Posts Tagged ‘writing tips’

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 To Write A War or Battle Scene in Your Novel

April 4, 2013

Writing about war in a novel can seem pretty daunting – especially if you haven’t experienced it yourself. War may be the main theme of your book; or war may be a just small part of your story. Even if you haven’t had direct experience on the battlefield, you can still write about war in a convincing way that moves your reader.
Here are some helpful tips that I have devised for helping first-time authors I am mentoring, which I hope will help you too.

War scenes, in some ways, are no different to other scenes in your book. The most helpful advice is to focus on small detail. Imagine you are a film director making a movie. You need wide-range camera shots to give a sense of the overall action on the battlefield. But more important than this, you also need to zoom in on individual detail to allow your audience to identify with specific characters and connect with them emotionally.

If you have a battlefield with 20,000 soldiers fighting, that’s a bit impersonal and vague. You can also end up reading about it in a very cold and detached way, a little like the experience of reading a history book. Although we can read about 20,000 men dying on a battlefield, and although these are the terrible deaths of real people, we often feel little raw emotion while we are reading.

Now, if we look at the classic novels and how they deal with war, they use a number of devices to stir our emotions, so that the book haunts us for a long time to come or we might even be moved to tears – even though the characters are invented!

Take Sebastian Faulks with ‘Birdsong’ which explores the horrors of tunnel warfare during the World War 1. Much of the action is set beneath no man’s land in a terrifying world, 80 feet underground, where soldiers lay explosives under enemy lines in the hope of helping their comrades above ground. There is a powerful scene in this novel where the tunnelers decide to rescue a small yellow canary that is used to check if the air is breathable or toxic. The hero, Stephen Wraysford, has a phobia of birds and is afraid to reach out his hand and touch it. So there is an ironic contrast between the horror of war and his fearlessness in tunneling underground so close to the enemy lines, and his terror when faced with a tiny helpless bird.

There is a contrast between his longing to help, and his inability to put the bird in his pocket or feel the feathers on his skin. He does this eventually after a few tense moments. But it is an incredibly poignant scene because above ground, men are being gunned down en masse. Yet in spite of this, the tunnelers still have the humanity left to rescue one small bird from suffocating in a collapsing tunnel.

The other thing that is memorable about this scene is the fact that it is so original and unexpected. When you read about war – or indeed, watch it on TV – you might expect blood and gore. But you certainly don’t expect small yellow canaries!

To give you another example: in ‘Catch 22′, Joseph Heller focuses on the humour and the absurdity of World War 2. To take one example: the air force pilots have been issued with first aid kits that are often empty as the morphine has been sold on the black market. The officers are then faced with the task of helping men with horrific wounds with inadequate supplies, which creates a dark kind of humour.

There is a particularly poignant moment when a gunner, Snowden, is dying in quite harrowing circumstances after being hit by a mortar. He plaintively cries out, “I’m cold, I’m cold” unaware that he is injured inside his flak jacket, while the anti-hero, Yossarian, reassures him “You’re going to be all right kid! Everything’s under control!” There are echoes here of a scene between parent and child as Yossarian repeatedly murmurs, “There, there. There, there.” We sense that Yossarian has a false optimism, and nothing can be done to save the gunner’s life as his wound is “the size of a football”. There is no morphine available to ease his pain, only two aspirin. We are left with a poignant scene which is memorable for its humanity and suffering. It is not remotely what you would expect from a war novel.

Thinking again to ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ by Louis de Bernieres, there is another memorable scene that anyone who has read the novel always seems to mention. This is when the two sides temporarily down their weapons and abandon fighting to play football together on Christmas Day. They chat, share cigarettes, and even exchange photographs of family members. They see each other as people rather than ‘the enemy’ and realise that they might have been friends. Again, a game of impromptu football is the last thing you would expect during a war.

So to summarise, here are some of the techniques you can use when writing about war:

* Focus on small detail rather than the bigger picture.
* Look for unusual and unexpected detail.
* Create a sense of atmosphere by using the five senses – vivid colours, sounds, smells, tastes.
* Allow vulnerability to come to the fore – it isn’t necessary to focus only on death and destruction, bravery and valor.
* Focus on one or two characters only, rather than large numbers of soldiers.
* Stir an emotional response in the reader.