Thursday, June 1, 2017

The old four, four, four, two.

By Catriona

Well, all I can say is thank God for Cathy Ace - see yesterday's entry. After seventeen years as a fiction writer, I now know the difference between marketing and promotion. (Just promotion and publicity to go . . .)

So. Is marketing (or promotion anyway (possibly publicity)) oppressive or liberating?

First, what do I do in the way of marketing?  Yes, I try to write the best book I can. Today I spent twelve hours reading page proofs out loud with a ruler to follow the lines, making sure there were no repetitions, incoherences, typos, glitches or ghosts. Ghosts, you ask. Ghosts, I say. Like how once I cut a character out of a book, except that suddenly on p.234 he still had one line. (We caught it in time.) By coincidence, this was also the book with a spurious shadowy corpse on the jacket. I can never kick the idea that these are one and the same:

Who *is* that lying dead in the snow? The last remains of Pasha Prebrashensky?

I don't (because I can't) do anything about pricing beyond nagging my publishers to drop the cost of ebooks and responding with enthusiastic thanks to any discounts they agree to.

I don't (because I can't) do much about placement either, beyond having books available to lug along to charity events and offer for sale. I cover my costs and donate the profits to the good cause. That works out well for everyone involved: I sell books, the children's home or library or literacy project gets a cheque, the attendees get guilt-free book-shopping.

But what about promotion (possibly publicity)?

Online, I run a website, I've got a Facebook author page, there's a sig on every email I send and I keep up a presence on Twitter, people Facebook, this blog and Femmes Fatales. When a book is coming out I do a blog tour with giveaways. None of those bits of my job oppresses me. I kind of love that I get to scoof about on Twitter and call it working, actually. But liberation? That would be a stretch. It can be uplifting. Right now, I'm running a giveaway of two large print hardbacks of THE CHILD GARDEN for libraries. See here. And it feels pretty good.

In real life, I go to four or five conventions a year between the US and the UK. After each one I'm a physical wreck, hoarse and knackered, not to mention liberated from a decent wedge of cash. I also visit any library, book club, fundraiser or other event I can get to and from in a day's drive (with writing time in a nearby Starbucks). And now we're talking. Library people, book club people, and charitable people are consistently interesting and sometimes downright inspiring.

Librarian Fran Devlin and volunteer Helen Ogawa at Arnold Library last week.

But is any of that marketing a book? No idea.

When a new book is actually coming out, I have a party at either the Avid Reader in Davis, CA, or Waterstone's in Princes Street, Edinburgh. That's marketing, right? I send invitations to an ever-longer list of people, to which I've been adding chance email correspondents in Davis or Edinburgh throughout the year. Booksellers make displays. Publishers buy wine (in Britain.) And there's cake. Cake is definitely marketing.

That's my secret weapon: four ounces of flour, four ounces of sugar, four ounces of butter and two eggs.

And yes, it's liberating. Because I get to lick the spoon.

1 comment:

Finta said...

Catriona, your best marketing ploy, other than writing a good book to begin with, is yourself. When I first met you, I thought you were the funniest person I'd ever known. Now I know you are also among the brightest and best, and I mean that sincerely. Kindness is your fall back position. How much I have to learn from you.

So how about you write the books, hire or bribe a marketer, and go on about doing good things for people. It pays in the end.

Ann in Rochester