There’s no such thing as bad publicity

Or is there? Maybe these days there is.

But perhaps two Irish writers are the most famous proponents of the no bad publicity perspective.

Oscar Wilde:

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

and

Brendan Behan:

There’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.

Public relations, rather than advertising, is not easy to get right. Advertising involves expensive paid-for campaigns to get your message out there. Back in my civil service days working for HMG, the department that dealt with advertising was neatly entitled ‘Publicity,’ and the publicity staff spent nice large budgets on ad campaigns with external agencies.

PR on the other hand, was the free end of publicity, dealing with press releases and media. The good and the pro-active … and the bad.

The same old questions came up over and over again. Would you get any coverage for your press release about some not very exciting news? If you had a press conference, would you have more speakers than press? Could you get on national TV? And make national print media? If you put someone forward for radio or television interviews would they perform well, or stuff it up? Would they even wear the right clothes?

‘Light blue shirt, or soft grey,’ I would advise my public sector chief executive. ‘Picks up the colour of your eyes, and looks so much softer than white. And don’t make the suit too dark either.’

For a pre-filmed session, re-arrange the office furniture. Check there are no incriminating confidential documents lying around. Make everything look warm and friendly. No scruffy coffee mugs or ring marks on the furniture.

Always visit venues for events, public meetings and press conferences. Check suitable access for disabled people, parking, public transport. Make sure you have loads of printed materials, press packs, books, photos, and some decent display stands. When people arrive early, they need something to look at to avoid appearing like a spare part.

If catering, ensure a wide range of food, vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free/coeliac, nut-free, raw foods, Kosher, Halal. OK I didn’t provide all those, but increasingly, dietary considerations are a nightmare. And you thought vegetarian was difficult?

Many years ago I chaired a press conference in Aberdeen (Scotland). It was largely aimed at local and trade media. My office manager, who sorted catering arrangements for our events, decided we could spring to Chablis and smoked salmon. I was terrified the headlines would say ‘Public sector wastes money on Chablis and smoked salmon’. They didn’t of course. They were perfectly decent reviews and everyone seemed to enjoy the buffet lunch. And with my journalist hat on, I have to say going to press conferences with endless offerings of soft biscuits, and lukewarm stewed tea and coffee was pretty poor, and even I would have appreciated some decent good food and wine once in a while.

But times move on, and before I left the UK, alcohol was banned at staff Christmas parties in my organisation, let alone dishing it out at press conferences and launches.

So, while I wouldn’t normally jump at a contemporary romance novel, the lure of reading about PR and publishing in a major NY trad pub house was too much to resist and I thought it would be interesting to compare the fictional heroine’s experiences in PR with mine.

Author Christina George has worked in publishing for twenty years or so and continues to work in publishing. Her series of books are centred around a PR Director, ‘The Publicist’ of the title, and her career, plus her increasingly complex love life.

George still works in publicity, hence the pen name, and some of the events in her book are based on true ones that she’s encountered in her career.

I read it primarily from a professional point of view, but if you like romance, it works just as well on that level.

There are three books in the series, so:

The Publicist, Book One and Shelf Life, Book Two, by Christina George

image

Our heroine, Kate, is a PR Director at a major publishing house, although for a director she doesn’t seem to have much clout. It’s all in the title I guess. This is corporate America, and if she was really important I suppose she’d be a VP.

We’re introduced to a couple of key characters early on, her best mate Grace, and Mac, an editor at her firm. Right in the first few chapters Grace warns Kate about Mac, who is married. Mac’s wife stays at home in Connecticut and he has an apartment in New York. Nuff said.

What I liked about this book was the sheer, stab-you-in-the-back image of the publishing industry. It’s probably no different to any other, but if anyone thinks ‘media/publishing’ is a cosy walk in the park, forget it.

For example, not from the book but one of mine: a colleague was being pushed out by management. Did the union stand up for him? Did they hell. He was out so quickly and the union official was smugly sitting in his chair and doing his job with one shake of a rat’s tail.

Similarly, in The Publicist:image
1) someone under-orders book copies for a launch, hundreds of people are queuing outside the door, yet there are only 20 copies available for Kate’s big event
2) a so-called colleague of Kate’s goes out of his way to put her down in corporate meetings, withholding vital information from her, only to churn it out in front of everyone making her look a total prat

Who hasn’t been there? whatever the industry.

The MD of the company wants to accept more and more popular books, ie sex, celebrity, scandal, rather than good literary fiction. Because, he has to answer to the board. Ethically and literally (?) his actions and decisions are flawed, but financially does he have a choice? How does a publishing house keep going without best sellers? And Gogol isn’t one, despite Kate’s friend Grace endlessly recommending classic Russian authors.

In Shelf Life, Kate gets well-stitched up by her dodgy MD which turns quite nasty.

imageHowever, these books are billed as contemporary romance, so I should address the sex love interest.

What to say? OH has the choice of the married but practically separated sexy older man, or the single younger equally sexy man. Naturally, OH does the sensible thing and has a fling with both of them.

I was disappointed to read in some reviews that people criticised the affair between Kate and Mac.

I have to say I think it was a bit unfair of people to moan about Kate—single—having a relationship with Mac. These things happen in life. Kate wasn’t Mac’s first affair, and his wife hadn’t had sex with him in nearly twenty years.

What was really annoying, was that the complaints were about the single woman having sex with the married man, not about the married man having yet another affair in his very long list of affairs.

Society’s double standards, we expect women to be the moral compass for men and if a married man sleeps with a single woman it is HER fault that he makes himself available and puts it about. Aye! Eve, ever the evil temptress. Innocent seduced man. Yeah.

Equally surprisingly, no-one seemed to complain that while Kate was seeing Mac, she jumped into bed with Nick.

Moral dilemma: Who is worse? The married man who hasn’t slept with his wife in years but doesn’t cheat on his girlfriend, or the single girlfriend who cheats on her married boyfriend?

I didn’t particularly like Kate, she seemed to be a selfish drama queen who manipulated and used people, so for me, there was some dissonance with the portrayal of her as being Little Ms Perfect and Loving, and her actions.

It’s a decent read from both aspects, the publicity/publishing side and the personal relationship side BUT, and this is a biggie, even for me, it really was full of errors. The two books together (I got a bundled version), had nearly a hundred errors.

Again, checking out the Amazon reviews, more than one reviewer pointed out the number of errors, saying surely someone in the publishing industry could have produced a better quality work. My view entirely.

I’ll leave you with one of the funnier errors. What comes after Chapter Six and before Chapter Eight? Yes, that’s right, Chapter Four! Duh. But still, if errors don’t bother you, it’s a decent read for the beach/plane/before bed, the style is easy too, and the publishing parts are interesting.

(Books courtesy of iRead Book Tours. I’ll be reviewing the last book in the series later.)

For those of you who want a serious read, I wrote about Charlie on Clouds.

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46 comments on “There’s no such thing as bad publicity

  1. Most interesting, both the reminiscences and the actual review. I don’t normally like a book with a protagonist I don’t like, unless it is in the bildungsroman style and I end up liking him/her.
    It is extraordinary how many errors there seem to be in most books produced recently – not excepting those from big-name publishers. Yet when I re-read my novels dating back many decades, not a full stop or comma is out of place, spelling is faultless, split infinitives and dangling participles are avoided – in short, the editing score is 100%.
    Talking of editing, if one is being approached by casual acquaintances on the lines of, ‘I know you do editing – could you just cast an eye over this for me?’ should one be gratified at the acknowledgement or miffed at the imposition?

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    • Thanks Col, I’m sure you could see why I was interested even though I’m not a romancer. I don’t mind disliking the protagonist, and I love to like evil baddies even more, that takes a good author.

      Absolutely on the errors. Big names and trad pub aren’t immune at all. Cost cutting and overall illiteracy are to blame IMNRHO.

      I’m doing some reviewing (paid for) at the mo, and I feel like the pickiest reviewer there is. How can it be a great book when it’s full of errors? Sure it can be well written, but the errors need fixing because it’s not a pick and mix package.

      Happy to help and look at a few pages to suggest what you might need, is my response :) I have done short free edits (not books) of various types for friends, but that’s friends and quid pro quo. No way would I edit a full book or even read a full book for free. Well, apart from to say, get an editor. More to come on the final one in the series on the same lines :D

      Like

  2. Well, damn. I would have guessed Chapter Eleven-teen.

    Still, I liked your review of it. My impression of the romance genre has been more informed by writers than actually reading books in it. Most of what I learned also came from erotica writers, as apparently here in the U.S. there’s a growing list of people who write both romance and erotica.

    At any rate, I think the author might have broken a convention of having a sympathetic heroine committing adultery. Yes, it’s terribly puritan, and technically by the same moral standards they shouldn’t be reading those books anyways. However, they still do, and they still are weird like that.

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    • Nah, you’re being too clever there. This didn’t get into double figures. Tbh your story didn’t have a lot of errors considering it was churned out for Nano. I really liked it, as you know.

      God, there’s romance, contemporary romance, historical romance, erotical romance and plain boring straight erotica. Romance is often finger down throat sappy, but there’s the odd decent one. Erotica has some decent books but also some tosh.

      The heroine is not committing adultery. She is not married, ergo, not the adulterer. She is committing no religious crime apart from having sex without being married. He, on the other hand, is committing adultery, hence my gripe about why is it her fault?

      Anyway, gives them something to complain about. Shame they didn’t expend more energy on complaining about errors rather than moralising.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, adultery is what the man was doing. Can’t believe how I forget what sins are what so quickly. The greater point, though, is that she’s messing with a married guy. This in turn messes with the purity myth, which then devalues a woman’s only asset – what is between her legs.

        I don’t know how bad it is over there, but here in the U.S. Deep South anti-feminism, purity myths, and religious modesty sentiments are still going strong. It’s still no Victorian England, though.

        Also, I’ve heard that the majority of romance readers will forgive errors, though that was more anecdotal. Still, I agree that they should have complained about failing at chapter numbering rather than about some made-up person’s dalliance with a married guy.

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        • You need a good atheist to remind you of the basics! It’s only a greater point if you are religious, sexist and misogynist. So to me, the greater point is his adultery, and actually her cheating on him by shagging the single man. I thought that was totally immoral, regardless of religion. Using them both.

          I think Victorian England may have been better. Sure, lots of superficial codes and behaviour, but under the surface …

          And I’m told authors don’t care about errors, just reviews. The numbers count. Quantity not quality? Did you get your chapter numbers wrong? No.

          Liked by 2 people

        • I find the word ‘adultery’ quite funny. In much the same way as some films are described as being of ‘adult interest.’ Who’d want to be an adult if they could avoid it?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Adultery is a funny word. I’m struggling to think of how many people I know haven’t been involved on one side or the other. It’s life, it happens.

            Who’d want to be an adult is probably the question.

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  3. I can’t remember ever having read romantic novels. I suppose I have, but none had those sort of covers. I read Rin Tin Tin as small boy and Karl May’s Indian books, Jules Verne and so much more, followed by Tolstoy, Maugham, Garcia M and so much more but as for kissing and stuff between legs, no, not really. Of course am keenly interested in that but not by reading about it.
    Where have I failed?

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    • I think it depends whether one is talking classic Victorian type romantic novels, or modern day, will she won’t she, (shag him/get him). Not much left to the imagination as she will and she will.

      I read those too. Maugham is one of my favourites as is Garcia. No comparison is there. That’s why I never give a five star review.

      I think it’s very difficult to write difficult graphic sex scenes. From what I see via ‘romance’ novels, there is obviously a sex by numbers picture out there that you paint in with the right colours. Or something like that. With a minimum of five orgasms in half an hour each one blowing Krakatoa higher than the last.

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  4. You are right about the white shirt and the importance of setting things up properly – and you do a good job of that in the blog post.
    Probably isn’t my book (The errors would drive me batty considering it is about the publishing industry. Accidental irony?)
    Maybe the people criticizing the relationships are of a different generation, not living in a big city, or worked in modern business world? If an author wants the characters to do this or that, it’s her game – it all sound quite possible and fairly common. It’s a story. Hold the gossiping/casting stones for something real….or maybe not.

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    • Not the white shirt, too harsh. Scenery and image is key. Book is good, just don’t play spot the error, wonderful irony.

      No, maybe the people criticising live in fantasy land. This is fiction, maybe real, maybe not. Fantasy is another genre again.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You are reading and reviewing varied & interesting books :) I often wonder at reviewers who take issue with the moral turpitude of fictional characters… as opposed to the morals-behaviours they uphold-endorse themselves I guess, but gird their loins and go on, I assume, reading the novel. Why? To fuel their outrage or self asserted superiority? I read the occasional book -mostly thanks to my book club’s selections- that engenders in me a WTF response to character behaviour or author motivation. But, if I was truly offended or repulsed I’d stop reading. I don’t keep reading and bang on about its evidence of the proliferation of declining standards of whatever kind that I deem have been transgressed. If it’s pertinent to my inevitably succinct review, my reaction might get a mention but usually there are other aspects I find far more relevant to observe.

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    • I do try and read across the board, partly to see what’s out there in self-pub. If there was no self-pub/ebooks I’d be reading tried and tested authors from the library, but as it is I’m reading both. Oh and the free ones the neighbour passes on too.

      Sure, fine to mention it. I mean in reviewing this I can’t fail to mention that super sexy Mac is married. But I’m not going to say ‘I don’t agree with adultery (I don’t—unless it’s an open marriage—but it’s not relevant to the review) therefore I don’t like this book’ as someone did on Amazon. Although I think someone else did reply and say ‘who cares what you think about adultery?’ Or similar 😀 My thoughts exactly.

      The books I don’t read/throw in the bin/skip sections are the ones with graphic abuse/torture/rape/sadistic killing in them, especially when it seems directed towards women. Sometimes it seems overly gratuitous which I find sick. Never mind who wants to read that, who on earth wants to write it?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this write up! I sincerely appreciate it. A couple of things, first off thanks for mentioning the affair and adultery. I got a lot of backlash, in fact one review sort of implied that I was glorifying it. Hmmmmm Well, ok so I tried to make Mac seem sympathetic, if he wasn’t it wouldn’t really be possibly to keep him around in book two. But in the final book this really comes around. Can someone really change? Can a man who once cheated always stay faithful? I wanted to dig into that deeper.

    Also, you’re right about Kate, got that feedback often. I also slap her around a bit in book three. That feedback (while I hated hearing it initially) really gave me some great insight. Anyway, I appreciate your honesty.

    You should know that 90% of the stories in the book are true and happened to me so yes, this book was a bit cathartic as well. Finally, sorry about the errors. Had the book edited 3 times. Ridiculous. But now I’m wondering if I sent you a bad file, well clearly I did if the chapters are mixed up. I checked my Kindle and my version was fine. My apologies for that, I may have sent you a pre-final-check version of the book by accident. This is the first time I’ve heard about the chapter issue. I’m on the road right now but will check it when I return, delete it and then beat my head against the wall. Thanks again for the review!

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    • Thanks Christina. I really appreciate it when authors take the time to write something too, whether positive or negative, and in your case, you’ve taken the time for a lengthy reply rather than a bland, thanks for the review.

      It’s hardly as though you are the first author in the world to include adultery in your book FFS. Nor do you have to agree with something to acknowledge whether a book is good or bad. I thought you did make Mac sympathetic (moreso than Kate!), and the plot would be pretty non-existent without Kate and Mac’s affair. And I’ll comment on book three when I review Climax. I didn’t want to include spoilers obviously. Plus, my style of review is to comment on issues rather than summarise the book. There wouldn’t be much point reading it if I did that. One of the strengths of the book is the characterisation I thought. Doesn’t matter if I found Kate to be a user, it’s still a strong character.

      The chapters aren’t mixed up, it just says chapter four instead of chapter seven. Maybe it wasn’t that well edited/proofed? It does happen. I’ve re-edited books that have been edited before and still had errors. I tend to point it out in reviews because regular readers know I’m an editor and I would look pretty unprofessional not mentioning it while recommending a book. People would think I didn’t know what I was doing 😀

      Thanks again for taking the time.

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      • I seriously appreciate this and I love, love, love feedback like this. I mean look, I love the love “oh, the book is great” but you learn much more from: here’s where it could have been stronger. That said, you know when the first person told me Kate seemed spoiled I kind of (sorry) blew it off, but after you hear it a few times you realize there may be a problem with her character. That’s partially why I slapped her around a bit in book three. Everyone needs to pay the piper, now it’s Kate’s turn. I’m going to look through that file again, home later today – though I may still beat my head against the wall :-) Thank you again!

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        • Seriously Christina, I didn’t have an issue with Kate being as she was. All characters need flaws, not sure what Nick’s are, although Mac would say, not chasing after Kate. Anyway, have a lovely weekend, and thanks again for your comments.

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    • Or as Liza Minnelli sang ‘Money makes the world go round’. I love to hate 10cc. Had a problem when I discovered they were Hotlegs in a previous life and did Neanderthal Man (there’s a post about it back in 2007!)

      But I don’t see why a managing director should be criticised for getting in crap if they are best sellers because then they can fund the arty ones. And if he’s answering to shareholders all they care about is dividends. Rocket science it ain’t. Not that I’m into space, as John would no doubt point out. 😉

      Thank you.

      Like

  7. Great review Kate and it looks like an interesting read, but you do know by now I always want to know if they are going to make it in ‘movie format’. LOL!

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    • And, I always prefer books to films! I forgot to add it to this post, but I’ll add it to the next review of her final book, but she has put up who she thinks could be caste for a film/s of her book. I thought that was a clever move, so I’ll be posting the link to her blog next time.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am sticking to “Botticelli’s Bastard” as my choice from those reviewed so far in your blog. “Chapter Four!” I think that would be an excellent title for somebody’s possible upcoming book on editing errors….

    Like

    • I’ve got another good one to review next week. Depends what sort of books people like really. As I read anything and everything (just about) there should usually be something to suit everyone.

      Don’t tempt me! Editing errors I have known and loved …

      Like

    • Hi romance, do you read other books in the tours too? I enjoy seeing what other people thought and usually read most of the ones on tours. It as good that Christina took the time to comment on some tour posts too.

      I didn’t care that she was selfish, just that the reality of her actions and thoughts weren’t how George had portrayed as all sweetness and light. I’ll be over to yours :)

      Liked by 1 person

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