In the different industries in which I’ve worked, during the first few months, there’s always a struggle to absorb the new vocabulary. The expressions that bounce around a TV newsroom are, needless to say, different to those associated with TV drama or comedy
“Sitreps” and “Pressers” in TV news; “Puffs” and “Jollies” in PR; “Treatments” and “Coverage” in screenwriting. And so on.
And if you don’t have your new vocabulary ready to roll out, heaven help you.
In my early TV days I had a humiliating conversation with a Channel 4 commissioner. I was pitching a series idea and she kept asking me – over and over again – what the ‘toolkit’ associated with the proposed show was going to be.
As I visualised a plastic box with spanners, wrenches and assorted tape, I had the same sense of helplessness I remember from school when I didn’t quite get it. Sweat and panic.
Since then, I’ve done my research.
So now, flash forward, to publishing. My nose is currently pressed up against the publishing window as I work on a novel. As part of my research for this new industry, I’ve learnt several new expressions, including “The Package.”
I now know that “The Package” is not the type of squidgy brown paper parcel that may contain a lovely scarf that is an early birthday present. “The Package” is the writer and his or her ability to deliver and promote their product.
For a telly writer, this is quite a shocking concept. Why? Because in telly and screenwriting, you do the job i.e. write whatever it is to the best of your ability doing however many rewrites it takes. Then you get paid and then you bugger off.
Yes, you may be on set when they are shooting the show for last minute tweaks of a script. And hopefully you’re going to be invited to the wrap party. But once you finish the writing, generally speaking, you’re done.
But it seems that this is not the case in publishing where being part of “The Package” means social networking, attending literary festivals, doing book signings, giving talks, writing articles and even doing stunts.
So it seems to me that telly writing is business to business and book writing is retail.
I find this fascinating.