Friday, 2 October 2015

Positively Promotional Marketing

At risk of sounding like a grumpy old Victor Meldrew  - oh, ok, I admit it,  I am! - I find it difficult, at times, to zip my lip on comparisons between life as I’ve known it, and life today.  Austerity for instance?  What’s that when the IT devices most people possess today are compared with the gas-lit boiler and mangle with which my mother did the family washing, and the clay pots standing in water used to keep the milk cool in the absence of a refrigerator?


It’s as an author, however, that I want to look at this topic.  The complaint from today’s writers is that they are no longer free simply to write the next book, but are expected to help in marketing.  What many don’t realise is that little, in fact, has changed in that respect.  As the French journalist and novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. (Apologies for lack of accents).


The fact is, that Hodder & Stoughton, Kingsway and Lion Hudson may have set up the marketing of my earlier books, but I still had to be prepared to do the hard slog.  At one time, that meant undertaking the equivalent of at least one speaking engagement every week for a year.  The reality was that many of them were back-to-back, so for days on end I would be away from home travelling from one venue to another around the country, and accepting the hospitality of complete strangers.  On the plus side, some, it has to be said, have become dear friends.

Adrian Plass: ACW President
Nevertheless, as Adrian Plass would tell you when he invited himself for dinner with my husband and me but declined our offer of a bed for the night, that’s a pretty exhausting exercise for we introverts.  Just as gruelling an experience as sitting next to Eva Pollard on a TV chat show on Meridian TV and being told by her of the necessity to speak only in sound bites, or being on the receiving end of an acerbic review by journalist, Melanie Phillips.  True, those sort of opportunities don’t present themselves as often these days, though when it comes to drug issues, or stepfamily matters, I’m still sometimes asked to speak on various radio programmes, even as far afield as BBC West Midland.


The point is, though, that being positively promotional does not require us to be pushy – very off-putting to those on the receiving end – nor to be shrinking violets.  Launching my latest book, Time to Shine, a mystery novel in the Evie Adams series, has not been an easy task.  With the distributors, Joining the Dots, going into administration then receivership, it’s been more of a damp squib than a rocket launch.  It has, however, given me the impetus to do some legwork myself, instead of relying solely on the new distributors.


Cream tea in Dartmouth
That’s meant carrying my books around with me whenever Paul and I have a day out.  Dartmouth, home to one of the characters in the next book of the Evie Adams series, was our destiny yesterday.  A trip over the River Dart on the ferry enabled me to have a delicious cream tea at the Smith Street Deli (just down the road from where Evie's client lives), plus taking loads of photographs, and doing some research.


Dartmouth Bookshop
It also revealed, to my surprise, that a new ‘community, non-profit making bookshop’ has replaced what was the Harbour Bookshop, home of the real Christopher Robins, son of A.A. Milne.  What, I asked the manageress, did that involve?  It appears that this is not a new concept.  Communities up and down the country are banding together to set up local post offices and bookshops where, otherwise, they have not proved financially viable.  Run by volunteers, the shops’ profits are ploughed back into the business.

By the time we’d finished chatting, I felt as if I’d made a new friend.   One who enthused about having my books, insisted that I sign them, and gave me contact details for the local newspaper, the freebie quarterly magazine, and the local library which puts on talks.  Being positively promotional means creating relationships, and that's what we achieved.


Marketing?  Hard work?  Nah!  Not when you show a genuine interest in the lives of those involved in the industry.  After all, we’re all in it together.  It's no harder than crossing the River Dart on the ferry.  And creating the sort of symbiosis that now exists between this lady and me was a real pleasure.  I am more than happy to promote the amazing work she, and her cohorts are doing, and know that she will be doing likewise for me.  Best of all, it was simply part of my day out with my husband.  And he, needless to say, was more than happy to be free to wander off and take photographs without the encumbrance of a Victor Meldrew style waiting wife.

Merrilyn Williams, is the author of a number of traditionally published biographies, one of which was a bestseller, and she writes fiction under her maiden name, Mel Menzies.  Her latest novel, a psychological mystery, published by Malcolm Down Publishing, is set in Exeter and substitutes counselling practices for police procedures.

Recently retired as ACW Chair, Merrilyn is an inspirational speaker; has led writers’ workshops at The Hayes, Swanwick and elsewhere; and is often asked to take part on BBC broadcasts on a wide range of topics, such as stepfamilies; drugs; godparents; and bereavement.  She blogs regularly on creative writing, speaking and relationships.  Her website, An Author’s Look at Life, provides Resources to Inform, Inspire & Encourage.

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  1. I love the idea of the community bookshop. What a lovely place to find.

    I find it hard to keep promoting my work. I don't want to be pushy but at the same time I am aware that I need to promote it for people to know about it. I am still learning about this.

    Thanks for giving me food for thought.


  2. It always feels better to me when someone ELSE says 'You should read this book' or 'This author's worth reading' which is why I wish the days of publisher marketing hadn't gone down the pan. Promoting myself feels so awkward.

  3. A community bookshop. What a fabulous idea. Great post. Thank you

  4. I think the problem with 'marketing' is making the initial connections: 'becoming heard of'. It's made easier if we have a pre-existing network in media-connected areas, already teach writing, are journalists, or have other notoriety. Then, as Fran says, the recommendation of others speaks to potential readers, and possibly to suppliers.

  5. Love writing, hate marketing. But Facebook has helped me 'come out'. Not sure if all those likes will lead to any more sales, though. Enjoyed your post so much, Merrilyn (what a great name, it sounds so happy!), that I have ordered 'Time to Shine' from your website.