Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My secret life as a..... by Cathy Ace

“Does marketing your book feel oppressive or liberating?”

So the knotty question about marketing has reared its head again, and I think it’s time I ‘fess up…

I confess that I have earned my living from marketing for decades. There. That’s off my chest.

At Brynhyfryd Library, Swansea with neighbours and relatives of schoolfrineds
From 1982 to 2012 it was my chosen profession, and, therefore, my life. The first nine books I had published were marketing textbooks. I was made a Fellow of the UK’s Communications, Advertising and Marketing Foundation and of The Chartered Institute of Marketing. I was granted the Freedom of the City of London for my services to marketing, and am a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors. I owned and operated what became Europe’s largest post-graduate marketing training company, and traveled the world preparing non-marketing managers to become heads of marketing for organisations like Ford, HSBC, the BBC and so on. Indeed, the reason I now live in Canada rather than the UK is that the University of British Columbia “imported” me to deliver the marketing components of their MBA course. So – there – I am a dyed-in-the-wool marketing person.

Thus, I have a bit of a problem with this question. You see, marketing and promoting are not synonymous. Promotion is a part of marketing, but it’s just one part of it. Marketing sits upon four pillars: product, price, place and promotion. The right product at the right price, available to the customer in the right places, and promoted in the right way.

As an author I have “complete control” over my product: I write the books, they are “mine”, thus I have control over the “product” part of the marketing mix (as it’s known). I also can, and do, have control over most of my promotional effort. However, when it comes to price, because I’m published by publishing houses I have no control over this aspect at all, nor do I control the outlets via which people can purchase my work. Thus, since I can only control two parts of the mix, I do the best I can to make both of those elements effective. But (and it’s a big “but”) I have found that the two remaining elements – pricing and availability – have a massive effect on sales.

With my proud Mum
Sometimes, promoting my work – building a recognizable brand for each of my series of books and for myself – can feel a bit like pushing water uphill; people might know me and my work, and even like me and my work, but if they can’t get their hands on my work easily, or at a price they feel is fair, then they won’t purchase, so I’m fighting a losing battle. Of course, if I could make sure my books were made available in every free-to-use library in the world that would help those who live close enough to such wonderful institutions to be able to read them at no cost, but even then, not everyone is served.

All that being said, I feel I should put as much effort into controlling that which I can, and trying to not worry about those aspects of the publishing process over which I have no control, so I put both my shoulders behind a) writing the best books I can, and b) promoting them as well as I can. I only hope it’s enough to get publishers to want to keep offering my work to readers.

With my background, promoting my work should feel liberating, insofar as it allows me to use a well-developed skill-set. And often it does…I’ve just returned from a trip to the UK where I promoted myself and my work at CrimeFest UK and at the library where I first read the Nancy Drew and Secret Seven books which inspired me to write, which was a wonderful feeling. And it allowed me to "do my thing" with Mum in the room - even better.

But – honestly – the writing is the fun part, the promoting is the job. That’s the truth of it.

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries (#8 The Corpse with the Ruby Lips was released on November 1st) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#3, The Case of the Curious Cook, was released in hardcover in the UK on November 30th and in the USA & Canada on March 1st).  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers: 

1 comment:

Dietrich Kalteis said...

That's sure true, Cathy, the writing is the fun part, the promoting is the job, and it does sometimes feel like pushing water uphill.