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The Publicity Trail

The Publicity Trail

I had meant to post a lot sooner, but as the title suggests, I’ve been a little waylaid on the publicity trail. Before you are given to wild flights of fancy, picturing me in front of crowds of adoring fans in swanky venues, or perched at a signing table while a queue of more adoring fans snakes out the door, or hobnobbing at my fabulous launch party with all my celebrity writer friends, glass of champagne in hand … let me stop you right there.

I remember speaking to a young man years ago, a friend of a friend, who wanted to pick my brain about being a writer. Did he ask for tips? How to be disciplined? Even the ubiquitous ‘where do you get your ideas?’

No, he asked me, in all seriousness, if I got to go to many cocktail parties. Something tells me he wasn’t committed. 

The publicity trail for The Secret Ingredient has not involved any cocktail parties. In fact, it has largely been a virtual trail. I haven’t had to leave my desk for the most part, or change out of my track pants. I was so comfortable in fact, that when a photographer wanted to visit for a newspaper interview (which had been conducted via the phone from my desk, in said track pants) I begged my publicist to convince them that a file photo would suffice. The thought of glamming up for a photo shoot seemed all too hard. 

It is interesting to chart the evolution of publicity over the years since my first book was published. I used to do a lot of radio, mostly regional. It was a hit and miss affair – I had some of the best chats ever with people who had actually read the book, I also had lots of hurried snatches of stilted conversation between songs and the traffic/weather, with disc jockeys who were lucky to get my name right. 

I’ve also done my share of book signings – by which I mean I hope I don’t have to do any more. I know I speak for many, many authors – even some way bigger than me – when I say that signings are a particular kind of hell, unless you’re one of the top handful of authors in the country, or a sports star who’s written an autobiography. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to sign books at events, that’s a completely different vibe. But being propped awkwardly at a signing table in a book store (or even just stood in a corner as in one memorable occasion) can be an excruciating experience. Few people turn up, those who happen to be in the shop are often too shy to approach, or are looking for something else that day and do not want to feel obligated or pressured or otherwise harassed by the presence of an author. 

Another popular marketing opportunity was to guest speak at bookseller conferences, bypass the readers and go straight to the middle man, as it were. Your reach could be exponential. However, two of the franchises where I was guest are now defunct. Hope it was nothing I said. 

So this time, the majority of my interviews have been online Q&As and guest posts. I was asked the question on one blog whether I felt social networking was effective, and all I could say is that I certainly hope so! But the truth is, you can never really know what’s going to work.

Except for one thing.

I’ll never forget my first ever author lunch, when my new publicist explained that they could write my name and the title of my book across a blimp and float it over Sydney Harbour, and it still wouldn’t have the effect that word of mouth has. The very best marketing strategy is to write the best book you can, and hope that at least a few people read it, who will tell their friends, who will tell their friends … 

So I’m going to do a little of my own word-of-mouth. Buy a book, by all means buy one of mine, but buy someone’s book! And then tell a friend …

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