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'That writing stuff is only half the battle'

16 April 2012

'Before my first book, Cityboy, was published I had foolishly assumed that an author's job was to write books. What a naïve buffoon I was! Having had three books published, it is now clear that writing stuff is only half the battle... at best. Unless you are already an established author or have written something so outrageously fantastic that it makes Catch-22 look like insipid balderdash you need to get out there and promote the hell out of it. As American literary agent Bill Adler says: "If you, the author, won't promote your own book then it may be destined to a lifespan between that of butter and yogurt."

I like to think there was a time when a book's subject matter, timeliness and innate brilliance would dictate whether or not it succeeded, but I'm almost certainly deluded. I suspect that Charles Dickens was buttering up newspaper editors over a plate of whelks 150 years ago. Christ alive, Chaucer was probably hassling trendy nobles to tell their aristo mates about his latest poems (the 14th-century equivalent of re-Tweeting). Whatever their modus operandi was, one thing is now not in doubt: if you don't play the game then you can kiss goodbye to any hope of securing another book deal...

But the tragedy is that you can't just have these webby things sitting there twiddling their electronic thumbs in cyber space - you've got to work hard at forming an "online community". You have to tweet every day, interact with people who tweet you, post exciting nonsense on your Facebook page, and update your website/blog every week at least. Frankly, it's a bleeding miracle any aspiring author has any time left to actually write books!'

Geraint Anderson, author of just-published Just Business in Bookbrunch