The notion of reclusiveness has huge attractions for many writers; to live in a small house by a big wood and simply work – but, and here's the problem, we have to sell the books we write. This cranky issue is at the top of my mind at the moment because I've just come home from the UK and Dublin publicity tour for 'Ireland – a Novel.'
What to do? Forget the solitude; it's an old idea and it's a romantic idea - but it's no longer a practical idea. You have to get your show on the road.
I've always done it, I've always been available to promote my own work and for years and years it gave me pain. Even though I love the company of publishers, booksellers and librarians, even though I love the book world, I always found it embarrassing to talk about my own work, because I had been raised with old rigid canards:- 'It's vulgar to talk about yourself'; and, 'Don't show off'.
And in years of interviewing myriad writers I've met few authors who relish this part of the job. I still find the awkwardness difficult to shake off but I have had to get over it, change my thinking, shape up to the realistic demands of the market.
My way of addressing the entire, difficult issue is to turn it around and make it positive. First - acknowledge that publicity is a writing tool. No author wants to go unread and, seen through this glass, publicity helps fulfil that desire. In fact, I can go further and say that if you know you have to publicise the book you're writing, a useful discipline can then arise; you become even more aware of your reader.
Secondly, for an author there is no satisfaction like reader satisfaction; to have a reader come up at some public event and say one's book has meant something to them is an unmitigated pleasure.
Thirdly, there is a kind of arrogance, a selfishness in assuming you, the author – correction, THE AUTHOR – is above such lowering prances. Lose that attitude; our job is also to provide an extra service of communication to our readers and for our publishers. In any case, who are we to disparage such opportunity? And who would not want to hear what our readers have to say?
This website, for instance, is an extension of what I have learned (resistantly, to begin with) about the need to publicise. I hope it becomes even more than that:– a means of thinking out loud, of observing the world in which I work, of celebrating writers I enjoy, of considering reader (and, if interesting, critical) response. Please contribute your opinions, always provided you do so thoughtfully and in a spirit of decency.