According to Oscar Wilde, there's only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. I found myself thinking about this as the bus bumped and lurched along Camberwell New Road toward Vauxhall last Monday night. I was looking forward to our Salon on Publicity and to meeting our guest, Ruth Ware, a former book publicist and New York Times, bestselling, thriller writer. Ruth knows the publishing business inside and out and there was a real appetite, judging by the full house and Q&A session, for what she had to say.
While Maggie, the Tea House cat made herself at home amongst the audience, we began by clarifying the distinction between publicity and marketing. Publicity, broadly speaking, is anything free; reviews, interviews, events, launch parties, readings etc. Marketing is paid for; think bookshop promotions and advertising, for example.
Many writers by nature are solitary, if not introverted, folk. The idea of going out into the world to make or keep themselves and their books visible is enough to make many a writer’s toes curl. Ruth took us through all aspects of the publicity game. From a writer’s best resources; namely the book and the author, (you are always the best ambassador for your book), to finding angles of interest to pitch, drafting press releases, the importance of timing the publication of the finished book in anticipation of radio shows and literary festivals etc, to building a web presence. Ruth suggested that key to all this, regardless if you're traditionally published and have a publicist or self-published and doing this all yourself, is building relationships. Trust your publicist, ask questions, make suggestions, ask for help, be clear about what you like or don't like doing. If you're someone who finds the public side of promoting your book difficult, practice cultivating a persona. If you are self-published or don't have a publicist, there are ways to keep yourself out there. Mine your areas of expertise. Write an opinion piece. Familiarise yourself with twitter. Use social media to your advantage. Look out for strange or quirky stories to tweet or blog about. Review someone else’s book. Be inventive. The single best thing you can do, Ruth advised, is to write more books!
It was so valuable to have an industry-insider’s perspective on the subject, especially from someone who’s now a full-time writer. Thank you Ruth! We had a packed house and it was good to meet so many writers of all genres who came along.
Next month, on the 27th March, Emma and I are looking forward to welcoming guest author, Essie Fox. It’s going to be a good one for readers as well as writers. I hope to see you at the Teahouse Theatre Cafe then for more cake and talking all things Writing Historical Fiction.
Until then, happy reading and writing!