Saturday, 2 September 2017

No such thing by Fran Brady

They do say that there is no such thing as bad publicity: ergo, the only bad publicity would be that which is ineffective. But how to judge effectiveness? Is it the number of Amazon reviews we get? Or the number of books we sell? Or the best margin of profit we can get on each sale?

Or might it be that delighted smile on the face of one old lady who clutches your arm and whispers, 'I couldn't put it down', shamefacedly, as if she has been very naughty reading such lightweight stuff. Novels! Shocking! Mrs Gaskell, eat your heart out.

My third novel, Eleanor's Journey, is decidedly a woman's book, about five friends and their families and shenanigans. It is head-and-shoulders-above my other three in the spiciness stakes. I have had several shamefaced ladies of varying ages (I think the oldest was 89) confiding that they like it best. And hastily adding, 'Don't tell anyone.' We giggle together and I feel - strangely - effective. Of course, if she isn't going to tell anyone about it, it is useless and as publicity totally ineffective. 

But I wouldn't swap fifty Amazon reviews for that delicious moment of colluding in a naughty secret with a reader.

In the coming few weeks, I have three publicity opportunities. One is an invitation to join the City of Literature (Edinburgh) monthly networking meeting. This arose out of dropping into a marquee on George Street during the Edinburgh Book Festival last month and fortuitously finding the City of Lit people promoting an anthology and reading from it. Accosting one of them afterwards (in the nicest, possible way - all modest and terribly interested) led to the said invitation. Effectiveness 1; bad publicity 0.

The second one comes this Saturday. My local theatre regularly puts on evenings to showcase local writers' work. It's a small gathering in a side room (not footlights and drumrolls, as I imagined the first time I went) with about 30 people. It's an entertaining evening, good practice at reading one's work aloud to a literate audience and, obviously, a bit of local publicity. Effectiveness 0.5; bad publicity 0.

The third is a visit to an organisation called The Food Train in Dundee. They do sterling work, doing food shopping for elderly and infirm, housebound people, notably my 96-year-old stepmum. They also do monthly gatherings with speakers for their clients. You've guessed it: I am going to be a speaker! As my slot comes immediately after a big lunch, the chances of more than 20% of them being awake are probably quite slim. I don't know how many, if any, of them still read books. Let's just say I'm not planning to take a box of books and a big float. If a couple of staff members buy a book, I'll be lucky. Effectiveness 0; bad publicity 0. A goalless draw. A waste of time.

Or is it? What better place to experience that lovely moment when a tremulous voice tells me, 'I couldn't put it down'; to see a face light up in happy collusion as you share an author-reader secret.

I hope I never become too blasé or too above myself to turn down such opportunities in favour of solely money-making or razzmatazz ones. Obviously, this means I am never going to make my fortune, or possibly even scrape a living.

Heigh-ho! I might get my reward in heaven. Or possibly not, if St Peter at the pearly gates has read Eleanor's Journey!


Ann Turnbull said...

What a lovely post! I agree so much - you never know what will come of an invitation or even a chance conversation. And those moments when someone tells you they loved your book and you know they really mean it - they matter more than low sales. Your post made me laugh - especially the last sentence - and sent me straight off to Amazon to find the book!

Wendy H. Jones said...

Beautifully put, Fran. You never know how you are touching people's lives and sometimes it's not just about selling books. It's about eating people and interacting. It's also about giving back to the community. All the very best with your events

Umberto Tosi said...

I'm with Wendy! It's about reaching people in meaningful ways, this writing thing, and so it should be with our promotions, to the extent we can. This world needs reminders about priorities, for sure. Enjoyed your post. Thank you.

Fran B said...

Wendy: I have to call you account. You are surely not EATING your readers? Possibly some of the murderers in your books might get up to such a reprehensible practice but surely not a fine, upstanding, Christian lady like yourself!

On a totally different tack: I have reported the last few crazy posts to Debbie Bennett. A bit a hacking going on here, by the looks of it.