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I’ve had a few people asking me about how, if at all, life has changed since the publication of Great Yorkshire Beer. I thought I’d share a general response here, as I know there’s a few books from bloggers winging their way onto the shelves of bookshops in the upcoming months. Hey, that’s what blogging’s about, right? Let’s get introspective for a second.*
Putting Yourself Out There
I’m a quiet kind of guy when it comes to ‘what I do outside of work’. I don’t broadcast my writing outside of the sphere in which it exists, purely because I’m not the sort of person to march into a room and declare what I do – especially at work, or even with extended family. Obviously, people ‘in the know’ know – attendees at beer tastings I’ve hosted, etc – but this doesn’t mean I’m not creatively ambitious. If you’ve gone to the effort (and it is) of writing a book in your spare time, securing a publishing deal and seeing it through, then you’ve got to want to do it. Which means putting yourself out there. The cat’s out of the bag.
So, one major way in which things are slightly different is that people know more of me; they talk to me about different things – people I’ve known for a long time and never mention beer to me outside of knowing I have an interest about it are highlighting beers they’ve tried – or tried because they’ve read the book. Naively, it’s still a surprise to me when people say they’ve bought it (the book); kind of like when you’re in a band and people show up at your gig without being hounded. Obviously, you get the odd remark about billion-pound royalty cheques, bestsellers and such, but that’s just – as I believe the parlance is - banter.
So, you’ve put yourself out there. That’s what you wanted, right?
The Risk – Reviews
In a similar vein, people don’t think of the risk that you are taking by undertaking such a venture. If the book isn’t up to scratch, your whole body of work (ie the blog) could be called into question. I would obviously say that the risk is worth it if you believe you’ve done the best job you can, but getting the odd nice review vindicates that somewhat. I’ve been lucky enough to garner some excellent reviews so far, both expected (ie people who told me they had picked the book up) and unexpected – local news, for example. Feedback has been generally positive; which for a pessimist/cautious person like me, is incredibly comforting. Putting somthing like that out there for your peers to pick over is terrifying, truth be told.
It’s easy to live in a distorted reality when you communicate with like-minded people on social media. Meeting someone in the flesh *- and finding out they actually walk the walk is brilliant. Through the years I’ve supported and championed so many breweries, pubs and satellite businesses for beer and food that to get support back – when you need it – is heart-warming beyond belief. From the excellent launch – organised entirely by Jon Chappell at The York Tap – to Ilkley Brewery’s offer to brew a beer with me, to businesses such as Yorkshire Ales and Beer-Ritz buying the book to sell (bear in mind they sell beer- not books), to Leeds Waterstone’s excellent locally-minded management and staff, I can at least say that there are businesses out there genuinely walking the walk. Writing, in its nature, is a solitary pursuit; at the end of such a process, things like this matter.
To get a little misty-eyed, seeing lovely posts like this from Maggie make you realise that actually, you are part of a tight-knit, but welcoming little cabal.
Media Newbie
Ultimately – and this links in to the point about putting yourself out there – there comes a point where you have to market the book. This is where you listen to your publisher. After all, they know what they are doing; and they’ve put a hell of lot of time and money into your book. I wanted the book out earlier than it was; they advised to launch near Father’s Day. They were entirely on the money – the book positively flew out over the two weeks leading up to Father’s Day. I did a signing at Waterstones in Leeds. A few people came, bought books, and I signed them. A little strange? Yes, but it’s what you do – the book is the star, not you. I still have a lot to learn; a 15 minute conversation with a paper yielded an interview that only highlighted a couple of quotes. An appearance as a ‘talking head’ on a debate about pubs on the radio a few weeks back was as odd as it was kind of interesting. I’ll be on Radio Leeds on the 22nd of July talking about the book, if you’re interested. Nervous? Yeah, of course I am.
What Happens Next?*
‘So, when is the second one out?‘ is the most asked question of late. I’ll say the same here as I have said for the past month or so; no plans yet. Of course, there are irons in the fire (that’s just me; I like to be busy), but that’s really all they are. Genuinely, I’m enjoying the break, as it happens. I’m enjoying blogging, getting back to seeing people I’ve neglected over the last few months, and that sort of thing. I’m not a writer; I’m still working full-time and that, I’m starting to realise, actually affords some freedom. I know, right? I can put effort into the blog and other writing without worrying about the cheques coming in.
I’m a Blogger; a proud one at that – just one that managed to tick off an ambition on the list. 80% of the best beer-writing I read comes from blogs, and when I see the likes of Mark and Boak & Bailey stretching their wings, I invariably smile. *It happens a lot in Food blogging (the likes of Julia Parsons, Niamh Shields and Helen Dujardin are the examples that immediately spring to mind), so why not beer?