This article is also available in Catalan, here.
Last Saturday, 10 December, in a small village on the Costa Brava I finished the presentation tour of my book in Catalan “The Baltic Way. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s dream of being part of democratic Europe”, a tour that started on 23 September in Tortosa, my hometown.
It has been a long journey throughout Catalonia and Andorra, not only in the geographical sense, but also because of all the learning involved in a field – writing, publishing and marketing a book – which was completely unknown to me.
All in all I have participated in eleven book presentations and in three literary fairs. Then add on 11 interviews with different media during this period of time, and a promotional article previously written by me in English.
At the end of this post, in the annex, I detail the list of places where I have presented the book and the media I have given interviews with, as well as other media that have published news about my book.
From all of these experiences, I have learned the following lessons that I wish to share with you.
About writing a book.
1. Do you want to write a non-fiction book? Make sure no one has written anything like this before.
Writing a book takes a lot of work, I spent two long years writing mine. So it is important that this work is publishable and has readers.
Write about a topic you are passionate aboutMost important advice
So my first advice is: find that niche market of potential readers willing to read your book. As a general rule you will find this niche if two important conditions are met:
a. Write about a topic you are passionate about
b. Write about a topic on which very little has been written
If you have to write, at least have fun doing so, and ensure your book generates some interest with the second condition. Then the readers will come.
2. No more than 80,000 words.
A book will rarely be longer than 300 pages. If you reach this limit it means that you really have a lot to say and you will spend a lot of time working on the book. In any case, never exceed 80,000 words, because then you are going beyond those 300 pages, and when you submit the draft to the publishing house, they will probably tell you to think about making cuts, as actually happened to me.
3. Set a calendar for writing. Record the time spent and words written each day.
Writing a long book is a very methodical job, if you want to finish it in a certain time and not to raise the white flag in the middle of the job, my advice is to set a calendar with the days you can write and the hours you can devote to your book. And every day you type something, then write down how many words you’ve written and the effective time spent, so you can keep track to see if you’re sticking to your plan or not.
About finding a publishing house.
4. Check the publishing market (if possible, before writing anything).
In order to ensure that your book will have sufficient interest for publishers, try to find out what the publishing market is like and who might be interested in a book like yours.
Check out the calendar of book fairs in your city or country. All the publishers will be there grouped together, so you can go and talk to them in person. No one will promise you anything but at least you will know what you have to write for there to be a certain degree of probability that they will pay attention to you.
And keep in mind that, as a first-time writer, it is most likely that no one will give you a definitive yes without seeing the draft almost finished.
5. Consider self-publishing.
The drawbacks? No one will check your writing style, and you will have to pay for the publication of each book out of your own pocket, although these are usually not very high amounts, and, above all, your book will hardly be present in any bookstores.
About marketing a book.
6. Less is more.
Quite probably, once the book is published, and with all the efforts devoted to achieving this moment, you will be thinking about making as many presentations as possible.
This is a mistake.
The book market throughout Europe is increasingly limited. In most places where you go with your book, you can consider yourself lucky if more than five people show up. You must also bear in mind that if you have already made a presentation in a city, no matter how big it is (I am thinking of Barcelona, for example), a second one in the same city will not generate anywhere near as much expectation as the first one. Of course, make sure that everyone you know in the city is aware of your presentation well in advance.
7. Choose the places where you will present your book carefully.
So, you already know that you have to go to very few places, but which ones? The most important thing is to start in the place where most of your friends and family live, and then go wherever you think you will also have a fair number of people interested. Don’t forget, they will surely go to the presentation more because of you than because of the content of the book itself.
If you want to take risks and go to places where you don’t know many people, then go to those bookstores that specialize in the specific genre of your book. In my case I visited as many travel bookstores as I could. But even in this case make sure that wherever you go there will be at least one person who knows you!
8. You won’t get rich (probably).
Unless your non-fiction book aims to solve a widespread problem under the title “How to regrow your hair when bald?”, then I am afraid to say the volume of books you sell will be limited. So if you write a book, do it because you enjoy writing or because you need it for your CV or for whatever other reason, but not for the money. This is why you have to be grateful to the people coming to your presentations. Consider bringing some drinks and cookies to offer them…if they wait patiently until the end of your talk.
9. Look for local presenters.
Find a local presenter to help present your book, no matter what, wherever you go. It makes a difference. He or she will help you break the ice in front of the audience and will also help you to attract other local people to your event. When I went to places without a local presenter I could certainly see the difference. Be especially kind to them.
10. Talk to the press.
Even if the publisher has secured interviews with the press for you, it is possible that they do not know journalists in all the cities where you are going to present your book. In this case you will have to make the contacts with the local press yourself. Prepare a short press release with an attention-grabbing title and subtitle. And whenever you can, point out what specific interest your book has for the local inhabitants of the city where you are going to organise an event. The note or interview will probably not be published before the presentation, but it will help you promote the book and keep interest alive for longer than originally planned.
Bonus point 11. Be active on social media.
I will not explain here how to use social media efficiently as we all know, thanks to Elon Musk, that what is valid today might change tomorrow. But I do advise you to be on as many kinds of social media as possible. The friends and family that are on Instagram are certainly not the same ones that you have on Facebook, whereas being on Twitter, for now, still gives you a lot of visibility in the media world. So think about dusting off your profiles or setting up new ones.
A book takes a lot of work, so it’s important to be sure that you can publish it and, last but not least, that as many people as possible will read it afterwards. I hope that my advice serves as an inspiration to future writers. Do not be discouraged because, in spite of everything, it is a very enriching experience.
Annex 1. Presentations and literary fairs.
23 September 2022. Marcel·lí Domingo Library, Tortosa. Presenter: Oriol Gracià.
30 September 2022. L’Agrícol in Vilafranca del Penedès, invited by Òmnium Cultural Alt Penedès. Presenter: Aleida Bertran.
1 October 2022. Campredó city council. Presenter:Emigdi Subirats.
6 October 2022. Altaïr bookstore in Barcelona. Presenter: Llibert Ferri.
13 October 2022. Civic Center Barri Vell in Girona, Ulyssus bookstore. Presenter: Josep Maria Iglesias.
20 October 2022. Muntanya de llibres bookstore in Vic.
22 October 2022. XVII Lletres ebrenques literary fair, Amposta library.
26 October 2022. Cambrils City Council Cultural Center. Presenter: Lluís Rovira.
29 October 2022. Bassa bookstore in Móra d’Ebre. Presenter: Andreu Carranza.
18 November 2022. Guaix bookstore in Amposta. Presenter: Alba Sancho.
22 November 2022. La Capona bookstore in Tarragona. Presenter: Helle Kettner.
25 November 2022. La Trenca bookstore in Andorra la Vella (Andorra). Presenter: Yvan Lara.
4 December 2022. Indilletres literary fair in la Bisbal d’Empordà.
10 December 2022. La Viatgeria bookstore in Calonge Booktown first anniversary.
Annex 2. Press kit.
What I saw walking the Baltic Way 30 years on. Deep Baltic. 29 June 2022.
Baltijos kelią pėsčiomis įveikęs ir knygą apie jį parašęs katalonas: jūsų istorija turėtų būti žinoma plačiau – LRT (Lithuanian Public Broadcaster). 4 December 2022
Jordi Arrufat: “Las independencias de los países bálticos no fueron fáciles, podían haber terminado como Praga en 1968” – Público. 25 October 2022.
Jordi Arrufat: «Una lliçó dels països bàltics és que van decidir anar a per totes». Nació digital. 10 September 2022
Jordi Arrufat: “La Via Bàltica és una metàfora”. Surtdecasa. 21 September 2022.
Jordi Arrufat ens presenta l’assaig “La via bàltica”. Més 324 (Catalan Public Broadcaster). 22 September 2022.
Campredó celebra els 5 anys de l’1 d’Octubre amb la presentació del llibre “La Via Bàltica”. Imagina Ràdio. 27 September 2022
Conferència i presentació del llibre La Via Bàltica de Jordi Arrufat. Eix Diari. 30 September 2022.
Jordi Arrufat · “La independència no s’aconseguix, només, donant-se les mans”. Setmanari l’Ebre. 30 September 2022.
«En cap moment vull comparar Catalunya amb els països bàltics». Diari de Girona. 4 October 2022.
Campredó commemora l’1 d’octubre amb la presentació del llibre ‘La Via Bàltica’. Ebre Digital. 6 October 2022.
“Els bàltics van voler anar a per totes, fos com fos”. El Temps. 6 October 2022.
La Via Bàltica, el llibre que ens acosta al procés d’independència de Lituània, Letònia i Estònia. Òmnium Cultural Alt Penedès. 14 October 2022.
“Les independències dels països bàltics no van ser tan fàcils, podien haver acabat com a Praga el 1968”. Diari Públic. 25 October 2022.
Jordi Arrufat: “La Via Bàltica i la Via Catalana tenen en comú que van donar visibilitat al desig d’independència”. Radio Cambrils. 26 October 2022.
La Via Bàltica, de Jordi Arrufat, un llibre de viatges que acosta els països bàltics a Catalunya. Revista Cambrils. 27 October 2022.
“L’amenaça russa ha despertat l’esperit de la Via Bàltica”. La República. 11 November 2022.
Jordi Arrufat: “Quan feien la Via Bàltica no hi havia full de ruta, no sabien com acabaria”. El 9 nou. 6 December 2022.
El tortosí Jordi Arrufat recorda la ‘Via Bàltica’ d’Estònia, Letònia i Lituània. Canal 21 Ebre. 9 December 2022.