Striking a Balance Between Modesty and Self-Promotion
Today I’m delighted to welcome Carol Cooper to the blog. Carol is a doctor, journalist, and author. She graduated from Cambridge University where she studied medicine and her fellow students. Following a string of books on childcare and an award-winning medical textbook, she made her fiction debut with One Night at the Jacaranda. Her latest, Hampstead Fever, came out on July 1 as a paperback and ebook. Her novels are all about relationships in London and are seasoned with inside medical knowledge. Carol lives with her husband in Hampstead and Cambridge. She has three grown-up sons and three step-children. Over to Carol!
Every author knows – or soon learns – that screeching self-promotion can backfire. Because Twitter is free, that’s where you see it most, in the form of endless tweets that say BUY MY BOOK! But enterprising authors don’t stop there. Some have even been known to hand publicity material to their doctor in the middle of a cervical smear test.
Then there are writers at the other end of the scale. Believing that a good book will inevitably rise to the top like bubbles in a glass of Dom Pérignon, they adopt a self-effacing smile that Hugh Grant would be proud of, and sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Very occasionally success does come their way, in which event they might admit, after the twelfth book has been turned into a film, that yes, they do ‘a little bit of writing’.
The sweet spot in self-promoting probably lies somewhere between those two extremes. But it’s tough to know where.
One of my problems is that I was raised in the sixties, when visible enthusiasm was a very bad thing. Adverts could sometimes be brash, but individuals had to look cool and pretend they didn’t give a damn. This usually meant saying little and adopting a vacant expression, as seen in photos of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy.
There’s also the little matter of common courtesy. It’s only polite to hold the door open for others and serve yourself last. In this context, hanging back from the buffet table of publicity seems completely normal.
However, as my mother Jacqueline Cooper realised a long time ago, this approach does not shift many books. She had few qualms about promoting her own work. It would make me cringe to hear her announce, at almost every opportunity, that she was ‘an artist and a published author’, even though it was perfectly true. I was still a child when I accompanied her to a radio interview around New Year’s Day. As soon as the discussion turned to resolutions, she jumped in noisily with “Buy lots of books this year – mine!”
When my mother self-published a series of bilingual picture books for children, she peddled them around Geneva, where she lived, and no big name bookshop was off limits. During a visit to London, she even got Harrods to stock one of her titles. That’s chutzpah.
These days I usually apply the Ick Test. If doing something promotional feels a bit icky, it’s probably a bad idea.
So what doesn’t feel icky? Here are five little suggestions.
1 To avoid clumsy outbursts, it can help to rehearse useful phrases and bring them out only at appropriate moments. Suitable wordings could include ‘You might be interested in my latest book,’ and ‘I just happen to have written…’
2 Get others to blow your trumpet for you. Whether you use friends, colleagues, or a paid publicist, this leaves you looking fragrant and gazing sweetly at the floor in the manner of a Bangladeshi bride.
3 Make use of times when promoting is the order of the day. On Tuesdays, for instance, Romantic Novelists’ Association members are urged to tweet something significant with the tags #TuesNews @RNAtweets. Retweeting is also much encouraged, so you get to help others while your own news also spreads far and wide.
4 Use opportunities like the Alliance of Independent Authors’ members’ showcase to, well, showcase your books. Of course, as with Twitter, many others are also using the same outlet so it’s hard to rise above the noise. But, when crafting your little contribution, you could spend time on the tone and quality rather than the volume.
5 Write guest posts for attractive and popular blogs. Like this one.
Which leaves me with only one thing to add: I just happen to have a new novel out. Hampstead Fever features the intertwined lives of six Londoners one hot summer as emotions boil over. Alas, my mother is no longer around to shout from the rooftops, but people have been kind enough to say some lovely things about my book, so it might just be your kind of read.
Back to Clare!
I’m someone who has read and laughed out loud at both Carol’s novels. She manages to combine hilarious and irreverent writing with expert medical knowledge, accurate observation and real human understanding and insight. A heady mix! And the sex is often hilarious too!
To win a free paperback copy of Carol’s book, Hampstead Fever, enter her Goodreads Giveaway (until Sept 3rd)
How to connect with Carol and BUY HER BOOKS!
Buy Hampstead Fever on Amazon: myBook.to/HF
Buy One Night at the Jacaranda on Amazon: myBook.to/ONATJ
FB Author page: https://www.facebook.com/onenightatthejacaranda/