January 19th, 2009


Marketing and Me

So I am safely installed in my new home the Cherry Bomb, which is a house with a court yard and a balcony and a bakery next door. There are fairy lights hung in my sash windows and my eight bin bags of books are unpacked. I am so happy, even though my deadlines are approaching with a whistle like an oncoming train, and in my quest to rewrite key scenes I am not having a very meaningful relationship with sleep.

SARAH: *sweet murmuring as she drifts through Cherry Bomb in her wrap*
CHIARA: Sarah, are you chatting up our house? Again?
SARAH: Er... no.
SARAH (conspiratorial whisper to the walls): We'll talk later, baby.

But this is not the epic tale of the love of one woman for her house. This is a step along my stumbling road to publication, i.e. the dread marketing. When you have seen your cover and finished your edits, how do you make people want to buy your book?

Fortunately, this is not entirely up to me: I have awesome publicists on both sides of the ocean. But still, my book, my responsibility, and I want to help!

Unfortunately nobody knows how to sell books. Well, probably a lot of people have a better idea than I do.

I? I am so clueless. Watching me trying to do this is like watching someone fishing happily in a desert.

So unluckily this is going to be a story about me being silly rather than Invaluable Marketing Tips. Very sorry about that!

As I was trying to come up with ideas, I thought: GIVEAWAYS. People like free stuff! Okay! Then I thought to myself, but, uh, what awesome free stuff can I give them? What would be a good item that I could tie into the story? Hmmm... if I were filling out a profile for him on match.com, what would I say were my hero's hobbies and interests?

So imagine this conversation happening approximately 8582 times as I called up jewellery shops around Dublin.

SHOP PERSONAGE: Hello this is Shop Name, how may I help you?
SARAH: Good morning! I was looking for something like a knife.
SARAH: Or a sword!
SARAH: Maybe a gun would be okay. But on the whole I'd prefer a sword.
SHOP PERSONAGE: How do I put this, Ms Insane Person? This is not a SHOP OF DEATH.
SARAH: Oh no! Oh wait! I mean, do you have jewellery in the shape of swords? Like, um, a bracelet charm, or a metal bookmark, or - ooh, earrings!
SHOP PERSONAGE: In the shape of... swords?
SARAH (brightly): Or knives!
SHOP PERSONAGE: No I do not believe we do there is not much call for them because most people are not insane death customers GOOD DAY TO YOU MA'AM.

Eventually I located these extremely awesome silver dagger bracelet charms, which were in the shape of my hero's favourite type of knife! And I gave them out at a bookseller dinner, where I wandered around and popped in front of people and fixed them with crazy eyes and said 'Hello! Do you want a present?'

I enjoyed the dinner a lot even though I was trembling in my little green dress, since talking to book-lovin' people is one of my favourite things to do.

One of the other authors at the dinner was the lovely Michelle Harrison, author of The Thirteen Treasures, which I read on the plane home.

THE THIRTEEN TREASURES: are kept on a bracelet, in form of charms. One of these is a knife charm.
SARAH: Oooooh that must have been very confusing.
SARAH'S FACE: meets flippy airplane table.

(I still totally love my knife charms, though.)

My next brilliant idea was to get some fake tattoos and give them out. Because I have demon's marks in my book, and people might like to have demon's marks for a day! Because... getting possessed is awesome! (Look, ask the jewellery shopowners of Dublin, I'm not right.)

So I took my trusty companion Susan and dragged her down to a tattoo parlour graced with the name of Snake Bite.

SARAH: Hello hello, here is my picture!
TATTOO PARLOUR PEOPLE: Where do you want it tattooed?
SARAH: Oh, me? Tattoos? No. I have some friends with very fine tattoos, but I have a terrible time choosing a favourite breakfast cereal, so I think deciding what to go permanently on my body would take from now until the end of time. No no no, I don't want a tattoo. But I would like it to look like a tattoo.
TATTOO PARLOUR PEOPLE: ... Muriel help, there is a woman talking crazy in the shop? Tattoos can look like anything you want.
SARAH: Right. Yes. But if you were a demon-
SARAH: Let me rephrase that.
TATTOO PARLOUR PEOPLE: Has it ever occurred to you that your friend may be unwell in her mind?
SUSAN: Oh, now and then.

My conclusion is that I am not a natural marketing genius. But I did think it was fun giving away books here, since one book given away means one person pleased with a free book who might tell their friends'n'family it was awesome. Also, it shows that I really mean my book recommendations. So I thought I might do it again sometime - would you guys be up for that?

One thing I might note is that some of the books I recommend are written by my friends. I mention this as I will probably be more likely to give away my friends' books, as I would like to buy several copies of their book and please them. But I promise I would never, ever in a million years recommend a book I didn't love. We've all read books we didn't like, that is a dark fate I would never wish on anyone. And I am like Harriet Vane of the (awesome) Dorothy L Sayers books: I cannot say someone's wretched book is good when it isn't.

That said, I have re-read and liked books I recommended less, so I vow to re-read books before I do giveaways so I do not disappoint. There is also the question of my incredibly sketchy taste. Let us face it, one of my favourite TV shows is Big Wolf on Campus, the ancient cheesy Canadian children's show starring a quarterback werewolf, his best friend the only Goth in town (who has a schoolbag shaped like a coffin!) and their beautiful blonde friend who prefers martial arts to men. Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done about that...

As for marketing my own book, I will keep you guys posted on my further adventures. Jewellery shops and tattoo parlours have already been terrorised: I search for a fresh victim!