As publishing becomes more and more digital and decentralised from the big (and not so big) publishing companies, many more authors will have to become more serious about self-publicity. Unfortunately, this kind of jumping up and down, shouting “Look at me! I’m fantastic! Buy my book!” just isn’t in the lexicon of British behaviour for most Brits. For those of us who grew up before the advent of ‘reality TV’ and the proliferation of ghastly TV talent shows, drawing attention to yourself as a kid could have unpleasant consequences.
I remember in primary school, I was ‘asked’ to play violin in a music class one day. I had been learning about six months I think, but, when quizzed about whether anyone in class played a musical instrument, everyone else had the good sense to keep quiet. So, I turned up with instrument in hand and, feeling the nerves that would be a part of any of my future public performances, I played a piece I had been set by the violin teacher to practice. The piece was called “Staccato” and was supposed to teach you the technique of the same name. This was not a technique I had mastered, unless “Staccato” is Italian for “make a noise like a wounded animal doing an impersonation of a violin being played very badly”.
Mercifully, for all concerned, the piece lasted about forty five seconds. I finished playing and could barely look at my classmates, partly through the shame of having played so badly and partly through the fear that I may have caused their eardrums to bleed. I waited for salvation and, after what seemed to be an eternity, it arrived.
A kid, I think his name was Eric, said “I could do better than that.” There was silence then the teacher said “OK, give him your violin. Off you go Eric.”
I didn’t want to give my violin to anyone and held onto it tightly. Eric blushed so deeply that the temperature in the room went up noticeably. “See, not so easy, is it Eric?” said the teacher.
I sat down and the lesson for myself and Eric was learned. There is a reason why there is a parapet and why your head should stay firmly below it. If you publicize your skills, or supposed skills, you will be called to account. Simple.
The problem is, we live in a world now where publicity is the name of the game and actual skills are not so high on the agenda. If you can’t do it yourself, someone else will do it for you, either for a price (Max Clifford, for example) or for free (if they think they will make money anyway, so almost every newspaper there is then). It’s probably best to control it yourself, or at least try to. You know you’ve made it when someone has a fake Twitter account in your name.
So, I have started my own, very British self-publicity campaign. I asked very nicely if the local cafe would allow me to put a poster up (A4, quite discreet) advertising BATDIG. They said ‘yes’ even before I had offered to use my own blu-tack.
And after all this self-publicity, I need a glass of chilled Sauvignon and an episode of Cowboy Bebop* to calm the nerves. Whatever next – a book signing perhaps? Well, maybe, just don’t ask me to play a violin…
* An anime series from a while ago that a guy in a bookshop in Montpelier, Vermont pointed me in the direction of. I’m not a massive anime fan but do like the surreal stuff like CB.