How World Book Night Can Help Indie Authors Raise Their Profile

World Book Night 2013 logoNeed something to look forward to now that the London Book Fair has finished? Well, you won’t have to wait long, because on Tuesday 23rd April, it’s going to be World Book Night!

What is World Book Night?

Like the better-known World Book DayWorld Book Night is an international campaign aimed at readers, rather than writers.

I’ll describe here how it works in the UK, as that’s where I’m based, but the scheme also runs in the USA and Germany, and it’s gradually spreading further afield.

World Book Night’s prime goal is to celebrate books and reading, turning reluctant readers into avid ones, with obvious benefits for publishers and writers everywhere. But it is not at all a hard-nosed, commercial operation. It’s a generous-spirited, humanitarian campaign which is about much more than a profit motive. As stated on its website, “It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways, through the sharing of stories.” Its stated aims are:

  • To raise the profile of reading through a mass engagement project which works at a grass roots level to inspire those who don’t regularly read to do so
  • To place books into the hands of those who don’t regularly read
  • To raise the profile of reading for pleasure through a series of celebratory events
  • To improve literacy in the UK and Ireland
  • To bring communities together

Each year, a cross-section of 20 books is chosen by an independent panel to appeal to all kinds of readers, primarily adults, but some of the titles are also appropriate for  younger readers. Special paperback editions are printed, branded “World Book Night”, including an explanation of the scheme and words of encouragement to both giver and receiver. Designated book givers personally distribute 20 copies each within their local community.

How To Be A Book Giver

World Book Night special editions of Treasure Island

Special editions are produced exclusively for World Book Night

To be chosen as one of the 20,000 book givers, individuals must complete an application form some months in advance, stating how, where and why they will distribute their books. Volunteers may choose which book they are allocated, ideally one that they have read and which has personally touched them, and for which they feel they can be a great ambassador. Successful applicants collect their box of books from one of the bookshops and libraries who have agreed to act as local distribution points (helpfully raising their profile within their community too).

I’ve been lucky enough to be a designated book giver for the three years that the scheme has been running. The first year, I chose Nigel Slater’s autobiography, Toast; last year I had Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle; this year I have Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The children’s reading charity where I work  part-time, Readathon, is giving away Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. (Institutions as well as individuals may apply to be book givers.)

Giving the books away is an honour and a privilege. I feel like Father Christmas, and I know from the feedback I’ve had that the people I’ve chosen to give to have really appreciated and enjoyed the experience. “Too good to be true” is frequently heard from givers and receivers alike – but true World Book Night most certainly is.

On the scheme’s official website, there are moving tales of how receiving a free book like this has changed  recipients’ lives, not only encouraging them to read books, but also boosting their self-esteem and their faith in the wider world. For many, it may be the only book they own, or the first book they’ve read after years of thinking that reading was not for them. Whatever their circumstances, their World Book Night book will be special.

So What’s In It for Indies?

With each annual list of World Book Night books comprising classics and best-sellers, it is unlikely that a self-published or indie book is going to be included – but that’s not the only way that this event helps authors. A large number of related events takes place throughout the country, and you are very welcome to get involved in these – or, indeed, you can create your own. Two years ago, another local book giver and I held our own World Book Night evening in the village hall. It was an informal, free event to which everyone was invited to discuss books and to collect their own free copy of one of the books. We also gave leftover copies to carefully selected people the next morning at a fundraising breakfast held there.

Getting involved in local events like this enables you to raise your profile as someone who loves, reads and writes books. Inevitably, such activity raises the profile – and sales – of your book. Here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • attend a World Book Night event at your local library or bookshop to network with local booklovers (take a few copies of your book with you so you can make opportunitistic sales!)
  • give a reading from one of your books at a World Book Night event
  • give a few copies away as loss leaders
  • hold a raffle for a signed copy of your book in aid of World Book Night
  • run a special promotion for one day only, to mark World Book Night, in keeping with the generous spirit of the occasion
  • get in touch with your local radio station or newspaper to put yourself forward as an interviewee, speaking both as a book giver and a writer
  • write a blog post celebrating World Book Night – see what I did there? 😉 

Whether or not you choose to do any of those things, I warmly recommend you become involved with the scheme, simply because it is an enormously uplifting, life-affirming movement. Taking part will remind even the most discouraged writer of the enormous power of books to change lives for the better. It renew your energy and enthusiasm to continue writing.

For more information, do take time to read through the World Book Night website, especially the case studies, and look out for extensive media coverage on the day too. If you’re interested in being designated a book giver next year, sign up to their mailing list and they’ll invite you to apply in the autumn for World Book Night 2014, when the time comes.

If you’re already involved with World Book Night, I’d love to hear about your experiences! Do leave a comment!

If you liked this post, it’s worth reading my other posts about World Book Day and World Book Night, and about how getting involved in other book-related events can help indie and self-published authors sell more books:

World Book Day for Self-Published Authors (on the ALLi website)

World Book Day for Indie Authors (on the Off The Shelf website)

My (slightly over-excited!) blog post about being chosen as a book giver for the first ever World Book Night (on the Off The Shelf website)

Improve Your Book Sales by Attending Other Authors’ Events (on the Off The Shelf website)




Take Part in Blog Tags #2: Blog of the Year Award 2012

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, taking part in blog tags is a great way to reach a new audience. It’s also a terrific confidence booster to be tagged,  especially when the tag has a grand title such as “Blog of the Year 2012”. This post provides another example of how blog tags work.

I was very pleased when just before Christmas, my Off The Shelf Book Promotions blog was tagged with this award by best-selling, independently-published novelist, Joanne Phillips, whose second novel The Family Trap will be out next month. This is how she described my blog in her post about the award:

Debbie Young’s blog is a fantastic resource for all things book promotion and marketing. I’ve learned so much from her – check out her personal blog too.

Under the rules of this tag (which I’ve given in full at the foot of this post), recipients must nominate at least one other blog for the award.


Another clue’s in the coffee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read a LOT of blogs in 2012, most but not all of them  about self-published writers and indie authors. Many blogs have boosted my energy and enthusiasm for my own work promoting books and authors and also for  my personal writing projects. Three especially stand out for me.

First is the one that I’ve recommended more than any other to anyone interested in self-publishing – or self-printing, as this particular blogger prefers to call it. And that’s a clue for those of you who, like me, are avid followers of Catherine Ryan Howard. In the Catherine, Caffeinated blog, she shares her extensive first-hand experience and a huge amount of invaluable advice about being a self-published author. It’s slick, funny, honest, warm and very, very readable. Proof of her expertise is that she is now able to write full-time, and very few writers, even those traditionally published, are able to do that. If you’re already familiar with Catherine Ryan Howard’s work, you may suspect, as I do, that she won’t want to post the award logo on her blog, as it’s not, er, pink – and she’s a stickler for a consistent, corporate look to a blog. But she really does deserve it.

The second blog I’m nominating is that of Joanne Phillips – yes, the same Joanne Phillips who gave the award to me. (Apologies if it seems as if we’re running a mutual admiration society!) Like Catherine, Joanne is a generous sharer of her self-publishing experiences. In the course of 2012, her blog recorded her transformation from aspiring author to best-seller. Updating her blog with all her ups and downs, several times a week, must have taken an enormous amount of time and effort. It will be inspirational to anyone who is starting 2013 with similar ambitions, because it’s proof that they can be achieved.

Police Box

Who can this be? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A much smaller, newer, less ambitious blog completes my trio of nominations. This one is totally different from Catherine and Joanne’s. It’s a modest slip of a blog that pares the format down to the bare bones. No sidebars, no badges, no links, no images: just words. A Policeman’s Lot is a simple collection of diary-style posts by a former policeman, recording the early days of his career in the post-war years. Published posthumously by his daughter as a tribute, it’s a fascinating snapshot of a pre-digital age, when an old-fashioned navy-blue police box served not as a time machine for Doctor Who but as the closest thing the bobby on the beat had to a mobile phone. I find this blog enormously refreshing – like a palate cleanser between courses of more complex, sophisticated blogs. A Policeman’s Lot is a reminder that at the end of the day, the universal currency of the blog is simply the written word. And to me that currency is more precious than gold.

Happy New Year and Happy Blogging in 2013!

The Rules of the Blog of the Year Award

The ‘rules’ for the Blog of the Year Award are simple:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award

2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

3 Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)

4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them

5 You can now also join our Facebook group – click ‘like’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience

6 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars… Yes – that’s right – there are stars to collect! Unlike other awards which you can only add to your blog once – this award is different! When you begin you will receive the ‘1 star’ award – and every time you are given the award by another blog – you can add another star! There are a total of 6 stars to collect. Which means that you can check out your favourite blogs – and even if they have already been given the award by someone else – you can still bestow it on them again and help them to reach the maximum 6 stars!

7 New Year Resolutions for Indie Authors & Self-Published Writers

Vintage new year I love new beginnings and the opportunity they bring to replace bad habits with good ones. New Year’s Eve is, for me, inextricably linked with Resolutions.

This year, I’m making not one list but two: one for my personal life and one for my life as a self-published writer and indie book promoter.

I’m sharing that second list here in case you need inspiration as 2013 dawns.

If you’d like to add any of your own at the end, please do – I’ll be happy to take them on board!

1) I will not become obsessed with statistics.

It’s too easy to waste time on statistics. Checking my Amazon sales rankings, my blog hits, my Twitter followers – and unfollowers… It’s not only a waste of time better spent elsewhere. It’s also often misleading, causing false hopes and needless despondency. Amazon employs such mysterious, ever-changing algorithms for its supposed sales figures, that they vary dramatically from one minute to the next, and are not accurate indicators of real sales, even for those published solely on Kindle. They’re best avoided. But of course, if I happen to spot a favourable figure, e.g. hitting the top 100 in an Amazon category, I reserve the right to celebrate! In the meantime, I will do all I can to optimise my  stats – which means actively promoting my books, not gazing for hours at sales graphs – without obsessing about them.

2) I will learn all I can from fellow authors in the indie/self-publishing sector.

in 2013, I’m going to make the most of the very supportive online indie author community. I will NOT do an impression of a lonely writer sitting in a garret (or study with nice garden view, in my case), with only a blank page (screen) for company. I’ll read other authors’ blogs, tweets and comments, I’ll follow the stimulating Facebook discussions of the specialist community groups that I belong to (Alliance of Independent Authors, aka ALLi, and the SilverWood Authors Community). I’ll check in regularly to GoodReads. And while I’m gaining other authors’ input and support, I’ll try to give even more than I receive.  “You’re gonna reap just what you sow”, as Lou Reed sings in “Perfect Day” (scheduled to be played at my funeral, but preferably not in 2013!)

3) I will use Twitter wisely.

I will continue to use Twitter to focus on my self-publishing and writing interests. I will not get distracted by Stephen Fry, Gin O’Clock’s parody of Queen ElizabethThe Poke, hashtag games and other such frivolities. Oh alright, most of the time. 99% of my Twitter time will be spent on productive transactions. Honest.

Angelic trumpeter

4) I will blow my own trumpet.

When I achieve any significant milestones, I will give myself permission to brag about them – briefly. For example, when a great new review is published, I’ll tweet a few links, but then and only then. I will justify a little self-aggrandisement by the thought that other authors will be encouraged by a fellow writer’s success (I know I am). Success breeds success, and no writer is an island, as John Donne almost said. But I won’t bang on about it till it becomes tiresome. I will remember that Twitter is a two-way street, not a soapbox.

5) I will review other indie authors’ books.

Speaking of reviews, I will definitely continue one of the most rewarding practices that I started in 2012, which was to post reviews of books by other self-published writers on my website and elsewhere. It’s been a really helpful process not only to them but to me too. (Click here to read more about why I believe ALL indie authors should review other self-published writers’ books. )

6) I will always be prepared to promote my book.

Like a boy scout, I resolve to be prepared at all times to capitalise on any opportunity to promote my book. When Sell Your Books! was first published in October, I was caught out early on several times by enquiries from unlikely sources to which I was unequipped to respond straight away. These days, I carry a copy with me in my handbag at all times, along with business cards and bookmarks, ready to slip into the hand of the unexpected enquirer – someone I get chatting to in a shop or at the school gate for example.  This will increase the chance of converting their interest into an actual sale.

Burgundian scribe (portrait of Jean Miélot, se...

Burgundian scribe . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7) I will, er, write.

I’m an indie writer, therefore I will promote my books. But most importantly, I’ll keep  writing – and I will make more time to write (and format and self-publish) than I did in 2012. Because if I don’t, I’ll stop being a writer. Instead I’ll just be an online author groupie aspiring but failing to live my dream.

Whatever your writing ambitions for 2013, I wish you every success. And when you achieve your success, do come back and tell me about it – I’d love to share your good news. (Hmm, that’ll be resolution number 5, then…)