Selling My Books: Isabel Burt’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares his or her favourite book promotion tip here.

Headshot of Isabel Burt

The author Isabel Burt

I met Isabel Burt through our mutual friends at author services provider SilverWood Books, and it’s been my pleasure to have helped her with some aspects of her book promotion.

Like her fellow SilverWood author Edward Hancox, interviewed here last week, Isabel is focusing on bookshops for her top tip, but this time on a single branch of a chain store in Milton Keynes, where she recently held a book signing event to mark her launch. Her experience shows that contrary to popular belief, the door of the big chains is open to self-published authors with the right approach.  

Debbie Young: What’s your favourite book promotion tip? It doesn’t need to be the one that sells the most books – it could be the one you enjoy most.

Isabel Burt: As a new author, the thing I have most enjoyed so far, in terms of promotion, was my first book signing at Waterstones, in Milton Keynes. It took a level of calm persistence to persuade a store to take an entirely unknown, debut children’s fantasy novel, but I am so glad I succeeded. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with the young readers and their parents about Toxics, and other novels they are currently reading. I think I learnt more than them, on the day! My tip, therefore, would be not to ignore the valuable and enriching experience of getting out and about – it is not about profit, but of other incalculable benefits.

Debbie Young: How do you do it? Please give brief instructions!

Isabel Burt: How did I begin, with absolutely no experience? First I read your wonderful book, Sell Your Books!, and then having thrown it down, thinking I could never do any of those things, I left my writing cocoon, and began. I approached all local bookshops, either in person or by phone. It was pre-Christmas so this was a terrible time to begin, but there was no choice. I followed up by sending them further information, and then further calls or visits. Within a couple of months I had my book on the shelves at three stores, four libraries, and my first book signing!

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Isabel Burt: Why I choose this as my favourite, new promotional activity, is that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with the young readers and their parents about Toxics, and other novels they are currently reading. I think I learnt more than them, on the day!

Isabel signing books instore

Signing books at Waterstones, Milton Keynes

Debbie Young: Which book(s) have you used it for and when?

Isabel Burt: I chose to do book signings, for Toxics, because it is my first novel, and needs to be publicised within my local community, as well as through online social media. For the sequel, Oceans, I will not hesitate to continue building on any foundations with bookstores, as the whole booksigning event brought a feeling of resolution and reality to the experience of writing and publishing a novel.

Debbie Young: If you were doing it again for another book tomorrow, would you do it any differently?

Isabel Burt: How I might do things differently next time would be to promote the event further in advance. I only turned my attention to the first event about 10 days beforehand. I contacted my local radio station, and a local newspaper, but I see I could have made even better use of these two friendly and supportive avenues. The next store has asked for my posters as soon as possible, which surprised me, but had me realising that I should work further in advance, myself.

Debbie Young:Which part of the book promotion process do you like least?

Isabel Burt: I know I am not alone in this, but I least like having to address the demands of social media, with respect to promotion as an author. I accept this is important and invaluable, and I do enjoy making new friends in the author community during the process, but I find it hard to find discipline and direction, sometimes, in this arena, in spite of the wonderful articles that exist to help authors do so!

Cover of Toxics by Isabel Burt

Having a beautiful book cover helps persuade store managers to host book signing events

Debbie Young: Can you name one promotional activity that you’d like to try that you haven’t tried yet – or tried but not yet perfected?

Isabel Burt: I know what I would like to now try, is teaching Creative Writing. alongside continuing to write regularly. Whilst not being a strictly promotional activity, I feel sure this will still quietly enhance my promotional activities, and build a strong foundation for me as a writer.

Debbie Young:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers now? e.g. news of your next book or event.

Isabel Burt: Sales and promotion are so important, but the energy that keeps me going, is simply my love of writing – most particularly for young readers. My own childhood was spent with a book glued to my nose from the moment I had finally mastered the hieroglyphs on the page. It still gives me a thrill to imagine I have taken a young reader away to the land of my story, if only for a few hours! I hope to finish the sequel, Oceans, this coming winter of 2014, which continues the story of Felicity and Reuben in their primitive, mystical Old World.

I will be in Waterstones, Market Harborough, Northamptonshire, on Saturday May 24th, signing copies of TOXICS, with great pleasure!

Find out more about Isabel Burt and her writing on her website:


How to Sell More Books: Arrange an Interview on Your Local Radio Station

Interview panel at Cheltenham

Taking part in the BBC Radio Gloucestershire panel on literature and literacy, with DJ Chris Baxter, romantic novelist Katie Fforde and popular culture writer Simon Sheridan (Photo: Jo Durrant)

Never underestimate the power of your local radio station to draw attention to your book and your work. Whenever I’ve appeared on local radio, I’ve always had great feedback from people who I hadn’t even put down as local radio listeners.

Local radio, like local print media, are always on the look-out for good local stories to tie in with national issues or major events. My local radio station, BBC Radio Gloucestershire, has a field day when the Cheltenham Literature Festival comes to town, and decamps to Cheltenham Town Hall to broadcast live highlights of this very high profile event, apparently the largest of its kind in the world.

I was therefore very pleased to be invited to take part in a discussion panel, live from Cheltenham Town Hall, with two other local writers, discussing modern publishing trends and literacy habits. Like any self-published author worth her salt, I managed to drop my book into the conversation and was pleased to be invited to return another time.

I’ve written a light-hearted piece about this exciting outing over on my author website. Click here to read more and to hear the interview as it happened…