The only PR book you’ll ever need

Throughout my career I’ve had this fantasy that one day I’d be walking to work and some incredible Svengali character would leap from the shadows, declare “kid, I’m gonna make you a star!”, and then proceed to ensure I had stratospheric success. I know, I know, Svengali was a villain, but the lad got shit done.

Alas, that is not the way of the world. You have to work at your PR and marketing as much as you your actual work. No-one can ride in and do it for you – even if you can afford PR representation, you will still need to brief that person or company about the outcomes you want. Now, thankfully, there is a book to help you with that. A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Sangeeta Waldron launched her book The PR Knowledge Book at the Taj hotel in town.

As part of the night I interviewed her about how she came to write the book and what readers could expect from it. With humour and good grace, she put up with my attempts to derail her insistence that companies have to engage with social media in this day and age. As you know, I am very ambivalent about the whole thing and currently I only do Linkedin in a very desultory way. Sangeeta indicated her gorgeous, clever son Rory who is wise beyond his years and who she said is a complete digital native. As his generation become adults, they will not trust companies that don’t engage properly with their audiences and part of that is social media. I bow to her greater knowledge on this, but won’t be returning to Twitley or Duckface any time soon.

The book does have things for dinosaurs like me though as there are brilliant bits on personal branding, on crisis management and putting together documents such as a press release. It is a very comprehensive read. I highly recommend companies and entrepreneurs – big and small – get a copy and get going on PR. Then, when that Svengali character leaps from the shadows, you can say ‘chill, bruv, I already got this’.

“Gryffindor is the most hetero-normative of all the Hogwart houses”

Last night I popped my BAME in Publishing cherry and went along to the rather swish HarperCollins building for an event hosted by HC’s new employee BAME group Elevate. It was a fantastic way to meet other colleagues in publishing and everyone was just so nice (although how is it that everyone in book publishing now appears to be 25 and a supermodel?).
The highlight of the night – unexpected for me as I don’t remember being told it would be happening – was the appearance of Amrou Al-Kadhi or Glamrou to give them their most apt name. The ever-awesome Sarah Shaffi interviewed Glamrou, journalist and Muslim drag queen, about their new book Unicorn. What they were wearing was just spectacular (see image above). But, before I get too Daily Mail and start talking just about a person’s dress, it was a funny, candid conversation about navigating the intersectionality of their experience. Amrou did a regular column for The Independent and said they found that it was often the case that left-leaning folks want Muslim writers to write on accepted Muslim stereotypes rather than permitting us to write whatever the hell we want. That part really resonated with me as I had that issue too. The only folks who really acknowledged how odd it is to only commission people of colour with reference to their background was regrettably (and weirdly) the right wing press but my own political sensibilities wouldn’t allow me to write for them (although it could be argued that Metro is owned by the most right wing of all the news organisations and I did plenty for them). I can’t unpack now why the left seem to ghettoise people of colour into talking only about their race or religious experience (plus that’s a massive generalisation based on my narrow experience), but I will say that the Q&A was terrific and I found myself nodding along throughout.
Most hilarious quote: “Gryffindor is definitely the most hereto-normative house.” This was in answer to Sarah’s question of “which house would you be in?” after revealing that they are a huge Harry Potter fan. They are Slytherin in case you were wondering.
Afterwards I bought a copy of the book (it is out on Thursday and I have begun reading it and must say it is great so far) and got Amrou to sign it for me.
Afterwards I was speaking to someone and, of course, like a nan from the 1950s, forgot the ‘they’ pronoun for this wonderful non-binary person. “He’s fabulous!” I said. But then I saw that this was how they’d signed my book. No, no Glamrou, YOU’re fabulous.

PLR Party Party Party

So last night I attended the party for PLR’s 40th anniversary. It was schmazing (I know from TV trailers that this is a word the yoot now use so strap yourselves in for more of my slangtastic stuff). PLR stands for Public Lending Right and was a law that was put on the statues 40 years ago requiring the government to make funds available to pay authors a dividend whenever one of their books is loaned out. It has recently been extended to audio and e-books as well. Each year, as an author, I get a modest sum of money deposited into my account, which is both very welcome for its own sake and also a wonderful boost to know that people are loaning out my books.

While at the party, I did a bit of author celeb spotting. For example, Joanne Harris was there. Like right there. In front of me. I could have stolen a canapé from her hand (and then had a story to tell my grandkids about the time that Joanne Harris decked me at a party). Instead, I just did lots of “I’m not worthy” staring. 

I missed out on getting a wee drawing of myself by Chris Riddell because I wasn’t sharp-elbowed enough. But I gave him a hard, admiring look from a distance. He kept his head down drawing so he did not notice my glares of approval. 

There was a truly brilliant Q&A session in which ALCS’s deputy chief executive Barbara Hayes interviewed the author and activist Maureen Duffy on the fight to get PLR into law. Maureen really hit home how librarians and authors need to work together to ensure governments properly remunerate authors. I did get my shit together enough to thank her before I left. But only because someone had foolishly left her alone for five minutes so I could sidle up with my creepy admiration and accost her with who I was and why I was so grateful to her. She squeezed my hand and nodded amicably, which may have been a coded signal to security to move me the fuck on but I was on the move anyway. 

One day I will attend a PLR event and leave my imposter syndrome self at home. Last night was not that night. Many thanks to Sade Fadipe, the lovely children’s author who kept me company, and to the glamorous woman from South Africa who told me about their campaign to have it set up in their country.

If you are an author – and I cannot say this emphatically enough – please, please, please sign up for PLR and also ALCS. It’s your right and it is money that you earned by writing your book. Don’t miss out on it!

I am also a member of Society of Authors, who gave the card that we members signed to the folks there and I can also say that it is a great organisation for checking your contracts and connecting with other authors. 

Thanks PLR for a great night and for the rather spiffing commemorative pen given at the end of the night as a gift to all who attended. I shall treasure it, but not as much as I treasure your ongoing work.