Oh, to Be a Writer in the Old Days

Last Thursday was Dorothy Parker Day, a day to celebrate the American poet famous for her wisecracks and her gin habit. Ian O’Doherty, the professional ranter who writes for the Irish Independent, quipped that if you were to spend a day as Dorothy Parker did, you’d drink your body weight in gin at the Algonquin Hotel in Cork, make cleverly cutting remarks about your fellow human beings.

Dorothy Parker











The piece triggered off that wistfulness I sometimes get when I think about writers in earlier eras: the lost generation of American writers, rabble rousing in Parisian cafes, the long liquid lunches enjoyed by Irish journalists in the 1960s, the torrid affairs of the great 20th century writers like WB Yeats, Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir.

Portrait of the Writer in the Old Days

If I were a writer at any time up to the dawn of the World Wide Web. I’d have been given one to one personal attention from my editor, with decadent lunches along the way. My publisher would bear the burden of producing and publicising the book, leaving me free to get on with producing my masterpieces.

If I were scheduled to talk to newspapers or radio stations, I’d turn up hours late, slightly drunk. I would be obtuse in my answers, or say outrageous, potentially libellous things. The interviewer would be in no doubt as to my views on the state of the world, even if they were not entirely PC. Later on, I’d go to a writing cafe and fillet my fellow writers, my publishers and the interviewer. My views would be extremely uncharitable, but they would be couched in the most elegant language.

Portrait of the Writer Now

These days, writing is more and more of a business. When the story is written, writers are expected to be entrepreneurs, with a product to sell. When my first book, The Pink Cage, came out, I didn’t meet anyone from the publishing company until the launch. My book was given a proofread rather than an in-depth edit.

The book launch was a hooley, but most of my contact with readers and the media has been online. Technology has been my ally in selling the books, but it has made the publishing and sales process cold and clinical.

I’m more media savvy than writers of the past have been, and I know that what I say will have an impact on how readers view me and my book. I’ve allowed the odd naughty remark to sneak through, but mostly, I’ve behaved professionally. That’s because these days, writers are expected to be entrepreneurs, with a product to sell. This is no bad thing; it makes us less precious about ourselves. But it means that interviews with writers have become sanitised. For me, that’s exemplified in a picture I saw a few years ago of a gathering of writers, all of whom were holding cups of tea.

Is it Better to Be a Writer Now?

I know it’s not desirable to burn out in your prime as a result of a pickled liver, black demons or foul play. I would hate to be rude to interviewers, keep them waiting or let them down. Nor would I give out about my felllow writers; I share their struggles.

I wouldn’t have the stamina for the wild bohemian lifestyles writers enjoyed. I’m aware that my view of the literary past is highly idealised. After all, writers now have more power than ever before over their books: how they are produced and how they are sold.

I love the fact that the Internet has democratised writing, allowing writers to find publishing outlets more easily and make personal connections with their readers. readers. I think it’s healthy that writers are climbing down from their ivory towers and removing the mystique from the craft.

Yet a part of me yearns for an earlier time, when writers were allowed to be artists, and they were allowed to be crazy.

How to Write a Press Release When There’s No News

At this time of year, a lot of businesses make a new start. A move to a new premises. A new product range. Or a new business, full stop. Plenty of fodder for media outlets. But what if nothing new is happening? You may feel nothing is happening in your business that is worthy of a press release. Finding newsworthy angles is a particular problem for service businesses, who don’t have anything tangible to show for your efforts.

But the good news for those in service businesses is that you do have a source of news – yourself. Your opinions. Your insights. And your expertise. You can’t have new things happening all the time, so media outlets frequently fill their slots with opinions from experts. And you can take advantage of that trend.

Here’s How

Be Upbeat About the Economy: That’s what Positive Economist Susan Hayes is doing. She’s been featured on the Sunday Business Post and on RTE’s The Business, because she wants to turn the tide of doom and gloom pouring out of the media. If you genuinely feel there’s a glimmer of hope for us, don’t be afraid to light the way with a press release outlining your views.

Awareness of Trends: If you know what makes people buy certain products, or developments are happening in your industry which will have a broader ripple effect, you can put yourself forward as an expert. You can show how customers can benefit from these trends and achieve real value for money.

Offer Business Advice: The world of business can be a minefield, so you could put together an article or blog post that guides people through the minefield. This is what John Jordan of Next Chapter Marketing Consultancy does. His blogs on low-cost marketing solutions for small businesses have featured on http://www.bizstartup.ie.

So where can you go with your ideas.

Radio Business Programmes: The bulk of business and current affairs programmes on radio are now taken up with opinion, with people sharing their expertise and predicting trends. You can avail of these trends by contacting the producers of programmes like The Business and Newstalk Breakfast with your ideas. Ringing them ensures a prompter answer, but be sure not to do it too close to programme time, as you want to ensure they’re receptive. Be chatty and enthusiastic when you’re talking to them and they’ll see you as radio-friendly.

Newspaper Articles: Slots like Business Brain in the Irish Independent offer a platform for business people to share their expertise. If you send in press releases to newspapers, they’ll see you as a good candidate for a quote in an article about business practise. If you want to write an article, don’t send in the whole article. Send a summary instead, highlighting what you think is newsworthy about your idea.

Online Outlets: If you’re not sure where your press release, you could find an online press outlet. http://www.irishpressreleases.ie, http://www.bizstartup.ie and http://www.irishmediastore.com are all free. Bizstartup is read by business people, while Irish Press Releases and Mediastore are used by journalists to source news.

Feel free to share your own stories of getting press coverage as a service business with me and my readers.