Friday, 1 August 2008

No post-book-tour despair for novice authors

An article in The Atlantic Online by a writer called Ann Patchett caught my eye. She writes about how it was for her when, as a new author, she was required to publicise her book. She writes about her $3,000 budget and how she covered 25 cities, going from one hotel to another, one bookstore to another in order make her book well known to the public. She became her own intrepid saleswoman. 'This was my book' she writes, '...the rock-solid embodiment of all my dreams. I wanted to do anything to help it make its way in the world.'

Well, it would appear that writers in this country, unless, of course, they are nickel-plated celebrities, do not 'do' book-tours. Maybe Rose Tremain does, or Paul Theroux. There's no budget for anything to do with actually promoting the book. The public are to learn by osmosis that there's a new book out there that's not actually by Colleen or Katie or Ian.

Ann Patchett suffered from 'post-book-tour-despair'. I suffered from 'post-book-launch-despair' when I found out that notwithstanding having sold out of books that first night, the bookstore wasn't encouraged to order in more or even to display the book so that the eyes of the public would fall upon the cover and want to read my words.

I, too, want to do anything to help it make its way in the world but I'm stymied. It's not as though it hasn't been distributed. I just think it's languishing in storerooms where staff too complacent can't be bothered to put it out on shelves or even bother to spend the time to open it and read the first few words.

It's a friendly paperback. It's not Flaubert but the sentences are strung together in what have been described as 'compelling'. I received a letter this week from an eminent psychiatrist who congratulated me in having managed to 'portray pain in beautiful, even poetic words.' I wish that I could disseminate this - even by osmosis.

I've turned into this publicity junkie, looking for angles, asking everyone I know for help but I really think that I would've relished the chance to have had a go at the book tour. Ann Patchett makes the point that it's a goodwill gesture in more ways than one. Even if there's hardly anyone there to meet you, at least you can have a chat with the girl at the check out or the store manager and they, having liked you, would bother themselves to read the book and then, having done so and liking it, would wish to 'hand-sell it to people for months or even years to come.' Would that have been the case here though? I don't know. They liked me well enough at the bookstore where I held my launch and made the point that they would have me back at any time. But have they pushed the book? No, I don't even think that anyone even bothered to pick it up and read it. It's just not their style.


Anonymous said...

It's a shame that the book world here is either too snooty or obsessed with 'celebs'. I think that a book tour sounds like a great idea. why do these things always seem so much easier to do in the states???

Ros Morris said...

Don't know why. I think that because there is such a huge market in the 'States that there is always someone who's interested in whatever is being published - in whatever genre. Here there's such a chasm between what is considered 'literature' and 'fluff' - although it's the fluff that sells!