Selling My Books: Paul Connolly’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Headshot of Paul Connolly

Novelist Paul Connolly. author of “The Fifth Voice”

I first met novelist Paul Connolly over dinner after a SilverWood Books Open Day and was very interested to learn about his debut novel as is publication date approached. Listening to Paul, I could tell he is a natural storyteller, and I’ve downloaded The Fifth Voice to read on my Kindle on holiday this summer. In the meantime, I’m delighted to welcome Paul here today to share his favourite way of promoting his new book. 

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

Paul Connolly: Seek out opportunities to talk about your book, and target relevant special interest groups. Contact groups to whom your subject matter should be of interest. In my case, The Fifth Voice is set in the world of a cappella choral and quartet singing, and there are lots of relevant associations and groups you can say hello to and even write articles for.

Also, keep adding to your email list and reaching out to new people, as well as contacting book groups and independent bookshops. I don’t believe that social media has all the answers, and I think that Facebook and Twitter are wildly overrated in terms of their ability to deliver results for the average author. So much of it seems like whistling in the wind to me. I prefer the personal approach.

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

Paul Connolly: Wherever I go I’m armed with my book’s ‘elevator pitch’ in my head and a few calling cards in my back pocket (a tip here: create double-sided business cards, where one side is the front cover of your book, for maximum impact). Then, a couple of times a week I reach out via email or telephone to specific targets, be it named individuals, singing associations around the world, or indie bookshops.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Cover of The Fifth Voice

Such a stunning cover

Paul Connolly: Once you get over the hurdle of thinking nobody will be interested in listening to yet another self-promoting author, you realise that there are people out there who are fascinated by your story, your journey as a writer, and are willing to give you their attention. The enjoyment comes from making connections person-by-person, group-by-group, hopefully building your readership steadily as you go.

You yourself (Debbie) said that marketing an indie book is a marathon not a sprint, and that’s a key lesson to take on board. You’re not shackled by the unrealistic and time-limited expectations of a royalty-hungry publisher who’ll drop you like a stone as soon as your title starts selling less than they would like. Just keep plugging away. With your e-book just a click away, and your paperback always available on demand, there’s no big hurry. Enjoy the ride, but keep working at it (no-one else will!)

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

Paul Connolly: The Fifth Voice is my first novel, so I can’t claim masses of experience! One thing I would say is that if you can afford to hire a publicist, even for a short time, it helps to build awareness early on, and I have had some success with local press and radio as a result. This then gives you some ‘marketing collateral’ that you can use when approaching bookshops, etc.

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

Paul Connolly in a suit

Paul Connolly getting into the zone for the National Barbership finals in Harrogate

Paul Connolly: As The Fifth Voice is my first novel, I’m finding out what works and what doesn’t as I go. I would definitely approach things in a similar way, but maybe with a few more tricks up my sleeve. While I don’t think you should rely on social media for your marketing, I’d be keen to squeeze as much juice out of those channels as possible in future. And I’d like to get my head around e-book promotional campaigns and adopt ‘industry best practice’ to maximise sales (if such exists).

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

Paul Connolly: Despite being comfortable appearing in public (I’m a singer, and have done many a business presentation in my time), the thought of sitting in a room signing copies of my book like some wannabe literary star makes me cringe slightly. Also, I feel that the traditional book launch is overrated and is often done because it’s seen as the thing to do rather than because it has major marketing impact.

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?

Paul Connolly: I’d really like to speak at a literary event of some sort, where I can talk about the book, the writing process, and share what (little) I know. That may sound like a contradiction to the previous answer, but it’s not really. I don’t mind talking about my book if it means that the book is the centre of attention; I’m far less comfortable with the cult of the author!

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

Paul Connolly: When this blog article appears, I’ll be on my way back from a 10-day holiday on my favourite little island. If all has gone to plan, I’ll have the synopsis for my next novel, a sequel to The Fifth Voice, well and truly mapped out. I already know the arc of the story, and the working title, and it’s great to be planning an answer to a question I’ve been asked many times since The Fifth Voice was published: when’s the next one?

Debbie Young: Enjoy your holiday, Paul, and best of luck with book two!

For more information about Paul Connolly, visit his author website here: www.paulconnollyauthor.com

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Selling My Books: Bobbie Coelho’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Photo of Bobbie Coelho at book signing table

Getting ready to meet new readers

I first met the poet Bobbie Coelho at a SilverWood Books Open Day and was pleased to be invited to read and review her latest book, Reflecting the Light.

I was interested to learn that one of Bobbie’s reasons for publishing her poetry was to benefit the charity Parkinson’s UK, because she’d taken up poetry to help her come to terms with her own diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.

Bobbie’s poetry is very personal and touching, and her books look beautiful, with stunning cover photography of flowers exuding optimism and hope. I’m delighted to welcome Bobbie to the blog today to share her top tip for book promotion. 

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

Bobbie Coelho: My favourite way of promoting my books has always been to talk about them to groups of people, to read some of them, and explain the thinking behind them. This is especially true now,since neither Waterstones or W H Smith will stock my book because they lose money on local authors.

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

Cover of Finding the Light by Bobbie CoelhoBobbie Coelho:  I gauge the audience and pick poems that I think they will like and a couple of challenging ones. I am very passionate about them. Most people have been impressed by the covers of my two books.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Bobbie Coelho: I like meeting people and listening to their stories too. My books are different in that they are being published for charity, in this case, Parkinson’s UK. I particularly like speaking to non-Parkinson’s groups because I can promote understanding of the condition.

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

Bobbie Coelho: I really hate it when I ask if someone will consider putting a review on Amazon or the Silverwood site. They say yes, but don’t do it. If they don’t want to do it – be honest!

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?

Bobbie Coelho: I haven’t given books away yet as a promotional gesture, perhaps I will try that.

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

cover of Reflecting the Light by Bobbie CoelhoBobbie Coelho: Reflecting the Light will be my last book. It has had mixed reviews, most people liking it. some not. Whatever, I am very proud of the book and I found it a good way to raise money for Parkinson’s. Some of my poems make you think and lots of people need to be reminded that it is always later than you think, so don’t put off telling the ones you love how much you care – and life is to be enjoyed.

Debbie Young: What a lovely positive note to end this interview – thank you very much, Bobbie.

For more information about Bobbie Coelho and her poetry, visit her page on the SilverWood Books online shop.Her books are available from SilverWood, Amazon and other online retailers.

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Selling My Books: Alison Morton’s Top Tip for Book Promotion

Every Writers’ Wednesday, a successful self-published author shares a favourite book promotion tip here on Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog

Headshot of Alison Morton

Alison Morton, thriller writer

I first met thriller writer Alison Morton online via our mutual publisher, SilverWood Books, and soon realised this British indie author, living in France, is a veritable whirlwind.

With endless energy and self-belief, she tirelessly promotes her fast-expanding Roma Nova alternative history series. I’ve read all three books in the series and am looking forward to the fourth.

I’m delighted that she’s somehow managed to find time in between launching book three and finishing book four to stop by Off The Shelf to share her top tip for book marketing.

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

Alison Morton: Talking to real people. Although I’m a full-on social media enthusiast, and adore making book trailers on YouTube or blogging about Roman life, I love face-to-face contact at launches, fairs, fetes, libraries, conferences or in the airport lounge!

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

Alison Morton: I carry Roma Nova – the imaginary country where my books are set – in my head so I’m ready to talk about it, and its heroines and heroes, at the drop of a sestertius. I was often told off at school for being a chatterbox…

Array of three of her postcards

Alison’s promotional postcards – collect the set!

On the practical side, I carry A6 size postcards with me for each book in my handbag. They carry the shiny front cover image on one side and the book blurb with publisher details and prices on the plain matt reverse.

The cards were produced by my publisher, SilverWood Books, and I’m already on my second thousand for Inceptio, my first book. I give them out freely so that people have a tangible reminder of my book well after they have stopped talking with me. I’ve heard at business seminar that 62% of people retain paper-based information about a product they’re interested in. I also use the postcards in goody bags for conferences, to put on chairs at a talk venue, to leave at reception desks. But I like handing them to people best.

Talking to people, I keep to the same basic information, but tailor it to the audience. For instance, a group of romantic novelists generally wants more about personal and emotional relationships, and a history group will be looking for research and the alternative historical development of Roma Nova.

Debbie Young: Why do you particularly enjoy this activity?

Alison Morton: The instant feedback! It’s still a source of wonderment to me that people are happy to let me burble on about my books, but I’ve been told that they love my enthusiasm. I’ve had wonderful conversations about the Roma Nova school system, religion, characterisation, how do I know all about special forces procedures, how did I make Carina and Conrad so complex, and are the Roma Nova books feminist? (Of course!)

So far, and I stress the ‘so far’, I haven’t met anyone who’s been rude or cross at these personal meetings…

As a reader, I love author talks and nearly always buy the book!

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

Alison and Sue in armchairs discussing Successio

Sue Cook interviews Alison Morton about her latest novel, “Successio”

Alison Morton: All three books.

None of my books is going to be the Great British Novel; I write speculative thrillers that appeal to many different types of reader from 17 to 85.

I think it’s important to show yourself to your readers and the book-buying public. If you have confidence in your story and have produced a top-notch physical book, then it’s so much easier. I launched Inceptio and Perfiditas at Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells and gave a talk about Inceptio at the library in the village where I lived for 24 years.

For Successio, I launched in London just three weeks ago with the broadcaster Sue Cook interviewing me and followed up with a talk at the main Tunbridge Wells library.

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

Alison Morton: That’s easy – no!

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

Alison Morton: The time it eats up when I could be writing the next adventure, but that’s a little precious of me because I have to let people know about the book I’m promoting.

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?

Alison Morton: The one is guaranteed to work. Seriously, book promotion is about trying all kinds of things. Some readers want more hard information, others love to hear about motivation. Some love collecting cards, pens, badges and bookmarks from a ‘live’ event, others enjoy interacting on social media. And they buy a book for as many different reasons.

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

Alison talking to a group of readers, all seated, theatre-style

Alison Morton speaking at Tunbridge Wells public library

Alison Morton: Giving talks and chatting face-to-face is also about giving back to your readers, undiscovered readers and other writers. This is why I’m doing talks at two conferences this summer: the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society Conference.

Now that Successio is out, I need to step back from strong promotion and get on with writing book four, working title Aurelia, featuring the early years of one of the main secondary characters form the first three books. She’s tough and resilient when we meet her in Inceptio, but she had a pretty rough ride when younger with a particularly nasty traitor targeting her…

Debbie Young: I can’t wait to read this one – Aurelia is my favourite character! Thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to take part in this interview, Alison, it is a joy to share your enthusiasm and commitment with my readers.

I’ve reviewed all three of Alison Morton’s novels, and you’ll find links to them and many other book reviews on my author website here: http://authordebbieyoung.com/reviews/directory-of-book-reviews/.

The books are quickly gaining a huge and enthusiastic audience around the world. The first two have just been awarded the prestigious Indie Brag Medallion and were shortlisted for Writing Magazine’s 2014 Self-Published Book of the Year Award. Wow!

For more information about Alison Morton, visit her author website here: http://www.alison-morton.com.

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How to Boost Sales of a Series: Price the First One Low

Alison Morton with paperback copies of Inceptio

Today’s book marketing tip is inspired by a message I’ve just had from my novelist friend Alison Morton. She’s cutting the price of her first book in the run-up to the launch of its sequel. Now, I’m usually loathe to … Continue reading

How to Promote Your Books Internationally – Case Study with ‘Inceptio’ Author Alison Morton

Photo of the author Alison Morton

Alison Morton, author of ‘Inceptio’

I first encountered Alison Morton on Twitter, where I spotted her doing a terrific job building up a buzz about the imminent publication of her alternative history thriller Inceptio, set in 21st century Roma Nova, an intriguing country created to take over where the Roman Empire left off.

Although Alison lives in France, she chose to self-publish her book in England, but her target market was worldwide. How will she manage it? I wondered, as I followed her progress from cover reveal (and boy, what a cover it is!) to launch events on either side of the English Channel. I was therefore delighted when Alison kindly agreed to spill the beans  here on my Off The Shelf blog. Read on to benefit from her excellent advice – and I’ll be very surprised if you don’t want to read her fabulous new novel by the end of the interview! (My own review, free of plot spoilers, is here.)

Photo of the ancient Roman Pont Du Gard,

The stunning Pont Du Gard – as old as the Roman Empire

Q: Thank you, Alison, for kindly agreeing to this interview! When I first ‘met’ you on Twitter, I didn’t know anything about your personal circumstances – I just recognised the  beautiful Pont du Gard in your header photo, which made me realise we had something in common – I holidayed there two years ago and was blown away by the Roman remains there. (Oh, the power of Twitter header photos!) To set the scene for the interview, could you please explain where you live and how you divide your time between France and the UK?

A: I live in the middle of nowhere. Well, in the middle of nowhere in France to be inexact; south of the Loire, mild enough to be comfortable in winter, yet not hot enough to fry in summer. The gorgeous and impressive Pont du Gard is ‘down south’ but retains a special allure for me; power, practical engineering and sheer beauty. But that’s the Romans for you. A French speaker since the age of seven and sometime student here, I don’t find France such a foreign country as some parts of the English-speaking world. But thanks to the rich variety of transport links to the UK, I’m back and forth at least every other month for conferences, events, and most recently the launch of my debut novel INCEPTIO

The author Alison Morton as a child on a Roman mosaic

Early inspiration for the self-confessed ‘Roman nut’ Alison Morton

Q: Did you write the book while living in France, inspired by the amazing Roman remains around that area, or did you write it in England, before being drawn to live in an area in which it almost feels as if the Romans have never left?

A: Two events separated by many years inspired me.

The first was when I was eleven and fascinated by the mosaics in the Roman part of Ampurias (a huge Graeco-Roman site in Spain). I wanted to know who had made them, whose houses they were in, who had walked on them. After my father explained about traders, senators, power and families, I tilted my head to one side and asked him, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism surfacing or maybe it was just a precocious kid asking a smart-arse question. But, clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

Real life intervened (school, university, career, military, marriage, parenthood, business ownership, move to France), but the idea bubbled away in my mind and the INCEPTIO story slowly took shape. My mind was morphing the setting of ancient Rome into a new type of Rome, a state that survived the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire into the 21st century, but retaining its Roman identity. And one where the social structure changed; women were going to be leading society.

But what triggered me into writing INCEPTIO? One Wednesday before we came to live in France I’d gone to the local multiplex cinema with my husband. Thirty minutes into the film, we agreed it was really, really bad. The cinematography was good, but the plot dire and narration uneven. ‘I could do better than that,’ I whispered in the darkened cinema. ‘So why don’t you?’ came my husband’s reply. Ninety days later, I’d written 96,000 words, the first draft of INCEPTIO.

Q:  Living in the age of the internet, creating a global presence should be easier now than ever before, or is that an illusion? How tricky was it to spread the word across multiple countries (and Amazons!)? 

A: The key is persistence. Yes, we are blessed with instantaneous communication, a raft of clever software to promote our message and easing of cultural barriers, especially in the English-speaking populations, but… (You knew there was going to be a ‘but’). Everybody else has the same advantages. You still have to have something remarkable and appealing to say. Forming friendships across time zones is not such a problem. Engage, reply and be nice. The biggest problem is the time taken to keep up with everybody, so choose the most rewarding connections. You can interpret ‘rewarding’ in the way you want, but take care to ensure you include personal as well as commercial reasons.

Q: When engaging with global social media such as Twitter or GoodReads, have you been consciously targeting a specific country, and if so, how? Or is the location of the tweep/Facebooker/GoodReader no longer relevant?

A: No, I haven’t set out to target a special area. Living in a different country from my native one, I know that countries often have multi-lingual reading populations, e.g. the British communities in France. As I had more connections to the UK than any other country, I started there. But in the age of widely used social media, I don’t think it matters where any social media correspondent lives. The only things to be careful about are cultural sensitivities and time zones. I’ve got to know people living in every part of the world and my blog stats pretty much reflect that. As a culturally-open person, I love it!

cover image of 'Inceptio'

The stunning cover design provided by SilverWood Books

Q:  Is there a big British ex-pat community local to you in France, and if so, has that been critical in gaining you local attention? (I know I met a very helpful British expat in the local equivalent of B&Q when we were having a technical crisis with our camper van near Pont du Gard!) Do you belong to any local book groups or writers’ groups in France, and if so, are they English or French?

A: There is a lively, if scattered, British community in my area and they came in droves to my French launch! We have two large social media groups supporting a plethora of events, a dedicated English language magazine for the department, The Deux-Sèvres Monthly (for which I write about writing and publishing!), and the region, Living Poitou-Charentes, and numerous special interest groups from craft and chickens to cars and line-dancing, plus the wonderful ‘Paperback Jan’ who runs the book exchange and is organising my local book tour. Oh, I started the ‘bookclub thouars’ in my local town (in English). I wrote a press release in French and delivered it in person to the two daily newspapers. One interviewed me beforehand and the other came along on the day and did a great write up.

Q: Given the setting of your book, it sounds to me as if it should be of interest to readers not only in the UK and France (and the rest of the former Roman Empire!) but also the USA. Did you have an international audience in mind when you wrote it or is that pure chance? 

A: At the risk of sounding marketing un-savvy, I just wrote the story that was bursting to get out of my mind. Travelling, living and studying in several countries has made my awareness of national boundaries fuzzy, so INCEPTIO wasn’t targeted anywhere in particular. I didn’t choose the initial nationality of my heroine – she came out like that. Indeed, I had to do a lot of research and consult several American English speakers to try and get Karen’s voice right. Luckily, she had an English father, which would explain any language blips. It was my critique partner who lived several years in the US who pointed out that it would be very attractive to North American readers. I’ve already had some lovely reactions, so I’ll be turning my sights there next month.

Q:  Will you be translating your book for publication in French? And Latin? 

A: Aha! I’m a qualified French to English translator, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, so I can give you the expert’s answer. 😉 However fluent, translators at professional level only work into their own mother-tongue. There are so many cultural connotations with language that a non-native, however clever and experienced, may miss. My own favourite is ‘Here’s one I prepared earlier’ which mostly people born and bred in the UK would instantly associate with the children’s television programme, Blue Peter. All the words are simple and easily translatable, but the connotation is lost outside the UK, even on English speaking non-Brits. So if INCEPTIO was sold to France, it would be translated by French translator specialising in literary translation. As for Latin, jocabunda? (You are joking, aren’t you?) (Ed: Yes!)

Q: How and why did you choose a British company to publish your book, and did the physical distance make a difference to the process? 

A: I knew I didn’t want to DIY publish as I didn’t have the time or skills to do a thoroughly professional job. My aim was to emulate the best mainstream publishing products, both paperback and e-book. I researched, asked other self-published writers and consulted publishing gurus. I analysed information provided by the three companies I’d selected as ‘finalists’ and drew up a list of questions. I then interviewed each company for nearly two hours, plus followed up with email exchanges.

Yes, this is a lot of work, but you are spending your hard-earned money so owe it to yourself to make sure you’re spending it efficiently. Irrespective of nationality or distance considerations, I chose SilverWood Books (SWB) for their knowledge, openness and for being book-orientated rather than purely services orientated. If there aren’t books on the home page of a services provider’s website, ask yourself why.

The other important thing when you’re paying for services is to ensure you keep all your rights. Unlike many providers, SWB made that crystal clear both in their information and documentation. SWB offer different publishing packages or you can pick and choose from a menu of individual services depending upon what you want.

SWB have not only delivered the promised services in a collaborative and consultative way but also provided on-going support, vital for an inexperienced author. In addition to a well formatted and designed e-book uploaded to a variety of platforms, I have a high-quality printed book with a gorgeous cover that is selling so well that I’ve had to order a second print run. ‘Hand-holding’ is built into the ‘Tailored’ package I chose. It included very clear and detailed instructions about proofing, editing; what to include in a bio; voluntarily offered background information; guidance on how to decide on the next steps, e.g. cover design, print-runs; comprehensive information sheets on dealing with bookshops, interviews, presentations, social media, Goodreads; plus a willingness to answer any question promptly and completely. Attitude is very important and theirs is first-class. They introduce paid-for add-on services without any pressure, plus suggested enhancements where appropriate. (Ed: the cover won an award for indie book cover design run on Joanne Phillips’ website here.)

Photo of the British launch party for 'Inceptio'

The well-attended British launch of ‘Inceptio’

Q: It’s early days yet, but do you know so far what proportion of your sales have been made in each country? How different do you think the experience have been for you if you were based in England?

A: I understand from SilverWood Books that most e-book sales are from the UK with a very respectable number from the US and a few from France and Germany. This is what I expected. I think it would have been the same wherever I’d been based. In the UK, Waterstones ran out of paperbacks at my launch and I had to provide them with my own stock to satisfy demand. I’ve posted a fair number off around the world and sold paperbacks well here in France and hope to do more on my French book tour. The one thing I won’t be able to do easily is book signings in my ‘home’ area in the UK. I will, however, try to organise an event whenever I’m in England, if I can. Consequently, the majority of my efforts will be online.

Q: Can you please list your top “do’s” and “don’ts” for new expat authors keen to maximise sales at home and abroad?

A:

  • If your biggest target is the UK, really try hard to do at least one event there, particularly your launch. Your former home town is the ideal place. The photos taken there have great PR value in the future.
  • Take advantage of any expat community groups to organise signings.
  • Write editorial/articles in your local English language publication, but don’t over- push the sales aspect. Give something out – information, anecdotes, hard facts, your experiences.
  • Network with other expats a) for pleasure b) to find out about further signing venues.
  • Embrace social networking to stay visible and encourage sales – the world is your market. Start your blog/Facebook author page a year before you plan to launch your book. It will establish your presence firmly and make a great springboard.

Q: Having really enjoyed INCEPTIO, I was pleased to hear you’re planning a series of Roma Nova books. Will you do anything differently when you launch book 2? (if you can bear to think about it yet!)

A: At present, I can only think that I’ll do the same. I anticipate the launch of PERFIDITAS will build on the sales of INCEPTIO and I won’t be back ‘at the beginning’. And if people come across PERFIDITAS first, then I hope they might want to buy INCEPTIO. to find out what went before. 

Alison, thank you so much for such long, thoughtful and enlightening answers that I’m sure will be of enormous interest not only to other expat authors out there, but for anyone hoping to build their own international empire of readers. I think the biggest thing that I will take away from your experience is your advice about perseverance. I’m afraid I can’t resist the temptation – I’ll just have to end this interview by saying that Roma Nova wasn’t built in a day!