Factual Author, Broadcaster and Social Media Tart…. James Buttler
Words, aren’t they just marvellous?! I love them, all of them and probably a bit too much. Words both on paper and via the medium of radio were always high on my list of aspirations and luckily I got the chance to do just that. However, I’ve yet to finish the book I’ve always promised myself. Piles of half finished scrawling and word docs are proof that I have the attention span of a drunken gnat.
To get that book done, dusted and out to the world is hard work. Talent alone isn’t enough, although played a major part of course, but persistence, dedication and time are three attributes needed.
As a bit of a media hussy I am lucky to know many people with a book to their name and one such person has gone further than that…yes multiple books. Greedy badger or rather aptly greedy cricket badger.
He’s fresh off the back of talking about his latest book on Talk Sport’s Hawksby & Jacobs show and is a sports pundit himself for several broadcasters, so I thought it was about time I got the low-down from the badger’s mouth direct. Want to know how to follow in his footsteps? Read on my fine friends…James Buttler, colleague, friend(he made me say it), sports journalist, broadcaster and social media don, introduce yourself and tell our lovely readers when you knew you wanted to be an author…
I’ve always enjoyed writing. English was my favourite subject at school and I had always wanted to be a sports journalist, but got sidetracked career-wise for a while. Then I went back to university as a mature student to study Creative Writing, loved it and then was lucky enough to land a job at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. That’s when writing and other media took hold and, before the book you want to discuss, it was a book on Yorkshire cricket that started me off.You have a shiny new book out at present so I know you’ll plug away but it’s the previous book ‘Killer Instinct – the Trials and Tales of Murderous Sports Stars’ that stands out to me. Tell us what made you decide upon the subject matter of murder and sports stars?
I had spent a few weeks in South Africa covering cricket and when I returned the news of Oscar Pistorius’s arrest over the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp broke. At the same time I Googled myself, as you do, and found a James Butler took the top listings and he’d been convicted of murder. I started to read more around the subject and realised there was a book in sports stars that had fallen from grace by taking the life of another human being. I found it fascinating – what takes a successful sportsman or sportswoman and makes them a killer. There were many varied tales across many different sports.
The shiny new book is called ‘Following On’ and looks at fathers and sons in sport and the pressure of following a famous name. Some live up to their surname and others don’t. I suppose you are supposed to get better at what you do, but it is the best book I’ve written and well worth a read!!How long did it take you to research and write both books?
As I was working alongside writing both took around 18 months with a few breathers long the way. It’s not a bad thing to put your book writing down for a week or so every now and again before you come back to it with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm.
I think if you asked me to write full time and to produce my third book as quickly as possible I think I could have done it in three months. But again, those breaks from the writing process do you good.What was your first writing job?
Apart from writing match reports on my club cricket matches for the local paper I didn’t write professionally until I started as Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club. But that involved features, interviews, match reports and also social media, video and radio work and made me realise that I really enjoyed covering sport that way. You have to pinch yourself sometimes when you are sat in a press box getting paid to watch a match other people are paying to see just how lucky you are. Although it’s hard work too!
And did you try to get experience when still at school? If so what did you do and how did you go about it?
I spent a week with a local newspaper when about 15 and hated it. That put me off and took me away from the media for a while. I was very young, it all felt a bit pressured and, obviously because I was a kid, the stories I was given weren’t that great. I think I had to write a paragraph on the opening of a flowerbed in town. Now I’m older it’s the pressure, deadlines and everything that initially turned me off that excites me. I always seem to work better when I have little time to do the job.So you’ve written the words, what next?
Before that there are three stages to a book. The idea and research are key and then stage two is the excitement of writing the early chapters. You find you are on a roll and everything is easy. Stage three is when you realise you’ve got less than halfway and still need to plough on. I’d imagine that’s when a lot of people put it away in a draw and forget about it. You have to organise yourself and keep going.
After that the publishers do their bit. On my third book I had a hand in designing the front cover, but the best moment is when the doorbell goes and the delivery guy hands you a heavy box and you open it to see and hold your book. It’s a bit like having a baby, although a hard back would smart a bit!
Writing a book is fine, but you want people to buy and read it and they are not going to do that if they don’t know it exists. Social media helps, but you need to get yourself and the book out there. Radio interviews are good fun, but marketing a book when you haven’t got the high profile of a celebrity is quite hard work.Three top tips to getting published?
- Don’t give up – The Beatles, JK Rowling, Ed Sheeran, pretty much everyone that has been successful have been turned down and picked themselves up and carried on.
- Have a good idea and write about something you are interested in. You’ve got to enjoy what you are doing otherwise what is the point? Also readers know if you are blagging about something you don’t fully understand or enjoy. Write about something you’d want to read and be your biggest critic.
- Don’t be frightened to self-publish. My third book is with a publisher, but I don’t think it would have been had I not written and published ‘Killer Instinct’ myself. I used Amazon to publish that book, but there are other options. If you write a decent book and can show that to a publisher when discussing your next idea you have at least shown that you can start a book and finish it.
- Don’t miss deadlines, don’t let people down and don’t give up.
I’ve done both. Self=publishing is good as you have freedom, your own deadlines and complete control over the project, but you are one your own completely. A publisher is better in my opinion as there is always someone the other end of a phone for a chat and when it comes to getting the book into shops and marketing it they are of huge benefit, They want to sell it as much as you do so they put their weight behind it to, which is massive and gives you confidence as a writer.Any marketing tricks you can divulge?
Social media is great but it only takes you so far. Pestering media outlets to run a piece on your book or do an interview is a good way of getting it out there, even if it’s just the local paper. All local newspaper are pleased for the story if you make it easy for them.
Is there a major difference between fiction and factual?
You tend to find that publishers specialise in one or the other and that’s key to finding a publisher too. Find similar books on the shelves and contact those publishers rather than waste your time pitching a book on sports murderers to a publisher that only prints books for kids!Best websites for writing?
There are quite a few, and some good books out there, but I’m not telling you. If you want to be a writer you should have some gumption and an inquisitive mind. Research your book well, but also research writing and the writing process. If you can’t do that I’d not take it any further.Any other Buttler bullions of gold for the readers?
As well as writing you should read and understand how a book and your genre works. A tutor of mine at Leeds University told me about a student who had decided to do their dissertation piece in the horror genre. He asked the student what their top three horror movies were and they struggled to answer. He told them to come back with another idea because if you don’t know your subject, particularly one like horror where the consumer is passionate and know the subject, you will get found out.
Now what for the Cricket Badger and James Buttler?
There are couple of book ideas in my head, but I’ll keep them there for now. One is particularly exciting, but I don’t want to scupper it. As well as writing I do some radio work and run my own cricket website called cricketbadger.com because the last piece of advice I’ll give a prospective writer is this – do it because you enjoy it because it might not pay your bills.
To get more information on James’s books and to purchase, which he recommends highly, go to