Thursday, 5 May 2011

Getting Noticed (Not!)

Marketing and promotion are clearly essential for any author. So, what lengths would I go to, to get noticed? Hmm.
Obviously, like all authors, I want my work to get noticed, but as for me as an individual... It might be more appropriate for me to rephrase the question and ask what lengths would I go to, not to get noticed!
For example, my first foray into marketing was as a children’s author promoting a book based loosely on my own daughter’s first year at school. Naturally, I took all the steps to ensure characters and names did not correspond to individuals and I adopted a pseudonym, Anne Pugh, which was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. However, what I didn’t anticipate was the level of interest from the local press when the (paperback) book was published. Indeed, I was quickly propelled into panic mode at the prospect of photographers trooping to the house.
My daughter was, by then, a teenager and I was eager to avoid the risk of embarrassment. Moreover, I am essentially a private person and I simply didn’t want the world at large to know my personal identity.
So what did I do? Well, my first port of call was a wig shop. However, the cost of a real hair wig was prohibitive and I ended up in a fancy dress outfitters. The resultant mass of red curls would have done Red Riding Hood justice, but in the cold light of day I had to concede it looked hideous. A trip to the pharmacy was more productive and a spray-on hair colour proved a much better solution. Also, I was able to procure an old pair of oversized glasses (Deirdre Barlow style) which all but covered my face, and then I sat in front of a mirror and practised arranging my lips into a smile which was nothing like my normal facial expression.
Did I pull it off? Not quite. The resultant photographs looked a reasonable camouflage, but not sufficient to fool those who knew me well. My hopes were quickly shattered by a call from a neighbour who had been examining one of the photographs carefully and could not make up her mind. I could hardly tell a bare-faced lie. Then a few friends phoned...
I really don’t know how successful I was in escaping the radar of the majority. And was the whole pursuit of anonymity folly, anyway? To that, I will say a categorical NO.
It is my contention that a professional writer adopting a pen name is creating a brand, a product. We cease to be ourselves as individuals and become a marketing entity.
Writers may have many perfectly valid reasons for wishing to protect their identity. I know that my pursuit of anonymity is not exclusive from the number of websites to omit author photographs. Thankfully, epublishing has made life much easier in this respect and has facilitated the ability to divorce one’s personal persona from a professional identity/ brand.
After all, it is our work that we want to get noticed!