Daydreams of a Storyteller – interview with Alison Baverstock (12 June 2010)

alisonbaverstockIntroduction

Bill Keeth a columnist on this website, was telling me about his dealings with Alison. I looked at her website and was impressed with what she had to say. I contacted her and asked if she would like to be interviewed. She agreed and, therefore, without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you, Alison Baverstock …


Aneeta: Alison, welcome and thank you very much for agreeing to this interview.

Alison: It’s a pleasure and an interesting thought that right now, from a conference on marketing in Coventry, I can be communicating with writers throughout the world.

Aneeta: Let me start by asking you to share something about your life – where were you born, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?

Alison: I was born in Suffolk in the UK, close to the sea, which has always been an inspiration for me.  My father was a career civil servant so we moved around a fair bit, and I went to university in Scotland (St Andrews, again by the sea).  After university I worked in publishing, in educational and academic jobs before going freelance and working on all kinds of campaigns.  I then used the lead up to the birth of my first child to write a book about how to market books – this had been my job within the industry and there was no manual to tell you what to do.  So I wrote one, carried on writing about the industry and then information for writers.  My first books were all tied into pregnancy, so after four children (and four books) my husband and I decided that we needed to find a new source of deadlines!

Aneeta: On your website (http://www.alisonbaverstock.com), it is stated that you are a ‘hugely experienced publisher, trainer and writer on all aspects of publishing, marketing and reading.’ Based on your experience, can you please comment on the concept of ‘self-publishing’? What is the foremost challenge an author today will face when wanting to self-publish?

Alison: Self-publishing is becoming respectable at last.  There now exist the options and services that mean an author who wants swift access to a finished format (rather than waiting for external investors) can proceed.  It does however require immense care – all the aspects of text management and production that are normally considered by the publisher become yours to think about.  Probably the most important is the decision to recruit an effective editor. You really cannot edit your own work over book-length so ensure you get the services of someone motivated and qualified – and pay them!  Done as a favour it may never get done at all – or done less well than you might have hoped.  There is nothing more disappointing than opening up a new book and spotting a typographical error.

Aneeta: Your book, ‘How to Market Books’ has been described as ‘the bible of book marketing’. Can you please tell me a little more about this book?

Alison: This was my first book, now in its fourth version and translated into 15 other languages.  I wrote it because as a new marketing person working for a publisher I was not sure what I was supposed to be doing – and I am so pleased that it continues to meet a need.

I then started writing for authors – firstly about how to market themselves and their work (Marketing Your Book: An Author’s Guide), and then about what mental resources and experience help you on the path to publication (Is There a Book In You?).  Having experienced both sides of the publishing fence, as publisher and author, I hope I can be objective about the process as a whole and offer good advice.

Aneeta: What skills can authors today develop to ensure that their books are an all-round success?

Alison: It’s always awkward for an author to have to promote their own book so my best advice is to think of it as the work of someone else – and then consider  how it might best meet its market.  Make a list of websites, newsletters and key individuals who might be interested – and then send them copy that is relevant for each location.  Journalists will always be more interested in featuring information that seems tailored to their publication.  It’s really helpful for a writer to have supportive and good-natured friends who help with this.

Aneeta: I understand that you’ve written a memoir as well. Can you please tell me a little more about this?

Alison: I have written about my adolescence – which still seems very fresh to me – and my relationship with my father, which I suddenly saw with more clarity when my eldest son left home for university.  My father never went to college and always seemed to resent the ease with which my brother and I progressed there; never having had the opportunity himself.  It made me feel a whole new empathy for him – even though he has been dead for over twenty years.  I have not published it – it just helped me feel that at last I understood him.

Aneeta: I’m sure that there are elements of storytelling in your work. If so, which elements are most important to you and why?

Alison:  I think all work needs a narrative, a sense of interest to keep the reader going. That is as true of financial reports in the Financial Times as romantic novels.  If we don’t want to know what happens next we stop reading.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who would like to venture into storytelling?

Alison: Daydream as much as possible and think a story through in all its dimensions. The more real it feels to you, the more it is likely to convince your readers.  If a reader starts to think ‘he really would not do that/talk like that’ the risk is that they give up completely on your work, and it’s very hard to win back a reader who has decided they do not enjoy your writing.

Aneeta: Alison, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Alison: Try to write for the pure pleasure of making it as good as you can be, and to separate this from the desire to get published.  If you are trying to do the two things at the same time, it somehow impedes you producing your best work.  Then once the writing is as good as you can make it, start trying to describe it to potential investors.  Marketing your work is not a substitute for writing really well; work worth marketing has to be worth investing in.

Aneeta: Alison, thank you.

Alison: Many thanks to you.  Your questions were interesting and really made me think. Good luck to your readers,


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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