Category Archives: A publicists life

The Man Booker and other prizes

I got the phone call as I was putting my grocery shopping into the back of the car. ‘Kate, The Gift of Rain… it’s on the Booker longlist! Can you get to the publicity meeting, Thursday….’

I didn’t drop my shopping but I did drop everything else for about 48 hours. The UK press, quite naturally, had been well informed so they were calling me. However, the author is Malaysian and lives in South Africa so I needed to get in touch with them, fast.

The Gift of Rain, Tan Twan Eng’s debut novel was longlisted for this year’s Booker prize. And I was excited, not just at the publicity opportunities but because, having organised the author’s UK promotional tour in April, I’d got to know the author quite well and was personally delighted for him.

The shortlist announcement was made on 6th Sept. I cleared my diary, just in case. But it didn’t happen. The novel didn’t make the shortlist. Disappointment for the author, and also for the publisher, Myrmidon Books. Recognition by a world-leading literary prize like the Man Booker is a significant boon to a small publisher not just in terms of book sales, but in terms of reputation.

However, the Man Booker longlisting is something that can never be taken away from that book, that author, that publisher. It’s legacy is far longer than the month between the two announcements. I was reminded about this yesterday while looking at an application form designed for authors to fill in for a literary event, and there was a box titled ‘significant achievements, e.g. prizes’.

It’s an obvious point, but I’ll make it: prizes, even nominations for prizes, have a real reputation value. If you have them, use them. If you don’t, perhaps have a talk with your publicist about possibilities and keep your eye open for those prizes which authors can self-enter, such as the Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

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Because you’re worth it

Last night I went to an excellent talk by Roger Kondrat about social media and blogging at Creative Herts, a network for creative professionals in Hertfordshire. Roger’s main prediction, and I agree with him, is that blogging is here to stay, and will evolve as the technology evolves.

Many members of Creative Herts group are professional artists, and these creative professionals share many similar challenges when it comes to marketing their work as authors. One visual artist explained to me that he was only able to work mornings because of his RSI and therefore as his output was necessarily limited, he was unsure how to grow his business. We talked about the prices he was setting for his work and I think by the end we both agreed that the obvious way forward was to test some price increases for his work and see if the market would bear it. He said he felt what was holding him back was the idea that his work wasn’t worth it.

In a way, we are lucky as authors that our work can be reproduced for mass distribution and we can leave many of the commercial decisions to our publishers. However, we still have all the challenges of a crowded, busy marketplace in which it can be very difficult to get our work noticed and we too only have so many hours in the day or other constraints on our time and resources.

It can be hard, but if you undersell yourself, the primary person who will lose out is you. You are worth it. So when you are considering what fee to charge for your next public appearance, or for that article you’ve got to write, ask for what the market will bear, rather than relying on your own self-perceptions.

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My feet hurt

A whole day, in heels to, from and at the London Book Fair today. Normally I’m at my desk (with a bit of pacing up and down while I’m on the phone).

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London Book Fair

Next week, publishers, agents and all folks involved in the business of publishing, will have their minds and bodies focused on one thing: the London Book Fair, which kicks off on Monday.

If you’re going to be there, dear blog reader, do come and say hello in person! I’m at the Fair all day Monday and Wednesday, representing UK inpdendent publisher Myrmidon Books, on stand V900. Myrmidon Books published their first titles in 2006 and are committed to a programme of publishing orginal and imaginative fiction. Their latest titles are The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (cover picture below) and The Painted Messiah by Craig Smith.

The Gift of Rain Tan Twan Eng

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The Author – required reading

My copy of The Author, the Society of Authors magazine, arrived yesterday. And then the phone rang about the Historical Novels Society 2008 UK conference (watch this space) which is all shaping up to be exciting. But surely not enough excitment for one evening. I settled down back with The Author and, a mere two articles in, it occured to me that this magazine really is worth the subscription to the Society of Authors in itself*. Consider the fact you get free membership of the ACLS and free contract advice, oh and all the training and parties, merely as a bonus.

UK Authors – if you are not a member of the Society of Authors, you are missing out.

And while I am at it, make sure that you are signed up with the ALCS and PLR. There is no excuse – these organisations cannot pay you unless they have your details.

* And the latest issue of The Author contained some web 2.0 with an article by Kate Williams on her experience as an author on MySpace.

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RNA book marketing morning

Saturday’s talk to the RNA in London seemed to go well. (Or it might just be that I used lots of amusing cartoons in my presentation.)

Certainly, it was beneficial to me to pull together online book marketing into an hour’s talk, bearing in mind the constraints – finanical, technical and time-wise – which an author has. I suffer from lack of all three.

Thank you to Brian Kavanagh for allowing me to show his excellent book trailer for his novel The Embroidered Corpse, to Jenny Haddon for arranging the event, and to my co-speaker Alison Baverstock author of Marketing Your Book, An Author’s Guide, who gave an excellent talk, which included how authors should work with their publishers’ publicity department. Answer: be pleasant at all times, build up a relationship, inform them of anything helpful well in advance (about the time you hand your final manuscript in) and be prepared to go beyond what they are already doing for you (for example, in terms of local newspapers, or personal connections you might have who might help you). I’d also like to thank the audience for laughing in all the right places.

Have you noticed that hi-points seem to be followed by lows? Not long after I’d enjoyed a lovely lunch with some writer friends following the book marketing morning, I was robbed on the London Underground and had my purse stolen!

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A week tomorrow…

… I shall be giving my talk all about online marketing and PR for authors, as part of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Book Marketing Day.

So what are the most effective online methods for promoting books? Any comments?

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Filed under A publicists life, book publicity, marketing, online, online marketing, web2.0