The photo shoot to kill for

By PD Martin

Part of an author’s life is publicity. And, let’s face it, for the most part publicity is fun! You write in a cocoon for many, many months and then you emerge and get to flap your wings and show off all the pretty patterns. Well, it’s kind of like that.

For many authors, I know publicity can be a drag. For the shy, retiring type of author, publicity can be daunting and scary. Then there are the really, really big authors who do world tours and get a few weeks taken out of their writing schedule each year. They’re shepherded from city to city, country to country and plane to plane. I can see that after the first world tour (or maybe the tenth) that might get a little old.

For most of us, the publicity rounds are more sedate. And it depends on your publishing house and publicist too. My five books are released in Australia through Pan Macmillan Australia. They assigned me a fabulous publicist and for the two weeks around the launch of each book I’d block out time for media interviews. Lots were over-the-phone radio interviews, but then also some print stuff with the occasional photo shoot. However, in the US I didn’t have a publicist and so the publicity and media stuff was pretty much non-existent. The other weird thing about publicity is that by the time a book is released, you’re already well into writing the next book. So you have to get your head out of the current WIP and back into your last book.

But that’s not what this blog is about…today I want to talk about the best photo shoot of my career to date. And it’s not to publicise an upcoming novel. Next month, 7-9 October, I’m part of an Australian crime convention called SheKilda. It’s only the second of its kind (the first/last one was 10 years ago) and I’m hoping it’s going to be like Bouchercon for Aussies. It’s being hosted by Sisters in Crime Australia, so it’s only female crime writers (authors, journalists and TV writers) but there are still over 70 authors on 35+ panels. Needless to say, I can’t wait!!!!  I’m using the pun – a killer weekend.

But I’ve digressed again. So, a couple of weeks ago, as part of the publicity for SheKilda, I was asked to take part in an interview with two other Melbourne-based authors, Angela Savage and Leigh Redhead. First I went into city and talked to the journalist over coffee, then the next day we met at the Victorian State Library for the photo shoot. The theme: modern-day Cluedo. The three of us had to pick a colour – my first difficulty. You see, like many Melbournians about 90% of my wardrobe is black. Anyway, I managed to hunt out some purple and so I was Professor Plum (in the library – literally).

The first pose was on a Chesterfield with magnificent lights in the background. Angela Savage lay on the lounge with a dagger, Leigh Redhead had the gun and I had a magnifying glass. The second pose was Leigh lying on the lounge, me lying on the top of it (balance was required, people!) and Angela behind us, looking a little too excited to be holding a rope in her gloved hands. This one made it into the article and I also got a way less slick pic on my little camera.


Next we were near an old marble staircase. I was sitting, magnifying glass in hand (I sooo wanted a gun) and Angela and Leigh were behind me, backs against the wall like they were about to kill each other (or maybe me). That one made the front cover of the Melbourne Times Weekly and is also the pic featured in the online version.

Then we did a Charlie’s Angels style pose. Again, I got one on my camera. This was a special moment for me, because I was able to play out one of my childhood fantasies — I was one of Charlie’s Angels! Sad, but true 🙂

I don’t know if you can see it in the pics, but it was a seriously fun shoot. Angela, Leigh and I were like excited school girls – with fake guns, knives, etc. And while most photo shoots take 5-15 minutes, this one went for nearly two hours!

It’s all in the look
When you’re posing for photos, it can be hard to work out what expression to use. Even though we were having fun and getting into it, do you go for sexy? Serious? Smug? Leigh and I joked about the classic crime writer “look”. Crime authors need to refine a little sexy smirk that says: “I know something you don’t know.” And the thing we know? Whodunit. And that’s kind of important in a murder mystery.

Anyway, thought I’d share this fun photo shoot with the Murderati gang! For those of you reading this blog in Australia, please get yourselves to Melbourne 7-9 October! We’ve already got people coming from interstate and of course around Victoria. And tell all your friends about this amazing event. I’d rather not wait another 10 years for the next one, which means this one has to be a HUGE hit 🙂

To the authors out there…what’s been your most fun publicity event/piece? To the readers and aspiring authors…do you think you’d like the PR side of writing?

16 thoughts on “The photo shoot to kill for

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hi PD

    Wow, I really WANT to come to the next SheKilda! Will write for food.

    There have been a lot of fun events over the years (ooh, hark at grandma), but I still enjoy doing the self-defence demonstrations at conventions. Very entertaining, and useful advice, too ;-]

    The only thing that bothers me about doing events is the prospect that nobody will turn up and the bookstore/library staff will be left looking at me reproachfully in an otherwise empty room. Once I know there is actually an audience, I'm fine.

    But I had no idea when I started that I'd also need to be an entertainer as well as a writer. I've even done after-dinner speaking engagements. Weird.

  2. Reine

    Hi PD,

    Looks like you had a lot of fun with that shoot! I wish you the best with SheKilda! Wow! What a great name! I won't be able to be there, but will tell all my Aussie friends. If you see a trail of power wheelchairs moving through it's a fair bet they made it. I'll make sure to send them to your signing.

    I would like meeting other writers, but I am very introverted, so the more public aspect might not be something I'd look forward to. I used to give poetry readings in and around Boston, Massachusetts and had a number of invitational public events for that as well, but people seemed to expect poets to be reclusive. They were happy I showed up. If I accepted a drink they were delirious. Once a year I turned it into a comedy routine at my school and was invited to audition for a TV show. I turned them down, because I am just too socially agoraphobic. I'd acted in theater and a couple of films when younger, but that was really too awful. I don't know how I got into that, really. I just didn't know how my feelings were so much in conflict with my activities. I guess it was something I just fell into and very happy to fall out of!

    Note to Zoë: I'm sorry I didn't go to your book signing after the panel in Tucson. I really underestimated the timing and could not miss the paratransit van ride home . . . next time I'll know better. You and Andy were wonderful. And Kendall still misses Andy. U..U

  3. Sarah W

    As I have the looks for radio and a voice for mime, I'm not sure face-to-face publicity will be a favorite, should it ever be a possibility. I think blog tours would be much more relaxing — I like to think I express myself much better through a keyboard, plus there's a backspace key if I don't.

    But your photoshoot has almost changed my mind—the shots are marvelous and it's obvious you all had a great time!

  4. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I love your first paragraph about publicity being like spreading your pretty wings after all that cocooning. EXACTLY.

    But I HATE the photo part. You've hit on the only thing that makes me feel comfortable about it – doing it with other authors and especially doing it in costume. That's (one reason) why I love hanging out with Heather Graham and Harley Jane Kozak and Paul Wilson and all those hams. It makes the photo thing much less painful.

  5. Louise Ure

    That photo shoot looks like fun, PD, but it is strange that an extroverted personality is required for the PR side of our world, but is not the thing that makes most writers successful.

  6. Jake Nantz

    You can tell that you guys had a great time. What fun! As for me, I'm shy, and cover it up by being the loudest, hammiest, most obnoxious thing in the room if I can drum up the courage to, so I can honestly say that I have no idea how I would like or dislike PR.

    Sure would love the chance to find out someday, though…

  7. Cornelia Read

    BEST. PHOTOS. EVER!!!! How wonderful!!!!! I love your tights, too!!!!

    I usually really, really hate having my picture taken, but a shoot like that looks like a marvelous time…

  8. David Corbett

    O the Halloweens I've misspent with women in French maid costumes…

    I'm with Alex, having my picture taken is akin to a four-day root canal without novocaine. I often wonder where Nosferatu, or Uncle Fester, or Elmer Fudd came from, and what's he doing in my picture? But you guys look like you had a merry old time.

    As well you should.

  9. Murderati

    Phillipa has been trying to post a comment in response to many of you, but is having technical issues. She will keep trying.

  10. PD Martin

    I know it's been days now, but I'm going to try posting a response again!!!

    Zoe, yes it was a fun photo shoot. I love events, but as you pointed out, the numbers can be scary. I've done a couple of events with small audiences and it is a little disheartening. Hopefully I can get to the northern hemisphere soon and see you in action. The self-defence demos sound great.

    Reine – sounds like you've done quite a few public appearances and it does get easier. Honestly! I'm always torn in things like this – do you push yourself with something you're uncomfortable with (face the fear and do it anyway) or do you accept you're not an extrovert? Mmm….

    Sarah – very funny. I'm sure you're exaggerating. And yes, this was a fun shoot.

    Will try some more in a sec…

  11. PD Martin

    Looks like I can post! Hooray!

    Keziah – make sure you come up and say hi!

    Alex – yes, it's definitely more fun with other authors in the mix. Still, I'm definitely more comfortable with it now (even solo) than I was a few years ago. And I always try to remind myself WHY I'm doing the photoshoot – publicity to sell more books!

    Alafair – I'm definitely getting the idea that you love your Duffer! And I bet you wouldn't have found it painful (this particular one at least) because it was soooo much fun!

    Louise, you hit the nail on the head. I think the days of the introverted author sitting at their desk and not doing any publicity or social networking are gone. Maybe I should write a post on that!

    Jake – if you can be loud and ham it up, you'll have no problems with publicity! Hang in there on the publishing front. It took me four novels and about five years before I cracked it.

    Cornelia – thanks! Glad you like the tights 🙂 Yes, I think even people who hate having their photo take would have liked this photo shoot.

    Katherine – can't wait to catch up on Friday!

    David – sounds like you've got a novel in the french maid theme. Although I don't think it would be a murder mystery 🙂 And I like your author pic on this site! Not at all Elmer Fudd!

    JT – Yes, it was fun!

    Thanks everyone and sorry it took me so long to get back in and post. It's school holidays here, so time has been short and the other time I managed to get online the comments weren't posting.


  12. Reine

    Hey . . . glad you're back on, Phillipa. Just had to come bck and check out the tights I somehow missed. Totally very excellent! I used to have a black pair with a white racing stripe up the side. I cried when they finally gave out. They were my ditch-the-uniform addition to my wardrobe in upper school. It represented my wild side that rarely shows, but is definitely there.

    Most of my speaking experience was in school where it was part of the expectation to stand in front of the class and answer questions or give presentations followed by Q&A. Then training for the ministry of course — all a misspent and not so youthful youth. Hah! At least I know I can do it. May be that I am not awfully terrific at it, but I can when I must.


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