You are currently viewing archive for March 2010
31 March 2010
Some pretty pics in this article about my book in the American arts magazine Juxtapoz

Actually, 've been seeing a lot of great Alice art on a fascinating new Facebook site called "Alice in Wonderland Inspired Photography Movies and Art" - there really is something for everyone and I'm flabbergasted at how much there actually is!

And I've been reading my copy of Susan Sanford's book and have been very taken with this image of Alice as the Red King's dream

The aborigines say "There is a dream dreaming us"

29 March 2010
Just heard that my grandfather, William Grace, went behind enemy lines and brought back two wounded comrades, and was awarded a medal! I'm proud of him!
29 March 2010
People keep sending interesting things. A link to a TV programme that mentions my book, and a nice review in the New Jersey Sunday Press And Laurel Speer, a poet, wrote me from Tucson, Az, with some of her poetry. I liked it; it points up the sort of things which I often think but don't put into words myself - and can't express in a poetic way anyhow. I hope she won't mind if I quote a short poem:


I'm shredding tax documents when an envelope comes to light
Written in the clearest possible hand, a forward to this address
by a woman quite dead, come suddenly to life this very night.

Here's a poetic picture - or at least I think it is. I've posted another image of this Victorian screen before - it belongs to my friend Jane. As Alice says, "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas - Only I don't know exactly what they are"

Jane's screen
25 March 2010

The Mystery of Lewis Carroll has had some wonderful publicity. Much of the credit for that is due to the publicists who have worked on it, but I've learned a few things from the experience too. So I've written my thoughts down, and whether you are self-published or published by a company, I hope there will be something here for you.


It helps enormously if your book publication coincides with a news story on a related topic - what journalists call a "hook." The publicity generated from your "hook" can help sweep your book along. "The Mystery of Lewis Carroll," for instance, was published specifically to coincide with the launch of Tim Burton's major "Alice in Wonderland" movie, so was included in many round-ups of "Alice" themed books and events.

To help identify news stories, something like the Date-A-Base book of Historic Anniversaries could come in useful, or you can simply google your book subject and your projected publication dates, and see what comes up. If you're writing an historical novel set on Staten Island, for instance, why not publish in August 2011, for the 350th anniversary celebrations of Staten Island?


The main way to establish yourself on the internet is to get yourself lots of mentions on Google. To do this you need to get mentioned on as many sites as possible – widely read ones, preferably.


Good ways of doing this are to maintain a website which you can update yourself, or at the very least a blog - is a really easy site to use. I like to have complete control over my blog, so use Nucleus software on my own website. I also maintain a clone on Blogger which links back to my website and enables more links to be made to me.

I have had several interview requests via my website contact form, and my blog entries help keep me on the Google radar. Once a blog is up, you build traffic by visiting other peoples' blogs and leaving comments there, making sure to include your site's web address, so they can link back to you.

I also keep a Facebook fan page for my book and link its status posts with Twitter, which helps increase my internet presence.

Although it is hard to quantify how many sales you make using so-called social media, the exciting thing about these sites is that they reach out to lots and lots of people - so you just never know who will take an interest. And it’s fun. I have “met” some very nice and interesting people through my book’s Facebook page.

I don't try to persuade individuals I know via social media to buy my book directly; there can be loads of reasons why they don't or can't, and I am not keen to shove the thing down peoples’ throats. I am delighted if they buy, and happy if they order it through the library, but equally happy if they just take an interest. I am always thrilled if they take photos of displays of the book, offer publicity suggestions or just give me their thoughts. And occasionally they tell me if they have left reviews on Amazon or - always useful to have good ones there.


Leaving social media and your own blog aside, aim to get noticed in important national and international print media - newspapers and magazines. Not only do people read and remember what they have seen in hard print, but even small mentions - just the name and the name of the book - can be useful. This is because online articles in respected media are often syndicated or adapted by media all over the world.

So a solitary mention in The Times may also become a mention in other papers thousands of miles away. Several times, someone, somewhere - perhaps in Latin America or the Philippines or Italy – has picked up mention of my book from the London Times or the New York Times and decided to follow it up by interviewing me for a broadcast or article.


I’ve done several broadcasts for this book, but personally I don't feel I can quantify how much impact these have made here and in the US. Broadcasts may not have the permanent impact of written media, although if you can post a recording of your TV appearance on YouTube it will help. In terms of internet presence, I would suggest aiming to get a written mention on the TV or radio company's website if you are interviewed. The more widely read the site the better, so something like the BBC or Fox is ideal. References to you and your book will then continue to come up on the internet long after the broadcast is over.

Traditional broadcast media have competition these days, of course. I recently did a long interview on a podcast site called Psychjourney - that's really interesting and doesn't have quite the same time limitations as you get in broadcasting. And, for more information on dealing with broadcasting, take a look at


Things snowball online, so pay attention to popular private websites and blogs. One particular private website regularly comes up in the first page in the Google rankings for my book, and internet-only media are just as good for spreading the word electronically as the online versions of print media.

Pick popular websites to approach by googling around and seeing which sites keep coming up. When you contact them, offer a blog giveaway of your book. Typically, people leave comments to enter the giveaway. This helps the Google ratings, specially if the comments also have to include your book title.

It's absolutely great if your book is reviewed on a widely read blog. My book was on several of these and they were very helpful.


If your book has strong local interest, local coverage will probably be more important than whatever you do online and word of mouth publicity can help in obtaining speaking engagements.

Local editors are often very overworked, but they really want to focus on local achievements. As well as getting a feature, you can probably attract news coverage if you attach your book to some local event, or even create a publicity stunt.

I feel that the online value of local publicity depends very much on the quality of the publication's website. Some have not yet twigged that the right sort of website can boost their business, and their websites don't offer much, don't get many hits and barely show on Google. But some small publication reviews may show up very high in the Google rankings if they have attractive sites.


You may have to get out there and make phone calls or ring doorbells to find them, but there are plenty of groups that like being personally visited by an author. Contact your local library or bookstore, and talk to the person in charge of events. Clubs and schools can also be good. What’s more, the kind of places that do author readings or events often have a good position in the local community, and so you can turn the whole thing into a social occasion and bring your friends along too.

Organisers of major literary festivals expect your book to have had significant coverage already, and contact with them would be made through your publisher or agent. But if you hear of a small or specialised literary festival that is relevant to you, do approach them and they will probably be delighted to hear from you.


if you are offered chances to appear in person, take care that you are clear about the benefits to yourself of doing so. Remember you may generate local word of mouth publicity, or offers of more local talks, but have very little impact online.

If you love the whole idea of talking about your book, or want to establish yourself as part of the local cultural scene then of course local talks are ideal. But they do take time to prepare - sometimes a lot of time - and then you may have to commit a good part of a day to getting to the venue, setting up your Powerpoint, etc. giving the talk and getting back.

If someone else is publishing you, then your free talk will get you at best a royalty, perhaps 10 percent of the cover price, of each book sold. If you are still paying off your advance, you will get nothing directly at all. So you could end up feeling YOU are paying THEM to let you give the talk.

As for bookstore signings – they can be great but they also have a certain notoriety amongst authors because sometimes - to be frank - people just don’t come. A family member of mine recently saw a very well known artist sitting forlornly in a bookstore with his fountain pen, ignored by all. She pitied him but didn't dare ask him to autograph the postcards she'd just bought, because he was there to sign books and she thought he might scorn her cheap little cards. (Or, I thought to myself, he may have fallen on her with desperate gratitude just because she was noticing him.)

It's hard to think that this exposure did him any good, and perhaps he would have been better spending the time doing something useful, like drawing.


If your book is with a regular or large publishing house, you will find a publicist is assigned to you. She or he will be dealing with other books, not just yours, and has only limited time, so it is a very good idea to make sure that you share any marketing ideas you have with your publicist and do not just leave everything to them.

Tell the publicist about any people or outlets that might be specially inclined to notice your book, offer contacts for people who have shown interest in the past or who may help in some way, point up online contests and giveaways with suitable blogs, mention shops with displays relevant to your book that the publisher can send their sales staff to see... pretty well anything, in fact. I have dozens of emails in my files of suggestions I have made to my publicists, and many of them have borne fruit. Indeed, several of the reviews I am most pleased with came directly because I suggested them to the publicists.

I am afraid (sorry, self published writers) that I think it’s better as a rule to go through the publicist, if you have one, since well known people and big organisations usually take more notice of a company than of a private individual. But of course there are many exceptions and no rigid rules.


Self publishing is becoming very popular. We self published a book with a keen but limited market, and it worked out really well - I've described how it was done here

If you’re publishing your own book then you are stumping up the cost of printing and publicity and you will be keeping 100 percent of the rewards you get from going out and giving talks. Like the Little Red Hen, you will benefit directly from your efforts by the extra sales you make.

Many self published print runs are very small, and so every sale counts. So for a self published author, giving talks and personal appearances can work out well. If word of mouth about your talk generates dozens of sales and some online blog comment, this is well worth doing. And also, it only needs one person attending your talk to suggest your book for their reading club or discussion group - more sales. You will also probably get several extra sales on the spot, from people attending the talk. Approach the local paper, blog about it, and get others to blog about it if you can.

Make sure your website offers the chance to buy the book. Your book should have an ISBN and you can, as the publisher, list it on Amazon. Consider enrolling in the Amazon Associates program, getting their widget and encouraging people to buy through your site.


If you are rather shy, it can be intimidating going out and giving talks. One thing which I haven't done, but which sounds like a great idea, is banding together with other authors who have written (or illustrated) similar books. I know of authors who have done this, and they say it is a lot of fun because they do group signings and events and can make quite a production of it, perhaps offering storytelling or giveaways. Group publicity is wonderful for shy authors – they can leave the extroverts in the group to show off and pull in the crowds.

These author groups can also offer more than just a talk or a reading – everyone in the group has different skills. They probably attract larger audiences, too. Some groups even give themselves a name. I’ve heard that even if an event is poorly attended, at least they keep each other company and have a laugh. And, of course, such events can be made newsworthy and can get into regional press, and hence online. Be sure to have a printed sheet giving the names of all the authors and all the books, if you do a group event.


Is there a conclusion? I don’t know. But this is all I can think of for now. Of course there are many other aspects of book marketing upon which I haven’t examined, and my personal experience doesn’t cover everything, but I do hope that this author's viewpoint is of some use.
24 March 2010
Went to Harrods of Knightsbridge yesterday. I stopped because it had a big notice in one of the windows saying WONDERLAND, complete with a white rabbit carrying a watch.

I asked the doorman where WONDERLAND was and he said, "Oh, it could be anywhere. Anywhere and everywhere." Which I guess was true, and quite poetric, really, but not very enlightening about Harrod's wonderland.

So I asked a woman at the perfume counter, and she directed me upstairs to the third floor, by the delicious sweetie department (now that really is a wonderland, at least for fat kids).

Once on the third floor, we saw no sign of Wonderland - just lots of notices dangling tantalisingly from the ceiling.

So I enquired once more, of another assistant, who looked baffled. Then she said "Oh, it's just a general concept" and waved her arms around, to show how general it was

Her friend, eager to help, added "Or, there's a Wonderland Cafe just round the corner, you know."

So I followed the directions to Wonderland Cafe. This took me through the "pampered pets" department, which is HUGE. At one stage, I thought I'd found the Wonderland Cafe but it turned out just to be a stand selling iced cupcakes - cupcakes specially for dogs.

Finally I reached what used to be Harrods children's cafe. It was brightly decorated - mostly with Easter eggs - and was entirely empty, and is now proudly entitled WONDERLAND CAFE. . By now I had been 30 mins in the shop and was wilting a bit, so I considered buying a coffee.

But the price, four pounds, was also a wonder. So I decided not to.

So I went all the way then down the stairs again, out into bustling Knightsbridge, no wiser about Harrods Wonderland.

And went home - wondering...
22 March 2010
The book has had a lot of reviews now. I appreciate them all and am so grateful for them. Three that specially appeal to me are those by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst in the Telegraph, by Matthew Sweet in The Financial Times and by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post. They are all written by well informed people who have read the book properly and have something illuminating to say about it - good critics, in other words.

Matthew Sweet, in the FT, imagines me striding around debunking the nonsense that is talked about Carroll like "the colonel who closed down Monty Python sketches that became overly silly."


Actually, I'll confess it. My dad was a colonel.
18 March 2010
Alice and the pig

There's been a review from Lenny de Rooy of the celebrated "Lenny's Alice in Wonderland" internet site. Probably the most influential and surely the largest on the net. I'm honoured.

More and more radio ... a couple more interviews imminent, and some that I've already done have come out. Here's a nice link to RTE's Arena interview - (I think that'll only work today so will try to find a permanent home for the recording).

I should add that I'm being a bit of a luvvie here, and only linking to things that I like, so if you find any others that I haven't mentioned, you can assume I don't like 'em!

As for the pig, it's from a book which one of my daughters gave me for Mother's Day - Emma Chichester Clark's "Alice in Wonderland" I've always liked Emma's work and like the way the pig is indignantly struggling here. I've put an image of Emma's exceptionally creepy Cheshire Cat on Facebook - here I don't usually find the Cheshire Cat creepy, but Emma's one spooks me out. Here he is peering down from the tree at Alice and the pig I do NOT like those claws!

looking down from the tree

17 March 2010
The handsome Smithsonian Magazine article is up here . Also, the psychjourney podcast is up here

Psychjourney is a very interesting site; it has interviews with many people and some of them are very distinguished so I am I'm honoured to be one of their subjects. I enjoyed the interview and plan to do a permanent link to it from this site, (which will shortly have a redesign).

16 March 2010
I've had a few radio interviews as part of the publicity for The Mystery of Lewis Carroll. I've had a lot of contact with the BBC over the years, and even made a radio programme of my own. And after doing the radio course at Whistledown (and more about that here) I have felt reasonably confident about doing these various shows.

However, I'm still green enough to have been fazed by an interview recently with someone who, very early on, started quizzing me about why a man with such a dodgy reputation as Carroll should be such a popular writer for children. He persisted with this idea, based on the assumption that Carroll was a paedophile, albeit a closet one, for some considerable time.

I didn't expect him to have actually read my book - although I'd have thought the producer might have - but it all felt a bit like someone asking "Have you stopped beating your wife?" since, as this section of my website makes clear, I don't think Carroll was any kind of a paedophile, even a closet one. That being the case, there is no point in discussing it in detail except to say that.

I never heard how that particular interview sounded on air, but I've wondered since if I should have dealt with this interviewer by taking the politicians' line; i.e. saying "I'm glad you asked me that question" and then simply not answering it. You do set yourself up to be bullied by doing this, if the interviewer persists in trying to force you to speak, but at least he'll come out looking bad too, and it won't just be the interviewee caught on the back foot.

Such shenanigans short change and irritate the listener of course. But when an interviewer tries to bias an interview in this way, the listener is short changed anyhow.

Making the interviewee feel threatened early on in the interview rather guarantees you won't get any relaxed, revealing material, or humour or charm. Still, it probably works a treat if you're interviewing Gordon Brown.
15 March 2010
Smithsonian - April 2010

The article I've been writing for Smithsonian Magazine has been simmering away since last summer. It' was due out last month and then got held over, but finally it appeared in print today. As I write, the website is not yet updated, so here you see a photo of the magazine on my dining room table.

I am usually pleased to see my articles in print, but seeing this one specially pleases me. It is 2,000 words long but has cost me two or three times the effort of most articles of that length. I thought I was a fusspot about getting the facts right, but Smithsonian's fact checking is rigorous beyond anything I could conceive of.

I've always liked the magazine and had a subscription for many years, till I ran out of shelf space for back issues - living here in inner London, space is at a premium. It may be time for me to re-subscribe. There are always so many interesting bits and pieces in the magazine. Like this dinosaur bird thingy - it's actually called a therapod, Anchiornis huxleyi . Scientists have come up with an idea of what it looked like in colour. I must go and check the words of the piece. Perhaps it says how big it was. I'm imagining it about 10 feet high.

Dinosaur bird
12 March 2010
I do a bit of travel writing - not nearly as much as I used to - but I do receive all sorts of communications from tourist boards, hotel companies and the like. In fact, a hotel PR telling me about a new Oxford hotel was the way in which I discovered Carroll's bank account.

Big Blue Spotty Austrian Feet

Thought I'd share this arresting image which arrived from the Austrian Tourist Board. They're running a contest to win a holiday in Austria - here.

You need to have visited Austria already. I'm not going to apply (I'd rather have a go at Reel Health Stories film contest which will be judged by professional film people) but don't let me stop anyone who feels like a free Austrian trip.

The question which preoccupies me is of course, exactly what's with those big blue spotty feet?

11 March 2010
I really like Susan Sanford's work, and I've just bought her new book Dreaming Alice. It uses cut outs in real life settings, plus selected bits from Carroll's texts, and a few other words and images, all delicately done and beautifully evocative. Take a look by clicking on the link:

I hope Susan won't mind my reproducing one of the pictures, which happens to be on her blog.

08 March 2010
Some years ago I visited the church at Croft on Tees, where Carroll's father was the incumbent for many years. The family lived in the big rectory which still sits across the road from the church, and would have attended the church several times a week. Undoubtedly the children would have been very familiar with everything inside the church, which has a most interesting and unusual interior (and links also with Byron).

What I'd forgotten is that the church also has this curious figure.


It is of course claimed to be a cat, smiling, but I'd say it is likely to be the head of one of those medieval strange beasts which are found so often in old churches. (I often look out for a book which will explain what all these things in churches are, but have never yet found one)

Yet, though I don't think its makers intended it to be a Cheshire cat, it is certain that the Dodgson children would have seen it week after week, year after year, and Carroll may well have amused the others by weaving a story about it being some kind of a Cheshire cat. The family had after all moved to Croft from Cheshire. And apparently, when you stand up, the cat's "grin" can no longer be seen - it disappears.

He's known to have woven information about things around him into the stories he told to children, and I like to think of him gathering his brothers and sisters around and amusing them, too, with stories about this strange character in their father's church. I want to revisit Croft, to see what else I can spot, although goodness knows when I will next have the chance to do so.

06 March 2010
Something creepy about the Cheshire Cat, even in the bright sunlight, and even the Disney version.

cheshire cat
05 March 2010
My good friend Marjorie, from Chicago, snapped my book on show in Barnes and Noble and Borders.


It means a lot to me because I didn't go to the US for the launch and won't ever see my book on display in the front of those shops again, probably. at least now I can look at the photos and imagine I'm in the Windy City !

Barnes and noble display
04 March 2010
Just back from a few days in Disneyland Paris. It's for an article, so it's work - but definitely the kind of work I like as I'm a huge Disney fan.

Alice's "house"

Paris has one of the best Alice in Wonderland attractions of any of the Disney parks - not only the revolving teacups, but also a labyrinth, where you walk to, fro and round, trying to find your way to the castle in the middle. All right, I know there isn't a castle in "Alice" but this is rather beautiful with its gorgeously Kremlin-style tiled roof and golden weathervane.

There were also Alice and Mad Hatter characters on the floats, signing autographs and posing for photographs in the park - it was quite hard to get this one, amidst the jostling crowd.

Alice and the Mad Hatter

What about Tim Burton's version? The only signs of those, were posters. No doubt that will change, unless Disney have decided to stick with their cartoon Alice as the definitive one.

More reviews. Apparently the book was mentioned in the Universal Register in Tuesday's copy of the Times of London. I've been unable to find this online, but my UK publisher Haus promises to send me a clipping. Hurrah! I've always wanted to be featured on the Times Universal Register!

A nice review from Salt Lake City And many thanks to Bill Burns for letting me know more about Newsday.

I was thrilled to see this elegant Japanese blog with a long, thoughtful review.