Author Anakana Schofield – whose first novel, Malarky – is about to come out in Britain has a ‘grumble’ about the publicity she is getting.
Seemingly not content – and thankful – that journalists are interested in her, she whines: “Why do the media care so much about the novelist – what pen she uses, what time she gets up in the morning – when they should be concentrating on the novel?”
And that isn’t her only gripe in an article for The Guardian newspaper. She isn’t happy she isn’t being paid for writing her pieces to gain publicity and claims that the media no longer values the labour that goes into producing a book.
So is she right?
Firstly her publicist has told her that newspapers like personal stories. Ideally they like confessional stories that relate to the fiction she has spent years making up. As a publicist, I can say for sure this is true – and I’d add it equally applies to magazines and television too.
But it is with this that Anakana has issues. Mostly, I would say, it seems the problem is that her book has a somewhat tricky subject. She says Malarky is an exploration of grief and sexuality – so not the sort of thing you might read over breakfast then. Apparently, there are scenes of men having sex in bathhouses and an Irish mother re-enacts her gay son’s love acts.
As she says, she can’t conjure up a real life experience along the lines of her novel because she sat in a library surrounded by medical students and made it up – she didn’t spy on men having sex in bathhouses.
That issue aside, Anakana’s next grumble is that she isn’t being paid for the articles she’s writing. She seems to feel it is unfair that she is writing endless unpaid blogs, articles and responses for newspapers and magazines and not getting a penny for it.
Actually, authors coming to Sell my Story website Featureworld are often paid for an article we sell for them. BUT if you want a guaranteed plug for your book at the end of the article in the national newspaper that could make you, then it is best to make that a condition of publication and gratefully accept that as your payment.
Secondly, writing for a magazine or newspaper is different from writing a book. Most author’s ‘personal pieces’ are ghost-written by a journalist, then edited and subbed in the house style of that publication. That author will then get their byline on the top of it – something they should be grateful for as all of this often makes authors look better writers than they actually are…
But we would also say here that it’s worth putting in the (unpaid) spade work. Those authors who truly are good writers, having something fresh to say – and are able to adapt to the style of magazine and newspaper writing – will also gain other commissions, which will in future be paid.
The problem here is while Anakana might turn out to be that sort of writer, at the moment she is relatively unknown and untested. Unfortunately, like everyone else in the media industry, she will have to prove herself first before she reaches the stage where she can negotiate payments for her column inches.
And to her final gripe. She isn’t happy about being asked to write ‘how to write tips’, presumably for blogs such as this one, which likes to help give other would-be authors some insight and inspiration.
However as one of her verbose and frankly unintelligible sentences – and I quote verbatim – states: “The author engaged in a bookshop reading event (usually unpaid) has been known to become a vessel through which other authorial fantasies can flow or ferment” perhaps the fact she isn’t keen on penning any writing tips pieces is something we can all be grateful for.
As far as a piece of publicity for her book goes, this article in The Guardian (which she was paid for, she says) was a good idea and Anakana’s lively piece has raised some interesting points. After all, I am writing about it! But, with my professional hat on, by the sounds of it, even if the novel is very well written (I haven’t read it) the subject matter of her novel might not make such a good serialisation in the average family newspaper.
And the truth is this. There are literally thousands of newly published authors out there. There are also hundreds of publishers, literary agents and publicists desperate to get publicity for their authors. They know without it, however good the book is, a novel and its author is likely to sink without a trace. Then there are the armies of people who’ve self-published a novel – all trying to get known – many of whom are excellent writers just in need of a lucky break (that might not ever come – hence if an opportunity arises grab it with both hands!)
No-one is suggesting you sell your soul to sell your novel but getting that vital publicity is extremely competitive. Even gaining a mention in a well read national newspaper is a triumph for any novelist. Getting a double page spread about your novel (or a chat with you to promote your novel) in a national newspaper, or magazine – or being interviewed about it on a top TV programme such as ITV This Morning or ITV Daybreak – will be priceless.
Unless you are a well-known celebrity, JK Rowling or the author who has penned Fifty Shades of Grey, there is no room in the media industry for anyone who has a bob on themselves and believes they are special.
The media is bigger than the first time author – and the bottom line is, if you need the publicity, you need to put yourself out there. Forget being a diva, being paid or calling the shots until you are truly famous.
Malarky by Anakana Scofield is published by OneWorld publications on August 1st 2013.