This blog of top book promotion tips supplements Sell Your Books!, my book promotion handbook for authors, available worldwide (paperback and e-book). For a constant stream of effective ideas and fresh inspiration, based on helpful examples of actual books and real writers, click the “Follow” button in the sidebar!
It’s all too easy, in this age of internet bookselling, to focus only on your online sales figures, allowing allow handselling opportunities to pass you by. But if you look out for them, you’ll be surprised at how many of these there are.
What’s more, readers who buy from you in person may be more likely to:
- tell their friends about their purchase
- appreciate your book more because they’ve met you in person
- be better ambassadors for you than readers who you’ve never met
Although handsold copies may be a tiny proportion of your total sales, they will help you build your success and your fan-base, so make the most of the opportunities to sell YOUR books!
What is Handselling, anyway?
By handselling, I mean books sold directly by the author to the purchaster at any face-to-face encounter e.g.
- at a formal event such as a book launch or book signing
- at a stall you’ve set up at your local literature festival or community fete
- at just about anywhere you happen to be – on a bus, at a party, in the office, in a shop
If you think selling a book by hand sounds difficult, bear in mind the example of my dear late friend Lyn. She actually sold her house while at the hairdresser’s to a lady she’d never met before. Yes, not a book, but her HOUSE, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Simply by chatting to a stranger. She’d only gone in for a haircut, but she got chatting with the lady in the next chair, and the conversation turned to houses. Realising that this lady was looking for exactly the kind of house that she was trying to sell, Lyn sealed the deal. If she could handsell a house, can handselling books really be that difficult?
Finding Opportunities for Handselling Books
Formal events provide the most natural handselling opportunities. I’ve written before about the sales potential of a well-managed book talk:
- At a local event for biographer Artemis Cooper, I found myself buying not one book but two
- At a library talk by thriller writer M C Beaton, I was not the only customer who, after queuing to have one book signed, immediately joined the back of the queue for a second one
There are many unstructured handselling opportunities, if you keep your eye open for them. Last November, when I was distributing posters for our PTA’s Christmas Fair, the proprietor of a nearby craft centre asked me what I did for a living, and I told her I was a writer. When I told her about my newly-launched handbook for authors, Sell Your Books!, I didn’t expect it to be of interest to someone in her line of business, but she revealed that she had an aunt who was writing a book. I suggested that my book would be the perfect Christmas present, especially if I signed it. Ker-ching! I fetched a copy from the car. (I also sold three copies at the PTA Christmas Fair itself.)
I always carry at least two copies of my book in my car – one a well-thumbed display copy and the other, untouched by human hand, for selling at the cover price (and at a better margin than I earn online). I have been known to make a sale in a car park, feeling (unjustifiably!) like a dodgy trader in counterfeit watches.
Great Examples of Handsold Books
I thought I was good at opportunistic sales, but my efforts were put in the shade last week by reports from some authors I was chatting to on SilverWood Books’ excellent Facebook forum. Although this is a private forum, a benefit available only to authors who currently use the company’s assisted publishing services, I have their permission, and SilverWood’s, to share here their impressive examples of handselling.
Historical novelist David Ebsworth reports:
“Posting off my latest orders at the Post Office this morning, the nice lady behind the counter finally plucked up courage to ask me what sort of books I’m writing. Turns out she’s a historical fiction fanatic and she promptly bought my “carry around” copy of my latest novel, The Assassin’s Mark.”
When she’s finished that one, I bet he’ll sell her a copy of his previous novel, The Jacobite’s Apprentice.
Novelist Sandy Osborne is a well-known and recognised local figure due to the extensive local media coverage of her first novel, Girl Cop, launched in the local Waterstones in January. At that event, she broke the branch’s record for most books sold by an indie author, and continues to capitalise on her local following by carrying fliers wherever she goes.
“I hand people the flier and tell them with a big smile that I’ve got a copy of the book in the car if they’re interested!” she advises. “I’ve sold copies to my holiday rep and the beautician who does my eyebrow shape!”
Caz Greenham is making great headway selling the first in her planned series of children’s books, set in the seaside resort of Brixham, Devon. Not content with securing pre-publication orders from Brixham’s hotels and tourist attractions, she is also building up a considerable following in her home town of Bristol. Offering free talks to nearby schools has provided her with obvious opportunities to handsell copies to children and parents. Less obviously, she has also sold three copies to the lady behind the counter in her local bank!
Of course, it’s not always convenient to carry physical copies of the book around, particularly if yours is a heavy book, a large format, or only available as an e-book. In that case, carry a business card or bookmark bearing the book’s details.
Caz Greenham had this technique sussed very early on: “”I sold my first book, via Amazon, to the pharmacist at Asda. After introducing my book with chit-chat and a SilverWood bookmark, he flipped open his phone, went to the Amazon page, and hey ho – he ordered The Advenures of Eric Seagull for his little boy!”
The Etiquette of Handselling
Effective handselling really follows the same rules of etiquette as promoting your book via social media. It is NOT the done thing to shriek “Buy my book! It’s wonderful!” to everyone you meet, but to engage people in pleasant, natural conversation. If the opportunity then arises to drop your book into the discussion, do so. If the person you’re talking to makes buying signals, e.g. asks what your book’s about or how much it costs, tell them what they want to know, without applying any pressure or showing £ or $ signs in your eyes.
Then, if you have a copy to hand, that’s the time to produce it. Allow them to hold it and to flick through it – it’s known in the trade as “puppy-dog selling“. As with puppies, once readers have picked up books, they start to bond with them and are much more likely to buy. (My salesman husband once persuaded me to adopt a kitten, against my better judgement, by passing it across for me to hold. Inevitably, the kitten came home with us.) Feel free to ask the enquirer, in a casual tone, whether they’d like to buy the copy now, and offer to sign it as an extra incentive. That could be the deal clincher that makes them buy now, rather than waiting till they’re next online or in a bookshop (where they may be distracted from your book by other matters and may forget all about their intention to purchase).
If you don’t have a copy of your book to hand, have other sales aids ready instead:
- a bookmark with an attractive image of your book’s cover, with ISBN, price and blurb
- your business card showing your author website and Amazon page
- a postcard of the book’s front cover – likely to be put on the kitchen noticeboard or kept for correspondence
I’ve even been handed a promotional pen with the name and details of a book on it. This probably wasn’t a cost-effective tactic, probably costing as much as the author’s margin on the book, but hey, I’ve remembered the book’s title two years on! Giving me the branded pen was a testament not only to that author’s determination to sell his book, but also to the persuasiveness of online firms such as Vistaprint, from whom it’s very easy to order suitable promotional materials at reasonable cost. Beware, they can be addictive! Been there, got the t-shirt… literally!
If the discussion ends without a sale, don’t be downhearted – at least you’ve tried. The person you’ve been speaking to will probably still be impressed that they’ve met a real live author and will probably tell their friends about your encounter. Even in these heady days of self-publishing, many people are in awe of anyone who’s written a book. This means your meeting will have raised your profile and got people talking about your book, making future sales more likely – and that’s still a great result!
Where’s the most unusual place in which you’ve handsold a copy of your book? Do tell!
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One way to raise your profile as a writer is to diversify, especially if you are self-publishing your work or being published by a small independent press. As I’ve said in a previous post, the best way to sell more books is to write more books – but that doesn’t mean you should focus solely on writing those books. It’s also worth seeking other ways in which to get your name before readers. This is especially true for self-published and independently published writers, who do not have the presence or klout of a big name publishing house behind them.
I’ve often heard writers dismiss certain networking opportunities such as Twitter by saying “But I don’t want to network only with writers, I want to reach only readers”. This irks me:
- firstly because any writer who is not also a reader is not worthy of the title of writer
- secondly, networking with writers not only refines your writing skills but also enables you to share best practice for reaching readers
If that’s how networkophobes want to play it, that’s their loss, but personally, I practise what I preach. I juggle all kinds of writing-related activities, not only writing short fiction (my first love) and blogging (a close second), but also creating WordPress websites for authors, writing about book promotion (see my handbook for the self-published author, Sell Your Books!, and reviewing every indie author’s book that I read.
Like most authors, I also have a day-job (part-time, in my case), working for a fabulous children’s reading charity, Readathon. Even better if you can engineer your day-job to feed into your writing. I’m lucky: in my world, all roads lead to books.
Meet a Master of Multi-Tasking, Jessica Bell
When I encountered the versatile and multi-tasking Jessica Bell on the fab Facebook forum of the Alliance of Independent Authors, I felt as if I’d met a kindred spirit. I was also hugely envious of her location: Greece, where she alternates between her base in Athens and her writing retreat workshops on the Ionian island of Ithaca. As well as writing fiction and non-fiction, poetry and songs, she pens articles for literary magazines, is co-editor of Vine Leaves, and writes and edits for English Language Training companies all over the world. Jessica’s most recent publication is the latest in her Nutshell series of mini writing guides for authors.
With all that going on in her life (when does she ever sleep?!) she is an object lesson in how diversifying writing-related activities enables an author to reach a wider readership than if she focused solely on her novels and poetry. I was delighted that she could find time to join me here to talk about her lifestyle.
Q) Jessica, I thought Sell Your Books! was slim, but the books in your Nutshell series are positively snack size, resembling a partwork magazine. Personally, I find this a really practical format for authors who want to improve their craft but have no time or energy to read a big tome about it. (What author doesn’t comfort-buy bigger style guides that never get opened or acted upon? Just like recipe books and diet guides!) But why did you take this approach rather than combining all the tips into a single book?
A) You know how in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, she says that in order not to be overwhelmed, a writer needs to focus on short assignments? She refers to the one-inch picture frame on her desk and how that little picture frame reminds her to focus on bite-sized pieces of the whole story. Basically, if you focus on one small thing at a time, the story will eventually come together to create a whole. I believe the same applies to learning the craft of writing. If writers focus on one aspect of the craft at a time, the process will seem less daunting and piece by piece it will come together.
A) The plan is to release one book every six months, and I’m hoping to write at least six, so it will be a while yet before there is a single volume. But once they’re all written and released, yes, a box set is definitely an option I’ll be exploring. But that could be another two years away. We’ll see.
Q) I was slightly surprised that you’d grouped adverbs and clichés together. Like all careful writers, I avoid clichés like the plague (ho ho) but hadn’t considered adverbs to be necessarily (oops!) undesirable. Are they really equal crimes of laziness?
A) Before I answer this, writers need to understand that they aren’t always going to be a problem. You don’t need to go overboard trying to eliminate every single adverb in your manuscript. Because sometimes, they just work. Same with clichés. They serve a purpose. Especially in dialogue. Of course, it also depends a lot on your character’s voice. Because they come naturally, we frequently utilize them in everyday speech (see?). But in fiction, too many adverbs weaken prose. It’s considered “lazy writing,” because it means we don’t have to show what’s happening.
If your manuscript has too many adverbs, it most likely means that the emotion you felt while writing it is not going to translate to the reader in the same way. Because the way in which one experiences things isn’t always the same as the next person. As writers, it’s your duty to make readers experience your story from a unique point of view. Your point of view. Adverbs stunt this.
Q) I loved the hands-on format of the book, prescribing set exercises for the reader, each sample to be read and considered four times, in four different ways. Is this the sort of activity you include in your writing retreats? If so, did the books evolve from your experience of running the retreats? If not, where did you get the idea for this format?
A) No, this idea didn’t come from the retreats. I make a living as an editor/writer of English Language Teaching materials for various publishers worldwide, so I guess “breaking down” the language is a technique I’m used to incorporating in ELT lessons. It’s effective there, so I thought, surely it’s going to be effective with fiction too.
Q) Can you tell me the themes of the next books you have planned in this series?
A) I haven’t finalized all my topics yet, because I need to start writing to see which ones lend themselves well to this format. But my list of possible topics include: superfluous words, crafting natural dialogue, subtext and conflict, weaving in relevant back-story, chapter endings, characterization, avoiding stereotypes, making setting count, using the six senses.
Q) Are you promoting each book in the series in the same way or, if not, what have you learned from the earlier launch that has made you launch this one in a different way?
A) Yes, I think I’ll stick to my current marketing plan. Seems to be working well. The only different thing I’m doing this time around is encouraging virtual tour participants to interview me in real time on Facebook and Twitter. I think it’s fun to follow a conversation as it gives people an opportunity to actually engage and interact, rather than just leave a comment on a blog and not really know if I’ll respond. Though I do try my best to respond to everyone!
Q) Turning now to questions about your career, I’m impressed by the diversity of your writing activities and by your energy. Just reading the list of the links in the footer of your email is exhausting! Did you set out to formulate this “portfolio career” approach, or has it just evolved? In what order did they accumulate?
A) Haha, no I did not set out for the long list. I just had some ideas and wanted to bring them into fruition. My mother always said, if there’s a will there’s a way. (Hey, look, cliché!) If I want something enough, I do it. Full stop. There’s no such thing as failure in my vocabulary. There’s try. And try again. I can’t really remember in what order they happened. I think all my ideas started to come together at once!
Q) How do these activities feed off each other or cross-fertilise?
A) Well, they’re all writing related, so I do try to link them together on occasion. One recent example is the vignette contest my literary journal ran for the chance to win a scholarship to the writing retreat I run. Nice smooth connection there. And both organizations benefit.
Q) I envy you your locations—Athens & Ithaca. How do those settings affect and influence your work? Do you speak Greek and, if so, do you find yourself using more words that originate from Greek? (I once did evening classes in Greek and used to holiday there before I had my daughter, sailing round the Ionian, often mooring on Ithaca, and I loved discovering the Greek roots of English words.)
A) There is a lot about Greece in my debut novel, String Bridge, but I have to say that Greece had already started to influence me when I was a kid. I must have been about eleven. I remember sitting on a rock by the sea in a little place called Monemvasia. I was so inspired by my surroundings that I needed a way to express it. This is when I started writing poetry. In the end (well, beginning), Greece is what sparked my passion for words.
Also, I would never have got my first job as an editor if I hadn’t moved here. As I said above, I make a living as an editor/writer of English Language Teaching materials. There is no need for this sort of thing in an English speaking country. So I guess, I have Greece to thank for giving me the opportunity to pursue this career path. If I had have remained in Australia, I probably would have focused more on my music.
Yes, I do speak Greek. But it can get a bit rusty at times. Mainly because I work all day with English that I hardly have the chance to use it. Regarding Greek words, um … I don’t think so. Unless I’m hungry.
Q) Your poems and fiction are gaining more readership and recognition. To what extent has this been fuelled by your other writing-related activities? (I’m trying not to use the clichés “author platform” and “greater than the sum of the parts” here!)
A) I believe that all these writing-related activities mean that I need to be online quite a lot. As a result, I’ve become visible, to quite some extent, through social media. And to be honest, I couldn’t live without it. I’m quite isolated being an English writer in a non-English speaking country, and I need to promote my work to the English-speaking world.
The key to social networking, though, is to engage in conversations, interact with your audience. Saying, “buy my book, it’s great” all the time, isn’t going to sell it. But saying “hey, what do you think about blah blah blah?” and actually eliciting opinions from others, means you are saying something that people are interested in. And if they’re interested in what you’re saying online, then it’s likely they are going to investigate you further. It’s a long process, and hard work. But it certainly pays off.
How’s this for statistics? I’ve been blogging and engaging in social media, pretty much every single day, since March 2010. And only this year, three years later, have I started to see true results. It takes effort, persistence, stamina, but most of all love and passion. Because this ‘being visible’, (and let’s sign off with a good old cliché, hey?) doesn’t happen overnight!
Thanks again, Jessica, for sharing so many inspirational tips and lessons, and best of luck not only with your latest Nutshell book but with all your many literary undertakings!
To find out more about Jessica Bell, including her latest Nutshell book, please visit her website: www.jessicabellauthor.com
To network with other writers via the Alliance of Independent Authors, click the yellow and gold rosette in the sidebar on the right of this page.
One of the many benefits of self-publishing is the freedom to do what you damn well like with your book, without pressure from a publisher driven by considerations of what is profitable or palatable.
I am constantly inspired by what self-publishing allows brave authors to do, and not only in the cause of literary innovation, as in the case of Dan Holloway, featured on this blog last week. Such freedom also includes the option to publish books that campaign and/or fundraise openly for causes, whether medical, charitable, political or social.
Personally, I’m pleased to have been able to use my own handbook, Sell Your Books!, to raise funds and awareness for the diabetes research charity, JDRF, even though its content has nothing to do with diabetes. I was able simply to add some blurb to the book and to direct a percentage of the profits to the charity’s funds. At first this seemed like a token gesture to me, until, hand-selling one of the first copies, I was implored by the buyer to keep the change from a tenner and put it in the pot for JDRF. It was an empowering moment.
Now that I’m trying to plan a campaigning e-book specifically about Type 1 Diabetes, I’m eager to learn from other authors who are successfully using the self-publishing route to further their own chosen medical cause. The authors listed below use a variety of genres, from memoir to self-help to thriller, to support medical causes:
- Keily Adey’s The Gift of Life helps people deal with infertility issues
- Althea Hayton’s Womb Twin Survivor counsels the remaining twin
- James Minter’s spoof thriller The Unexpected Consequences of Iron Overload is in aid of the Haemochromotosis Society
- Rick Redner’s fabulously titled I Left My Prostate in San Francisco helps couples deal with the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer
- Kat Ward’s A Life on the Toilet pulls no punches sharing the experience of bowel cancer
Introducing Judith Barrow
But the very first book of this kind that I encountered was by the novelist and writing tutor Judith Barrow. Introduced to me by a mutual online friend, Judith quietly, gently, and with great dignity, whittled away to catch my interest in Silent Trauma, the book she’d written to draw attention to an extraordinary and shocking cause: justice for the victims of the drug DES, a drug that has devastated the lives of generations of men and women with impunity. She’d self-published the book, sandwiched between having her other two novels published by a small independent firm, Honno Welsh Women’s Press. Having read Silent Trauma over the Easter holidays, almost in one sitting, and reviewing it here, I was delighted when Judith agreed to share on my blog what she has learned from her experience.
Q) Welcome, Judith! For the benefit of those who haven’t yet discovered Silent Trauma, could you please briefly describe the novel and the cause for which you wrote it.
A) Silent Trauma is the story of four women living in different parts of the UK but drawn together in friendship because of the consequences of Stilboestrol (Diethylstilboestrol in the USA). The story opens in 1989 when eighteen year-old Lisa Matthews is diagnosed as having clear cell adenocarcinoma of the cervix. The treatment is a radical hysterectomy. Unable to face that prospect, she commits suicide. After the death of her daughter, Meg Matthews spends years investigating the drug. But it isn’t until 2001 that Meg tells Lisa’s story to the local radio station.
Exposed to the drug in utero and having suffered a fourth miscarriage, Rachel Conway hears the interview and contacts Meg. Rachel then confides in her friend, Jackie Duffy, who is shocked. She herself has been affected by Stilboestrol, has suffered with endometriosis since puberty and has never told anyone. Jackie has a destructive relationship with her mother Mary, who refuses to accept that the drug she took caused the problems. Her rejection of Jackie stems from her guilt and her homophobic revulsion of Jackie’s gay relationship with Hazel, an older possessive woman.
Rachel discovers that her husband, Stephen, has been having an affair andthat his lover has given birth to a son. Two months after he leaves her, she realises she is pregnant again. This time she carries the child, a girl, to term.
Like Meg’s daughter Lisa, Avril Breen, a writer, developed cancer in her late teens. She underwent a hysterectomy and vaginectomy after which her fiancé called off their wedding. Unwilling to form another close relationship, Avril isolated herself in a cottage in the Pennines. She hears about Meg’s interview through relatives in Wales and contacts her, consequently becoming friends with Rachel and Jackie.
As the friendships grow, we follow the women’s lives and their determination to make public the devastating results of the drug. Avril persuades them to collaborate in writing a play about it. The story ends as the curtain rises.
In 1938, DES (Stilboestrol/ Diethylstilboestrol) was created by Charles Dodds. It was expected that his synthetic oestrogen would help prevent miscarriages. At the time it was not known how dangerous this drug would be to developing foetuses. Years later, he raised concerns about DES but, by then, very few in the medical field were listening. In the early 1970s, cases of a rare vaginal/cervical cancer were being diagnosed in young women.
Now researchers are investigating whether DES health issues are extending into the next generation, the so-called DES Grandchildren. As study results come in, there is growing evidence that this group has been adversely impacted by a drug prescribed to their grandmothers.
The mission of DES Action groups worldwide is to identify, educate, support and advocate for DES-exposed individuals as well as to educate healthcare professionals.
Q) Why did you decide to write a novel rather non-fiction?
A) I wanted to reach as many people as possible, so I knew I needed to make the story as enthralling and as interesting as I could without it being completely didactic.
Q) Do you have a personal connection with the cause?
A) I have been loosely connected with DES Action UK & USA since I heard a piece about it on the radio and realized a relative of mine was affected by the drug. The damage it causes is very personal and, as private person, she didn’t want anyone to know, so I contacted them on her behalf. To cut a long story short I wrote an article for the UK based DES Action. Many women contacted me after that and I heard some heart-breaking accounts of their lives. In an attempt to reach more people I wrote a short story which eventually resulted in my e-book, Silent Trauma.
Q) How are you promoting the book?
A) I’m taking the book around with me at all the events I still have for Pattern of Shadows and will continue to do so with the talks and book signings I have for Changing Patterns. I also promote on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve promised myself I will do the same with Goodreads and I’m always intending to blog but, between that, writing and tutoring creative writing I run out of time. Oh, and my husband likes me to come out of my study every now and then!
Q) Is your main target people who do know about DES and have been affected by it, or people who know nothing about it?
A) Everybody and anybody who will listen.
Q) The issues are heartrending – how tough was the book to research and write?
A) It was a difficult book to write and I found myself going through a whole gamut of emotions from day to day. I have to say it took over my life. Before it was published, I sent the manuscript to Fran Howell, Executive Director of DES Action USA, and a few other DES Daughters I’d been in touch with, and I asked them to tell me whether there was anything in it that was either incorrect or in appropriate. Fortunately there was little I needed to alter.
Q) What response have you had from those affected by DES, and what response from those who knew nothing about it?
A) Many of the DES Daughters who have read it have contacted me to say they can empathise with the women in Silent Trauma. And they know that a percentage of the sales are going to the charity so a lot of them are trying to spread the word about the book. I am constantly made aware of the lack of knowledge of Stilboestrol in this country. Whenever I begin to talk about the drug most people assume I am talking about Thalidomide. When I explain about the damage the drug has caused the response is almost always amazement and disgust that consecutive UK Government have been reluctant to help – or, I’m afraid, acknowledge, that the consequences of Stilboestrol continues.
Q) This book is a departure from your other novels, Pattern of Shadows and the new Changing Patterns. How difficult was it to adapt your writing to this purpose?
A) Once I’d collated as much research as possible, I knew I needed to try to write the story in my own way; to make the characters as rounded as possible. But I was also aware that, unlike the characters in my other books, it was the story of the drug, rather than the characters themselves that led the way. I would have liked to give them more of a back-story, but I think they came alive in their own way in the end. I was also lucky to be given permission from the newspaper to use an article they had written about two DES Daughters in the UK as a Foreword. By combining that and the quotes at the beginning of the chapters with the fictional story I hope I have achieved what I set out to do: to bring the information about the drug to the reader and to give them a good story.
Q) Will the experience of writing it affect your work in future, or are you able to it away from your other work?
A) I think, if anything, it has helped me to be a better writer, to dig deeper into my emotions. But, once it was out, I tried to concentrate on marketing it like any other book. If anything, the years of research I did made me recognise the courage of so many of these women who just get on with their lives. It took me a little while but now, yes, I can compartmentalise it now, away from my other writing.
Q) What’s the latest news on the DES campaign? Please provide a link for anyone who is moved to donate to the campaign.
A) Unfortunately DES Action UK folded last year due to lack of funds and support, but DES Action USA promise to help and advice anyone who contacts them. They have a website: www.desaction.org. The charity also has a newsletter, Voice, to which anyone interested can subscribe. And there is also a wonderful DES Daughter in the UK who has a website here - which is constantly updated with the latest news. She also has a Facebook page which can be found by just typing in DES daughter.
In America there has been a huge campaign to prove that some DES daughters who developed breast cancer did so because their mothers were prescribed Stilboestrol (Diethylstilboestrol in the USA). The first DES breast cancer trial was settled out of court by the drug company after the opening arguments. The company did not have to admit guilt for making and promoting DES as an anti-miscarriage drug that causes breast cancer, and the DES Daughters, who accepted the settlement, cannot disclose the amount. But there are many other DES breast cancer lawsuits already filed and waiting in the wings. So, even though there was no actual guilty verdict against the drug company, there is still a feeling of satisfaction in the DES community.
Q) What would your advice be to other writers who might be wondering how to help support their favourite cause by writing and self-publishing a book?
A) Do it. But also make sure you’ve done your research. I heard some heart-breaking accounts of the lives of the women affected by Stilboestrol, and I was always aware that I was representing them, so I needed to know all my facts were correct.
Q) Although self-publishing gives one much greater freedom to produce a book that a commercial publisher might shy away from, did you ever seek a traditional publisher for this, and if so, what was the outcome?
A) I did approach my own publishers and four others. The reasons for the rejections were twofold. One was that “they wouldn’t be able to sell ‘issue–led’ novels”. And two, I was told, was the worry of being sued by the drug companies. To my mind, if any of them decided to sue, they would be accepting culpability. But just in case any of them are reading this, the house is in my husband’s name only and I have no assets. By the way, my publishers, Honno, have said that they may, in the future, take Silent Trauma on.
Q) Gosh, I hadn’t even thought about legal issues. I really admire your stance. The book’s currently available as an e-book only – do you have any plans for a print book, or would the cost be prohibitive?
A) I have actually bought some printed copies through Create Space. The cost wasn’t too exorbitant so there is a small profit margin. I don’t receive royalties for the ones I buy, but I’m keeping a record of that so altogether I’m hoping I’ll be able to send DES Action a decent amount.
Q) Do you have plans for any further books of this kind?
A) I have been approached to write a book in the same way about DES Sons. Again it would take a lot of research. It’s something to think long and hard about. But I have almost completed a novella that I’m hoping Honno will take on, so must finish that before I start anything else. Also the next few months will be taken up with events to promote Changing Patterns.
Thank you so much, Judith, for that insight into how you have combined your skill and experience as a writer with the freedom that self-publishing offers to raise awareness of DES Action. And good luck with your new book, Changing Patterns, launching this month and currently the Welsh Book Council’s Book of the Month for May – congratulations!
Here are links to Judith’s author website, to her Twitter page and to all three of the books she’s published to date: