Publicity – it seems to be the talk of all the authors I know at the moment and an awful lot of those I don't. How much publishers are or aren't doing, how much we should be doing as authors, how much difference the right kind of publicity makes, debates about what the right kind of publicity actually is... etc.
I have no idea whether publishers really are doing less publicity for their authors than they were wont to do but, perhaps, in our YouTube culture, we are all aware of how much more we could (and therefore feel we should) be doing for ourselves. After all, it's our book, our livelihood (or some portion thereof) we should be at least as keen as any publicist to see it do well.
In the run of things though there should be honesty and collaboration between author and publisher. A collaboration of equals where the author cannot any longer wait at the end of a phone for the publicist to call with an itinerary. They really do need to be out there helping themselves. This is not an abdication, just a fact of life.
Well, it may be a fact of life but it's not necessarily as simple as just going out and doing some publicity, is it?
Most of us aren't marketing professionals – we don't necessarily have the aptitude or the knowledge to organise our own events. Book tours and signings are rarely any use to the unknown as nobody is going to come and see somebody they've never heard of and events other than these need some imagination and inspiration. And turning imagination and inspiration into publicity events is a very different thing from turning them into books.
So much for aptitude. Then there's the time element. If you're an author who has a day job then taking off a lot of time to publicise your book may simply not be feasible. Bosses who are prepared to wave you off for a month's book-tour are few and far between. Normally they say things like 'that'll be the whole of your annual leave for this year then.' If you're any kind of professional you're even more constrained – you need not to do things which might bring your profession into disrepute or ridicule. If you were a doctor, for instance, your hospital or PCT wouldn't necessarily be vastly keen on seeing pictures in the press of you bungee jumping off a local landmark with the name of your book stretched along the length the bungee cord or dropping primroses along the length of the M25 so as to get on the national news hugging your book. Teachers could expect even more stick for being seen to be in the public eye – after all most kids are amazed to see you in the supermarket, never mind in the newspaper or on the television.
And, even if you are in the fortunate position of not having to support yourself and/or your family by gainful employment other than literature, taking a lot of time to 'do' publicity is still problemmatic. I mean, when are you going to write the next book? Because, if this one's a success, your publisher certainly isn't going to want to wait an indefinite period for the next.
Which leaves us all exhausted and hoping for the thirty-six hour day to be invented (and our body clocks adjusted accordingly) sometime in the alarmingly near future.
While I'm on the subject of publicity, can I point you in the direction of Natasha Solomons' website. She is in the process of organising her own publicity tour for her very intriguing-sounding book, Mr Rosenblum's List. I am impressed and it's making me think about publicity for The Black and The White – a book that isn't even finished yet.