And so to market …

It seems to me, to strain a metaphor to the point that I can get this picture to illustrate it, that something many writers don’t appreciate is how much of the modern writing life is about marketing. Like the submarine, with seven-tenths below the surface, and barely a ripple above, good marketing is the silent engine that drives a writer’s career.

Nota bene little ones, I am – once again – not talking to the very many who write for joy or love or freedom, I am talking to the few and determined who, like me, need to pay the mortgage every month by selling words.

Marketing is what gets you an audience, but much more than that, it brings opportunity. And marketing is not the simple ugly book-thrusting that people seem to think it is.

1 – Imagine, for example, that you walk past a stall in a market. It sells something you really want to buy (for the sake of argument, cheese) but there’s nobody at the stall and the wares are covered with a cloth. You walk on, don’t you?

2 – Then imagine there’s a little dish of cheese samples left out on the cloth, with some toothpicks and a sign saying ‘Back in five minutes, please try my cheeses in the meantime’ – well you might well try the cheese and hang around for a minute, maybe – if you’re the bold type – peek under the cloth at the lovely wares below, and then wander off, disappointed.

3 – Then imagine the dish, the toothpicks, the sign and some leaflets about cheese production and a little bell tied to a string, tied to the stand. You read the sign, try the cheese, pick up a leaflet and find that on the front it says, ‘If you’re reading this, my stall is unattended. Please ring the bell and I promise by the time you get to the end of the leaflet I will be back to serve you.’ Well, you’d ring the bell and read the leaflet, wouldn’t you?

And the only difference between 2 and 3 is marketing. It’s the same five minute wait, but in one case you’ve been charmed into staying and in the other you were disappointed into leaving.

If you can think of marketing like that it seems less vile and difficult to do, and if you can stretch it further (as my metaphors are stretching to encapsulate both submarines and cheese stalls!) to become a cheese cooperative, it becomes easier still.

I struggle to sell myself and my work (I can hear people scoffing from Rosneath to the Rialto as I type this, but it’s true) and I’ve never, ever, ever, ever believed that people would want to come and hear me read – but I do read in public, at least twice a year, because it’s simple for me to think of a list of folk I’d love to hear read, to contact them and suggest a joint reading, and then get my backside in gear to organise it. In exactly the same way, I have no problem telling you (dear reader) about good writing that I think you’d hate to miss (Sally Hinchcliffe’s Out of a Clear Sky), or alerting you (d.r.) to books that you personally might not read but that would make ideal presents for your loved ones (Lisa McMann’s Wake).

And that makes my blog more interesting, which means more d.r.’s come to visit it and that (I hope), multiplies the chances of more of them buying my novel when I finally get one on the shelves.

Easy, innit?


  1. Kip de Moll
    9th May 2008

    Well, I’m ringing the bell from time to time and waiting curiously for the novel to appear. In the meantime, the cooperative idea is readily available, I discover, as I wander the stalls from one blog to the next, to the next, usually circling back to see, in fact, you have returned.
    Thanks, dear writer.

  2. Carrie Berry
    10th May 2008

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be delighted to attend of your readings. I love reading your short stories and look forward to getting my hands on your novel when it comes out.

  3. Nik's Blog
    11th May 2008

    Great post Kay, and very, very true.

    Writers should be the first and last people to promote their work even though it might seem like a daunting thing to do.


  4. Kay Sexton
    12th May 2008

    My pleaure, Kip.

    Carrie, you’re a sweetie, but honestly, I’m not a great reader, and I do know the difference. However, as a savvy marketer, I make sure the audience does have at least one great reader to listen to!

    Thanks Nik, you do a great job yourself!


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