…right? Right! It’s the other bit that’s so hard. I’ve had three emails already this week – and it’s only Monday – asking me about marketing and promotion, those two holy grails (can you have two holy grails?) of independently published book selling. Before we go any further though, this week’s blog isn’t a long list of Dos and Don’ts and Hints and Tips, it is an interview with writer, on-line radio producer and theatre critic Nick Le Mesurier who offers writers a little light in the bewildering darkness of self-promotion.
Nick has two undertakings running concurrently, the writer’s radio platform Stratford Words via on-line radio Welcomb Radio, and a new podcast, Speak, Muse! To start off then Nick, tell us a little more about each…
‘Well, writing is difficult enough in itself: promoting your work is even harder. Both Stratford Words and Speak Muse aim to provide a platform for writers to present their work and to discuss it. Services such as the BBC tend to feature only established artists, and while that provides good material and interesting copy it ignores a lot of other writers who, for various reasons might not have been so lucky, or who are at earlier stages in their careers’.
And how do you go about this? That is to say, how do you get the best from your guests?
‘In each format I try to give subjects a little space to explore their experience and what drives them. Stratford Words has a nice live feel to it but Speak Muse can allow for a bit more space; I also transcribe the Speak Muse interviews so the audience can get a fuller appreciation of what each guests says. So along with providing a positive environment for discussion and reading I try to find some questions that will interest listeners and readers (who I assume are often interested in the writer as much as the written word) and also shows an awareness of what the writer is trying to do.’
The art of asking a good question is quite a hard one to master I would imagine. What inspires the questions you ask of your guests? Is there a role model you work to?
‘I would say my role models for each are radio 4, with a nudge towards radio 3, and The Paris Review interviews. The latter are really the gold standard. I don’t mind trying to be a bit high-brow: in the rush for publicity brows are too easily lowered! And yes, that means I have to do some homework. But it’s not my job to trip up my subjects but to bring the best out of them.’
Yes, I’ve heard it said that some writers, although they may pour their heart and soul in to a novel are quite shy and retiring in person.
‘Indeed. Yet the principles of interviewing a well-known author apply equally to an unknown author or someone just starting out. I’ve had some good interviews with people like poet Ann Alexander whose work I love, and also Paul Budd, whose novel A Material Harvest is worthy of more attention. Then I have Vanessa Berridge talking about her love of the social history of gardening. Or Amanda Laidler who is not so well known but has a lot of experience working with young actors. Then there are a couple of young authors just starting out on their careers, Natasha Dubalia and Sacha Wood, for example. They’ve some way to go yet, but to be encouraged and taken seriously at this stage could be very helpful to them later on.’
If you would like to know about Nick and his work with authors on Stratford Words and Speak, Muse, please contact him here: firstname.lastname@example.org
As Nick says, ‘The truth is that there is an over-supply of writers and not enough listeners and readers for new work. It’s hard to get a reward for the years spent working on one’s writing. Mine might be only a small platform, but it is that at least, I hope.’