It’s not formally anything to do with the long process of getting a novel from manuscript to bookshop, which is the story I have been telling in a few recent posts, but nowadays authors are encouraged by their publishers to play an increasingly large role in promoting their wares. This includes ‘having a social media presence’ – naturally not to the extent of Katy Perry or H. Styles, ahem, but still, popping up on FaceBook and the like, or writing a blog with news of lit festival appearances and talks and suitable snippets about personal life or research trips. It’s actually quite interesting to do, mostly because of the challenge of being informative and informal without droning on endlessly about oneself and one’s lovely life to the extent of alienating existing and potential readers rather than achieving the opposite.
I prefer actually meeting people in real Time and real Life though, and book groups are great for this. Last week I went to speak at my friend Neffy’s group down in deepest Herefordshire. I talked about The Kashmir Shawl to a dozen of her bookish neighbours, ate a huge dinner and drank wine, and stayed on afterwards to visit other local friends – all in the name of ‘work’.
This week’s ‘work’ activity has also centred on promotion, and so has nothing to do with the actual current business in hand, which is battling with the new novel. I feel guilty about taking so much time out from writing, but guilt is the default setting for writers anyway so I’m just going with it.
Yesterday we were at Wilton’s again, for THE ILLUSIONISTS shoot. (The book’s out in March. Did I mention this??) The project is only a 90-second promo video, but still it requires a unit of creative director, film director, cameraman, technical director from the theatre, an assistant and a runner, a stills photographer, an actor and an actress – and me (make-up and costume, dogsbody, coffee girl). Lighting the hall took forever, but nothing was left to chance. We thickened the air with vapour from a smoke machine to make Victorian murk, gingerly turned the handles of the antique Wimshurst machine (crucial to the plot) and walked the actors through their moves over and over again. Then suddenly it was action. Amazingly the director REALLY does say ‘Camera, action’ and ‘Cut’, and ‘Quiet set, please’ and all the other things you somehow only imagine in relation to Heaven’s Gate.
It was hours of hard work for all the crew and the actors, and fascinating for me to observe. Best of all was being part of a team, and seeing very young and talented people giving their work 200% of their attention. From what I could glimpse on the director’s monitor the finished video’s going to look wonderful. Today everyone’s in the studio where we’re doing the close-ups of faces and hands and making shadows move – the process of precisely replicating yesterday’s lighting from the theatre is technically arduous. Coffee runs for me.
Does all this sell books? I haven’t a clue. But it’s better to do than to ignore. I bet Dickens would have written a blog and been on Twitter ten times a day had he been able.
The author’s job is an increasingly varied one…
Rosie, they couldn’t have found a more suitable venue for your book than Wilton’s, could they? ‘Perfick’! as Pop Larkin would say! 🙂 As for using the media etc. for promoting it, I think it is a necessary evil these days, although for a naturally reticent person, it must be agony. The secret must be to give information publicly, but keep your private life just that – private. Having said that, there must be thousands of your readers out there who thoroughly enjoy the insight you give into your travels and working life as much as I do! Is this the first time you have been involved in filming? It looks like a fascinating process. When can we expect to see the results?
Rosie, a thought occurred to me yesterday which seems in keeping with the purpose of your blog. You are taking us nicely from manuscript to publication, but what happens before the manuscript? Do you have a time scale to actually write a new book? Do you go to your publisher with an idea and they then commission a book?
Usually that’s what happens, yes. I work out what I want to write and then discuss it with my agent. He takes the proposal to the publishers, usually accompanied by a brief outline and maybe a chapter or two or three. With luck, they like the idea and offer a commission to complete it. On this agreement, I’m paid what’s called ‘an advance on signature’ (of the contract) – which gives me the money to pay the rent while I’m researching and writing. The contract will always contain a date for delivery of the completed ms, and my agent and I will agree this with the publishers. Further portions of the advance (against royalties to be earned once the book starts selling) come on delivery and acceptance of the ms, and on hardback and then paperback publication.
It doesn’t always work this way – newer writers would probably have to complete their book first. But I’m quite a long way down the pike now, and I think they think I’m a steady deliverer.
I know this sounds lucky – but it has taken 30-odd years!
I wouldn’t call that luck – just solid hard graft! I have read every book you have written so far (I also possess most of them!) and I have often admired your necessary self-discipline in writing them. It must take a lot, especially when you are bringing up children, to allot – and stick to – a time-table. I’ve personally found that when you work from home others don’t always respect your time, and treat you as ‘available’ because you ARE at home! Somehow, they also seem to see your work as less valuable than if you physically left the house and got paid a monthly salary. 🙂 You have worked hard and long to get where you are, and have proved yourself many times to be dependable, so luck doesn’t enter the equation. You deserve your success, Rosie. Thank you for answering my question.:-)
Definitely worthwhile doing! Your advert on YouTube for The Illusionists was the first I have watched through fully without skipping in a good while.
Very well executed, and the tonality in your voice had be intrigued from the opening.
Never read any of your books (nor, indeed my apologies, heard of you until today) but I’m looking forward to getting a copy when I can 🙂