What makes a good story? The strange world of PR for authors

The strange world of PR is always looking for angles, because it's the strongest angle that will grab the headline, or at least get some coverage in the media. And authors need PR as much as actors, artists, and anyone else in the creative industries.

Press, or rather I should say media coverage is a hugely cost effective way of spreading a message, and now with the multitude of Internet media it is even more powerful. But there is a vast difference between pumping out inane messages, such as what I had for breakfast, fascinating though it might be to some people, and an article of depth and interest. And on the subject of what makes good PR for an author, an article, which recently appeared in the Guardian, is the perfect example. It boasts a brilliant headline for author and publisher. 'Former scooter salesman Raphael Selbourne scoops the Costa first novel award for Beauty.'

Why is it so good? Because firstly it has an angle: 'Former scooter salesman...’ Now who would have thought that, he's just an ordinary guy and hasn’t he made good! It has the writer's name, the award he won and the name of his book; perfect, because even if no one reads the article they have the essentials. In order to generate PR for authors, publishers’ publicists are often combing the author's history to find the one thing that will make the media sit up and scribble about him or her.

So what about me? The last headline that attracted a good deal of attention was the fact that I had an unsolved murder in my family, and for those of you who have read this far and are looking for the story of this murder possibly being a government conspiracy, it's been taken off the web. Not because of any gagging order by MI5, but in respect to Martha's family wishes.

Apart from that what would the media say about me? Well I have never sold scooters but I have sold sweets in Woolworths. 'Former Woolworths Sales Assistant, Pauline Rowson signs book deal for new Inspector Horton Marine Mystery crime novel.'

I also used to sell shoes in Saxone. 'Former shop girl's crime novels in top three percent of authors most borrowed from UK Libraries'

I've worked in a plastics moulding factory and lived in Northern Ireland during the troubles in the 1970s. You can make up your own headlines for those, (unless my publicist does soon)!

As is often the case with the news there is a lot more behind the headline that isn't revealed unless you search for it on the Internet. In the case of the scooter salesman he also holds a degree in politics, has worked as a teacher and translator, and was studying for an MA in Islamic Studies.

My background is nothing as grand as that, although I did run my own business for sixteen years. Woolworths, Saxone and the factory jobs were all while I was studying for GCSE O levels, between the ages of 14 and 17 and you'll probably find that many authors, or rather publicists, who claim their authors struggled in the early days writing in cafes while working as waiters and waitresses did these jobs while teenagers.

But people like a success story, and why not, I say? Plucking success from defeat or after years of struggle against all odds is heart warming and provides hope for others, if that person can do it, why can't I?

Many people dream of being a published author, but dreaming alone won't achieve it, (although it helps when seeking inspiration and ideas for stories and novels), only hard work over many years, dedication to the craft, lots of thinking, observing and a touch of luck can do that. But then that doesn't make a good story.


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