The not-so-secret lives of authors

These days it’s not enough to finish and polish your book, then win through in the (not insignificant) battle to get published. You have to promote your product.

The fact that this website exists tells you that I’m not entirely averse to shameless self-promotion. However, part of me (the English part, I suspect) feels slightly uncomfortable with the idea that the one who shouts loudest, wins – shouldn’t success be based on merit? And obviously my work has oodles of merit. I wouldn’t have put in all that effort unless I knew I was going to produce something wonderful, now would I? Do people not realise this? Does my genius not shine through effortlessly and insinuate itself into the subconscious minds of passing members of the public (even those who wouldn’t normally touch SF with a lightsabre)? Um, right. Perhaps not.

I fully accept that whilst it might be vulgar, bringing your work to the attention of others is necessary (and if it harms the writer’s ego to think this, then she should assume that the fault lies in the plebs who do not instantly appreciate her genius (!)). Besides, I have to admit that another part of me (probably the Irish part), rather enjoys showing off, not to mention the social aspect of putting yourself about.

So I was pleased (if a little nervous) when my continuing initiation into the world of the pro writer featured not one, but two, self-promotion exercises this week, both conveniently scheduled for the same day to minimise the time I was forced to spend away from t’garret.

The first was the making of a short promotional film, featuring half a dozen of Gollancz’s brightest and best (and me; most of the others were rather better known). It’s mainly intended for internal purposes within the Orion Group (they own the Gollancz imprint) though I suspect it’ll find its way onto the internet. Everything does, eventually. I found this experience somewhat stressful, partly because cameras make me self-conscious, and partly because we were ad-libbing on a theme that wasn’t the one we’d been lead to expect. I’m not sure how well I came across, and would be happy if I never see the finished item. On the plus side, the location they chose to film in, an uber-trendy bar done out in Early Psychedelic Flashback (‘the paisley … arrgh … the paisley’) was both comfortingly surreal (I couldn’t look worse than that wallpaper did), and in possession of a cocktail list so comprehensive that it had an index.

The second event was the Gollancz ‘pub quiz’, an SF themed night of trivia hosted by my publishers for the London booksellers. It gave them a chance to mingle with each other, and put faces to some of the names they saw on covers. We, in return, were meant to be knowledgeable and entertaining. OK, mainly entertaining, with rounds like ‘plug a minute’ where we had to pitch our most recent book in one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition. The free bar helped a lot. My abiding memory is of three authors (thankfully not including me) being asked to re-create the scene from the ‘Transformers’ movie where the young hero’s parents want to know what he’s been getting up to in his bedroom. In a piece of inspired casting, ‘mom’ and ‘pop’ were played by an internationally successful writer of SF Noire and one of the most respected hard SF writers in the country (both male). That image, though hazy, will remain with me for a long time.

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