Saturday, October 01, 2016

Blowing My Own Trumpet

Aline here. I'm delighted to introduce you today to Marianne Wheelaghan. She's another Scottish writer, but having spent some time in the South Seas (the background for some of her books) she seems to have picked up some of the sunshine to bring back with her to grey Edinburgh. She's always warm, funny and very engaging and I know you'll enjoy meeting her here.


When I was growing up there was no greater crime than blowing your own trumpet. It was considered attention seeking and self obsessed, deceitful and shallow. Imagine then my dilemma when I discovered that for us writers to succeed it is not enough to write a good story, we must also be good self promoters.

 Regardless of whether we are speaking at an author event or being interviewed on social media, or writing an article for a magazine or blog, the book marketeers tell us we must “big” ourselves up. If we don't put the best possible spin on what we say, we run the risk of appearing uninteresting, dull even, and by default suggest our books are also dull.

But while I fully understand that in a world where everyone is clamouring to be centre stage we writers cannot afford to be shrinking violets, “bigging” myself up smacks of deceit and blatant self promotion. It seems to directly contradict my integrity as a writer.

Then, not so long ago, I discovered that some of the very best writers were shameless self promoters. I changed my mind – if it was okay for the great and the good to blow their own trumpet, it was okay for me.

Who were these charlatans? Let me tell you about just a few. In 1927 Georges Simenon, author of the Maigret novels, agreed to write a novel while suspended in a cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub for 72 hours – all for the handsome amount of 100,000 francs. While George wrote, the public could shout out themes and names for characters. They could even offer suggestions for a title for the novel. It was promoted as a “record novel: record speed, record endurance and record talent”. It didn’t happen in the end but that didn’t stop people from talking about it as if it had.

Who else? Nobel Prize winning Ernest Hemingway appeared in adverts for Ballantine Ale, as did John Steinbeck and CS Forester (of African Queen fame). Mark Twain advertised Campbell’s tinned tomato soup (I kid you not!) and Perry Mason author Erle Stanley Gardner promoted headache powders.

Virginia Woolf, despite stating she wasn’t interested in her appearance, went on a “Beautiful Woman” style shopping expedition with London Vogue’s fashion editor in order to help improve her image. As she became more famous she took more care over her appearance and developed the term “frock-consciousness”. Furthermore, when one Logan C Pearsall Smith criticised Woolf for writing for a low brow magazine like Vogue for money, she defended her actions in a letter to a friend saying, “Ladies’ clothes and aristocrats playing golf don’t affect my style; What Logan wants is prestige: what I want is money …Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.”

One of the oldest records of self-promotion dates as far back as 440 BC when the writer Herodotus paid for one of his own book tours around the Aegean. In the 12th century a certain Gerald of Wales invited people to his house for a meal and forced them to listen to him read from his latest work for three days!  Even the wonderful, great American poet Walt Whitman felt the need to write anonymous reviews about himself: “An American bard at last! Large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded."

Walt, however, was an amateur compared to our very own John Creasey, who, when starting out, wrote hundreds of his own reviews under different names. The best self-promoter, however, has to be 18th century writer Grimod de la Reyniere, who invited his friends to a ‘funeral supper’ that he held to promote his new book Reflections On Pleasure. When the friends got to his house, he locked them in a room and hurled abuse at them while others watched from a balcony above. When the visitors were finally released they ran around telling everyone that La Reyniere was mad and everyone promptly bought his book.

So, regardless of what you call it, self-promotion, building an author platform, branding, bigging ourselves up, making waves or ripples, when push comes to shove all is fair in love and war and writing. As author Stendhal said in his biography Memoirs of an Egotist: “Great success is not possible without a certain amount of shamelessness, and even of out-and-out charlatanism.”

And while I’m not looking for great success let me shamelessly tell you that the ebook of my latest crime novel, The Shoeshine Killer, is available on A snip at $2.99, it is the only book you'll read this year which features line-dancing policemen in Fiji!


Susan said...

Aline, thank you for introducing me to a new author. As a reader I will confirm that self promotion is important. How else would we discover your books? Just bought the first 2 books in Marianne's South Seas series and look forward to reading them.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Hello Susan, a big thank you for reading the post and buying my Scottish Lady Detective novels. I do hope you enjoy reading them. All good wishes, Marianne
PS and thank you, again, to Aline for inviting me to contribute :)

Aly Monroe said...

And I can thoroughly recommend Marianne's "The Blue Suitcase"
You will not be disappointed!

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

That's so kind of you, Aly – I am blushing!