A crime-writer on the BBC Radio 4 arts programme "Front Row" boasted recently that as soon as he had a new book out "I'm on Facebook and Twitter several times a day talking about it. I'll go on forums and post them under my name and various other names". Apparently not only praising your own book but trashing your rivals under a pseudonym is called using "sock-puppets". Now this is nasty but it probably works. The literary world has enough gullible book buyers and, more worryingly, ill-informed agents and publishers who are taken in by this deceit. The trouble is that most people's morality is relative; once other authors cheat it's very tempting to follow their example. What's more I've some sympathy because the non-fiction publishing world is desperately short of money. Like other non-fiction writers I know, it's a long time since I received a decent advance payment and print runs these days are so small that it's hard to earn much in royalties. The publisher of my last book actually fined me for exceeding the word count, though this was not in the contract.Then he reduced the number of photo pages so that the photographs, for which I had paid the clearance incidentally not the publisher as in the old days, were reduced in some cases to the size of a postage stamp. No wonder authors get kind of desperate to make some money! If this is true of non-fiction writing then documentary filmmaking is even more impecunious. Many of my students have to go on Kickstarter or Indigogo to raise money for a budget. This is a form of begging. One or two I know with a burning conviction in their film actually mortgaged their houses to pay for filming and editing. I'm not talking about beginners here, but professionals with training and track record. This is a world where selling yourself by bullshitting is almost a given. The system of film credits invites it. Who may claim creative ownership of a film? The Executive Producer? The Producer? The Associate Producer? The Assistant Producer? None of them, in my view. Only the Writer and Director deserve the credit which is why I always insist their names come first or last in the list.
Then we come to the vexatious matter of the C.V., the 'curriculum vitae', a glowing version of which is essential to get a film commissioned. I've read so many that I can pick out 'porkies' (lies) as soon as I open the attachment. But again I have some sympathy. My own view, to quote President Kennedy, is that "facts are sacred, opinion is free", by which I mean that the award/status/review cited on the C.V. must be factually correct though the significance you attach to it is up to you. To give one example, which shows I am by no means whiter than white , you may have read on my website that in 1991 I was awarded a prestigious BAFTA for an American series I versioned called "The Civil War". Well, it's true and the certificate is on my wall, but ninety percent of the credit belongs to the creative genius of the films, Ken Burns. The former statement is fact, the latter opinion is free. Of course, I did not qualify my award by mentioning my minor role. Its tough out there and I need all the help I can get.
So, if you have read the new version of "The Last English Revolutionary", please give it a kind review on this website; then I won't need to ask my wife to write one!!! Thanks.