The third of this week's old writer blogs is one from March 2007, and it is a cautionary tale of what happens when you take your eye off the ball during the promotion of your writing. An important lesson here - your job doesn't end when you hand in the manuscript and cash the cheque...
Click on the cut to read more.
Lies, Damned Lies and other PR
So there was this videogame project I was working on, and the publishers were quite keen to have me involved in the promotion and publicity behind it. I agreed to do what I could - a lesson I learned early on in my writing career was that if you want your stuff to be pushed in the marketplace, you better be prepared to do some of that pushing yourself. I told the PR gang that, although I was a busy chap, I was always available for interviews; after all, it's not like answering a few questions and saying how great your work is comes as a strain to anyone, right? And someone at my level isn't going to have to weather the same kind of media circus as a high-flying film director or TV star - how hard can it be?
But of course, in this wacky, madcap world that is the entertainment industry, nothing is ever that straightforward.
I missed the first danger sign. The PR gang sent me a press release that was about to go out and asked me to give it a once over. Was I okay with the way they credited me? Well, no. Now, it's a given that a press release's job is to put the best shine on something and hype it to the nines, but here on this document was text that talked about me in terms that were not so much glowing, more positively incandescent. Spare my blushes, I told them, and please don't describe me as bestriding the world like an Authorial Colossus. I mean, I'm good at what I do, but I'm not that good. "My friends will read this," I said, "don't embarrass me". So they dialled it back, but only a little; and I got some good-natured ribbing by mates in the industry and a few kudos, and yes, okay, I admit I did bask in it a bit. Just a bit.
A while later the PR gang asked me to do a couple of interviews and that was enjoyable - but they wanted a picture of me to go with them. I couldn't really see the point - I mean, it's about the project, right, not me? - but they insisted and insisted and insisted, until finally one of the PR guys ambushed me with a camera and got a shot that was taken a day after I had returned from California on a red-eye flight, all jetlaggy and pale-lookin'. Lucky for me, it was the size of a postage stamp when they used it. But then if I was pretty, I would have been an actor.
Then months after that, the PR gang contacted me again. They had some more interview requests for me. "Great," I said. "Send me the questions and I'll reply to them." But when the interviews came back, the questions had already been answered. Not, as was requested, by me, but by someone in the PR office impersonating me. I never learned who it was, but some PR monkey took the two interviews I'd already given and used them as a template; most of the questions in the new interviews were along the same kinds of lines and said monkey had performed a cut and paste job, filling in the gaps with stuff that anyone who had never met me might have been fooled by and way too many Americanisms. Needless to say, I was rather put out by all this and not a little pissed off. Remember the part where I had told the PR gang "I was always available for interviews"? I was baffled by the fact that they'd wasted who knows how much time (and money) getting the PR monkey to fake up these answers instead of actually asking me to do it for free, as I had offered. Never mind the fact that a lot of the answers were wrong or just outright made me sound like a doofus. It was done this way, the PR gang explained, because they wanted to "save me the trouble". Not that they'd actually asked if it was any trouble.
So I threw out their cack-handed impersonation of me and did the interviews from scratch myself, because - and call me crazy if you want to - I kind of assumed that the interviewers actually wanted to hear from me, not someone pretending to be me.
And then later on, when it was way too late to do anything about it, whilst surfing around online I found - can you guess? - an interview with me that I had never actually given, which the PR gang quietly ignored and pretended they hadn't published without my permission.
The thing was, I found myself thinking - Is this a tiny microcosm of what it's like to be really famous? I mean globally famous, movie idol, rock star famous? People making stuff up about you in order to sell things, people taking pictures of you when you don't want them too, people impersonating you and putting words into your mouth? It kinda is, but it mostly isn't, because at the end of the day, I am not going to be able to have someone fired for doing those things.
Well, at least not yet.