Chatting with fellow writers this week we agreed that the whole promotion, publicity thing is a nightmare. One friend, who has several strings to her bow and has already built quite a following, was saying that she was going to offer her new book to a mainstream children's publisher. She felt with her contacts and the blogs, pages and websites she has created, she should be able to interest one of the big companies in her next book. She said she wanted someone else to do all or some of the promotional side for a change. But will they? Most have seen their publicity budgets and departments slashed and from what I can gather most authors are still having to spend a considerable amount of time pushing their work. Another friend who was in the same conversation said that she hadn't even attempted to place her work with one of the 'gate keepers.' An industry professional had told her that a big publisher or agent would want her to remove all the local references from her work, the very things she feels are helping the book to sell now that she's produced it herself. She feels that not only has she kept control of her product but she's also reaping the benefits financially. None of us, well few of us, amongst my group of author friends want to become the next J K Rowling. We're quite happy to see our work in print and to sell the copies we have printed, and a second print run would be fantastic. Many of my friends use Feed-a-Read or other organisations that allow them to print a few copies at a time whilst also making it available through the usual on line book retailers.
The big problem that arises for everyone is the difficulty of letting people know that your work is out there to be purchased. As a journalist I'm happy to write press releases for friends, in fact I'm happiest doing this for someone else. The difficulty most of us have is the issue of learning to blow our own trumpets, how long and how hard to blow them too. There's a balance between becoming a bore like some authors on Twitter who just tweet about their e books all the time and actually failing to mention your book at all. With both of my non fiction books I really want people to know the story of the women who are featured because no one has tried to tell their stories before so I think about any promotion in those terms rather than it being about me, me, me and my great book. But it remains a tricky path to tread. I recently sent a short article to a newsletter distributed in the area where my new book is part of the local history. As I was writing articles for several newspapers and magazines it felt only fair that I sent something to this community paper. But I had a series of emails which ended in my becoming exasperated and somewhat offended when I was accused of writing something that was advertorial (what an ugly word) and could I pay £80 for it to be used. The publication of my book is newsworthy in itself as it is the first to be written about a case of national importance (Mary Timney was the last woman to be hanged in public in Scotland). I can't help but wonder if my book had been published by a mainstream company whether they would have been accused of writing something advertorial or whether the editor would have been delighted to have been able to feature a new book on a piece of local history in their pages.