sculptures. We were mesmerised even before Salman entered the room. When he did, we were blown away. The thought and planning that went into that event were phenomenal.

Equally, I’ve known of some pretty dire events. At the worst end of the scale, a multi-millionaire business author hired a mansion in an exclusive part of London and sold tickets, promoting it as an opportunity to mix with high net worth entrepreneurs. He had a large cake made, with the cover of his book on it, and set up a “mini-bar” and a sound system.

What happened next by all accounts was a cross between a football scrum and a school disco. More people showed up than expected, and jostled with each other for space. Wine had to be served from boxes in white plastic cups. The neighbours complained about the goings on next door, and the landlord was called. Of course, no permission had been given to hold an event of this scale on the premises. So everyone was asked to leave. Not quite the impression you would want to give, unless perhaps you are one of the Gallagher brothers.

Generally though, book launches tend to follow a pretty standard format whether they’re held in bookshops, libraries or galleries.

A glass of Merlot awaits you when you roll up. You stand around mingling with the great and the good for an hour. The author makes a speech thanking everyone who has helped them. A request is made for you to buy the book if you haven’t already. Half an hour later, it’s time to go home. You’ve enjoyed yourself, but there’s very little to distinguish one event from another.

So the question is: how can you host a memorable book launch that really stands out, regardless of your budget? Any author can do this if you apply the same degree of creativity that went into writing your book in the first place:

1. Find a venue that complements your book
A bookshop or library is a safe, but conventional, option. If you’re looking for something more prestigious, then pick an upmarket venue like an art gallery, a museum, or a university function room. If it’s the height of summer, then consider a BBQ in a park, beach or garden. If you’re a speaker, then why not tie in your book launch with a talk you’re giving? If you’re a children’s author, can you hold the event in a playground, a school or a zoo? If you have the resources, how about a boat, a place of historic interest or a castle? One of my clients wrote her book on her laptop while sitting in Costa’s, so it was natural for her to host a signing there. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make an impact.

2. Set the mood for the event
How can you set the mood from the moment your guests walk in? Do you want candlelight, daylight, or fluorescent lighting? Will your guests drink from plastic cups or glass goblets or champagne flutes? Will you offer them Beaujolais or bubbly? Will they have cheese on cocktail sticks, or something more exotic? Will they be served on paper plates or silver platters? Will the room be decorated in bunting or photographs that tie in with your book? Roller banners, with your business logo or your book cover, are a very cost-effective way to make an impression.

3. What will your photos look like?
Imagine a photograph of yourself signing a book at your launch. Would you prefer the event to have a serious or a fun feel? Would you like attendees to wear dress suits or jeans? Should it be upmarket or informal? Is this a no-children affair or a family event? How about a theme where people wear fancy dress? If you’ve written a novel set in the 1920s, could you play jazz, serve Mint julep cocktails, and ask the women to wear flapper dresses? I remember a children’s book launch where the author dressed as a big yellow bird with stripy legs. These photographs will be around for a long time to come. You and your attendees will post them on social media and share them. How will you like to feel when you see these photos: proud and happy, or slightly awkward?

4. Determine your grand finale
A finale is essential for any book launch. Often, a speech or a reading from the author will suffice. But you can be more inventive than this. One of my clients taped copies of his book beneath the seats of 150 people who attended a property event. They had no idea until he told them to look under their seats. He then asked everyone to look at a certain word on a certain page inside their books. The person who had the book with the word highlighted in yellow won a £500 prize. The event was fun. Everyone then stood up and gave him a standing ovation.
Another author I’ve worked with enticed people to pay £65 for his book and attend his event, by offering a seminar to teach attendees how to create a successful million dollar business.
How can you surprise or wow your own audience so that you over-deliver on their expectations and they remember your event for a long time to come?

5. How can you attract the media?
A client of mine wrote an anti-evolution book and invited Ireland’s Minister for Science to launch it (though it caused such a controversy that he didn’t). “Darwin” showed up at the book launch, linking arms with a gorilla. The author had a glass bowl filled with 15 tennis balls which he announced he would dump on the floor to see if they would arrange themselves in a perfect circle. Of course they didn’t. The author had media coverage in over 50 newspapers, magazines, radio stations and TV channels.

Another property author held a book launch at an event near Marble Arch, in London. She held an auction that raised thousands of pounds for a shelter for homeless people, and the event had coverage in various papers including The Times.

Why were journalists interested in these events? Because they were different: they weren’t traditional book launches.

6. Your invitation should excite your attendees
Many authors send out invitations that have an undercurrent of fear and insecurity. You can almost hear the cogs whirring in their head: “What if no one comes?” They say things like: “Please bring along your friends, neighbours and anyone else you know”. What can you offer them that will make sure they’ll move other events in their diary just to be there? Strike a confident tone with your invitation: you are offering a never-to-be-repeated opportunity for a limited number of people. When the tickets are gone, they’re gone. They’d be foolish not to come. Offer more than just a book launch and set the tone of your expectations. Take for example, the author who recently held a launch at The Ritz in Mayfair, telling attendees to “dress to impress!” and bring along a business card to share with others.

7. How can you have impact and influence beyond this event?
It’s been like sales day at Harrods. People have been desperate for you to sign their books. They’ve loved your idea. But once the wine or champagne has gone, and guests start to drift away, what impact will you have? You’ve had a great event. But what can you do to ensure these people buy your future books, come to other events that you host, or want to work with you? Can you give guests a reason to sign up on your Facebook page, your blog or your newsletter? Can you hand out flyers offering them a free consultation with you? Can you ensure that everyone has your business card or contact details? I’ve had clients who have trebled their speaking engagements after publishing their book; authors who have generated weekly leads for their business several years after their launch; clients who’ve got their own magazine columns. What impact will you have?

Pay attention to all these small details and you should have a book launch that really sings!

“How Long Should My Book Be? What’s the Best Length for a Novel or a Non-Fiction Book If You Want to Get Published?”

December 18, 2015

A new author approached me recently asking for my help with a publicity campaign for a book he’s just written.

He had a fascinating story to tell about his journey from drug abuse in his teens, to becoming the successful entrepreneur he is today. His heart was in the right place: he genuinely wanted to help others rather than make a fast buck from publishing. I really liked and admired him. He had an incredible tale that would inspire thousands of others.

But then, while we were talking about his forthcoming book launch, we hit a slight snag. I asked how long his book was and he told me: “Twenty-thousand words.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, twenty-thousand words is still hard graft by anyone’s standards. I’m sure this book contains a lot of valuable information for anyone wanting to follow in this man’s footsteps. But is a twenty-thousand-word manuscript really “a book”? Or is it – and I know some writers will hate me for saying this – more of a brochure or a pamphlet?

Call me a cynic, but I am wondering if the reason this entrepreneur was advised to write something of this short length was because he could get it written within the 60-day time-frame of publishing program he’d been on.

Yes, you can always justify a short manuscript by saying that readers have limited attention spans and they want easily digestible information. But then perhaps there are other documents like “The Constitution of the United States of America” or “The Lord’s Prayer” which could also be put inside paperback jackets and be called books? When exactly is a book, a book? When is a book, not a book?

Back in the old days, there used to be two camps only. On one side, you had the big guns of publishing (mainstream publishers such as Penguin, Random House or Macmillan). On the other side, there was (boo, hiss!) Vanity Publishing. You were either in one camp or the other and the boundaries were very clear. If your work was of a high standard, then you eventually got a publishing deal. Your book got sold in high street book stores and was reviewed by literary editors in newspapers and magazines. If your book wasn’t what was euphemistically called “of a publishable standard”, you paid extortionately for the privilege of Vanity Publishing. Your book rarely got into shops and it certainly didn’t get reviewed. There might even be embarrassment if you dared to mention your book.

Today, self-publishing has blurred those boundaries. There is no limit or control on the number of mediocre, average or sometimes crappy books that are being sold at this very moment on Amazon. Some of them are e-books that are only eight pages long. Truly outstanding books are few and far between.

So back to the question of: how long should a book be? What is the best length for a novel or a non-fiction book if you want to get published?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. Would a literary agent or a mainstream publisher (the “gold standard” of publishing as it were) offer a publishing deal for a twenty-thousand-word book? Highly unlikely. Not even these days when all the old rules have been over-turned and there is a publishing free-for-all going on.

Would a high street store like Barnes & Noble accept a “book” of this length on its shelves. Again, I doubt it. The spine wouldn’t even be thick enough to have the title and author’s name printed on it.

What about newspaper journalists or TV producers? Would they look at this book and feel inclined to do a book review? Would they give it the same treatment as other books that are four or five times the size? Or would they think of it more as a “report” or a “pamphlet”.

What about you? If you saw two books on a shelf and one had a 3mm spine and the other had a 15mm spine, which would you consider to hold more valuable information? Which author would you respect more?

And those books you studied at high school: how easy might your exams have been if they’d been a fraction of the size?

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule like Annie E Proulx’s novella, Brokeback Mountain. But they are the exception. Plus, it was published after she got famous.

There’s a reason why authors have been revered throughout the ages and held in high regard. It’s because most books are seventy-thousand to ninety-thousand words long, and writing them takes unusually high levels of tenacity, persistence and perseverance. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Except that suddenly, everyone is. A manuscript can be uploaded and published, and on sale in across e-stores in a matter of minutes.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of self-publishing. It opens up amazing opportunities for both first-time and experienced authors. It also remedies the disproportionate balance of power between big publishing houses and talented writers. However, at the same time, I do think it’s time for a reality check and a frank and honest assessment of the state of publishing today.

Take a look at some of the 12 million plus books on Amazon right now. Some have unappealing titles. Some have appalling covers. Others have spelling and grammatical errors on the opening page. Many seem to have been thrown together with scant regard for editing or proof-reading, let alone typesetting and cover design.

Just because you can sell a book, and someone somewhere is willing to buy it, doesn’t mean you should. Just because no one is writing bad reviews, doesn’t mean you can automatically assume that your book is of high quality.

Isn’t it time for authors to stop taking the lazy option? Isn’t it time to stop writing “good enough” books? Isn’t it time to start raising publishing standards?

How I Became The Mad Dog-Woman of Hertfordshire and Featured in The Mail Online!

February 12, 2015


Today, I’m delighted to have a guest blog post from the very talented Dr Annie Kaszina, author of “Do You Choose Your Dog More Carefully Than Your Husband?”
When I first started working with Annie, she had an idea for a book called “Conversations with Cupid”. However, in our mentoring sessions, it rapidly became clear to me that there was a much more fascinating book that reflected Annie’s great wit, humour and love of dogs!
Twelve months on, Annie is being courted by the world’s media, ahead of her book launch this Valentines’ Day.  Over to Annie (and her dog Basil K)…


At 11.25 one wintry Sunday night my shrieks sent my lovely partner haring up the stairs – and he’s, sadly, as deaf as a post*. He raced into my office and found me grinning maniacally. I’d just discovered I was featured in “The Mail Online”, in an article that incorporated all of my passions – although not necessarily in their true order of priority: my handsome little dog Basil (photographed) my book “Do You Choose Your Dog More Carefully Than Your Husband?”(described) my mission to help women find their perfect partner, and my beloved partner (who inspired so much of the book).
In a year, I’d gone from working as just another relationship coach to having a unique message and voice and, potentially, reaching millions of people even before the book’s launch. (Within a few days, there were interviews on the BBC, an inquiry from Australian television, and a piece in “China Daily” no less!)
How did it happen?

Call it a When-Annie-Met-Stephanie moment. Like a lot of people who are quietly passionate about what they do, I didn’t see what was special about my story, and my expertise. Stephanie suggested there was a huge market hungry for relationship books.

I wondered: should I ‘sit on it’ for a while? – and take the risk that what I was doing might start to feel old hat to me. Or should I go for it? I sent Stephanie the book outline. Purely to make her laugh, I added a few words at the end to the effect that I was the serial relationship zero who only wised up to herself when she realized she’d chosen her dog more carefully than her husband.
I started writing the book. Boy, was that fun! Every morning I’d be down at my local Costa when it opened. Swigging latte, I’d bang out my 2-3,000 words in a couple of hours. (Stephanie’s advice not to be precious, but just write really helped.) Around the half-way mark, I went to one of Stephanie’s one-day events. The more I listened, the more I questioned whether my book was on the right track, or not. Stephanie kindly said she’d take a quick look at a sample chapter.
With a view to ‘saving’ what I’d done, I dashed off a latte-fuelled prologue – in Costa, naturally – one Sunday morning. It was personal, quirky, and funny: I talked about ‘glue rabbits’ the ludicrous crunch point in my marriage, and dogs. Quite where it all came from I don’t know.

The sample chapter didn’t do much for Stephanie. But she really liked the prologue. That was the way to go, she said. Great! I was meant to write my book as the Mad Dog-Woman of Hertfordshire! Where would I even start?

Back in Costa, of course, swilling yet more lattes. (You would not believe how many points I accumulated on my Costa card over the following weeks, or the mates I made.) I sat there banging away on my skanky little notebook until I virtually became the cabaret – albeit a whey-faced, make-up free, scruffy cabaret. But at 8am even that is, arguably, better than nothing.
Anecdotes from my own life, and unexpected reflections tumbled from my fingertips. I found a voice I didn’t know I had. I got progressively happier – even though it was, actually, one of the toughest times of my life. It was the best fun I’ve ever had on my own in a public place.
Writing that book was easier than I could ever have imagined. Here are my top 5 tips to make getting a book done a doddle.

1. Find yourself a great place to work. Good music, good light, and good coffee are all big pluses.
2. Time everything. First, allot a block of time each day to writing. Then use a timer to divide that block into 20 – 25 minute chunks. This prevents you slipping into the writerly [sic] pitfall of disappearing up your own thought process.
3. “Worrrk eeez never wasted”, as my old Professor of Italian used to say. So, you write a first draft, or half a first draft and it doesn’t work out. You haven’t wasted your time: you’re just honing your skill. What doesn’t go into the book is every bit as precious as what does, in terms of making you a better writer.
4. Get yourself a brilliant coach who knows their stuff, loves working with people like you, and can see the big picture that you could be missing. There are plenty of people to choose from but not too many as supportive, generous and all round brilliant as Stephanie J Hale. That’s just a fact of life.
5. Have fun so your readers will have fun, too. The guy who I wrote my first academic book about, in Italian, he who shared his name with a brand of chocolates and an industrial machinery supplier, rightly said: “If it bores you to write something, it will bore the reader to read it.” Nobody wants to be bored. Ever.

* Or, as he prefers to put it, “Nearly as deaf as a post.”


Annie Kaszina PhD, author of “Do You Choose Your Dog More Carefully Than Your Husband?” was a long-term relationship disaster, until she realized that it made sense to choose her partner at least as carefully as her dog. She has spent 10 years teaching women how to become that special woman who has her dream partner eating out of her hand.

Find out more about Annie and her new book “Do You Choose Your Dog More Carefully Than Your Husband?” at:



Dr Annie TOTALLY understands relationships – and talks about them with the sort of humour and insight that comes from true experience. She was a joy to interview… and a joy to read.”

– TV and radio celebrity, Anne Diamond

‘Celebrity Authors’ Secrets’ in SOCIAL & PERSONAL Magazine

May 14, 2014
Celebrity Authors' Secrets in SOCIAL & PERSONAL Magazine

Celebrity Authors’ Secrets in elite fashion magazine, SOCIAL & PERSONAL

Elite fashion magazine, SOCIAL & PERSONAL is running a feature on my book Celebrity Authors’ Secrets in July.
This time, extracts from John Gray (Men Are From Mars author), Alexander McCall Smith (No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), Joanne Harris (Chocolat) and Bernard Cornwell (Sharpe series) will be featured.
The magazine goes out to 20,000 premium readers in Ireland.
It’s hard work when you’re planning a press campaign. Sometimes you get no ‘bites’ and have to be willing to rewrite your press release and start all over again.
There are weeks when you can graft all day and seemingly get nowhere. But it’s exciting when hard work pays off.

My Book on the Cover of SAGA Magazine, alongside BLONDIE

May 3, 2014
My book on the cover of SAGA Magazine, alongside Debbie Harry

My book on the cover of SAGA Magazine, alongside Debbie Harry

saga inside saga inside 2

Look what the postman dropped through the door … It’s exciting when hard work, and team effort, pays off.

To pre-order your copy of Celebrity Authors’ Secrets, go to:

How To Get Your Book Serialised in Newspapers and Glossy Magazines

April 28, 2014

Most authors find the idea of pitching or promoting their book to newspapers, magazines, radio and television daunting. However, you presumably wrote (or are writing) your book because you feel you have something worthwhile to say. So it’s worth making sure as many readers get to hear about it as possible.

One of the biggest mistakes authors (and indeed, some PR consultants) make, is to assume that your press release should be sent out mainly to book reviewers. To my mind, this is a massive mistake. A book review tends to have postage-stamp sized coverage, with a teeny image of your book cover if you’re lucky. What’s more, someone has to actually read 70,000+ words before this can happen. Yes, book reviews are influential in selling books. But they shouldn’t be the only weapon in an author’s arsenal.

If you send your press release to a specific science editor, features writer, reporter or broadcaster instead, you power up your PR campaign considerably. SAGA Magazine, for example, has first serialization rights for my forthcoming book. This spans six pages and includes four photographs, plus an image of my book jacket, as well as a double-page illustration. If I paid for similar coverage in advertising, the cost would run into tens of thousands.

Journalists like stories that are:
* topical (an event or activity that’s linked to a trending news topic);
* inspirational (ordinary people doing extraordinary things);
* educational (improves health, wealth or relationships);
* unexpected (eat more chocolate, get slim);
* controversial statements (men are worse bosses);
* ‘then and now’ contrasts (you were overweight/broke/depressed etc. and now you’re the opposite);
* a big promise (lose wrinkles in 7 days with facial yoga).

Remember that most journalists won’t have time to read your book. So bullet-point the necessary facts. Or write your press release about you and your inspiration, or anything else that is interesting and relevant. Another approach is to create an event or photo opportunity for them to attend.

Here are some quick and easy guidelines for structuring your press release:

• Headline – start with something that’s likely to grab attention.
• Paragraph 1 – summarize your ‘story’ giving key information.
• Paragraph 2/3 – flesh out your story – who, why, what, where and when.
• Paragraph 4 – include a quote from you or someone relevant to the story.
• Paragraph 5 – include extra relevant information such as a photo opportunity.
• Final Paragraph – include the all-important sentence: For a review copy, permission to use printed extracts, or to arrange an interview, contact xyz.
• Contact Details: phone, Skype and email.
• If the story is for immediate release, say so. If it’s embargoed until a certain date, this gives journalists time to prepare ahead.

Take time to tailor your press release for different publications. Suppose, for example, you’ve written a dieting book. Your press release for health magazines might look at emotional and physical topics. For national newspapers, you might include more statistical evidence. For regional media, you might mention a “local author”.

Like all things, it takes a while to master new skills. But eventually, you’ll learn to do this on ‘auto-pilot’ and may even start to enjoy it. It will also leverage your time considerably. Compare the potenial return on investment of an hour spent writing your a press release with an hour spent giving a reading in a loval library or bookshop. To my mind, it’s a no-brainer to send out your press release to as many journalists as you can to get maximum coverage!

And if several publications want serialisation rights for your book? Then, you need to weigh up what your long-term goals are and whether their target readership is the same as yours. This is rather a nice problem for any author to have!

If you need support, or an extra helping hand through the process, I offer a range of 1-1 mentoring and done-for-you solutions to help authors get maximum media coverage. (Email for more details at: oxford

You’ll also get many powerful book promotion ideas in my new book Celebrity Authors’ Secrets which is available for pre-order on Amazon right now:

How To Pitch Your Book To Glossy Magazines, Newspapers or Radio: Top Mistakes Authors Should Avoid

April 14, 2014

Many authors wrongly assume that their book isn’t important enough, or that only celebrities and famous writers, will get media coverage. This just isn’t true. Radio stations (particularly local radio stations) have many hours of airtime to fill each week. Similarly, most print publications are also looking for inspiring, topical, or controversial human interest stories to entertain their audiences.

You may be thinking: ‘Why bother – it’s too much effort.’ But here’s why it matters: many newspapers and magazines have audiences that run into millions. SAGA Magazine, which has just snapped up the first serialisation rights to my book Celebrity Authors’ Secrets has a readership of 1.8 million. The Huffington Post, for which I am now a blogger, has over 30 million readers globally. Many other newspapers, magazines and radio stations which are running features and reviews for my book have similar-sized audiences.

This phenomenal coverage costs nothing, zilch, other than your time and energy. Yet, in return you can build a massive following for your book even before it’s launched. So it makes sense – enormous sense in fact – to spend time on mastering this.

When authors do approach the media, a common mistake I see is that the press release ends up sounding like a ‘pitch-athon’ for the book. Most journalists don’t have time to read books. They may not even be interested in your book, period. But what they are interested in is you, the story of what inspired you to write your book, or the fact that you’re an expert who can comment on a similar topic that’s in the news. In other words, your book is not necessarily the reason why you will get media coverage. It does however give you a big reason to attract the media’s attention.

Another common mistake is to write the same press release for all publications. Many of SAGA Magazine’s readers are over 50 and interested in writing books – so a press release about publishing secrets works fine. However, when approaching women’s magazines or celebrity magazines, I angle my press release on more personal (rather professional) aspects of famous millionaire authors’ lives. So I look at interesting ‘trivia’ about their day-to-day lives and the sacrifices they make to write their books. This is much more in keeping with the ‘gossipy’ nature of these magazines and what their audiences like to read.

All authors can use this strategy to get publicity for books. It’s remarkably simple and you can do it in a weekend. It’s just a matter of writing a one-page press release and identifying where to send it.

In my next blog, I’ll reveal tricks for high-impact book promotion that even professional publicists are missing.

Be one of the first people to grab a copy of Celebrity Authors’ Secrets, by pre-ordering a copy right now on Amazon.

     “Anyone setting out to write a book should thank their lucky stars for Stephanie’s outstanding inspirational guide. I’m astonished by just how much insider information and personal experience the world’s top million-selling authors are prepared to share.” 

– Sue Price, Arts, Culture and Books Editor of SAGA Magazine


Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist: 2014

Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist: 2014

How Do I Get My Book in Airport Bookstores?

December 21, 2013

Many authors ask me: “How do I get my book into airport bookstores?”

They love the idea of their book being in airport stores while a captive audience is milling around, with time on their hands and money to spend.

Even a short book promotion campaign has a potential audience of over a billion airline passengers – so it’s well worth doing.

If this is your big dream, then you need to know that Hudson News (based in New Jersey) and The Paradies Shops (a family-run business in Georgia) are the largest players in global airport sales.

There’s a lot of competition with pitching books to their headquarters. So this is something that requires a lot of skill and isn’t really for amateurs. First, you need a first-class cover, with ‘pick me up’ factor. Second, you need a best-selling title. Finally, you need a compelling and attention-grabbing blurb.

Ideally, you need feedback from a publishing professional that your book has all these traits. Otherwise, most likely you don’t – whatever your well-intentioned friends and family may be telling you.

A “really good” book is not enough here: you need to have an exceptional book with “wow” factor! You’re likely to get one bite at the cherry. So don’t blow your chances by going in with a weak pitch.

It also helps to offer a special “co-operative rate”. In other words, you have to offer a reduction on the first order over and above the regular discount.

However, beware – especially if you’re a self-publisher – that return rates range between 60% to 70%. So “sale or return” can mean that you end up with a heap of unsold books and a fresh challenge of how you’re going to sell them. That is – unless your book really takes off in which case reorders will start to happen for you.

Next time you are an airline passenger, take a look at the books currently available in the stores. Read the airplane magazines during your flight. Make a mental note of the type of articles that are included. Ask yourself whether your book might be a good fit for this publication. But again, you’ll need a strong pitch. This is a highly competitive market, so you need to be certain that everything about your book is first-class.

If you’re successful in getting space inside an airport bookstore, then you have a very short timespan to generate sales. Tell everyone you know about it. Take a photo of your book in one of the stores and post it on all your social media. Create some hype and encourage your clients and subscribers to tell others. Remember that excitement is highly contagious!

Airlines provide a captive audience, seeking entertainment and distraction, every single day of the week. It’s well worth investing time and energy to make this happen for your book.

Should You Print More Copies of Your Book… Or Is This Madness?

November 28, 2013

“Should I pay for another print run of my book?” I get asked this question so often by self-published authors who are confused by cleverly-written marketing blurb that I just had to write a blog on this topic.

So here’s the scenario. You’ve already handed over your hard-earned cash to a self-publishing or print-on-demand company and your book has barely been on sale for a a week.

Then, wham!  You’re sent a tantalising ‘special offer’ suggesting that they print you an extra 3,000 copies for the greatly reduced price of $6,000. They’ve ‘discounted’ this price down from an astronomical sum like $15,000 to make it sound super-enticing.

Your ‘personal invitation’ describes the plight of disappointed readers hunting high and low for your book in high street shops, but having to go away empty-handed. They cleverly argue that an extra print run will ensure a copy of your book in every bookstore in the United States or Australia or New Zealand or Japan – or wherever it is that might take your fancy. And they point out that this ‘discount’ will improve your profit margins as the price of bulk printing is much lower. They might even call it something fancy like ‘offset printing’ or ‘an offset print run’. Very thoughtful and altruistic of them, I must say, to put so much time and effort into thinking about your profit margins rather than theirs! Especially when the price of all this is the equivalent of a week in a 5* hotel.

Ok, listen up: let’s get serious for a moment. You will thank me profusely for what I am about to say. Because I am about to save you money, time, and possibly your sanity. I strongly recommend that you do NOT get out your credit card or pay another dime until you have sold at least 1000 copies of your book.

Here’s why:

i) Only 1 in 7 books is bought in book shops. Contrary to what these ‘smart Alec’ copywriters may be arguing, most people go online if they want to buy a book. You need to establish your market online FIRST, before you plunge in with the offline market. Why saturate a market with books that are likely to gather dust on the shelves or end up in remainder bins? Or worse still, pulped and lining the surface of roads like the M6?

ii) Passionate and enthusiastic buyers aren’t that bothered about the price of a book. If people don’t buy, it’ll be because your book cover’s not attractive enough. It’ll be because your blurb’s not compelling enough.  Or maybe your topic doesn’t interest them. Seriously. Think about your own behaviour when you spot a book you feel excited about and passionately want. Are you going to change your mind just because it’s $5 more than you want it to be? I don’t think so. Readers are much more influenced by emotional factors like perceived value – and ‘value’ isn’t always quantified in dollars and cents. It’s how important something feels in a particular moment.

iii) You need a proper marketing plan to tackle any market, let alone the USA, Australia, New Zealand or any other territory. If you don’t have one, then you’re not really serious about the success of your book. If you don’t already have proper mechanisms in place for driving customers to your website to buy your books, what makes you think they are going to hunt them out in over-filled bookshops?

iv) You need to do some market research before launching of any product – and yes, unromantic as it might seem, a book qualifies as a ‘product’. Surely you’d want to see a proven demand before blasting the market with thousands of shiny new paperbacks.

The only exception to this is if you’re already 110% certain that you have a strong marketing and publicity strategy in place and that every one of your books is going to be sold.  Unless you’re already an experienced self-publisher with many book sales under your belt, it’s unlikely you can be this certain. If you are that zippy-zappy confident, you’ve probably drunk one too many energy drinks this morning!

Don’t get me wrong. I want you to have confidence in your book and I want you to have faith that your books will sell. But that confidence and faith needs to be backed up with market research and a powerful marketing plan. Leaping in without this is just madness!