Welcome to the first in a new series, in which we ask our lovely author clients to answer three questions about how they use digital marketing in their careers, and how it affects their writing.
Kicking us off is Patrick Gale. Patrick’s sixteenth novel, A Place Called Winter was a Radio 2 Book Club selection, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize, the Walter Scott Prize and the Green Carnation Award and and is now being developed as a BBC serial. His two part film, Man in an Orange Shirt will be on BBC 2 this July along with a documentary about his work as part of the Gay Britannia season. He is a patron of the Charles Causley Trust and the Penzance LitFest, a director of Endelienta and artistic director of the North Cornwall Book Festival. He plays the cello and lives on the last farm in Cornwall.
What do you is think the most effective thing you’ve done in the digital world?
Around the time Bookswarm designed my website for me, I became far more relaxed about sharing my writing/talking/daily life with the online communities. This was just before a book tour for my novel, A Place Called Winter, and I really noticed the difference both in the size of audience my talks were attracting, in the speed and liveliness with which readers started responding to my work, and in the shelf-life of any articles I published. I handle it with care, as privacy is an issue, but I can’t now imagine returning to being a writer only present in the printed/published word.
How do you feel about the way digital technology has made it easier for writers to connect with their readers?
I’m sure it varies from writer to writer but my novels are intensely emotional and always used to generate a lot of mail. Now they generate a lot of tweets, Facebook comments and direct message. I love that immediacy. Readers now feel involved in the whole process – they get little hints of what I’m working on, sneak previews of the manuscript or design ideas for the book jacket – and I suspect that gives them a greater sense of ownership. Provided booksellers and festivals are also digitally connected, we can now work together to give book events free publicity they’d never get through conventional media. Twitter, especially , presents a great, buzzing hive of eager readers who are really generous at sharing information and recommendations. Far from killing off the book, as people initially feared it would, digital technology has sustained and enriched the entire publishing process. Sales seem to be as buoyant as ever and I regularly meet readers who are buying a novel of mine the second time, to get it signed, having already read it digitally.
What’s the single best piece of advice you can give to other writers about the best use of digital marketing?
Support other writers. I think readers get rapidly bored by talking billboards but they love to hear when a writer they like really rates some other writer they might not yet have discovered. We all enjoy the occasional crow, but boasting will never win the support that professional generosity does! And, speaking as the artistic director of one and the patron of a second, don’t forget to spread the word about the book festivals you visit; don’t assume they don’t need the extra oomph your support will give them online.
Visit Patrick’s website at galewarning.org