I was at the royal wedding last week. I mean, I wasn’t actually sat in the church of course – I was around the margins, doing my PR job. Sorting out media interviews, sitting in green rooms, arguing over wrist bands, pushing through crowds.
That’s my role at important events – I’m there but nobody notices. Do you remember Zelig? It was a film by Woody Allen, back in the day, about a character who was always on the fringes of history – popping up anonymously in the back right corner of photographs. That’s me, I’m Zelig. And that’s most writers I think. We like to be where the action is, but we don’t want to be part of the action, we want to observe it.
Friend of ours told us a story about her dad. When he was a little boy his parents put him on a train. He was five, six years old, he didn’t really know what was going on.
When the train pulled into the next station he looked out of the window and his mum and dad were there waving at him from the platform, his mum in a dress with flowers, his dad in a suit and tie.
Just a quick blog this week to urge writers to enter story competitions. This is partly because I’m currently judging one which is now open so big plug for that:
That’s the Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Competition. It’s now open for entries and you can find all about the rules and how to enter if you click here.
I was talking to a fellow writer at a recent book signing event, he was telling me he had never once, in all his days, entered a short story competition, though he had written many stories. His main issue with competitions was that you have to pay an entry fee. Well yes, you do, but it isn’t massive and it usually goes back out in prize money and in paying the judges. In some cases, such as the Magic Oxygen competition for which I have regularly been a judge, it goes to charity.
Not everything can be free is the message I suppose, some things have a value. That goes for the books which people have spent time writing and it goes for writing competitions too.
I’ve always been a fan of Facebook and always used it as a writer – to meet readers and other writers, to talk about things which interest us.
I’ve never had a Facebook page though, only my profile, and recent changes to the way Facebook works have just underlined why I made that decision.
Pages, it seems to me, are for business users, I use them in my day job in PR. But I am an individual, not a business, not even a small trader. I’m not one of these people who styles themselves an ‘authorpreneur’ what an awful word. I write the books I want to write, find a publisher willing to take them on and they sell to those who are interested in reading them.
A drive through the bright winter morning to sell my books at a book fair in the lovely Cotswold town of Evesham. Unfortunately when I got there I found no punters – plenty of other authors but nobody actually wanting to buy books.
This isn’t unusual for small press authors, events like this are often hit and miss. It’s in no way the organisers’ fault – they had made sure there was plenty of publicity both in the local media and by word of mouth, but sometimes, people just don’t come. Perhaps because of the location or the timing or whatever. So instead of talking to readers the authors talk to each other.
When did you last see someone reading a book? Not someone you know, just someone you happened to pass who was reading.
Of course, I know it’s not a spectator sport, there wasn’t some point in history where the public used to gather in concert halls or football stadiums and hold mass book reading ceremonies. It’s always been a private activity, which takes place behind closed doors in small groups or in isolation, almost as though there is something shameful about it.
But I do feel that these days I just don’t see people reading books as much as I used to.
Sigh – I came across a new low recently in the rapidly evolving book world – reviews for sale.
A random Twitter follower sent me a direct message asking if she might review one of my books on her blog. I didn’t know her, but then I have close to 27,000 Twitter followers so that’s not unusual. I checked out her book blog, it seemed superficially legit – there were reviews on there, it seemed to be regularly updated.
She didn’t use her name, just a pseudonym concerning her hair colour, but that didn’t seem too fishy – not everyone wants to be a public face. She described herself as a military wife, living somewhere in the USA, with a young family.
The British novelist Barry Hines told a story of sitting in a staff room after giving a reading at a school in Lincolnshire when a member of staff asked him the weirdest question he had ever been asked about his writing.
“You know that novel you wrote, A Kestrel for a Knave” asked the teacher sitting next to him. “Did you write it on purpose or by accident?”
Hines was momentarily at a loss. He could just about grasp the idea of someone writing a few lines of verse by accident, but a whole novel? Thousands of words, years of work? That would be some accident.
Recently I was interviewed by the amazing and successful author Jane Howard for her website, you can find that interview if you click here. And among other things she asked me which authors inspire me.
And what I said was this:
All authors inspire me – all of them, good ones, bad ones, self-published, small press, big publisher. I think writing books and stories is a tremendous thing for people to be doing, we hold a mirror up to society, we are its conscience and its soul. That’s no small thing to be involved in.
If you are an author of any great fame sooner or later someone is going to ask you for writing tips. It’s the law.
Does this happen in other professions? Do top plumbers get asked for plumbing tips which then appear in plumbing blogs? I’ve led too sheltered an existence to know for sure but I certainly hope those blogs exist, and in my heart I believe they do. Plumbing tips would probably be a lot more use than writing tips anyway. Advice for writers tends to be subjective whereas, if your toilet is overflowing and you need to stop it – that’s very much objective.