Back in the dark old pre-Amazon ages, when tweeting was strictly for birds, and the phrase 'have you blogged yet?' was somebody with a cold enquiring about your toiletry habits, I was lucky enough to have some books published by a mainstream publisher.
A bright young woman named Pansy was assigned as my publicist. It was Pansy who trotted out press releases, arranged interviews and lined up book signings. In those days we had places called Book Shops in which to sign books, and even meet our readers face to face. There were lots of them. Shops that is. At least half a dozen major high street book chains and an independent on every street corner.
Happy days you might think. But were we writers happy? Like hell we were! What a discontented bunch of whingers we must have been. Get two or three novelists in a huddle, and the odds were they'd be griping about Pansy or Poppy having the nerve to take maternity leave in the midst of a campaign. (This happened surprisingly often.) If your novel didn't hit the bestseller lists then it was all Poppy's fault for failing to plan her family around her author's literary career. How could she be so thoughtless? Editors too seemed similarly disposed, and you prayed yours wouldn't deliver her twins until after you delivered your final draft. Once that was done, novelists did what they liked to do best: retire to the ivory tower to write more novels.
Fourteen years on and the landscape has changed. 'The Testament of Vida Tremayne' comes out in a month's time. This time there's no publicity team, no Pansy to blame for failing to get my book in Smiths. It's all down to me. With publicity budgets shrinking for mainstream publishers, it's not just the tiny independents who expect their authors to go it alone. Writers can no longer afford to cringe behind the computer. We have to get out there and strut our stuff on Social Media, like it or not.
But where to begin? Confronted with a variety of platforms to get my head around, apart from the inevitable Twitter and Facebook, I begin to feel dizzy. There's LinkedIn, Library Thing, Good Reads, Pinterest, Instagram, Galleynet and that's just for starters. Then there's the peculiar lingo, the rule books, the etiquette to tackle. For someone who has only just gravitated from the exclamation mark to the smiley face, this represents a steep learning curve.
Sleepless nights stressing over the use of hash tags seem inevitable. How much is too much? Too many is a bit shouty. Too little and you might as well stay holed up in your ivory tower for the rest of your twilight years.
But I'll get there. Friends assure me this can even be fun. Indeed, the people I've met on Twitter, seem welcoming, friendly sorts. Soo...time to exit the nest and stop flapping. That said, Pansy, if you happen to be reading this, come back, all is forgiven :)