I’ve been learning about practical publicity in the last two months. On 26 June we launched The Conscientious Objector’s Wife at the Quaker Centre bookshop in London. Many of Frank and Lucy’s grandchildren were there, including many who had not met for years, so there was a definite air of a family party about the event. Elizabeth, one of the grandchildren, spoke about the family background and what happened to Frank and Lucy after the end of the war, and then Lucinda Gosling of the Mary Evans Picture Library did a Q&A with me about the processes of editing and researching to put the book together. It was all live-streamed, and it was so enjoyable to see the audience chatting to each other enthusiastically. But since nearly all of them had been furnished with copies of the book using the estate’s discount, not so many books were sold, which is surely the point of a book launch. Lesson learned.
Handheld had more publicity in July, with nice things being said about the forthcoming Kingdoms of Elfin by the Bookseller, which placed it in large format as a Book of the Month.
Blackwells in Oxford have created a permanent display of all Handheld’s books in their upstairs floors, migrating between poetry and the café (I recommend their red velvet cake). Friends and relations have been to visit and sending us photographs, and I’m expecting to go soon myself. This really is a once in a career moment, and is producing good sales: nearly half the Blackwells stock went in the first week.
All this publicity has encouraged me to do more hands-on marketing myself. We’re getting a pop-up banner, I’ve got a portable table on order, and we’ll be appearing at three small-scale but well-populated events in the south-west this autumn.
The first will be at our village show in early September, which will be an interesting challenge: how can Handheld’s books compete for attention with the home-made jam competition (which I will be entering in any case)? The second will be at BristolCon in October, my first science fiction convention. And the third will be at the Bath & Bristol Small Publishers’ Gathering, which I’m organising, in Bath in November. Full reports and photographs will be posted as they arrive. And if you can suggest other fairs, shows and book-friendly events Handheld could have a stand at, please tell us!