In the past, I've done local radio interviews where my connection with the area has been tenuous to say the least.
"Can you do Radio Blackburn?" said the publicist.
"Well I worked there for a short time but that was 15 years ago."
I also did two road shows with one publisher. They took a marketing team around the country, staying at posh hotels, and put on a night of free booze and food for the major retail book buyers of the area. At each event they rolled out a couple of authors to mingle and chat and make a good impression in the hope they would order your imminent new book. I attended events in Wakefield (for Yorkshire) and Manchester (for the North West). They were daunting until I got the first few drinks down my neck and then became highly enjoyable. What affect they had on sales I am unsure but their affect on me was intoxicating - I got wonderfully drunk on both occasions, but only after the buyers had gone.
Harold Robbins, on the other hand, got drunk before his road show. Well, he did in Manchester where I met him, before I had been published. Actually, when I say met, I mean I was in the same room as him with a dozen other journalists. He was touring the country doing Press conferences and book signings and the journos congregated in a private room in the main W H Smith's in the city to await the great man's arrival. He was late. When he eventually arrived he gave the impression he was not happy doing morning Press conferences. He didn;t seem to be happy doing mornings. He apologised for his tardiness and intimated he had spent the previous evening with an old friend called Jim Beam. Then he asked one of the promotion team if the reporters had been offered a drink. Tea and coffee, was the reply. Which upset him. He insisted alcohol be provided before he proceeded and so it was. I don't think he realised that what was provided was only sherry. There was, apparently, no Jim Beam on the premises. Maybe he'd drunk it.
Robbins, about five six, wearing a cowboy hat and dark glasses, was brilliant, even with a hangover. I am useless with a hangover. So it was probably just as well that at my road shows I got out of my tree after the buyers had left and not before.
I confess I never was a big Robbins fan, although A Stone For Danny Fisher is an excellent book. But I liked the man. He did the work and, as he told one snide journalist, it is hard work to produce a 120,000 word novel. Try it, he said.
The best publicity you can get for a new book are great reviews but reviews of any kind are few and far between. The numbers of books that arrive weekly at newspaper offices is incredible and only a few are chosen. Usually the ones by well know authors which leaves the rest waiting to be taken to the Hospice shop.
To get round this, a publisher will sometimes approach a newspaper with a reader offer. We'll give you so many copies to give to your readers for free just for the publicity. This happened with one of mine, although the publisher didn't tell me about it. Probably because it was in the Sunday Sport in its early days when it had front page stories such as World War II Bomber Found On Moon and Adolf Hitler Was A Woman. One of its later headlines, used when Gianni Versace was killed, was: Shoots You, Sir. No wonder they didn't tell me! No wonder the paper finally folded in April.I found a copy of my reader offer this week and, while I might have blushed with shame at the time, I think it a wonderful piece of memorabilia now.There I am, sandwiched at the bottom of a page between Space Junk Bombs RAF; Doggy-style Sex Gets The Bum's Rush!; and small ads for blue movies, adult phone lines and sex holidays in Thailand. Win one of 10 free copies, it says. And you know what? They even spelt my name wrong.(REAPER by Jon Grahame is published on July 5 by Myrmidon Books).