Karen Holden, BBC World Service Book Club Karen.firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen works across the World Service at BBC Radio 4.
World Book Club – huge listenership globally, 78 million. It’s on once a month and all shows are archived on the website and are put out as podcasts.
Criteria – author must be well-known, have international appeal and not have appeared before Double check the archive before sending your pitch as the show has been on for 20 years so the majority of well-known authors have now appeared!
The earlier they know about a publication the better, they work far in advance and will book names years in advance if they need to.
They can travel to authors. They have interviewed Tessa Hadley at Oxford, they went to Nairobi to interview Ngugi Wa Thiongo.
Other places for books on the World Service – Arts Hour. It goes out weekly and is a compilation of cultural reviews and interviews. They feature one or two books/authors per month, sometimes more. It is a round table discussion so any author appearing on the show will also talk about other people’s work as well as their own. The recording takes 75 mins at least (World Book Club is the same). Nicola Holloway and Kirsten Locke are the contacts for Arts Hour.
Karen also works for Open Book on Radio 4. It has 1 million listeners per show. The show is a lot more international in remit than it used to be. They are looking for big name interviews or discussions with two or three writers talking around a theme. They feature more fiction than nonfiction.
They have a Literary Postcards section of the show – authors for this don’t have to be big names, they just have to know the area they are ‘sending the postcard’ from very well. It can be a postcard or a short column on a theme.
They also have a section called Editor’s Tip. This involves a keen editor talking about a book they love or a book they wished they’d published or a tip based on a book coming out soon.
Front Row – this features a lot of books but also theatre, film, etc as well. Multi arts. Goes out every Wednesday evening. They programme fairly close to the wire – 4 weeks roughly, likely less. They feature a book a week on average. They are almost always live now, far fewer pre-records so the author will need to be in studio. Dymphna Flynn looks after Front Row, or Sarah Johnson. 2.5 million listeners, 55% female. They aren’t looking for any more debuts and no more psychological thrillers. They are looking to be as diverse as possible across age, gender, ethnicity. They rarely do non-fiction.
BBC Sounds – they are commissioning abridged versions of new books and have a far younger remit than BOTW or BAB. They are looking to attract a young audience, looking for ‘woke’ books. Recently they have covered Roxane Gay, Candice Carty-Williams, Jon Ronson. There is a big push around it at the moment so authors get even more publicity. It’s an exciting avenue for new and emerging authors. An actor reads the script.
Short Story – Radio 4 always welcome short story pitches and are always looking to commission new ones. Roughly 2000 words, international and regional welcome. Doesn’t necessarily need to be a mainstream name.
Jim Naughtie book club – very established authors so no conflict with R2 book club which now looks at new and building authors. Dymphna also looks after this.
Great to receive catalogues and be invited to showcases and launches. Also really like meeting face to face for coffees to talk about a curated list of titles, not everything.
Justine Willetts, Book of the Week
Book of the Week – 3.5 million listeners per episode. 5 minutes per episode. Any subject covered, all non-fiction. The books chosen tend to have a personal element to them and they won’t cover anything that’s too academic. Big books tend to be abridged. They are predominantly read by actors, every now and again the author will read. They work at least 6 months in advance as they need the time to arrange it all.
Book at Bedtime – 10 x 15 minute episodes. 26 books per year, new and classics. Big books only – McEwan, Atwood but also big debuts like Damian Barr, Golden Child by Claire Adam. 1 million listeners per episode.
Nothing too sweeping or epic as it won’t translate well into small chunks. The novels must have a strong voice and be clearly written, nothing too dense or with too many characters. They work at least 6 months in advance, further in advance if really special or for something that needs particular attention. Actors read the text. Books tend to be more towards the literary end of the spectrum
Annette Wells, Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4 Justine.email@example.com
Looking for extraordinary stories from remarkable people. Strong personal stories, first person accounts – interesting jobs, big life changes, celebrity, memoir
Recent guest examples include Jacqueline Wilson and Jo Malone
They do cover some fiction but they must have a strong personal story and be talking about that, or be a celebrity. For example they have Ben Elton coming up soon.
2.4 million listeners
They go out 52 weeks per year (a lot of R4 shows break during the summer)
They book guests roughly 6 weeks in advance but can have a shorter or longer lead time for certain guests. It’s also worth trying a couple of weeks in advance on the off-chance as they sometimes have free slots or a drop out.
Demographic – the show goes out on Saturday morning so has a big family audience, slightly younger than the rest of R4 so they do look for younger guests.
Topics are wide-ranging from memoir to hobbies to fun to craft. They have covered origami, extreme cross-stitch, food. For chefs, they must have a story and not just a new book.
Recent examples – Susie Dent was on talking about her book ‘Modern Tribes’ talking about secret languages in Britain. Mo Gawdett on happiness and talking about losing his son. Christian Dolan on living with MS. Raynor Winn on The Salt Path and walking as a restorative thing.
Tom Fenner, Guest Booker for BBC Radio 2 Zoe Ball Breakfast Show and Steve Wright in the Afternoon Tom.firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s an interesting time for R2 as they have just launched loads of new shows at the start of the year so don’t yet have RAJAR figures. The daytime schedules look very different and now have lots of female presenters.
The Breakfast show receives roughly 9 million listeners, Graham Norton around 4 million, Steve Wright around 3.5 million
Zoe and Steve tend to have more non-fiction guests on the show as well as mainstream and big names. Get to know what the shows are like and what they’ll be looking for.
Zoe recently had on Tom Daley, Nadiya Hussain, Stacey Dooley, Johnny Ball, Gary Barlow and the shows/interviews are all live so the speakers must be confident in a live radio situation.
Wright – always pre-recs between 11.30am and 1pm.
Norton – live between 10am and 12pm on Saturday morning. 3 guests.
Zoe Ball – main guest slot 8.15am, call time of 7.45am, finish by 8.30am
Sara Cox – no guests
Sales – they always see a big leap on the Amazon chart once an author has appeared on R2. They recently had Steph Booth on talking about her book on dementia, it was 3800 in the chart the day before and post-interview leapt to 103
Tom receives lots of pitches so really important to know what you’re pitching for.
Short lead times for Zoe and Steve, much longer for Graham Norton – Malcolm Prince looks after the bookings for Graham’s show
For Jo Whiley, email Anna Richards or Eleanor Kifvel (email@example.com)
They’re always trying to draw in a younger audience.
They have signed up to a pledge to have 50/50 gender split on guests across the station
Social media – they will be filmed whilst undertaking their interview and snippets from the shows may be used on the podcasts.
500 words story comp – always launches on the Breakfast show. Winner receives their height in children’s books. Final is at Windsor Castle on 14th June, Duchess of Cornwall is involved
Joe Haddow, Producer, BBC Radio 2 Book Club Joe.firstname.lastname@example.org
All book suggestions are now submitted via Reading Agency.
Book Club is now part of Jo Whiley show. 7.30pm every other Monday evening.
They do classics and new fiction.
6 new titles per quarter now. Championing debuts and new work, sometimes they’ll consider a film tie-in.
Author has to be in studio, 20 mins interview with book clubs around the UK taking part.
35-45 female market
All things considered as long as it can be widely read
Email is best pitch-wise to follow up on submissions In terms of meeting up, face to face for a quick coffee is best.
Have 2 or 3 titles to talk about that have been picked out specifically and you are really excited about, please don’t pitch everything!
- What are the preferences for BBC Sounds around exclusivity? – it would depend who it was, they haven’t had to answer this question with guests they’ve had so far but expect it to come up in the future
- Can Saturday Live guests be down the line? – no, all guests have to be in-studio
- Joe Haddow, are you working with Simon Mayo on Scala Radio? – there are opportunities for authors on Scala as there is an arts show with a round table discussion
- Do you cover children’s books?
- KarenHolden, yes but only occasionally, YA or on OB a subject based piece. Or a big name like Angie Thomas. YA would work on Sounds for sure
- Sat Live – have had various YA author
- Tom Fenner – no
- Joe H – sometimes
- Does Saturday Live cover biography? – no