Free Online Conference This Week Offers Top Tips for Indie Authors

A quick and easy tip to start your book marketing week: if you’ve not yet heard about IndieReCon, the free online conference run for authors, by authors, head over to its website now to register: This week, from Wednesday … Continue reading

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)



An Author’s Guide to the London Book Fair

Author & publishing advisor Helen Hart

Helen Hart, author and director of SilverWood Books

With the UK’s biggest book fair just a week away, I’m delighted to welcome author and SilverWood Books publishing director Helen Hart to Off The Shelf to offer useful information to help authors make the most of their visit:

The London Book Fair is an exciting annual event spanning three days – usually in April. It’s a huge and bustling international trade fair where almost 25,000 publishing professionals gather to do business. There are seminars, conferences, workshops, high profile author talks, book launches … and the occasional freebie (it’s almost impossible to come away without a canvas tote bag decorated with a well-known publisher’s logo and a clutch of free bookmarks, posters, or – if you’re lucky – paperbacks).

What’s in it for authors?

Authors often ask if the London Book Fair is worth attending, because the LBF is primarily a trade fair. I think it is, partly because it’s always nice to immerse yourself in the world of books, but mostly because there’s a lot for authors to see and do. The seminar programme is usually excellent and this year is no exception – for starters you can learn about book cover design, new developments with e-books, and developing your author platform.

If you’re thinking of publishing your own book, there are plenty of people at the LBF who can offer assistance and useful information. Most of the reputable self-publishing companies exhibit, and SilverWood Books has a cosy booth on the Independent Publishers Guild stand where we’ll be offering free publishing advice sessions and a general chat over coffee or tea. Some of our most successful and pro-active authors will also be there, sharing their experiences and wisdom.

How you can make the most of the London Book Fair

  • Be smart and sophisticated in your appearance, but also wear comfy shoes and layers – it’s hot in there and has a hard concrete floor.
  • Research before you go – check out the exhibitor catalogue on the LBF website.
  • Decide which self-publishing providers you like the sound of and check out their websites before you go. Are they showcasing books on their homepage (indicating they’re books-orientated and not just interested in selling you services)? Is information presented in a friendly and interesting way? Is their book cover design of a similar standard to traditional/mainstream publishers? Can you contact them easily and make an appointment?
  • Devise a list of questions and take it with you so you can make sure you cover everything in your meeting (which will probably be fairly short).
  • Make sure you have useful information to hand to give them, because they’ll want information that can help them to help you – the word count if your manuscript; how many images/tables/charts are to go in the book (if any); whether you want paperback, ebook, hardback, or all three; when you hope to launch your book; what plans you have for promotion; what sort of social networking are you already using.
  • If you’re looking for a traditional publishing deal you should pinpoint publishers (or agents) you think would be interested in your book. Check out larger publishers and agents who you think might be interested, but don’t neglect the small indies – the Independent Publishers Guild stand will have displays by quite a few.
  • Make contact well in advance – traditional publishers are there to showcase their own new titles rather than to seek out new talent (it’s primarily a business-to-business fair) but it could be worth seeing if you can make appointments with the right people to discuss your book.
  • Don’t expect to be able to chat easily with literary agents – they tend to spend almost all their time up in the International Rights Centre (which is closed to the public) so an appointment is vital.
  • If you’ve already self-published, decide what you want to achieve at the LBF. Is it to meet publicists who can give your promotion a boost? Or do you want to chat to distributors and wholesalers to find out more about getting your book into bookshops?
  • Take copies of your Bookseller Information Sheet (sometimes called an Advance Information sheet, or AI) to give to the right people – this contains all the essential information about you and your book and presents you in a professional way.
  • Also have other useful information at your fingertips, such as press coverage and your book launch or other sales stats.
  • Don’t take lots of copies of your book, which could get heavy and cumbersome – instead give out the information sheet and simply show one copy of the book to everyone, but don’t leave it with them – if they want a copy, take their card and send a copy afterwards with a follow up letter.
  • Take business cards away from each stand and after each appointment so you have up-to-date contact details, or named people to make contact with afterwards (and send your book to).

Enjoy yourself, and have fun. And we’d be delighted to see you at the SilverWood Books stand at the London Book Fair, so do drop us a line to book a publishing advice session, or swing by on the day!

Thank you very much, Helen, for that practical and timely advice. If anyone has other tips to offer, please do feel free to add a comment below!