Since The Story of Gloucester’s Pubs finally hit the streets a couple of weeks ago I’ve found myself becoming a bit of a media whore and discovered that I’m really not very good at it! It seems that to effectively market your book you need a whole different skill-set to those required to write it.
My first media experience was a spot on Steve Kitchen’s drive time show on Radio Gloucestershire on Thursday 27 May, for which I ventured into the studios in London Road to do the broadcast live. Obviously on a live radio show it is necessary for guests to be wheeled in and out fairly quickly, so there is minimal preparation before you find yourself sat in front of banks of microphones and a relaxed, confident, talkative DJ.
Knowing that the interview was coming up I’d skimmed through the book to remind myself of some of the main points and even made a few notes about the key things that I wanted to get across. However, on the day I found myself babbling about all manner of things and totally missing most of the points I had planned to get across.
The radio also seems to accentuate my already broad Gloucester accent and for some reason I feel the need to over-use words in a way that I don’t in normal every day conversation. I previously did an interview about a year ago and used the word ‘absolutely’ about a hundred times – what’s that about? Acutely aware of this fact I kept a firm eye on it this time, but it still slipped out a couple of times.
This wasn’t the worst of my radio experiences however. Through Twitter I had been invited to do an interview for Star Radio with David Stone (social media works!) In this case we had arranged to pre-record it. This is much better as at least you have the option of a do-over if you make a complete cock of it. Just as well! The problem is, I forgot and when David called I was out. When I got his answer phone message more than an hour later I rang him back immediately in an embarrassed panic: ‘No problem’, he said, ‘we’ll do it now’.
Now you’ll recall that the only thing I had going for me for the last interview was preparation; something I was now sadly lacking. The interview was a train wreck. I got my facts muddled and tripped over my words so much that I asked to start again. The second time I babbled like a loon. I don’t know when it was aired and I dare not listen to it.
On the face of it my next media interaction was much better – a newspaper interview with the Citizen. Better still, we did it by e-mail. Perfect, I get time to think and give a measured, written response. However, I forgot about the picture.
I arranged to meet the photographer in town at the Pig Inn the City. Amidst mickey-taking regulars I was posed leaning against beer-pumps and standing around with a beer in my hand, all the while clutching my book and grinning like an escaped mental patient. I don’t take a very flattering photograph at the best of times, which is odd given my natural good looks (ahem!), but the picture that accompanied the article in the Citizen on Thursday must be one of the worst ever. If this was the best of the ones he managed to take that day then I hate to think what he others were like! I’m seriously considering a bag for my head when going out in public in future – which to be fair has been the subject of popular request from some of my more scathing critics amongst friends and family for some time.
This was actually my second photo shoot of the week. Geoff Sandles, who was helpful in providing me with information for the book, is also editor of the Tippler, Gloucestershire CAMRA’s newsletter, and he wanted a picture to accompany the very flattering review that he had written. On this occasion I was called upon to stand outside the Imperial clutching a beer and my book. Very embarrassing as shoppers troop past looking at you like you’re some kind of strange alien or trying to gurn for the camera.
This picture is to appear on the cover of the Tippler – true fame! The good thing in this instance is that I am fairly small in the frame, although I’m not sure I’m so happy with the warning from Geoff that, because the picture had to be re-sized to fit the cover format, I may look ‘chubbier than normal’ – not something I really need any help with!
So, to summarise, the skills required for marketing books that you don’t necessarily need for writing them, and which I clearly lack, are:
– a good memory for facts
– confidence and an easy manner
– a voice that doesn’t make you sound like one of the Wurzels
– the ability to articulate a clear, concise response off the cuff
– the ability to smile without looking constipated
Despite all this, book sales seem to be going well so far, so if you have any more media opportunities for me bring ’em on – I can take it!