Author or Publicist?

This week’s blog is inspired by Susan Cain’s book Quiet, which is going a long way towards making me feel better about being the quiet girl in the corner at most parties.

There was a time when a writer wrote a book and sent it to the publishers. The publishers then printed it, got it on the bookshelf, and did all the advertising necessary.

But there’s a new twist to releasing a book these days. It’s no longer enough to advertise the book. Now the author has to make personal appearances left, right and centre. I’ve seen authors in local bookshops, sitting all alone at a table covered with their books, trying desperately to catch the eyes of people coming in, trying so hard to be bright and confident and sell their books (and I feel so sorry for them when nobody will come to their table). I’ve seen authors do talks, and authors do chat shows, and authors appear on shows that have nothing to do with their books, all in the name of publicity.

The problem is, this runs counter to the very nature that creates a writer. Authors tend to work alone. They tend to live in their head. They tend to crave silence. They tend to be the kind of people that find walking into a room full of strangers and trying to ‘network’ to be their very worst nightmare. And very few of them are any good at it.

I know I would dread it. Ok, I act, but when I act, I am on stage in the persona of a different person. I’m hiding in their head. But at the end, when I come on to do the curtain call as myself, I am deeply uncomfortable, even scared. Just the thought of having to promote my book by personal appearances terrifies me.

And there’s the other problem too – time. I remember once watching J.K. Rowling doing the round of interviews. Every interviewer asked the same question, along the lines of ‘When is the next Harry Potter book coming out?’. And I would shout at the screen ‘It would be coming out a lot quicker if she were at home writing instead of stuck in your studio!’

There used to be this image of authors as reclusive, locked away, almost invisible in the real world. I wish it could be like that again. I wish we were allowed to just write, and could leave the publicity to those who enjoy it.

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One response to “Author or Publicist?

  1. I made this point at a writer’s con once. An older lady in the audience stood up and said she was going to hire someone else to do it. I’ve often wondered if she sold the book with that attitude. Because the bottom line now seems to be not only must you promote, but you must have the promotion plan in place when you send the book out to publishers so you can tell them exactly what you will do. Sigh. And I suck at all of it.

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