About a year ago I had the pleasure of launching my first novel, Callum and the Mountain, at the Wigtown Book Festival. It was great! A sellout crowd, to my surprise and delight – adults, kids, smiling faces, open wallets (not the most important thing but certainly very welcome…). I read a few extracts, sang a song, answered questions and signed a pile of books. Bliss!
Fast forward a year. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems there’s some sort of a bug going about at the moment. Rooms full of happy book fans are just not on the cards – but as it happens I have another book, Jack’s Well, to launch this week. Looks as if I’ll need to try something a wee bit different.
I’m not alone. There are hundreds of books being published this month. While mine is obviously the best, if everybody’s tweeting and facebooking and instagramming and whatsapping and snapchatting about their great new stories it can be very hard to catch anyone’s attention above the noise. I am really lucky with my lovely publishers, Beaten Track, because they let me write what I want to even if it’s a bit quirky and weird (and it is), but they’re a very small independent publisher and they haven’t got millions of pounds to throw at publicity. “Hey, no problem,” I think, “I’ll just throw millions of my own pounds at publicity!” And then I remember that I don’t have millions of pounds either, sadly.
Fortunately, there’s something in life more valuable than millions of pounds, and that’s friends. Covid has taught us that, if nothing else – the people around us are the thing that really matters. And that’s never truer than when you’re trying to get the word out about a new book. You might think being a writer is a lonely life, but I’ve made loads of great contacts through stories and writing and it feels like a really vibrant community. Children’s writers in particular are an incredibly supportive bunch. I’ve got pals writing reviews, letting me post on their blogs, recommending the book to friends and family and sharing my endless, tiresome stream of posts about the book. Oh, and I will absolutely do the same for them – I’ve loved getting to know the current scene, and just through getting a book or two out I’ve been introduced to incredible stories by folk like Barbara Henderson, Joan Haig, Ross Sayers, Mark A. Smith, Lindsay Littleson, Joan Lennon and loads more.
So although I really miss getting out and meeting folk, and I’m sure you do too, right now it feels as if books can still bring people together in a way that’s more important than ever. If you think this sounds like a good community to be part of, well, you’re already a part of it by being a reader! And if you haven’t already, I hope one day you’ll have a bash at writing your own story. Maybe I’ll be able to help you share it far and wide – I’ll be very happy to try!
I have to end on a MASSIVE ‘thank-you’ to Moat Brae, not just for helping me out with my book this week, but for reminding everyone of the power and magic of stories – keep it up, folks, we need you!
This blog post was written for the Moat Brae website as part of the virtual book launch celebration for Alan’s new book, Jack’s Well. You can join in the other activities over on our Facebook page. If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Jack’s Well click here.