A while back I heard about Dublin writer Gillian Duffy, who had just signed a three-book deal with Book Republic, an imprint of Irish publishing house Maverick Press. What was unusual about Gillian was that her first book, The L.A. Commandments, was going to be published in only a few weeks’ time. With such a short time between dreaming of becoming a published writer and becoming one, I wondered how difficult it would be for Gillian to handle the social media side of things which, as we all know (whether we like it or not), is vital to selling books these days. So I asked her to write a post about it. Welcome, Gillian!
“Hi there everyone. I’m Gillian, I live in Dublin and I’m currently studying English and History at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. All seems pretty normal and unexciting, right? Right…until something extraordinarily exciting happened about nine weeks ago which has thrown a spanner of hope and happiness into the normality works – I signed a three-book deal with Book Republic, an imprint of Maverick House, and my debut novel, The L.A. Commandments, will be published on 18th August.
I signed the contract on 8th June and the weeks since have been a rollercoaster ride of bliss and delight, with just a side-order of disbelief – ‘is this really happening?’ I continually ask, pinching myself. ‘Yes,’ is the answer, ‘it is happening.’ And happening really fast, which, I must admit, is propelling the excitement levels to a 5.0 on the Richter scale. The fast-paced momentum of my publishing experience keeps me focused, triggers my energy and makes the creative process even fresher; the manuscript is edited, proofread, then it’s ready for publication, and that’s exactly what’s happening. No long wait from edit to release and that approach suits me fine. Book Republic felt that the novel’s principle themes – Redundancy, Emigration, Celebrity Culture, Infidelity and Addiction – are so integral to people’s daily lives that it would make sense to publish it when its meaning is so topical. Finding something I can connect to is extremely important when it comes to my own reading ‘must-haves’, so I hope readers will find something relatable in this book. The L.A. Commandments deals with some hard-pressing issues, but, predominantly, it’s a light-hearted story about two best friends, Joanne and Suzie, who strive to find their place in the world as they tackle unemployment, relocation, relationships, and all the ups and downs which they can bring. Their journey begins during the summer months of 2009 as they make their way across the Atlantic, en route to their new home, so it’s fitting to schedule the novel’s release during the same season – people embarking on their own holiday or travelling adventure can also accompany the girls on theirs.
When I began this novel adventure, the part of the process which I found most daunting was the social media/promotional side of things. I had a Facebook account with about 130 friends, who comprised family members, schoolmates, former colleagues, friends and acquaintances, which I rarely logged on to. As for Twitter, I followed about five people and had five less followers. Not to mention my biggest fear of all – video diaries. I’m a huge fan of vblogs when I’m watching someone else’s footage, not my own. But suddenly I found myself in a situation where I had to embrace these social networking systems. They were to become my best friends for the immediate future – in some ways, even more so than my flesh and blood substitutes – and slowly, but surely, they are.
Facebook wasn’t so frightening. The search for likeminded literary lovers all over the world was but a few clicks away and I’d also found my Facebook feet while using my personal account, as relatively unacquainted as we were. But Twitter was a whole different kettle of very slippery fish. For me, it was a site solely used to follow the tweets of your favourite celebs, people you admire and those who inspire you – I was a tweet reader; I’d never envisioned myself as a tweet writer!
When I first began tweeting I’d stare blankly at that white space – future home to my 140 characters if I could just think of something to type – and rack my brain about what to say. ‘Should I just talk about the book and my publishing experience?… No, I’m trying to create connections, not crush them with repetition.’ ‘Perhaps I should post links to my favourite songs?’ ‘Maybe I could quote some lines from my favourite books.’ ‘Or, what about trying to meet some tweeps with similar interests and goals? Yes, that makes sense. We can converse all things literary.’ I’ve since realised that attempting to stick to one approach is pointless and nonsensical because people aren’t like that and isn’t that what Twitter and Facebook are about, trying to connect with people? My favourite tweeters are those who openly share what they believe in, what they find funny, what they like and dislike – basically, people who are themselves. That’s the approach I try to take. Instead of only tweeting all things publishing, I like to let others know about my musical interests, what books I read, what films I watch, what fashion I like, while, also, keeping them up-to-date with my own writing news. I try to be myself and I think that’s the best approach to adopt in everything you do. So, Twitter and I are no longer strangers, rather admiring acquaintances whose budding relationship grows stronger by the day! It’s a great place to meet fellow writers – and fellow music, fashion, and film fans. I’m not doing too badly on Facebook either. My ‘author’ page gives me the perfect opportunity to meet and engage with other students and book lovers, worldwide, and The L.A. Commandments’ page is brilliant for keeping those who are interested abreast of any developments – it’s win-win all round.
The reality is that without Twitter or Facebook I wouldn’t have been introduced to Book Republic and if I hadn’t been following their tweets I definitely wouldn’t have known about the writers’ evening which they held in The Irish Writers’ Centre, Dublin, on Thursday 19th May. That was when this adventure really began. I met with the editorial team that night, told them about my manuscripts, which I submitted to them the following week, and about two weeks later I signed a three-book deal. Social networking really was instrumental in transforming my writing wishes into reality.
I’m still getting to grips with my video diaries, but, hopefully, I’ll soon feel as comfortable with them as I do with my other social-networking sidekicks. I think I’ll always prefer to be behind the camera, but you never know. Soon I could be chronicling my life on film: Gillian going to the supermarket, Gillian going to have her braces removed, Gillian waiting on the bus… Imagine! No, you can relax – that’ll never happen.
So, nine weeks ago I was a social networking student. Now, I’m still a social networking student but at least I have a few more friends. And I’d like to say a very BIG ‘Thank You’ to all my digital companions for their ‘follows’, ‘likes’ and well wishes – right back at you!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Gillian!
The L.A. Commandments is out now. You can find out more about it on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, The Book Depository and Book Republic’s website. You can also follow Gillian on Twitter here and find her on Facebook here.