22nd November, 2013
I was talking to my agent, the estimable Esmond Harmsworth of Zachary, Shuster & Harmsworth, who is a busy little bee and has been finding me reviews and having breakfast with people high up in the world of media. He is high up himself, being a better class of a Brit than I am (Brits have this class consciousness thing going, thankfully unreplicated in the New World where money not blood speaks.) Yes, very distracting this class business, but at any rate, I was talking to him about the publicity angle of the book launch. He had found out from my editor at Simon and Schuster that pre-orders for my book are actually doing quite well with independent bookstores, though not so well with Barnes and Noble. The numbers are "soft," he said. I don't know what to make of that, so I am not going to try.
Veil of Time is not coming out for three and a half months, but now I am panicking. The cogs had better start turning now - I had better get my bleeding ducks in a row, because it is a dog-eat-dog world of cliches out there where books fly in and out of book sellers, and before you know it you're finding your beloved tome on the shelves of the local thrift shop. This is actually my most monstrous fear, not the cliches, which I kind of like, but finding my lovely book languishing among all the other well-meant, feverishly-researched, lovingly-mastered books on the thrift shop shelf. Just think, each of these arrived in a box of others of its kind into the homes of an eagerly awaiting author, was fondled like a lover, cherished like a child, and bought by friends and family, only to be criticised by the high-minded and fall off into irrelevance like a disgarded wrapper from McDonald's. Oh woe! The cliches go on. I do like to wallow in imminent tragedy. It gives a writer a sense of importance to come to such a sorry end.
To avoid this, I have been spending long bog-eyed hours in front of my computer, composing riveting letters to the editors of magazines and other forums that might let me have a moment to jump up and down and shout, "Over here! A new novel, a new Scottish novel, with bells and whistles and brutish handsome Scotsmen with tattoos and a heroine who keeps slipping in and out of the 8th century. Buy my book! Make me a success.! Help me to go down in posterity!"
I have been assigned two publicists by my publisher, and I talked on the phone to one of them just the other day for the first time. It was like a breath of fresh air! Relax, she said, let us do our job! Well, she might not have said those exact words, but words to that effect. They have people running through websites and blogsites, running through publications and book reviewers. They know just where to place me. They are the experts. They do this for a living.
Isn't it nice to be able to say, "My publicist advised me..." "My publicist is of the opinion that.." How many people have publicisits? It's a hard word to say! I can't even spell it! I love it! And I have one! Two, actually. I am talking to my publicist, and I ask a question about sales in Scotland, so she leans over to someone in Foreign Sales and asks the question. They send books out for me to reviewers, like the editor at Scottish Heritage Magazine who wanted one. There are even e-gallies, which are accessible on line if you have the secret password!
So, the face of publishing has changed dramatically over the last few years. The book tour is really a thing of the past (unless you're a celebrity - I have a publicist but I am not a celebrity!) Unless people are going to turn out in their hundreds, you can't reach that many people at a book signing. As my publicist told me, every author has had the experience of turning up at a book signing and being the only one who does. I'm not sure my fragile author-ego would survive that one! So, publicity these days is all about social media. Heck, Obama won two elections by being savvy about this stuff. England is so nervous about the Scottish National Party using this stuff that they have given people who use it the nasty term CyberNats!
But you can't fight it, and why should you? Have your book reviewed on GoodReads or Bookwheel, and you have reached thousands of potential readers in one fell swoop. One savvy Tweet on Twitter and you have just extended your reach a thousand fold. So, it is all good. Especially because it effectively rescues me from the thing most people rank with fear of death: fear of standing up in a bookshop and addressing an audience of one