Friday, July 22, 2016

The trouble with spiders in your back end.

                                                    David and Jane at the marketing lab
                                                     pretending to be media savvy

The marketing lab in the end turned out to be absolutely fascinating for many reasons. And it reaffirmed my belief that writers are interested in people above all.
And that writers are very nosy.

Gill ( Dracula ) and Millie ( Portobello )

Over the next few months you will be introduced to all the writers who were there as I am going to invite them all to do a guest blog because I’m very intrigued about Porridge the Cat and his views on political philosophy and the whole story of Dracula and the Microbes – a lovely tie in for kids to grasp the concept of blood contagion and infection and hopefully a life long lesson about the importance of hand washing. (May all the readers of Gill’s book go on to become nurses for the NHS.)
                                                All the herbal teas you could want. I settled for caffeine.

So looking at my notes I have learned that I am marvellous (???). One of our tasks was to be interviewed by a journalist on film for 5 minutes and that film was then critiqued quite heavily. I have the usual tick. I said eeh 15 times in the first 7 or 8 seconds. Then Rachel Fulton, the journalist, said that I have one big problem – I’m a West coaster, and as you know West coasters are witty, attractive and lovely people who talk a lot and tend to ignore the full stop at the end of a sentence and just run one sentence into another as their talking so what you get is one long continuous stream of witty anecdote that is occasionally interrupted by the journalist asking the next question which kicks off another anecdote and you can see how long this sentence has already got and I haven’t even paused for breath yet as my fingers fly over this keyboard and the issue with this is as Rachel forcibly pointed out is that there is no space for an editor to make a cut without it sounding like someone has been cut off in the middle of a sentence when the whole interview can sound like just one sentence.

I am now trying to pause at the end of a full stop.

                                                                    Caitrin the organiser having a well earned cuppa
Rachel also covered the 'avoidance tactic of the awkward question'. I am definitely a ‘or another way to look at it is’, and then continue prattling  on with something  irrelevant to what they asked.

 There’s the old classic ‘that’s a really good question’ but if a panellist ever says that to me when I’m moderating I’m always tempted to say ‘can we have a really good answer then?’ Most politicians are expert at it. He who must be obeyed with his Phd in political philosophy says I should quote Cicero to highlight the power of rhetoric. To me Cicero was the most famous drum horse in the horse guards.
From the horse's mouth??

We looked at  Hilary Clinton's  response to a difficult question. She bursts out laughing - very effective the first time we saw the clip but but when it got on to the 5th or 6th time with her in different situations with the same hysterical laughing response it actually got a little unnerving. Only once did the interviewer pick her up on the fact that the question was about a very serious matter and did she think it was appropriate to laugh – that was also the only time the interviewer was a woman. 

David and Helen ( PR guru!) 

Obama has a very different take. He's very firm, he puts his hand in front of him and he just says 'Look!', holds the audience and then just moves on. That came across with a huge degree of statesmanship.

We also saw an interview of JK Rowling before she hit the big time; dark haired fluffy jumper closed body language, obviously nervous and came across as a very pleasant person. The next clip was $40 million dollars later. The power stilettos walking through a deep pile carpet, a single chair perfectly lit, blonde, rather severe makeup. She came across as an executive from Morgan Stanley with all the charm of Cruella Deville so compared to that I’ll be quite happy being a west coaster with my continuous monologue ……………


As part of this we had to interview each other, I had met 83 year old Millie in the lift on the way up. We had a lot in common; both on book number 8, both got bad eyesight (couldn’t find the button for the lift), both struggling with a close relation with dementia. When I was doing the mock interview on her I realised we were just having a chat and she said (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘I remember my mother was so worried about the German invasion that she had made a plan for us. I had a Jewish grandparent and my mother was well aware of the atrocities that could be coming our way so she was going to take me and my brother by the hand and walk us into the sea at Portobello.... and  I remember thinking  but mum I can’t swim.
I think if that message got out to a wider audience we might be a little more kind to the refugee crisis that is going on at the moment. We are very lucky in the UK to have lived a life in relatively quite times.

Of course Millie and I got totally lost when the website person was talking about spiders that crawl all over your webpage and why you should never let them in the backend of your ……. (Insert any webby computer term right here). All I can say about this lab is that before it I thought a hash tag was a label for an illegal substance but now I know better. 

There is so much more to share, but  in the spirit of the  crime writing community, I am going to give each of them a blog. I think I'll start off with that Millie person.

Caro Ramsay   22nd July 2016


  1. I promise I won't touch the spiders in your backend, as tempting as that may be to some.

    I would, though, love to see your audition tape!

  2. I do believe they are putting it 'out there' somewhere in website world sometime soon. I will post the link on here as it is very funny (for all the wrong reasons!!)

  3. Caro, I look forward to meeting your new friends. Bring them on! I am also happy to note, given this report, that our conclusion last week seems to be right. Book marketing isn't about selling lots and lots of books. Nobody knows how to do that. It's about having fun.

  4. They did say, right at the start of the lab that this would not help to sell books, more to get a profile known for the sort of writer you were, the sort of person and to use any time spent on social media wisely. By having fun really, just as you say.

  5. Funny you should mention fun, A & C, as that was the subject of a post I put up on my US publisher's website three days ago--"Are We Having Fun Yet?"

  6. Well I'm right pissed. How come I never have any fun? Everyone around me is having fun, and here I sit in the corner with spiders crawling up me bum.

    1. PS. You hooked me with Millie's brief story. Talk about shivers slamming into my spine...