Publicity: A few thoughts…

Having recently published my first novel, I have entered the strange world of blogging, of, amongst many other things, letting-people-know-that-I-exist. The intention is that someone other than family and friends will read my story and even pass constructive comment on it.
In many ways, this ‘entering the stream’ – which I have borrowed from Buddhist terminology signifying liberation from the suffering that arises through wrong views about the ego – means partaking in the bizarre construction of a moveable and Chimeric market-place somewhat different from the traditional, more solid and geographically predictable one. For a ‘newbie’, it is bewildering: possibilities, choices and connections appear endless. Links engender more links, the social media landscape emerges like a multi-faceted metropolis, almost unrecognizable when compared with the formerly proscribed view from a tiny window. How can I follow it all? And who is the most worthy to be followed? So many variables…
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, in the ‘real’ world, there are people and organisations that still rely on traditional ways of communicating information. These can be successful, particularly where there is a dedicated publicist who understands that many people still prefer the well-organised, clear and uncluttered paper poster to the virtual one. Unfortunately, though, too often the publicity for many events that have been planned, organised, set for a particular time and place, potentially exciting, or useful, or intriguing (I am thinking of irregular markets, exhibitions, even talks) appears to have been left to someone who is unfit for anything else. Torn cardboard, the backs of old table-tops, brown paper, plastic boxes, anything can be the support on which the message is written. But ‘written’ does not describe the almost illegible lettering that is meant to direct, inform and encourage. ‘Vide-Greniers’ says the notice, in white paint on cream-coloured card, miles from anywhere, on a main road, so the only people who will spot the sign are driving by at 90 kph. The time and place are lost in minuscule writing that has been squeezed into the remaining space.
My wife and I recently visited Davejean, a small village in the Corbières hills, where an art weekend had been organized. There were human-sized sculptures on street-corners, houses had been opened to make exhibition spaces, alleyways and gardens invited people to view photographs, space-delineating ribbons, figures in trees, constructions of bones and metal bits and pieces, collages, montages, assemblages. But the most astonishing piece was an installation in the church of Saint-Saturnin, by artist Bernard Alain Brux. We both said, ‘Wow!’ as first impressions were overwhelming: hundreds of human figures dangling in space, illuminated by natural and artificial light, inviting visitors to both view them and walk amongst them. Here’s a link to their website:
Yes, there is a website, but nothing you would be likely to stumble across accidentally. So how did we get to know about the event? From an A4 printed sheet of paper, attached by two pieces of Sellotape to the door of the local tabac, and visible only when the place was open. The sheet was flapping in the wind: we happened to be passing by. Otherwise, there were no other notices, anywhere, in the local area. Not until approaching Davejean itself did we see evidence that something might be happening.
This village is certainly not atypical of an approach that seems to say: it’s on, but don’t let on. This is a pity, particularly during the ‘season’ when visitors are hungry for markets, vide-greniers and other open-air events.
So: two extremes of the publicity-engine.
As for myself, I feel a bit like a child in an inflatable buoyancy-aid suddenly tossed amongst the white-water kayakers of the Colorado. It’s terrifying (but exciting, new and challenging). It certainly demands more than just quietly waiting for visitors to be attracted to the fragile poster flapping fitfully in an errant breeze.


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