The Launch of The Commuter's Tale by Oliver Gozzard
The past month has been one of the busiest of my life. I imagined that getting a book off the ground would be hard work, but had no idea what a mountain of tasks it would create for me to do. Without a doubt, I would say it is the most difficult thing I have ever attempted.
I have written hundreds of emails about it to people and organisations, personally visited as many bookshops as time allows, written and distributed a flight of different press releases, phoned dozens of journalists, and done all the interviews that have come my way. And all this in my spare time, as I am working full-time in a demanding job. It has been tough.
The launch event - at the Runaway buffet at Lewes Station - was on Saturday, 22 January, which would have been Lord Byron's 223rd birthday. It went well. The publisher Nick Awde (of Desert Hearts) and I greeted a good crowd, and The Commuter's Tale was selling well even before the event started.
I read a few stanzas and signed books, and the guests enjoyed the wine. It was great that esteemed poets John Agard and Grace Nichols came along, as well as Frogmore publisher and talented poet Jeremy Page, and many of the gifted performers who come to the Lewes Poetry evenings I run at the Lewes Arms.
Vic Elsey, who runs The Runaway was on great form and I presented him with a present of a bottle of malt whisky for his support. My patient publisher Nick Awde got a less alcoholic gift for his unerring efforts.
And it was great to see people I had met on the train also coming to the launch, particularly 'The Tennis Girls' who have asked me to talk about The Commuter's Tale at their reading group.
All the same, promoting a book is pretty daunting, because you have to take on the vast majority of the work yourself.
You have to sell it to the public, the media and the booksellers. If you fail in any category, your book will not succeed!
Despite my strategic approach to the task and all my experience at promotion, I still sometimes lie awake in bed wondering if the publisher and I are going to be left with a huge stack of unsold books!
The press coverage so far has been very good. It has been written about in The Scotsman, Scotland's quality national newspaper, and in the Brighton Argus and the Sussex Express, which has taken a picture of me at Lewes Station for a second piece.
I have been interviewed by Metro, Britain's third largest national newspaper, and on Bright FM and BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey.
The Coventry Evening Telegraph and The Hull Daily Mail have both promised to run pieces about The Commuter's Tale. And a piece is due to appear in The Stage newspaper.
I have spent the evenings of the past week speaking to national newspaper contacts and sending out review copies of the book. A couple of cracking national newspaper reviews would do it a world of good.
The reviews have been coming in on the websites. The Commuter's Tale has had four reviews on Amazon.co.uk - all excellent, three five-star reviews and one four-star one - and a five-star review and a four-star one on the W H Smith online bookshop, and a five-star review on Waterstones.com
Waterstone's says it will stock it in its UK city and large town branches, which is great news! I am now targeting all the relevant media in those areas.
I am overwhelmed by the positive comments and enthusiasm of most people. It boosts my confidence. Of course there are also set-backs and negative people, but I really try to rise above them.
From the outset, I have gone for a 'clicks-and-mortar' approach to promoting The Commuter's Tale, using the new media and traditional media in equal measure.
As I mentioned in my last blog entry, this has meant me setting up Twitter and Facebook pages for The Commuter's Tale. A weird experience!
I have to admit I really like Twitter. It is easy to build up a decent-sized, relevant group of people and organisations in your network.
I use it to keep a running journal of how the promotion of The Commuter's Tale is going, and to keep its name out there.
I now have 333 followers, and am following 1,993, which I am pretty happy about. What they say can be useful information!
I confess that Facebook I have always avoided and dislike the sound of. Now my book is on it, my suspicions have been confirmed. Like a bad friend, Facebook constantly encourages you to befriend other people and when you try, it tells you off!
It is like the bully who says: 'Go and talk to her (or him). Go on! GO ON!!! You'll always regret it if you don't.' Then, when you get the cold shoulder, the tune has changed to: 'Why did you hassle her? Are you a weirdo or something! Get a life, saddo!'
Currently, after encouraging me to make countless new friends, Facebook has summarily banned me for FOUR DAYS for following its advice.
I preferred it when the geeks just hung around the university computer centre, steaming up their glasses when a pretty girl (or man) walked past!
All the same, Facebook is deeply addictive and The Commuter's Tale by Oliver Gozzard currently has 292 people in its group of so-called 'friends', a few of whom I know or could vaguely recognise in bright sunlight.
Even though I am in the sin-bin until at least next Thursday, Facebook is still insanely suggesting 'People I may know', with whom I am supposed to share up to a 100 friends when I have never seen or heard of them!
Perhaps all Facebook did when it came on the scene was expose the meaninglessness of modern 'friendship', and now it is deeply embarrassed about it, and wants 'friends' to be 'genuine friends' and is trying to execute an oxymoronic U-turn.
I don't care a fig. I know my real friends and don't need Facebook's help to identify them. Besides, it was the book who joined, not me! And to add to my woes, I also hurt my right foot and I have been limping around like Lord Byron!
Reflection time over! I must get on with my letter-writing and emailing!
Back the book! You won't regret it!
‘Oliver Gozzard approached this challenge with initiative and a sense of humour’ Chocolat author Joanne Harris
‘I just couldn't do it justice!’ Jeremy Paxman
‘I am delighted to supportThe Commuter’s Tale, and wish it every success’ Transport Minister Norman Baker
‘A rollicking odyssey of joy’ Radio 4 poet Elvis McGonagall
‘Belloc meets Byron meets Chaucer’ Veteran performance poet Attila the Stockbroker
‘A dramatic yarn’ Tim Cornwell, The Scotsman
‘Penned entirely on the train’ Brighton Argus
‘The iambic pentameter of his stanzas neatly calls to mind the reassuring rhythm of the railway’ Viva Lewes
‘Challengingly set in 200 stanzas, all inspired by the life and work of Byron, and all written by Gozzard on his daily commute’ Lewes People
‘In an age of celebrity trash books and misery memoirs, this is a brilliant and truly stunning piece of work that did what the greatest work always does - transported me away totally from the mundane and every day and put me back in touch with joy of language and story telling. Gozzard plays with us and plays with language too - just for the joy of it. And it really is a joy!’ John Eckersley, World of Urko
‘I enjoyed your book very, very much – it’s clever and witty and kept surprising me’ Girl on the 7.42, blogger and Viva Lewes columnist
‘An epic ballad’ The Poet Laura-eate
‘Definitely one not to be missed!’ Tom Quinn, Amazon
‘It had me hooked and wanting more’ Daily Star’s John McJannet
‘A rattling good yarn in poetic verse’ L. King, Amazon
‘A burst of light for commuters during these dark days and troubled times. . . commuters reading it will chortle and may even sigh, inspired as they face another day in the office, and more game for a laugh as they leave it. Thank you, Oliver Gozzard, for bringing Chaucer to life in the 21st century. I much enjoyed this work, and want to to see more’ Lucian Hudson, Amazon