Thursday, December 06, 2007

Publicity - blessing or curse?

Those who know me well know that Elizabeth Baines is a pen-name - though it isn't really, either, it's more like my other name, as I answer to it now, don't even notice when people use it, and forget to tell new acquaintances that it isn't my real name (it kind of is now). It's lost that function it once had, which was to separate off my writing head from my 'real-life' head, allowing me to write free of any expectations people might have had of me, and allowing the writing to exist for itself, and people to read it free of the preconceptions that my person might give them.

I really did have some romantic notion of being separate from my work, launching it off into the world to exist in its own right, while I went about gleefully thinking to myself, 'Little do they guess, those people who know me.' A notion of the power of words in themselves which of course I still hold to and go on championing on my other blog. Little chance, of course, of effecting such a situation in this age of publicity, and the fact that I'm writing this blog shows how far I've capitulated.

It's obligatory now for an author to work on publicity, and recently a press release for my short story collection prompted the local newspaper syndicate to pose me a quiz, my answers to which then appeared alongside my publicity photo. Yesterday I was in the charity shop (one of my habitual haunts, as you will know if you read this blog often,) and the manager, who usually greets me with a jolly hello, seemed shyer than usual, and then asked, after hesitating a moment: 'Do you mind if I ask you? Are you a writer? Didn't I see you in the local paper recently?'

See? It changes everything. And I have complicated feelings about it. I'm pleased that word about my book is getting out there. But is it word about the book? The woman couldn't actually remember what it was I had written, it was me she remembered, my picture which she'd immediately recognized as that woman who comes in from time to time... And I'm not in this context anonymous any longer, which any writer with their ear to the ground for a story most desires to be.


Adrian said...

Hardly anyone on the Manchester literary scene (you're a rare exception!) has read a word of my fiction or poetry. Yet everyone asks me about my writing. Go figure.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Heartbreaking, isn't it? and now there's that book: How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read.