Thoughts on this blog

Well, all good things come to an end. This blog was ori­gin­ally inten­ded to provide some cov­er­age of the pub­li­city for Déjà Vu and now, get­ting on for three months after the book’s release, it’s time to think about either (i) clos­ing this blog or (ii) re-task­ing it.

I think I’ll go for option (ii). Though the evid­ence of my com­ments on this blog may sug­gest oth­er­wise, I’ve nev­er been entirely com­fort­able with the naked self-pro­mo­tion that we small-press authors must peddle. Some people write books because they think suc­cess will change their lives, and oth­ers find it a form of self-help. For me, writ­ing is about hon­ing a work of fic­tion for it’s own sake, just to see how far it can be taken and how much poten­tial energy can be stuffed into its pages. It appeals to my ped­antry and obsess­ive­nesss. Some aspects of pub­li­city are fun. Interviews, for example, because they force me to engage with the issues I’ve touched upon in my work (in fic­tion, of course, you can write about a char­ac­ter going through a crisis of iden­tity and, so doing, raise a num­ber of ques­tions; in an inter­view, it’s not enough to raise these ques­tions — you have to answer them!). But I think I’ve grown weary of walk­ing into book­shops with Déjà Vu and receiv­ing the polite shake of the head that means Déjà Vu does not show up on the bookshop’s com­puter because my pub­lish­er doesn’t use the same dis­trib­ut­or as, say, Waterstone’s. I’m also tired of my myri­ad strategies for slip­ping my Guardian and SFX reviews into the con­ver­sa­tion without sound­ing like a com­plete twat. To be fair, I’ve got quite good at this, but I find myself return­ing to a thought I had at the begin­ning of this song and dance: pub­li­city is not writ­ing; a beau­ti­ful and suc­cess­ful cam­paign will founder if it is not, at base, sup­por­ted by a strong product. For the time being, I will con­tin­ue with my policy of cre­at­ing mar­ket­ing oppor­tun­it­ies for myself (I seem quite good at gen­er­at­ing them, des­pite my moan­ing!) but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that my tal­ent is for writ­ing, not mar­ket­ing.

OK; so I want to take a step away from the main aim of this blog, which is to com­ment on pub­li­city and mar­ket­ing. In future, I’ll try to blog the nice stuff hap­pen­ing to writer friends, wider lit­er­ary news, and per­haps some per­son­al stuff if it’s worth a grin.

Before I do, I’ll give a brief sum­mary of what’s been hap­pen­ing in This Writing Life. Aesthetica Magazine arrived this morn­ing. It con­tained my short story ‘Jubilee’ — a cheer­ful one, inas­much as the hero doesn’t com­mit sui­cide. No; he’s already com­mit­ted sui­cide. Hmm. What was I say­ing earli­er about writ­ing being a form of self-help? Hello? Irony?

I’m set to record an inter­view for Emma Lloyd’s show on Radio Cornwall next Wednesday (that is, the record­ing is Wednesday; I’d don’t know when the inter­view will air). Emma has asked me to provide a couple of cop­ies of Déjà Vu for a com­pet­i­tion; happy to do so.

I also com­pleted two fur­ther inter­views this week (I don’t include Joe Gordon’s on Forbidden Planet Interview, since I men­tioned it in my last blog). One for the Eternal Night web­site and one for the Open University magazine, which goes out to all staff and stu­dents.

Meanwhile, with Proper Job, my next nov­el, the hil­ar­ity con­tin­ues apace. I’ve passed the 50,000 word mark (as a rule, about 100,000 words is good num­ber at which to aim a nov­el; I’ve no doubt I’ll over­shoot it, but as edit­ing is, for me, very much a pro­cess of reduc­tion, I’d anti­cip­ate the final book will be 80–90,000). I want to crank up the word­count by 2000 words a day, but we’ll see how that goes. As I may have men­tioned, I’ve determ­ined to hire an edit­or for this book before I sub­mit it to pub­lish­ers or agents. Why am I doing this? Well, Déjà Vu was rejec­ted every which­way by pub­lish­ers and agents (those that replied, any­way) in the form I presen­ted it (uned­ited), but has been gath­er­ing some good reviews fol­low­ing its pub­lic­a­tion (and there­fore fol­low­ing its edit­ing). In fact, I’ve had eight reviews for Déjà Vu and not one has been neg­at­ive; writers at the fore­front of sci­ence fic­tion have been extremely pos­it­ive (Ken MacLeod and Jon Courtenay Grimwood). On the assump­tion that this edited ver­sion would have found a pub­lish­er, I want to get Proper Job into the best shape pos­sible. If you’d like to help me out by proofread­ing a pre-pub­lic­a­tion copy of Proper Job, let me know and I can send you a copy near­er the time (June/July).

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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