A couple of months back it became clear to me that unless I managed to get some publicity for my debut novel, India’s Summer, it would languish in the ratings, unread by millions for all eternity. This set me wondering. What kind of promotion was needed given that there are precious few independent bookstores left and Amazon has become a titan in the book market?
I am no stranger to publicity campaigns. Before immigrating to LA, I owned a very successful events/promotions company in London. My client base was eclectic. I produced Royal receptions at St James’s Palace, international telethons with David Bowie, fundraising dinners, and celebrity auctions.
This is a mere decade ago. We had telephones, copiers, typewriters, fax machines, dial-up internet, and clunky cell phones that charged by the minute. What we didn’t have were laptops, smartphones, iPads, iPods, iTunes, Google, Skype, Facebook, Twitter or blogs. Whatever gadget you are addicted to right now, we didn’t have it.
In the absence of a Kindle, I would trawl the newspapers on the tube in the mornings, scanning the pages to see what stories we had landed, trying not to get ink smudges on my face as I wrestled the pages. I would get to the office early, snatching a quiet hour before the scramble began, sort through the mountain of letters and faxes that had arrived overnight, and then set the agenda for the day by hand, on a notepad, using a pen.
The phones would begin ringing off the hook around nine o’clock, which was when we would launch into frenetic activity, all hands on deck, a team of people communicating with one another, as opposed to a group of people hunched over their computers emailing the person sitting directly next to them.
Pre-launch, we would form a human conveyor belt. I would dictate a press release, which would be furiously typed out then photocopied, collated and checked, stapled together and pushed into flat envelopes that were raced to the post office to be stamped.
We understood the media and that building relationships with radio producers and journalists involved hours on the phone charming them, pitching, and bribing with the promise of a boozy lunch. We socialized with them in cafes and bars. The days were one long expense account extravaganza, drinks at The Savoy, afternoon tea at Claridges, grabbing cabs to hurtle back to the office to call clients and update them. We were constantly building relationships through our witty, dynamic personalities, dazzling in our tailored trouser suits and high-heeled pumps, trailing our signature scents.
The world has changed dramatically. Writers have the potential to reach a gazillion people, but the Internet is a crowded place. And so, over the summer I hired a book publicist who sent me on a “virtual” book tour.
This social media excursion was the least social thing I’ve ever done. I wrote promotional pieces in my pajamas from home. I spoke to none of the women who were kind enough to host me on their sites. I answered questions about my teen self, my favorite place to write, my advice to other aspiring authors and my plans for a new book. It was an isolating and time-consuming experience.
Maybe all this effort will be reflected in book sales, but there has been no delight in the process, no fun along the way. Tonight I am a to be the author/guest at a friend’s book club, and I’m beyond excited, SO ready to socialize. I shall definitely not turn up in my PJ’s.
Thérèse is the author of the novel India’s Summer, which has been praised by Arianna Huffington, Eckhart Tolle, Orlando Bloom, Jane Green, and others. You can read more about it here and get more of her blog posts here.