Publicising Your Work
When you’ve sold a book, your publishing house will traditionally appoint a PR for you. Sometimes they’re terrific, sometimes they’re overworked looking after a bigger author and you don’t see them. When I first started you used to have a meeting to discuss your publicity campaign. Looking back, this seems like a fantastical thing to have done. Press ads, radio and TV spots even? Wow! Of course, that was pre-internet, but at the very least we always did posters and arranged a book tour. These days it’s very unlikely you’ll tour with a fiction book, and I’ve watched as press coverage has dwindled to almost nothing.
In the US, where many older practices still survive, it’s perhaps an option – but only for the really big sellers. We now know that 1% of all UK writers earn 45% of all UK revenue, leaving the rest to earn an average of £7,000 each, a figure that drops year on year. As a crime novel reviewer I earned £60 a review and did two reviews per month (all we had space for) covering books culled from a stack of twenty per month, from which I had to skim and fully read two. I did it for the kudos, and gave it up last year.
But as an author there’s something you can do. Blog tours are now replacing physical tours and are much more fun. You handle Q&As and interviews from your laptop, and meet a wider range of readers. It goes without saying that you need social media, although when I first set up this site I planned to only talk about books – but who needs to log onto an author who’s only going to trying and flog their wares at you?
When I was a kid there was a TV show in which Jimmy Hanley ran a store and talked you through lots of products in a vaguely soap-operish format, rather like Alison Grey’s Buy-Lines in the Reader’s Digest – can you imagine who would watch or read that now? We live in a world in which video games get interrupted by ads every three minutes, so I wanted a site which would genuinely engage readers – chatty but not dumbed-down. I really only back this site up with Twitter (which I use for directing readers to interesting articles) and Facebook (for more personal photos I’ve taken). That’s quite enough sharing.
If I could – and I thought readers would like it – I’d post regular short stories, either in sections or as whole tales you could print out. Changing technology means that I only have about 5% of my output digitised, but once I have all the files later in the year I will do this if there’s any interest. And there’s the paradox; I think reading should be for all regardless of wages, but I can’t simply write for free. However, as a writer I think some generosity goes a long way, and tend to avoid writers who tell me they never do anything for free. That attitude is behind the non-appearance of quite a few authors online.
Well, times have changed, and online is now the best way of engaging minds. Although I do still ‘liberate’ books on trains and park benches, because the pleasure of finding a book you’d like to read is immeasurable! (I left a book on a bench here just yesterday.)