Monday, March 23, 2009

The oxygen of publicity

I have just spent most of the working day writing a publicity piece for THE EINSTEIN GIRL, a task which I hate worse than a queue at the post office, but which I've come to see as a necessity. According to there are still 135 days to go before UK publication, but, if anything, I am a bit slow off the mark. What is a publicity piece? It is an imaginary feature article about your upcoming title, containing as much interesting information, from a press point-of-view, as possible. The purpose of the piece is really just to present ideas (or 'angles' in press parlance) in a stimulating way to the publicity team at the publishers.

In the past, like most writers, I assumed that all I had to do was fill in the author questionaire and the rest would be up to the in-house PR experts. Authors, of course, hate summarizing their work; an activity that inevitably downplays its uniqueness in a desperate quest to be arresting and pithy. And most of them are not very good at it, especially when put on the spot, say, at an industry function. "Describe your book in 50 words or less" is a request that leaves many gesticulating helplessly as they choke on their peanuts and non-vintage Frascati.
In my case, this naïveté was especially unforgivable, because I spent years working as a magazine editor, in which capacity I received hundreds of press releases, 95% of which went straight into the bin. Which is the point. If you want the PR about your particular book to stand out, it is a good idea to lend every possible assistance to the people who are handling it. If that means doing a lot of the thinking for them, then so be it. After all, you know more about the book and about yourself than anyone else does; so it's not unreasonable that you should be asked to help come up with the angles.
There is another, perhaps even more important, side to this issue of the dreaded summary (be it blurb, catalogue entry or PR piece). And it's this: if you can't set out concisely what it is that's interesting and unique about your story, preferably before you spend a year or two writing it, how interesting and unique can it really be? A woolly, rambling idea will - 9 times out of 10 - produce a woolly, rambling book.

No comments: