A Look Behind The Book With Jess Shanahan.

jesstexlassqMotorsport is often seen as a glamorous, competitive, high octane world but what’s it like behind the scenes?

One person in the know is Jess Shanahan who not only works in the industry but has written a new book, Get Paid To Race, to help others hoping to succeed in the sport.

I interviewed Jess for a magazine article recently but couldn’t resist asking her to be my latest Behind The Book participant – especially as I had so many more questions I wanted to put to her.

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Why motorsport? How did you get hooked? What is it you love about that world?

I’ve always loved cars but it was the introduction to Formula One that really got me hooked. I loved the paddock drama and technical details just as much as I loved the racing. Because of this, I decided, as I do, that this was the industry I was going to get involved with.

You were a race team boss. What did that involve? Did you ever want to drive?

It was part hustling to find sponsors and part looking after everyone on race day. I helped the team get press coverage, updated our social channels, changed the odd wheel, took a lot of photographs and looked after special guests. It was a really varied role and every day was different.

Part of me wants to try my hand behind the wheel. I’ve had some on-track instruction, which was so much fun but I worry that I’d just be terrible. I’m horribly competitive so I feel the whole thing would just leave me in tears!

It’s an obvious question but motorsport appears to be a fairly male-dominated industry, has that ever caused you any problems? Have you seen a change over the years you’ve been involved?

I wouldn’t say it’s ever caused me problems but I definitely feel I have to work harder than a man might in my position. I’ve found that when I’m at race tracks in my regular clothing and not teamwear, I’m pretty much ignored. I have to fight to join in conversations about suspension or racing lines. It’s frustrating.

This makes it very hard to get my authority across. I need people to trust that I’m an expert and while I can put my experience across when asked a direct question, I get laughed at if I offer to help a man who is struggling to change a wheel.

Final front coverCan you tell us about your book? What is it about, who is it for and what made you want to write it?

Get Paid to Race is the ultimate guide to motorsport sponsorship and it was written for any racing driver who needs to bring in sponsorship to climb the motorsport ladder. It’s just as relevant to amateur racers just looking for a little cash to fund an expensive hobby, as it is to professional drivers who need five or six figures to get to the next level.

I wanted to write it for the same reason I set up my motorsport coaching business, Racing Mentor, back in 2016. I saw how few drivers were actually taking a business-focused approach to sponsorship. For most, if a driver doesn’t get sponsorship, they can’t keep racing and that’s a real shame.

I wanted to write the book as another avenue to help racers get on track and stay there because I hate seeing driving talent wasted.

You’ve got so many strings to your bow (freelance journalist, presenter, fashion editor and PR to name a few). How on earth did you find time to write it?

I am very efficient with my time. I automate a lot of what I do so it frees me up to write. That being said, I’ve scaled back my automotive PR business over the last year or so to give me time to focus on Racing Mentor and helping drivers. Writing Get Paid to Race just seemed to fit in quite nicely.

I did have a few weeks where I was writing over evenings and weekends but I know this content like the back of my hand. It was just a case of getting it all out of my head and onto paper.

Now that the book is finished, I’m stepping up my presenting work once again because I love reviewing cars and have missed it so much.

What about publishing. Can you talk about why you picked the route you did? Did you learn anything in the process?

I already have an audience in place so it made sense to me to choose the route that would get the book in their hands as quickly as possible. I did also think about the numbers, it didn’t make sense to me to accept a small advance from a publisher then only get a small percentage of sales in royalties when I’d already built the audience that would buy the book.

Instead, I decided to self-publish. This allowed me to pre-sell copies of the book and seek sponsorship for it as proof of concept. I made enough money to more than cover the cost of printing the first run of 400 books.

I worked with Alexa Whitten of The Book Refinery because I wanted a professionally produced book that didn’t look self-published. She is an expert who is definitely to thank for the high-quality look and feel of the finished book!

With your skills, I’m sure you were confident you could market your book. Any tips for authors who perhaps don’t have experience in that field for getting their work out there?

Build an audience first. You probably already know who might be interested in what you’re writing about, so seek them out. Start sharing your wisdom or stories with them so they buy into who you are and what you do.

This is obviously a lot easier if you’re writing non-fiction but it works for fiction writers too. If you can build even a small audience before you finish your book, you’ll have buyers ready and waiting.

I’d also suggest seeking out press coverage for your book both before and after it’s been published.

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What books do you enjoy reading?

I love a book that makes me think. I read a lot of personal development and business books but my escape is fiction. If I’ve had a hard day, I love nothing better than diving into some sci-fi or horror. When people ask me what books I read, I tend just to say, ‘weird ones’.

Any plans to write more books in the future? How about fiction?

I’m actually in the process of negotiating with a traditional publisher about an automotive book. I can’t really say anything more than that at this stage but I feel I’ve opened the floodgates now. I’ve certainly got more ideas for non-fiction books aimed at my motorsport audience.

I did actually write a fiction book when I was 20 but never sought out an agent or publisher. Even though I completed what I thought, at the time, were my last edits, I do kind of want to go back to it for another polish. It’s a post-apocalyptic horror with a very character-driven storyline of love and betryal, with a few monsters thrown in for good effect.

Fiction writing, like reading, is another escape for me and I write every day in that respect. I have seven journals full of handwritten stories. There are at least two novels within those notebooks but I can’t see me getting around to writing any of them up any time soon.

Do you have any top tips for people wanting to write non-fiction?

Firstly, just do it. Take your expertise and just write it up. That’s the biggest hurdle. If you’re really stuck, consider the questions people are always asking you. What’s their pain point? What are they desperate to know? This can help you form a strong outline for your non-fiction book.

Secondly, believe in yourself and your expertise. I had so many doubts about myself during the writing process and I know they’re completely unfounded because I have the results to show myself and the world that I know what I’m talking about. I’d guess that most writers think like this at one point or another.

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Fantastic tips from Jess, I can see why she’s a successful mentor – I feel inspired. A huge thank you to her for taking part in Behind The Book and best wishes for the success of Get Paid To Race, which is out now.

You can find out more about Jess through her website or follow her on Twitter. Details of her book can be found here.

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My Sunday Photo – November 4th, 2018.

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We had a rather damp end to October in Norfolk but you know what that means? Lots of lovely rainbows.

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Despite the weather, we decided to head to Overstrand last weekend and were treated to some wonderful sights between showers. I was desperately trying to get a photo of Freya with a full rainbow but just as it appeared about 12 people arrived on the otherwise empty beach. Typical.

She enjoyed herself splashing in the tidal pool instead.

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It was quite windy and we got attacked by sea foam at one point.

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Hope you’ve had a good week and a bright start to November.

To see what other people have shared for My Sunday Photo, please click on the camera below. Darren has announced that the linky will be finishing at the end of 2018 so we better make the most of it while we can. A big thank you to him for hosting for so long, I’ve loved taking part.

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A Visit To The Black Country Living Museum in Dudley.

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It is one of those ‘getting to know you’ questions that sometimes gets asked at parties: “If you could go back in time, what period would you most like to visit?”

I always say early 1800s England, purely because I’d like to live in the Big House, wear expensive flouncy dresses and be called Lady Tara. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Knowing my luck, I’d more likely be a servant girl, sent upstairs at 4am every day to clean and set the fires.

Anyway, never did I think I would actually get chance to step back in time but that’s exactly what it felt like visiting the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley.

The first thing I saw was a beautiful old bus trundling its way along the road followed by two ladies in long skirts, hats and knitted shawls walking down a street dotted with old houses to explore.

I was enchanted from the word go (as was my camera).

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I always expected to like it. My lovely mother-in-law works at the museum – although she enjoys it so much I’m not sure it can be classed as work. Whenever she talks about it she always has a big smile on her face. She’s like a walking, talking advert. During our visit west this summer, she offered to show us around and we got to see exactly why she loves it so much.

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How did the Black Country get its name?

It’s not the most romantic tale. It dates back to the 1830s when the region became the “first industrial landscape in the world”.

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While Britain had other industrial centres, none were so extensive as the Black Country, an area rich in coal, ironstone, limestone and fireclay. It “played a vital role in the nation’s industrial history”.

Once upon a time the air would have been black with smoke belching from thousands of forges, furnaces and foundries  – hence the name.

In the mid 19thcentury, 22% of Britain’s total output of iron was produced in the area. As a hint at its importance, according to the museum guidebook (well worth the money), Black Country manufacturers supplied “the cast-iron pillars and glass of the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, made the anchors of some of Britain’s most famous ships” including the Titantic. “…and in 1829 supplied the United States with its first ever steam locomotive”.

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So, where is the Black Country exactly?

Before I met Mark, I had no idea there was such a thing as the Black Country but one day I described him as ‘Brummie’ and my education began. As I understand it, a Brummie is someone from Birmingham. The Black Country is very different (it even includes its own dialect and vocabulary). What’s slightly confusing is there doesn’t seem to be a definitive boundary. According to the museum guidebook (again) it includes about 20 towns, including West Bromwich, where Mark was born. And they are rightly proud of their heritage.

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And the museum?

In the 1960s manufacturing dwindled, the once bustling canals were deserted and railways closed. A more modern landscape started to take its place with new houses, shopping malls and hotels. During this period of change, the idea for a museum to protect and promote the region’s heritage was mooted.

In the 1970s a site was secured for an open air “living museum preserving skills with the buildings and the artefacts demonstrated by costumed demonstrators”. It opened in 1978 and now comprises 26 acres and features some 80,000 items in the collections including cars, buildings, books and photographs from the 1800s to the 1940s.

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What’s there?

So, SO much. Too much to put into one blog post but here’s a sample.

Together with costumed characters to chat to, there are original shops and houses to explore. If you’re brave enough (and not claustrophobic like me) you can even go underground and visit the drift mine. There’s also a fairground with traditional attractions and St James’s School, where you can ‘enjoy’ an old fashioned lesson.

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I love learning new things and visiting the reconstructed Cradley Heath Workers’ Institute was fascinating.

In the 19th Century, the Black Country, and particularly the Cradley Health area, became well-known for its chain making, with smaller chains made by women and children. They worked extremely long hours, often in horrendous conditions for very little money, meaning they were forced to live in poverty.

The Trade Boards Act of 1909 passed a minimum wage in four low paid trades, including chain making, but employers tried to find ways to avoid paying the money, which for some women was double what they earned.

In response the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW), led by Mary Macarthur, a Scottish suffragist and trades unionist, called for a strike in 1910. The women downed tools to fight for their right to a living wage.

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With the help of mass meetings and the media, the strike became big news. Donations for the cause poured in from all sections of society. Within a month 60% of employers had signed up to the scheme and within 10 weeks they all had. The women fought and won.

As there was a surplus of funds, the excess money was used to build the workers’ institute, which became a centre for educational meetings, social gatherings and trade union activities in Cradley Heath.

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In 2004 the building was threatened with demolition and the museum was approached to save it. It was taken down and reconstructed with its original interior layout, which now contains offices, a news room and a cafe.

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Is that it?

No way. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a pub, cake shop, sweet shop and very popular 1930s fish and chip shop (the chips are normally cooked in beef dripping so make sure you talk to staff if you’re vegetarian to see about alternative options).

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If you get tired of walking you can even catch one of the old buses. Freya liked it so much that we had to go around twice.

What did you like?

Everything. I’m not even kidding (as you can probably tell by the number of photos). There’s so much to see and do. But the museum is much more than a nostalgic look back at the past. While everything is neat and clean now, the life back then isn’t glamorised. Living and working in this period was hard and often dangerous and that aspect is covered.

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How can I find out more?

I’m sharing this post now because I know some schools are on half-term this week. If you’re looking for something to do in the West Midlands, I highly recommend this museum. Please visit their website to find out more.

Top tip: Cut through the tunnel next to Preedy’s and you can visit a late 1930s kitchen plus head upstairs to see more period rooms.

Come on then, if you could go back in time, what period would you like to visit?

CulturedKids
Faraway Files - Untold Morsels