My name is Matt, and I am a self-publicist. I feel awkward, standing here, sharing this with the group. I have been doing some appalling things, like retweeting praise of novels and blogs, and telling people about events, and I even – at a particularly low point – spent an entire Friday evening setting up a Twitter account for an inanimate object (my novel). Once or twice I have even told people my Amazon rank.
There are no excuses for such brazenly tarty behaviour. Writers should be above such things. If we wanted a job in marketing we should have taken a job in marketing, shouldn’t we? I mean, aren’t books the best hope we have for escaping this late-capitalist age of perpetual promotion? Aren’t we drowning in advertising anyway? Doesn’t advertising belong to the surface world that writers are meant to spend their life digging beneath?
As I’ve said, I have no excuses. I only have explanations. I have written specifically about retweeting praise here but don’t think I covered all the bases. So if the group wants to listen, here I go:
- I can’t help it. I might as well start with the lamest of all excuses. But I have an addictive personality. I used to be addicted to alcohol and cigarettes and other substances. These addictions played a part in giving me a nervous breakdown when I was 24, so I have since found healthier addictions. For instance, I have to run at least 5k a day and write 500 words and read a couple of chapters of a book or I get depressed. Also, I am addicted to Facebook and Twitter.
- I want people to read my book. Not all my books. I don’t want you to read The Possession of Mr Cave, for instance, as I wish I hadn’t written it. But I want you to read The Humans because it is the best thing I have ever done, and that I probably will ever do. And I have never said that about a book before. (You can check if you want.)
- If I wasn’t a writer I would probably be working in advertising, selling things I don’t believe in, so I think it is better to sell things I do believe in.
- People get annoyed when I say I don’t care about money but I genuinely don’t. It’s kind of a disease I have. Up until four years ago almost all my adult life had been one debt. It’s not about money. Listen, I got quite a nice advance for this book. Nicer than my other advances. However many books I sell via Twitter isn’t going to make up that advance. Also, I have so far given a lot of books away. I gave 60 books away on Facebook once. And for The Humans I have given away at least twenty for free. I get precisely the same buzz from people reading a free/library/borrowed/stolen copy as I do from one in which I will get 70p in royalties. And I’m pretty sure a lot of writers are the same.
- I think the people who write reviews or praise of a book genuinely like it when you share that review or praise. Bloggers are the new gatekeepers. I value their opinion. The retweet is the source of their power.
- I want to stay being a writer. The book I wrote before The Humans was called The Radleys. It ended up being my most popular book to date but it didn’t start that way. It almost cost my career. My then publishers Jonathan Cape dropped it on the grounds that it was ‘too commercial’. It was then given the cold shoulder treatment by most major British publishers, until it was eventually picked up by Canongate, who found 25 foreign publishers for a book no other UK publisher wanted to take on. Anyway, it scared me. I had thought I was safe and I wasn’t. So from that point on I wasn’t going to sit on my bum doing nothing, I was going to sit on my bum promoting my books when they came out. It is a very hard thing, this staying published malarkey. But it is worth putting the effort in.
- I think I am an organic promoter. By which I mean I don’t just promote. I talk to people, I get back, I like chatting. I write lots of blogs – like this one – for free. And yes, I am too wrapped up in my books, but I don’t know how not to be. A book is a kind of photo made of words. A brain photo. And it gives you more of a person than any tweet could. I would rather be judged on 80,000 words than 140 characters.
- I try and be honest. Most writers on Twitter are selling themselves in some way, some do it in more subtle ways than others. I am not very subtle. If I want you to buy my book you will probably know about it. You can unfollow me. I honestly don’t mind. I have people unfollow me, some others follow me. Some people will be against any writer promoting themselves. Fine. Better not follow me. I would far rather you unfollow me than you get grumpy or sad or despairing each time I share a review. It is not ego, it is wanting to stay employed in a job I love.
- I have made some genuine friendships via Twitter and Facebook, and some of them have been formed after people got to know me through my books, which they’d only heard about because I had banged on about them.
- The idea that writers are above promotion is a kind of arrogant one, no? I mean, most other people who work for themselves – photographers,musicians, plumbers, architects, wedding planners, electricians, actors – are expected to go out and sell what they do. Writers aren’t any different. We create something, and the reason we create it is because we want people to read it. (Why else would we bother? Why wouldn’t we keep it under the bed?) I know a bit about promotion, from a former career, and I use that knowledge. I never write for the market (or I’d be writing thrillers). I have no shame about it. The main theme of my books is that humans are thwarted by shame, so I try and fight that anxiety within myself, which is hard as I am British, and no one here likes a poppy trying to rise. Every word I write in a novel is a kind of appeal to connect with my fellow species (I was the sad lonely kid on the playground – it’s all about that), and now the internet means that desire can spill over. The tentacles can reach further. I push books I write, and those I read. I probably should get out more, but there you go.
So, no excuses. There is probably no hope for me. Oh, and read my book. Read it right now!
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk