SPS-388: Don’t Hide Behind Your Book – with Isabelle Knight

Gone are the days of describing the plot of your book to market yourself. PR expert, Isabelle Knight, comes to the show this week to introduce the idea of an “Author Story” to elevate your branding and marketing encounters.

Show Notes

  • The Author Brand Story.
  • How what motivates your writing translates into your brand.
  • How to find the most intriguing parts of yourself to put forward.
  • What Publicists do.
  • Isabelle’s process and services.

Resources mentioned in this episode:


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Don't Hide Behind Your Book - with Isabelle Knight

Speaker 1: Want to sell more books? Make sure you are at the Self-Publishing Show Live this summer. Meet the biggest names in self-publishing at Europe's largest conference for independent authors. Enjoy two days packed with special guests, an exclusive networking event, and a digital ticket for watching the professionally filmed replay, including bonus sessions not included at the live show. Head over to self-publishing and secure your spot. Now, the Self-Publishing Show Live is sponsored by Amazon k d p.

Speaker 2: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show,

Isabelle Knight: You get to curate and create this story. So it's not about divulging every personal thing that's ever happened to you, but it's about drawing threads, your passion, your motivation for writing. Why has it led you to write what you're writing? And then using examples from your personal life to illustrate that

Speaker 2: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join Indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show with me James

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Hey, Mark Dawson. We are recording this on a Thursday for the following week. It's going to be something like June the eighth, I guess, doing my maths. And that means we are just a couple of weeks away from the Self-Publishing Show Live. Are you excited?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. So we're getting into the nitty gritty now. So kind of slides are coming in from presenters. I'm thinking about what I'm, I'm doing a couple of, I'm, I'll be involved a couple of times on stage of thinking about what I'm going to do with that. I had a call with some academics this morning about a survey that we are working on with the Alliance of Independent Authors or well, working on something to do with the survey that they did that we're going to be discussing at the show. So that's going to be interesting. We're going to send out some press releases and see if we can get some journalists to come down and, and kind of realise that it's not all doom and gloom as an author these days. So looking forward to that. Yeah, dinners being arranged, sponsors coming to have dinner.

I've got some people coming down to the house to have dinner with me the Sunday before Ricardo from EDI and Dan Wood from Draught Digital, Joanna Penn, a few others. So that's going to be fun. But yeah, it's busy and it's, the sun is shining. It's yeah, we are starting to get into somehow and if it, yeah, I don't know if it, I don't think the long range forecast is out yet, but if we get this kind of weather for the 20th and 21st like we did last year, it's going to be great.

James Blatch: Well, I hope so. It's been miserable here. The weather's been miserable. I mean, Catherine, Catherine who works on this show, went to the West Country last week and said they all came back burned and we've cold and grey every day. So the West of Britain's doing, doing well. I'm hoping the weather's going to get better wimbledon's around the corner. It's June, for goodness sake. Needs to be summer now. Yes, sounds good very excited. So we had a hundred tickets held back because we were actually, we weren't sure whether we might need covid spacing or for whatever reason. So we are going to release those in the next couple of weeks. So you should be able to get a grab a ticket if you would like to come, if you don't have one yet, self-publishing live.

And you can also just come along to the party if you want. I think that is an option now on there. Yeah, looking forward to it. Lots to do between now and then, of course. But that always is now we are going to be talking about author branding in a moment. But I just want to mention a couple of things. AI is fast developing and you and I are both quite experimenting, I suppose, with how it can help us. And there are sort of various ways. It's, it's, it's time saving and helping us with various little bits and pieces. One thing I've discovered yesterday is the Photoshop beater, which has something called generative fill built into it will expand an image out. So if you've got a small part of an image, for instance, the funk cover of your book, the bit that doesn't have text over it, you can actually use Photoshop to create a, let's say 1200 by 6 28 version of that.

And it just creates the rest of, you know, if it's a, a lawn with a Staley home in the background, it creates the rest of the Staley home and the rest of the lawn. It's absolutely astonishing. And if you check out my TikTok from last night, the 31st of May, I actually posted Mid Journey's version of the characters from my first novel final Flight, and they were expanded out from what Mid Journey, which is an AI bot produced in Photoshop. And I'm using that same technology to create ad images for my books and the books we market infuse. So that's a really exciting thing. Perhaps do some live training at some point on that. We we're thinking about what we're going to do for ai. Mark, I know you use it to help you not use the same words over and over again sometimes and help it task save and time, save and on on stuff.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. So I kind of keep away from the actual writing. I'd rather, I can't really ever imagine me using it too extensively for that. Cause that's kind of, I, I love writing, so I don't know why I'd self contract that to, to something else. But it has been useful in some, in some time saving ways. So kind of just one, for example, we, I did a campaign for Atticus at the moment, so obviously Atticus is, is getting quite a lot of sales right now because it's, it's a, it's a Rich and Judy title. I did an interview with Rich and Julius. They, they mentioned about which quite, it was hilarious. But I so I told, I told the what the book was about, I fed the blurb into it, gave it a few kind of comparative authors and just asked it to generate a Facebook campaign for me.

And so it came back with five variations on the headline, five variations on the copy text. And then I ask you four targetable interests. So, you know, rather than me going into the ads manager and saying, okay, is let's, is David Beda you targetable? Obviously I know that he is, but is, you know, the other, other authors similar to me in that space, are they a available as targets I can go after on Facebook with Facebook ads? And it gave me 10 and I said, I can, I have some more. So it gave me another 10 and they were all titles. So it, it knew, I don't quite know how, but it, it, it knew which ones I could use as interests. And, and so put the campaign together for me. I've still had to do a bit of tweaking and the copy's not quite right as it stands, but it's not bad as a starting point.

I, I put that up and it's probably completely coincidental and things have changed a little bit over the course of the last seven days, but I've started getting 7 cent clicks, which are, are very, very low. For an account with as much kind of historical spend as as mine, it's quite hard to get it down that low. It's gone on out about 15 cents, 16 cents, but still, it's still good. And yeah, it, it, and it did all of that in about 30 seconds, which is like, okay, that was, that was useful. So Yeah, I think the kind of the, the helping with things about, about the business is it's, there's a lot of value there already. And, you know, there are other, other ways too that, that I think others are using it and others will use it. So it's, it's exciting, you know.

James Blatch: Yeah. It's a f it's a fast changing area. So you know, you can save yourself some money on VA services and, and then do stuff that you don't like doing that old Beck Sign thing. Remember Beck Siim, focus on what you're good at. Yeah. so if you don't like writing copy for adverts you don't like writing the blurb, let let chat G P t or whatever I use start the process and then you can, at least it helps, helps with that. But and the imaging stuff is, is terrific. I'm still mind blown at how quickly And easily it does stuff that I couldn't, I just don't have the Photoshop skills to smoothly clone existing images and increase their size. I did speak to Stuart be about it, obviously, first of all, ethically, because I was using images that I'd paid for from him. How does he feel about me using them in Photoshop? And I'll let him talk about that at some point. We'll we'll have a discussion about this for sure at the Self-Publishing Show live. But he's he, you know, he says it's a bit glitchy, but there's definitely a scope for authors being able to do a lot of those tasks and make the most of the images you get from your, your designer. But I would check with your designer first so they're

Mark Dawson: Happy. Yes. Just because Stuart is happy doesn't mean everyone will be. So, I mean, it is obviously it's very fast moving and people have different opinions on this, which we see all the time. And whenever we mention ai, and I know Joanna Penn, who mentions it much more frequently than we do has basically stopped looking or stopped replying and responding to their negative comments. And there are lots of them, and we, I've seen it too. We, we had a, we had an ad for a blog post, which we, we had on the site two or three weeks ago about AI and how it could be, how it could help authors and just some vituperative comments from people, you know, saying you are cutting your intro effectively. And Yeah, I, I understand their position. I don't necessarily agree with it, but but we're going to do, you know, it's yeah, it's out of the bottle now. You can't put it back,

James Blatch: It is, it is. And you know, no, we, we are not talking about using AI to write a book or plot a book even. I mean, I could probably toss some ideas around, but I'm, I think they need to come from, from you. So that's all not, we are talking, we're talking about marketing and running a business and using AI in all sorts of ways to help with that. But that doesn't mean other people aren't going to be writing books using

Mark Dawson: No, no, they, no, they already are. And yeah, and I'm seeing some tweets, some fairly senior figures in their kind of the well, society of Authors recently about complaining about, you know, I just moaning the fact that it's, you know, it, it, it's a dangerous time to be an author and it, you know, it's, it's challenging, but it's always been challenging. There's always, it's one thing after the other, you know, it's kind of, okay, self-publishing, judicial publishing Kindle Limited, no criminal, unlimited, different platforms, audio books, there's always something. And generally, and I've been doing this for 10 years now, generally it feels like the sky's falling down and then we figure out a way to, to use it. Yes. We use whatever it is pro properly and and protecting our opposition at, and I suspect it'll be the same for this. Unless of course they get the launch codes, in which case it won't, it it won't matter. So

James Blatch: Yeah. Hey, hey, chat gpt. What are the launch codes and where can I get 'em?

Mark Dawson: Do you want to play a game?

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Film actually wore, that was a

James Blatch: Great film.

Mark Dawson: No, it was a great film.

James Blatch: Okay. Alright. Look, let's let's part that discussion for now. But we will be talking AI a lot, I think over future weeks as we explore it, make the sense of it and, and hopefully give some guidance on it. And we'll put together some materials in SPF f as we always do on these up and coming subjects. Right. For now, let's turn our attention to Isabelle Knight, who is our interviewee today. Isabel is a former publicist in film, television, and books. Worked about 20 years in our industry. She worked with JK Rowling on a strike series to adapt them for television. She worked with tread pub trad publishers, and now working with indie publishers. And her thing is that the author must have a brand, and there's a story about every author. You might not think you have a story, you might not think readers are interested, but they are. It helps sell your books, it helps sell you, which helps sell your books. So let's talk to Isabel then. Mark and I will be back for a quick chat at the end of the interview.

Speaker 2: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer,

James Blatch: Isabelle Knight. Welcome to the Self-Publishing Show.

Isabelle Knight: Thanks so much for having me. It's great to be here.

James Blatch: Glad to have you along. If you're watching in YouTube, you can see some lovely sort of almost Japanese esque screens behind you,

James Blatch: Bit of

Isabelle Knight: Yeah.

James Blatch: Colour to the day. Okay. Look, you're you're here in the UK with us. We're going to be talking about book publicity.

I guess you are a book publicist. Is that what you'd call yourself?

Isabelle Knight: Well, confusingly I call myself an author brand expert and mentor. So I was a publicist for about 20 ish years in film, tv, and books. So authors out there will will have heard of the, the most notable name I worked with, which was JK Rowling. on her strike series. So she wrote the detective novels based on the detective strike. And I essentially worked with the production and the b bbc. We, we adapted those for tv. So that was my kind of central role in that, in that project. But yes, so I've worked with traditionally published authors and now self-published authors. So I tend to say to people, I won't do your your publicity for you, but I will show you how to do it and I'll kind of guide you through it step by step.

James Blatch: Sounds like the indie way, which is what we like empowering people to do it themselves. And of course that perfectly with indie authors.

And I guess you found, and increasingly, increasingly of more often it's, it's indie authors rather than trad authors coming to you.

Isabelle Knight: Yeah, it is. Although funnily enough, as, as I see more indie authors, a few traditional authors are coming outta the woodwork or, or people that want to become traditionally published authors as well. So some people are coming to me asking, could I help them to find an agent for example because, you know, as, as we'll, we'll get into the, the, the kind of skills and the tools that you need to publicise yourself as an author are essentially the same as the tools you might need if you are looking for an agent or a traditional publisher as, as if you're looking to get press coverage to pitch yourself to journalists. So I'm working with authors to, to learn how to pitch themselves. So whether that's to grow their readership pitching themselves directly to readers or to journalists or to anybody else that might be able to help them to raise their profile.

James Blatch: Yeah. And it's, it's worth pointing out, isn't it, that partly in this day and age when a, a trad author is looking, an author house is looking at signing a contract with a new author, they will be looking at what work the author's done for their own brand as part of their decision making process.

Isabelle Knight: Yes, yes. And this is where yeah, I definitely work with authors who are at that stage of, and, and, and a number of the authors I've worked with have gone through the kind of hybrid model as well. So they've either gone into the hybrid model and then discovered that actually they can take, take control of their process themselves. And I'm, you know, part of what I'm doing is, is making people feel empowered that they can do that. So if they've gone through one of the hybrid models or, you know, the various models that are out there at the moment and then understood, they've kind of come full circle and, and realise that actually if they don't take control of their own marketing and publicity process, then it's going to be very, very difficult for them.

James Blatch: Okay. Well, let's talk about this, you know, the fundamentals here, the author brand. And

I think a lot of authors won't really know where to start or what's required of them. What are you talking about when you're talking about your own author brand?

Isabelle Knight: So, with the author brand, the very first place I start with all authors, no matter how, how long they've been writing for where they are in their journey, is to establish what you are saying about yourself as an author. So I call it your author brand story, which sounds much more fancy than it is. Really what we're doing is getting you to tell us why you write what you write and who you are as an author, not just telling us what your books are, what your books about who you think it's for but telling us why you wrote that book so that we can understand why nobody else could have written the book you have written at this time, at this moment in your particular genre in your space. So it's, it's first of all, getting authors to understand how do they present themselves, because you have to show who you are as an author.

And I I say this all the time to clients, you know, you, you can't hide behind your book. The book isn't going to do the talking for you. Books can't speak. We need, we need to, to know what to say about the book, but about ourselves as authors. When, when you are completely new to market, if you are, you know, an author who hasn't really established a fan base or readership yet, it's especially important to work out, well, who am I as an author? What am I going to say about myself as an author? So it's, this is your author brand story that tells us why you wrote this book and why nobody else could have written it. And what is it about you and your, your particular personal story that tells us h who you are as an author, the, the unique story of you as an author? So that, that's kind of in a nutshell what that is.

James Blatch: Well, I think what's really interesting about that is when I was writing first book, Jenny Nash was the person who, who took me through the process of the completely muddled first draft and turning that into the released book. And the question she said to me is, why are you writing? Why can you write this book and no one else can? So it was basically the same. She was asking me the same question, but but with, but leading to a better book, you know, what, what story was I trying to tell about me? Why was I, why do I need to tell this story? And once I've worked that out, which was to do with my father, of course, and you know, my history, and I'm already thinking now, I've never really used that in PR terms. I've never used the fact I'm the son of a test pilot. He did the flying and I'm doing the writing. But that's actually quite a nice little brand thing.

Isabelle Knight: Yes, yes. And and you've got the picture behind you as well, which is

James Blatch: Yes. One of his plane. Yeah,

Isabelle Knight: That's, yeah. So, you know, so already in, in my mind, I'm already thinking, well, what questions am I going to ask you to tease that story out so that then we can start to relate that? Because people say to me, oh, it's not relevant. It's always relevant, what, you know, what, what people see in their own personal story. Often you are too close to it yourself to see how actually it's manifesting in your writing. And all the links are there. So your, you know, your own personal experiences, personal motivations and passions. And actually it's, it's often less about what you've done, but more about what drives you and what motivates you. And we can see that linked to what you write about. And to put it into context then for your kind of author brand and how this then translates to your publicity and marketing is, I I say to people, if I was going to put you in front of a journalist tomorrow, so the example that you just gave, you know, a journalist would say, so why did you write this book then that they're not going to a, the first question is not going to be, what's the book about?

Because that's not the interesting bit. Before, before we read the book itself, we want to know why did you write it and what, why did you write it?

James Blatch: Hmm. I

I can see some authors not liking the idea of this, and they, they do want to hide behind the book. They don't think they're, they, they're interesting. They've, it's, it's quite anything to do with their per well, they probably modestly don't think there's anything interesting about them.

Isabelle Knight: Yeah. And, and loads of people, I get that all the time. Oh, but I don't have a story, I don't have anything interesting about me. Everybody does because everyone's got, so everyone has their own unique story that, that isn't never going to be exactly the same as anyone else's. And the point here is, you know, I mean, obviously I've worked with, with really famous people. I've worked with really not famous people. And the point is that your story doesn't have to kind of set the whole world on fire. It just has to resonate with your ideal readers. And that's why understanding from the, from your brand story then helps us to understand who your ideal reader is going to be. Because it's going to be that person that goes, oh yeah, you know, that that's something that, that they can relate to, that they can be interested in. And it's not because they've got the same story as you necessarily, because no two people are going to have the same, but the, the way you feel about something they'll be able to relate to. So your passions and motivations, they'll, they'll say, oh yeah, okay, that's me too. So it's only those readers. Yeah.

James Blatch: You mentioned JK Row, when I think back to it, those early stories about her sitting in a cafe as a single mom writing this book Actually did become a very important part of why we bought into JK Rowling. And actually the more we learned about her background, the more moving and, and poignant that all is. But yes. But that's a very, a very good example of someone who probably thinks there's nothing interesting about me. But that was, yeah. For all of us. It was interesting.

Isabelle Knight: Yeah, that's right. That's right. And, and, and, and it is, and that, you know, I'm glad you bring that up cause it's a great example of a brand story that has it stayed with that author. So, you know, she's couldn't be further away from that person that she was when she first started writing the books. Yet we still, to a to a point see her as that person because that brand story has stuck with her. And it's a very, you know, it's a very ordinary story. There's nothing extraordinary really about, you know, being a single parent, you know, not really having any, any huge opportunities in front of you and, and writing and writing in a cafe. I mean, how many authors are out there are doing that right now?

James Blatch: It almost requires, I think for, for a lot of authors, somebody else, I mean, there's ob obviously you would potentially in a professional relationship be that person, but they almost need someone else to tease that outta them because then not necessarily very good at seeing your own stories. I think you alluded to that Earlier.

Isabelle Knight: Yeah. Yeah. And it's, and it's, it is really difficult to see your own story. And, you know, authors will hear me talk about this, and then they'll go off and, and have a go at it, but then they'll come back to me and I'll say, okay, well we've got about half of it there, but I can see that there's other little, little bits hiding. And so, you know, I've talked to them and essentially what I'm doing is mirroring back what they're telling me. And then we put it into such a way that they, they end up with a fairly short, concise story, but it tells us so much about who they are and why they're doing this. And it's something that their ideal reader is going to see and go, oh yeah, that, you know, that's interesting

James Blatch: Because writers actually should be good at this. This is what we do. We find, we find out what's the story in an ordinary situation. And I was a journalist before I did this, so it was kind of my day job as well. In fact, I'm reminded of Aaron Sorkin talking about when he was handed. I mean, he always looks for what, what is the story here when he's handed what's the story is not necessarily what he ends up writing about. So when he is handed the, so the story of Facebook, then we're going to do a film adaptation of the story of Facebook. And he spent think a year interviewing people looking around before he found the story. And the story was that Mark Zuckerberg was an asshole. And that was, that was the story, is how he characterised it. But that's the story of Facebook. And there's a lot more to it than that, but, but it took him a year to work that out. So again, it's, it's a small personality trait. Yes. It sounds a bit rude about Mark Zuckerberg. That's kind of, kind of what, what that story was,

Isabelle Knight: But it is, but it's teasing out and, and what we're doing is teasing out the, the the human interest part of it. Because what's more interesting, oh, I'm making a movie about someone who invented a social media platform. Okay. You know, most of us have already switched off now. Yeah. But, but now I'm making a movie about this guy who was, who was, who actually didn't treat people well and was not, not well Aliked, who made a business into a multimillion pound business. Now we're interested.

James Blatch: Yeah, that's a great example. And I think back to the social network, I think that very first scene, what did his girlfriend, his girlfriend says, you're such an asshole, and it's, it's a real save the cat thing. You should be, you should be telling your reader what the theme of the story is in the first se first scene or save. yeah. Okay. So people can,

I think maybe got the idea that they can tease out their story. What, what do we then do with it?

Isabelle Knight: So then we can, we can do loads of practical things with it. I mean, one of the first things people do when they write this, this story with me, they'll then put it on their, about me, on their website, on their author website, or they might use it in their blurbs, you know, put it on Amazon, that kind of thing. But I always say to people, really kind of own it, like prac, almost practise it so that it becomes a part of you so that when you're doing your marketing, you're doing your social media, you're writing your newsletters, maybe you're even talking to readers sometimes in real life, or you're speaking somewhere, you a book fair, whatever you are doing, it starts to become a fluent thing so that you stop, you know, because I always, I, I use this as an example a lot, if you start telling someone the plots of your book, nine out of 10 people are going to be switching off after the first 30 seconds of that.

So you stop doing that and you start telling people why, why you write, and it becomes, it becomes a part of you. So, you know, it's always been a part of you, but now you're actually using it. And then when you're pitching yourself, so like we said at the beginning, whether it's to a journalist, whether it, it could be to an agent, it could be to a publisher who, whoever it is, you are going first and foremost with that story. So in that, in, you know, so you've got it down to almost, you know, couple of lines and you are always leading with that. So when, when people come say, you know, they, they say, oh, I'm going to write my author information sheet, or I'm going to write a press release. I'm going to pitch myself to this magazine. I'm going to ask, you know, these bloggers to review my book. Well, we're all, we're never starting from scratch then. So we've got, we've got our author story piece ready. So, you know, people aren't running around and go, oh God, you know, what do I write in my press release? And so I sort of say, well, you know, we always start with your story. Why are you doing what you're doing? And then everything else that flows from there, it

James Blatch: Does go back to stories are the sort of hu human condition, aren't there. The essence of humanity, I think is stories. And I can you imagine if, if bloggers were a, a book fair or something, had a, a load of authors all day coming to them, but one of them told them the story about being the, so the single mom or, or, or having the un demonstrative father orders. That's, that's why you remember stuff. So at the end of the day, when they're chatting to each other, it's not, what was the plot of that book? Was it, so did you meet so-and-so, so that's I can see this song. I hadn't really thought about it in these terms before. I, I, I used to have to think about this stuff all the time for journalism from, you know, my editors would always be saying, what's the story? Where's the beginning, middle, and end of this? It's, don't, don't just tell me the facts, but I've never properly applied it to myself, which is yeah, I'm making notes. Yeah. Which is always a good, a good thing in an interview.

Isabelle Knight: Well, it's good. I mean, you know, like it's a great exercise to do. And then if you wanted to show, show it to me afterwards and, and then I would, I would have more, I would have more questions for you. But, but the other thing to stress is, you know, when we see sometimes on social media, people are marketing themselves and they're telling us everything about their lives. And sometimes we are cringing at personal details and we think, oh God, this is all too much. And sometimes authors get scared when they hear me talk about this. They think that's what I'm going to make them do. You know, I'm, I'm going to make you say everything about your personal life, you know, tell us all, all the, you know, hang out your dirty washing. That is not what I'm doing at all. So it's, it's always a reminder that you get to curate and create this story.

So it's not about divulging every, every personal thing that's ever happened to you, but it's about drawing threads, like we said about, you know, the pa your passion, your motivation for writing. Why has it led you to write what you're writing and then using examples from your personal life to illustrate that. So you can pick examples that you know, you, that you might be, yes. You'd be comfortable to share that. And you don't have to give the whole thing away, you know, like, you know, when you, when you're writing a book, often it's what's, what's not said that that has the most impact. So it's the same idea. It's kind of, you know, the suggestion of, of things that, that gets people interested.

James Blatch: And when we, we do know stuff about, you mentioned J Rowling, we mentioned her story and I don't know, other celebrities, Nikki Campbell was was adopted is it,

I'm starting to think this is not by accident that we know these little tidbits about people because it helps to fill in and complete them as a, as a brand. And that's quite important in their world of being a personality.

Isabelle Knight: Yes. Yeah. And it, it is, it's given you a, a rounded view of that person. And what it does is it makes us feel like we know that person. Even though, even though we, you know, we really don't, I mean we really, you know, we really don't know much about JK Rowling at all because she, she is renowned for almost never giving interviews ever.

James Blatch: I asked her on the podcast a couple of times, but she hasn't Right. So far. Not, not

Isabelle Knight: Reply. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, I worked with her at, you know, high level promotional and, and she gave us one interview and that was, you know, to me and my colleague, it wasn't to a journalist. So it's that, it it's that sense of feeling like, you know, someone

James Blatch: And Nicki Campbell by a radio presenter in the UK I should say. A lot of people are singing in America, but it's just an example of someone I knew, something personal about them. And it's, I'm starting to think that everybody, that, that these people have probably worked with someone like you in the past. I don't want to be cynical about it, but it's, it's part of it is who they are and it does help us get to know them and buy into them a little bit more than if they were simply unknown to us.

Isabelle Knight: Yes, that's right. And it's the publicist's job to, to pull out the details that we are going to use and decide, you know, decide the things that we won't say and the things that we do say. So what what I'm doing is helping authors to do that for themselves. And then you understand as an author, rather than me saying, okay, you know I'll look after it all for you. I'll write this for you. I'll go, you know, you go away, you sit back, drink a cup of tea and I'll do all, I'll sort out the publicity strategy. It's allowing authors to understand what goes into this. Because you don't want to be re you know, I mean, I say to, you know, so in the authors, you don't want to be relying on other people to do this for you. You know, there's all kinds of reasons why, why you wouldn't want to do that. One of them is, you know, is going to be, you'll have a budget restriction, you'll have restrictions of time, et cetera. So you want to understand how to publicise your own brand and how to build your own author brand so that you can use, use the same tools and techniques again and again for, for all of your books. And then each time you're releasing a new book, you're building, you're building on that every time.

James Blatch: So how, how do people work with you, Isabel? I mean, you are, you are obviously transitioning perhaps from working, I don't know if you worked in-house at any point, but you working with, with the limited setup, the publishing was big trad company, queried, authors and so on to this expanding world now of, of more of a, an independent market. Are you, are you transitioning your own model?

Isabelle Knight: Yeah, so I've, I I've sort of transitioned from the kind of, you know, the agency that we'll handle it all for you to the model where I'm acting as, you know, mentor slash coach slash personal publicist. But kind of wrapping that up. So I'm working with people one-on-one. So very much as we are talking now is how I would discuss with clients. And I take them through the exercises to first of all build that brand story, write, write it all up and then help, help me with strategy. So whether, you know, depending on where you are in the journey, where you are with, I mean, some people come to me because they've already self-published a book and, you know, hasn't made any sales and they don't feel like it got them anywhere. What do they do? So sometimes we are, we are working kind of retrospectively and we can, you know, we can do that.

It doesn't have to be something that's being released for the first time with other authors. I'll often, you know, we'll often be kind of putting a strategy together for books 2, 3, 4 coming out over the next number of years. So it, it depends on kind of where you are at, at that time. But we look at whether we can get you in the press on radio. I mean radio is, is always a, an a kind of forgotten medium, which is actually super powerful. Podcasting obviously. And we, you know, we look at how it ties in with the marketing strategy. So with the social media, what, what are authors doing to market? What are they doing to form a relationship and communicate with their readers?

James Blatch: At its minimum, I imagine this is a powerful thing just to include in the author bios, for the, for any reader that clicks on about this author on your website or reads the blurb. The bit about you in, in your book, if the, if the top line's not, which mine probably is, James lives with his two dogs in, in Cambridgeshire, if the top line is James is the son of a test pilot who never spit, who never talks about it, suddenly that's a bit more intriguing that that's the sort of thing we're looking for that connection.

Isabelle Knight: Yes, exactly. And it's funny, use that example. You know, I say to people, if, if your bio consists, you know, I had, I had one, one lady whose bio was, you know, is an ex gp and, and lives in Cambridgeshire, and we completely, you know, we completely turned it around, completely turned it on its head and actually put in her author brand story. And it gave her confidence to start speaking about her work in a way that she felt comfortable with and stop, you know, stop regurgitating plops to people or saying, oh, you, you just, I mean the number of authors I've wrote it, you first of all say, oh, just, you just have to read the book. You just have to read the book. No, well, people aren't going to just read the book Because they're faced with, you know, faced with thousands of options every day. So we need a bit more than, you know, lives in Cambridge to, and we need a bit more than you just have to read the book.

James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. I've got lots of homework to do after this interview, which is not a bad thing.

I know you do a bit of teaching as well. I had a quick look at your website. I'm not sure if this is still a thing, but you did I think you had a course at some point?

Isabelle Knight: Yes. So I run, I run an online course which is the kind of first steps to building your brand. So going into brand story, looking at publicity, looking at marketing and the first steps in that. And I work with people one to one, and I also give lots of talks and things like that. And I recently spoke at the Bourmouth Writing Festival, which was very fun. But yeah, so yeah, there's various ways you, you can work with me at the moment. And

James Blatch: How do you mind me asking what I've gotta ask you,

how much does it cost to work with you to have your sort of one-on-one services to help cultivate a brand?

Isabelle Knight: So at the moment I do my brand story package, which you get two sessions with me plus all the kind of written homework and line help you with editing and so on. And that's 645 for two sessions. And you get your brand story and we look at your strategy as well.

James Blatch: Well

Isabelle Knight: so that's a special package

James Blatch: That is a within reach of of most most authors. And I, I, I, again, I'm going to go back to that point. I think it's worth reiterating. I can imagine quite a few authors can't be quite introverted. Not every author, it's not a cliche about authors, but it, it, it is sometimes true and they might just simply not think that who they are is relevant to them selling books. But you, you are That's right. Your firm in the opinion that it is.

Isabelle Knight: Yes, yes. It's, it's always relevant. The thing that you think is least relevant is usually the most relevant. It. And, and, and you know, talking to authors out there, I've met many authors who, who are scared by this. And it does sound scary at first, but, you know, I work with people in a non-scary way. I'm not going to push people. I don't, you know, I'm not asking people to, to lay bare anything. They don't want to, but all I'm doing is, is helping them to tease out their own story in a way that feels good to them. And actually they come out with a lot more confidence than they had going in, which, which is key.

James Blatch: And, and when you, you think about it, so if authors are going to go off and do what I'll do after this and, and sort of think about who I am, why I'm writing and so on, you may end up as you, you said with quite a few different things,

how do you decide what's your skill looking through that and thinking actually this is, this is the top line, and then sort of disregard the rest. Cause you can't overcomplicate this, can you

Isabelle Knight: it's, I mean, because it's, because it's so highly individual to everybody, but essentially it's what, you know, what, what is the, the biggest motivation that you have? And it could be something that started back in childhood for lots of people. It is, you know, some, a passionate motivation that you've carried with your whole life and then manifests in, in your work. That that's, that's one of one of the key,

James Blatch: The reason, the reason that you are writing Yeah. Effectively, yeah. Yeah. Links into your, your personal life. Yeah. and Isabelle,

I think you've done a, a handout for us as well to help people get started on this. So just tell us about that and I'll, I'll, I'll give out a link which I've carefully just come up with.

Isabelle Knight: Brilliant. So it's the top 10 tips for authors to begin building your brand. So I talk about some practical tips for things that you might need things that you might need to put together before you can start to either pitch yourself to press or, or starting to organise your marketing. So it's the top 10 tips and introduction to to what we need to do.

James Blatch: Okay. So we'll give that away at self-publishing for want of a better tag, author, PR or one word. And then if you can, obviously there'll be some contact information for you on there.

But do you want to tell people now how they can get a hold of you or, or learn from you?

Isabelle Knight: Yeah. so the website is Build Your Brand with But I'm on LinkedIn, I'm on Instagram, I'm on TikTok, I'm on Facebook. I think that, I think there's another one, I can't, can't remember what it's now But yeah, basically on, on all the social media channels under my own name. Oh, Twitter as IK publicity. Yeah. but yeah, but I'm Isabel Knight PR on, on all of the other channels.

James Blatch: We'll have to link up on TikTok cause I'm

Isabelle Knight: Yeah.

James Blatch: Big into my TikTok. Is, well, I think it's been a really intriguing chat and my, my cynical side having, because I was a journalist, of course, we always were cynical about pr, right. You know? It was the dark side and the, that puff pieces and all the rest of it. So I can't help myself be slightly cynical about process, but I've been totally disused by that, by your very clear, cutting through description of what or why it matters. I think it's been brilliant. So I hope other people have enjoyed this as much as I have.

Isabelle Knight: Oh, thank you. I'm delighted to hear it, especially from a former journalist. Thank you. Yeah.

James Blatch: I'm no longer, I'm no longer in the news. So the cynics, the cynicism's ebbed away since I left. Yeah. I couldn't deal with that anymore. So there you go. Isabelle, thank you so much indeed for coming on.

Isabelle Knight: Thanks, James. Real pleasure. Thank you.

Speaker 2: This is the self-publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Okay. As we mentioned in that interview, there is a very handy giveaway to get you started and writing your own author story. And you can pick that up at self-publishing pr. Very, very useful. Yeah. It's whether we're comfortable with it or not, mark readers are interested in us as people, and we have a story as well. If you can dig that out, crystallise it, make it simple to feed out it helps sell your books.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, it's not, as I've mentioned before, PR is not something that I'm, is, is really there for me. But I, but the kinda the general tene that that runs through it is, yeah, if you could find a way to tell Phil readers about you and yourself and your story and your books, and that's, that's important. And I've always said that e e even from, you know, the early days, it's important to give readers the chance to find out about you, to hear about, you know, your background and, and the characters you write about and your stories. Doesn't really matter how you do that. It's, it is important to give, give them that sense of connection. That means that I think that they're more likely to consider you someone that they're acquainted with, not just an author. And then I think that makes it more likely that they go and buy, buy

James Blatch: Books are following. Yeah. I think every time you, you give a bit of yourself out there through a newsletter or whatever, it just moves everybody who reads it up a chunk so they don't really know who you are. Suddenly they'll become familiar with you and if they're already fans of you, they become sort of friends and, and super fans. And that's all very helpful. But yes, that that p again, is self-publishing pr download that and start your process of working out who you are. I'm not sure I'll tell you exactly who you are, but you can come up with a story, right. Mark, that is it. We have much to do to get this conference up and running, so we should go off and do that. And I think that's it for now. All that remains for me today. It's a goodbye from him

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me.

James Blatch: Goodbye. Goodbye.

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