Saturday, 29 June 2013

The tricky dilemma of self promotion.

There are those who self promote endlessly - their e-mails, tweets and blog posts bombard you like hail on a cold wintry day. Others leap at every chance to not just read their work at an open mic but do a spot of advertising too, when the work they are reading should do the job.

But the fact is writers do have to self promote, even those published with a big-name publisher must appear at festivals and book signings in the name of promotion. It’s all about publicity.

Self promotion works - I've bought books purely because of exposure via twitter - some were great, even if others were not and I wish I’d kept my money. And that is the problem with self promotion - it can be difficult to discriminate between the good and the awful, although the latter sometimes has poorly presented self promotion blurb to go with it.

This blog, like that of every other writer, is partly about self promotion. Without taking part in blogging and tweeting, fewer people would have heard of me. Although you will see my following is still modest, you are reading my words! But I’m still not entirely comfortable with posting my successes.

I was brought up in an era when we put other people first. As a child, if I had friends round to my house to play, I was encouraged to defer to my guests’ selection of activities and games. If we had visitors they were always served with the choicest food on the table and being a large family, my mother would whisper ‘FHB’ (Family Hold Back) when an unexpected guest sat at our dining table and she was worried about stretching the meal to an extra portion. I brought my daughter up in the same tradition even though this was the era of the 80s and 90s which was all about self, self and more self.

My parents objected to boasting and our family joke was a neighbouring family who did nothing but sing their own praises. In reality, they had very little to boast about yet they all carried on as if their achievements were spectacular. Carol’s screeching on the violin became virtuoso performances, Mark’s daubs became fine art and as for Peter’s skilled driving, let’s just say the number of dents on his old banger told their own story. If any of them are now writers, their tweets will be the avalanche engulfing all others.

Of course, I’m pleased with my achievements, so here are a few - each of the publications above contains one of my short stories or flash fiction pieces. I hope this time next year there will be a few more.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Mind the Gap...

‘What do you mean, you’re a writer?’ asked a fellow guest at a party. ‘How many books have you published?’


‘So you’re not a real writer then?’

‘I’ve had several stories published- ’

‘Well, they don’t count,’ he interrupted.

‘And some non-fiction articles-’

‘Ah yes, but do they earn you money?’

‘Yes.’ (True, although I didn’t add that several articles were for my local magazine and unpaid.)

My interrogator didn’t wait to hear more but stalked off under the impression that I was a liar and a fraud, because I wasn’t a REAL writer. I didn’t bother to pursue him to ask him why published stories didn’t count because I thought my time would be better spent turning him into a character for my next flash fiction although I do wish I’d asked him if he was a real reader. Presumably reading anything other than published books doesn’t count.

I wrote When Can You Call Yourself a Writer? a while back, but in spite of now being brave enough to call myself a writer, I’m discovering the gap, a veritable chasm, between calling myself a writer and other people calling me a writer.

I did have a moment’s glory when I met someone at a local event who, on hearing my name, said, ‘Oh, hello, I’ve read your articles.’

I wish I could tell you that he enthused over my informative, beautifully written articles and asked if I would consent to being interviewed on the BBC. But he didn’t because they were in that local magazine I mentioned and  it was only later that I realized he hadn’t even said if he thought they were any good.

Meeting fellow writers is balm to my soul. Whether part-time writers like myself or full timers who have published loads more than I have, far from considering me inferior because I'm not a ‘real writer’, they are generous with their encouragement and sometimes practical help too. The following blogs and websites of some writers I met this week, will give you an idea of what I mean.

Patsy Collins
Karen Clarke
Tracy Fells
Wendy Clarke
Helen Hunt
Alison Carter

Note to self: Repeat three times every morning ‘I’m Lindsay and I’m a writer…’