Friday, 22 August 2008

Living with Caligula

Publicity has been on my mind, and how to get more of it for Caligula.
In a lot of ways I've done pretty well, with a wonderful spread in The Scotsman, very positive reviews in the Mail and the Sunday Express in Scotland, and some big hits in local newspapers in Stirling and the Borders. There was also my radio interview on Radio Scotland.
But where's the national publicity? Where are the reviews in The Times and the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and the Independent? They feature dozens of books every week but never mine.
Last Saturday I did my first webchat with members of Youwriteon, the website that played such a big part in my development as a writer. It was great fun, and in the end I must have answered fifty questions from people interested in my experiences over the last year or so.
It gave me a lovely warm feeling of belonging.
But sometimes I feel like someone standing outside a window in the snow looking in at a party where people are chatting around a roaring fire.
I went to the Edinburgh Book Festival just after the webchat, to wander around and soak up the atmosphere, and I was left wondering: why am I not here? Hundreds of authors from all over Britain gathered to talk about their books. From the very famous to people I've never heard of. People queueing five deep to buy signed copies from authors who'd written books on the most obscure subjects imaginable. Every publishing house in Britain, large and small, seemed to be represented, and it had the biggest bookshop in the country, with thousands and thousands of titles; in fact every book in the world appeared to be on the shelves - except Caligula. When I talk about it to people, they say: 'You'll definitely be there next year', but we'll just have to wait and see. For a first-time author every book counts and this seemed to be a huge opportunity that I'd missed.

I also have a sense now that when a book is launched it gains a momentum powered by the goodwill of the people who buy it. With an established author that momentum is prolonged by reputation - people will keep picking it up from the shelves because it has his name on it. For someone like me it's different, once everyone you know has bought it and everyone they've told about it, you need something a little special to push it on to the next level. Where will it come from? I don't honestly know, but with Caligula there's always been a little nudge just when it was needed. Maybe it's just around the corner.

I almost forgot. Caligula will now be published in Romanian, which brings the number of languages to six - Russian, Polish (according to one website I'm already a best-seller there, but I syspect that's just hype), Portuguese, Serbian and Italian.


Lexi said...

Thanks, Doug, for telling us the (comparative!) lows as well as the highs of a successful author.

With one's first book, I imagine one is entirely in the hands of agent and publisher? You'll know all the ropes when the next book is published.

Lexi said...

Oh, I forgot to say - fascinating web chat on YWO, thanks.