Monday, June 18, 2007

A reader writes...

My book, Out of the Tunnel, will be out soon, in the second week of July. Proofs have been sent out to newspapers and magazines by the publishers, in the hope of it being covered or reviewed. Interviews have been pitched. All authors are expected to do publicity for their books, and I am no exception. It is part of the contract that you sign. You have to 'push' it. There are thousands of books published every year. Only a small percentage are 'successful'. 'Success' criteria being debatable in these days of store-driven discounts and multi-buys and the collapse of the net book agreement. You don't just have to tell it, you have to sell it, nowadays. Margins are too tight for talent or skill alone to see you through. It's a hard-nosed, cut-throat, high-pressure business. But you can take cynicism too far...

I discovered that some people were saying recently on a few websites and blogs that they thought the whole cyberstalker thing was a 'PR stunt to sell the book'. I didn't bother to argue, after I saw the accusation posted more than once, ( what is the point of arguing with people who think like this?) but for the record, no, it is hardly sensible to try and PR something that has not been printed, or to try to sell something that cannot be found on the shelves. A decade in advertising did teach me that much.

In fact, all the attendant hoo-ha over FJL was a real problem from the point of view of the book launch: the publishers would have much preferred the story, and me, not to be in the news at all, as it was seen as being very risky in terms of the book PR they were planning which is to start when the book is actually available. (Next month, not now.) I am still slightly staggered that a few people actually seem to think that I got harrassed for a year in order to sell a book that, at the time of the harassment starting, back in spring 2006, was not even conceived of, let alone written. Or the idea that I perhaps deliberately arranged to be attacked, bombed and then stalked in order to 'become famous'. Yeah, right. Hmmm...*I failed the Big Brother auditions in 2001, so I thought, what can I do for my next bid for attention...? I know, I'll get attacked by nutters...
* I didn't audition. Obviously. But sometimes I wonder if I have to spell this out.

The CPS and police made the decision to prosecute way back last year because the damn woman was harassing me and it kept escalating and she wouldn't stop, not even after being ignored, arrested, warned, and it was frankly scary...(And no. I didn't 'use it as material'. It is not in the book. Argh.)

I know why I wrote Out of the Tunnel. I wrote it because I was asked to write it. I wrote it because when I had PTSD the first time around, after the rape, I was frantic and desperate to find out what was happening to me, and to read the stories of other people who had lived through it. Accounts of violent sexual attacks by strangers, that's what I was looking for, then. Not really their graphic accounts of survival, but the aftermath. The days, the months, the years after, how they coped, what they felt, if they changed, if they healed. There weren't many books about afterwards, not back then.

Now there are whole shelves in Waterstones and Borders titled 'painful lives'. 'Misery memoirs', they're called in the trade. Child abuse, mostly, suffering and survival and horror and degradation. I have never picked one of these books up and paid for it and taken it home. I tend to read novels, not real-life tales. I wonder whether people will think my book is a 'misery memoir'. Maybe they will. I didn't write it like that. But I haven't ever read any of the white-covered books with wide-eyed children's faces on the cover and titles like Inside I'm Screaming and Stop, Mommy, No. So I haven't anything to compare my book with. I just wrote what it was like, what happened, what happened after.I wrote things I had never told anyone before. Not on this blog, not ever.

'Did it make you feel better, writing it?' friends ask me, hopefully. Sadly, no. Writing it was an absolutely grim experience, and it set off the PTSD again, big-time, and it made me depressed and anxious, and what with the stalker as well, and having suddenly stopped working in an office where I used to laugh and chat all day, it was a pretty horrible time. Stressed as hell, on my own all day, writing and re-living the worst moments of my life, worrying about the effect it was having on me and people I love and respect, and the abusive messages from that strange woman pinging into my in-box all the time, it was frankly, awful. I was pleased when I had finished it, in the same way I am pleased when the painkillers mean the headache has gone. Re-reading the proofs last week was almost more than I could stand. If it had not been for my publisher's patience, and the kindness of David, my agent, who lent me his office to work in, so I had space and peace, and a vase of spring flowers, so I could escape the demented cyber-bombardment and the loneliness of the cold empty flat, the book would never have been finished at all. It is all new content; the blog provided the notes, but it was written as a book, from scratch. Hard work.

'But it will make you lots of money, eh?' people say next. Nope. In fact, my earnings have dropped by more than 80% since I took voluntary redundancy and became a writer. If I make any money on this book, I won't be paid it until March 2008. My redundancy money will have run out long before then. It's almost gone now. Big Fat Advance? Ho ho. Put it this way, if I hadn't taken redundancy there was no way I could have written the book. I would have run out of money after six weeks. And the book took quite a while longer to write than that.

So why did I do it? Because, in the end I had to. I wrote it to pay tribute to the people who helped me and inspired me, including my fellow-passengers. And I wrote it for myself. Myself as I was in 2002, after the rape, and myself as I am in 2007. I couldn't not write it. I want to write, it is all I want to do, now, it is the thing that is most meaningful to me, even though it will never provide me with an advertising director's nice salary and an expense account. But perks and salaries stopped being important. I wanted to start off being a writer by writing my own story first, so it was gone, and done and out there and I could let it go, and move on to writing other people's stories, fiction, new things. I want to write for the rest of my life. But not just about bombs and terror, not any more.

And I wrote for this moment: My first written reaction from a reader who has read Out of the Tunnel. A man whom I like and trust and admire, a commissioning editor on a big newspaper, Bob, who first commisioned me to write my story back in November 2005.

''I’ve just spent the past two hours reading the proofs of your book. I should have been doing something else, but I couldn’t stop because it’s brilliantly written and a gripping narrative. Congratulations.''

That made it, makes it all worthwhile. And now, I want to do more, write more things. I'm still pushing for an independent inquiry into 7/7, with the other survivors and families in the group. I'm also working on a novel, slowly. Doing freelance stuff. It took a bomb going off to start me writing, but now I can't stop. I hope that I can keep writing, make a living from it somehow, but even if I can't, I won't give it up, because writing has kept me moving forward, one foot in front of the other, got me out of the tunnel and into the light. It saved my life, in more ways than one. And it was you readers, you people on the internet who read my stuff and sent support, and cared enough to come back, and kept encouraging me, that got me writing and kept me writing.

There's a dedication in the book to you. You know who you are. Thank you.

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22 Comments:

Blogger Lina said...

Rachel,
1) I think only the very minded, very nastiest of people would think the cyberstalking thing was a PR stunt. I reckon some people are simply very stupid indeed, and some will say owt to be controversial. I think you're right not to bother arguing - you can't reason with dick heads. The world is full of them.
2) I haven't been reading your blog for terribly wrong. But I will say this - I am going to look out for your book when it comes out, and when I get paid I'm going to buy it. You write very well indeed, and I think you will write about the bombing with sensitivity and respect. Anyone who thinks any differently is a moron. People will get from it what they will, as a historical document, as something to identify with, whatever. Please don't let anyone make you doubt the books worth, especially morons.
Just wanted to offer a word of support to you. Best of luck over the coming months.
Take it easy,
L

June 18, 2007 9:15 pm  
Blogger Woffle said...

I too am the kind of person who would never read 'misery memoirs', and I wasn't planning to read yours. But - deliberate or not - that was one hell of a pitch.

June 18, 2007 10:24 pm  
Blogger Brennig said...

Massive good wishes on your launch.

June 19, 2007 7:59 am  
Blogger dave bones said...

Nice one. Follow your compulsions.I look forward to your book and well done for "Taking Liberties." When are you running for office?

June 19, 2007 9:56 am  
Blogger Graham the Funky Aardvark said...

I was looking forward (If looking forward to this type of writing is appropriate) to this book, after your announcement that you had written it.

I ordered it as soon as you siad it was in pre-sale.

Having read this last post, I am not only looking forward to it, I wish it was out now! Your writing on your blog (and news articles) has improved, almost on a daily basis, since the first day I read your writings.

Whilst I may not agree with everything you write (for we are all our own selves), I find that even when there is something I disagree with, you have written it in a manner that makes me look at my self and start thinking. (I admit, it doesn't happen often that I feel I dissagree - and never to the point of saying anything)

I hope now, once this PR run is over, you will feel a sense of release, that it is "over" if you like. (I know, it will never truly be over, but will mellow perhaps)

I also look forward to some other writing, and if you don't publish another book, it will (I think) be a shame.

May you sell all the copies, and have to have several re-prints done

Good luck
G.

June 19, 2007 10:41 am  
Blogger Adam said...

I know the remark was light-hearted but I think it would be a waste of your talent to go into politics, and you can achieve so much more for the cause on the outside. I know you never intended this, but you have effectively become the ‘public face’ of the survivors, particularly those involved with the campaign for an inquiry. The integrity of this position would be lost if you went ‘inside’ the system.

Best of luck with the book and I do hope that it helps your process of healing.

As someone connected with the book trade your views on nature of modern book promotion are not overly cynical, but accurate. But I do think that a well written piece of work which chimes with the mood is appreciated by the public.

But the best promotional idea would be to get your publishers publicity people to get you picked by Richard and Judy, it would do wonders for sales and raise your profile, both as a writer and campaigner. Win-win...

June 19, 2007 10:53 am  
Blogger Fidothedog said...

Well I shall be picking a copy up at some point.

June 19, 2007 11:02 am  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Taking a swipe at those who dare to stick their heads above the parapet of obscurity is a British tradition. What matters is that you could and you did and that takes courage and hard work. Congratulations, Rachel.

Puss

June 19, 2007 12:52 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks very much everyone. I am getting a bit scared and jumpy about it all now, because it is all very well writing away and not many people reading your stuff,
( or 4 people in the case of the book: Heather & Clare, the publishers x 2, David the lovely agent, Rachael, the Publisher's fab PR) but when you have to let your book be judged, you feel like YOU are being judged - and of course, when it is a memoir thingy it's even madder because its your life and your action under scrutiny, not your plotting and your imagination. And it is such a sensitive subject. And I don't want to let anyone down, least of all people who were there on the day of 7 July.
But hey ho, here we go, and the next few weeks are going to be mental, and then hopefully I will get a break from bombs. Though the inquiry campaigning will of course, carry on as long as it has to.

To the people who pre-ordered - THANK YOU.( And bargain! - because it is half price!)

June 19, 2007 4:40 pm  
Blogger seth said...

hi rachel,

sorry i havent been online- my old gateway pc's motherboard and or processor fried early sunday am. i am using a borrowed pc until i decide what i want.

i am wondering- will it be possible to purchase your book in the u.s. maybe thru amazon? id really like to read it.

hope all is going well.

seth :)

June 19, 2007 9:28 pm  
Blogger Leighton Cooke said...

There are many who live out their trauma in silent misery. They are smothered by shame. You have the courage to speak out and you speak for those who suffer in silence. I wish you success!

June 20, 2007 9:47 am  
Blogger Christopher Glamorgan said...

Try not to listen to those that are cynical as it's just part and parcel of living these days (surely that must be most of us in this day and age).

Looking forward to reading the book as I like your writing style - emotional, strong and determined.

June 20, 2007 9:48 am  
Blogger seth said...

hi rachel,

silly me i didnt look at the link...i shall check out what amazon has to say..ps..i have a friend who works for borders books in ny; amazon handles their website orders,etc.

should have a "borrowed" pc up and running in a day or two,as i have not had the time to sit down and figure out what features i want in a new pc.

later,
seth :)

June 20, 2007 8:13 pm  
Blogger ChrisJ said...

Good for you, Rachel! The way you've handled all this "stuff" that has come into your life, (without invitation)shows what a remarkable woman you are. You've got character, stamina, sensitivity, a sense of what's right and you're a fighter! I'm sure on the inside there's different feelings, but that's just the point --you don't give into them. And you're also a writer -- a good writer. Your thoughts about the publishing business are right on target. I've been there.

Keep on keeping on.

Chris J

June 20, 2007 8:30 pm  
Blogger seth said...

hi rachel,

im on a pc at the library because i had to return the first "borrowed" pc. i will use a friends-hes having it tuned up as we speak-until i figure out what i want.

again will your book be availiable on amazon u.s.? please let me know...say hello to j for me.

seth :)

June 20, 2007 10:58 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hiya Seth,

I think you'll hav eto order it from UK amazon - I don;t think it is on sale in the US. Maybe that will change but for now it is UK only as far as I can gather...

:-(

June 21, 2007 9:44 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

...but if your mate at Borders NY wants to order some copies, tell him to drop me an email!

June 21, 2007 9:45 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

...and thanks again for all the kind words. I am now awaiting my first early copy. It should have been here on Monday, but it has so far failed to make an appearance, which is nerve-jangling!

I will let you know when I have it in my paws

June 21, 2007 9:47 am  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Round of applause for that post. I will be buying and reading your book. And I hope it gets translated into a hundred languages.

June 21, 2007 10:32 am  
Blogger Annabelle said...

congratulations rachel :) all the best, you are an inspiration

June 21, 2007 11:46 am  
Blogger seth said...

hi rachel,,
doesnt your agent/publisher,etc want to have your new book on the u.s. and other markets? as far as my friend at borders ny goes,i shall see what they can find for me-or thru amazon.com/us since they do the ordering,etc for borders.

i thought that one has to be in the UK to use amazon uk-all the prices are in local currency,and i dont know if they do the conversion for you. if they did,it would be in your favor as the u.s. dollar is at record lows against the pound.

let us know how it goes,and hopefully ill be able to get the second printing of your new book.

seth :)

June 21, 2007 7:12 pm  
Blogger seth said...

hi again rachel,

oops..yes..sorry..i will tell my friend/mate to email you. perhaps i should wait for the next printing? isnt that in a few weeks?

seth

June 21, 2007 7:13 pm  

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