And the operative word is: BIG

Yesterday I attended the monthly PPC Meeting at Foyles – where a room full of publicists congregate to listen to a few editors/producers/reviewers who come to talk about what kinds of authors they are interested in and how we might work together.

These meetings are usually quite useful because programmes, book pages, contacts and remits can change and it’s an easy way to hear of these changes and new developements (“We’re thinking of doing mini-films between sofa interviews which could be inspired by books…”). However these meetings are usually also a dismal reminder that for the most part, the media is really just interested in BIG names. (Or at the very least authors with BIG ideas, BIG statements, BIG newsbreaking stories.) Exposure for lesser-known fiction writers? In their own words, “It’s difficult, very difficult.”

But considering four of the five speakers were producers from The One Show, Sky News, Newsnight and The Culture Show I was hardly expecting any ground-breaking surprises as to what authors they’d be after – or much relevant advice. (Worrying about how you might get Michael Caine on The One Show? Tip: Call producer Tom Fenner. Say the words: “Michael Caine”.)

My real reason for attending the meeting was to hear from the fifth speaker, Alastair Moffatt, talking about Book Nation. This is a new incentive, launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which aims to combine the resources, venues, and expertise of the 42 established book festivals in Scotland to create a network of venues across the country with the ability to organise a year-round programme of events. It will expand the possiblity of well-organised author tours in Scotland and be backed by support from local marketing and The Scotsman.

It sounds like a great initiative, but of course, then came the realistic plea…they have funding for one year (the trial run) and whilst they hope, once the network is established, to organise events with more eclectic and lesser-known authors, for the moment… yes, they want BIG names.

It’s the name of the game and you can understand they can’t afford to take risks at this early stage, and I hope the initiative proves to be a huge success. But I also hope that they will indeed endeavour to open the doors to a wider range of authors in the future. A centralised network is certainly efficient but I hope that it won’t actually end up limiting the options available to venues and readers across the country. For shouldn’t the main purpose of festivals and literary events be to broaden people’s horizons, introduce them to new writers, and help create the next BIG names of the future? Not to merely present the audience with the same faces and books they are already all-too-familiar with?

Chiara Priorelli, Publicity and Online Marketing Manager

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