On writing, marketing and self-publishing: Julia Roberts interview

Julia Roberts e1442610723118

Julia Roberts is a TV presenter and author. Julia has been working for QVC since its launch in 1993 and had her first book, the memoir One Hundred Lengths of a Pool, was published by Random House in 2013. Earlier this year, Julia self-published her first novel, Life’s a Beach and Then …. This formed the first book in the Liberty Sands Trilogy and she is currently writing the second. Here Stephanie Cox interviews her about writing, marketing and self-publishing.

1) How do you go about marketing your book effectively?

Marketing is a very steep learning curve for me as it is something I have never previously been required to do. I am fortunate that I have a bit of a public profile through QVC so I have been able to do some radio promotion and print promotion, tying the two sides of my career together. I have been on Twitter for about three and a half years and have 14,000 followers, so I have been able to spread the word on there. I am very grateful for the favourites and retweets, and have tried to make use of trending hashtags. I also joined Facebook in May and set up a Julia Roberts TV page for information about my book and the writing of the sequel. I did a book blog tour, organised by Jenny in Neverland, prior to the release of the paperback and I have also done my first book signing at a bookshop near Reading called Chapter One, with more in the pipeline.

2) You have a large online following. What’s your secret for this success and how do you channel that popularity into getting your work noticed?

My profile through QVC helped me grow my Twitter following quite quickly. I don’t follow many people as I like to be able to read my timeline and not miss things I would like to respond to. I tweet often because I enjoy it and not always about my book as I don’t want people to get fed-up with me. I try to reply to people where possible and derive great pleasure from being able to block people who are unkind or whose behaviour is inappropriate.

3) What are your three main writing tips?

I’m a bit of a novice at the writing game so I can only tell you what is important to me.

Firstly, I have to believe in my characters as real people. I cried several times during the writing of Life’s a Beach and Then…, and not through frustration or lack of inspiration.

Secondly, I really have to have peace and quiet so that I can focus. I like to be able to write for a minimum of three hours at a time so on days that I am working on QVC I rarely write unless an idea occurs to me out of the blue, in which case I jot down notes and write it properly when I have time.

Thirdly, I find it beneficial to re-read the previous day’s work before I start on the next chapter. I will often edit what I have written which helps in two ways: by editing as I go I don’t have so much to change when I’ve finished writing, and it also gets me back into the flow.

4) You are both traditionally and self-published. How has this benefited you and what are the challenges in publishing in this way?

Although my memoir was published by Random House, I have trodden the self-publishing route with my novel. This wasn’t totally my choice but there were several deciding factors. I sent my manuscript out to half a dozen agents and, although I had a reasonable response, none of them seemed particularly interested in what I was writing. Although I can sell anything on QVC, I find it difficult and time-consuming to sell ‘myself’ and I felt I was wasting valuable writing time composing letters to agents and meeting the different requirements for synopses and submissions. I actually began to feel bogged down with it all and it was preventing me from being creative. I made the decision to self-publish in February and the Kindle version of my book was online by May.

That is one of the main benefits: the speed from finishing writing to people being able to read your book. Another massive plus is that I have had control of the major decisions. I used a cover designer but I had the final say over how I wanted my book to look. I was able to keep the title I wanted and not have to change the story because someone else’s opinion differed from my own – in other words, if people don’t like the book, the buck rests with me.

For anyone else considering self-publishing, I think it is important to have your finished book as good, or better, than those traditionally published. Pay for a good copy-editor, cover designer and formatter and be prepared to promote your book. If people don’t know about it, no matter how good it is, they won’t buy it.
The main downside is that I think I have only scratched the surface in terms of reach. I am currently working on getting it in as many independent bookshops as I can, one of the reasons I used IngramSpark rather than CreateSpace. And I’m really pleased that it can be ordered through Waterstones and other chains, unfortunately not WHSmith.

To read more of the interview, head over to Stephanie’s blog: Words are my Craft.

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