I am reconnected to the world via the umbilical cord provided by Demon, which seems to feed my entire being, not just my (many) computers with internet access. Bless you, Demon, and yah boo sucks to Orange who should sit in a corner and reflect on their appalling customer service.

And …

–The edits (revisions, redrafts, polishings, call them what you will) have winged their way to the desk of the agent
–I have returned, if not recovered, from Cove Park. I am suffering withdrawal symptoms from the breathtaking loveliness of the view
–For the past week I’ve been pondering book promotion.

It’s a bit of a dirty subject. Should we? Can we? Are we likely to be any good at it? Wouldn’t it be awful if it was compulsory? Isn’t it just wrong to require authors to deal with it because ‘the work’ should be all that matters?

Well in my view, the answers are: yes, yes, possibly, yes (but the day is coming) and no.

And what brought all this about is the fact that three fine writers of my acquaintance are currently doing ‘the book promotion thang’ – that is: Lisa McMann promoting her wonderfully dark, funny and somewhat scary Wake; Sally Hinchcliffe promoting her extremely disturbing and yet poetically glorious Out Of A Clear Sky; and Charles Lambert promoting Little Monsters, which hasn’t actually arrived yet, so I can’t précis it for you. Each is taking a very different route, but each is doing the right thing – trying to get their very good work to an appreciative audience.

The thing is, I went into City Books this week, to see if they had Charles’s book and to order it if not, and discovered something rather shocking (no, not that they didn’t have it, although they didn’t and I’ve suggested they order some copies to keep mine company). What I found was that Neil Bartlett had a book out last year. Not only that, the book, Skin Lane, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award.

I am a big Neil Bartlett fan – his novels are delicate, allusive, full of menace, faintly surreal, sumptuous in detail and sleepwalkingly slow in pace. I simply adore his work and re-read it over and over. So how did a new Neil Bartlett novel slip by me?

The answer is simple – I am (presumably) not part of his ‘target audience’. It’s a fact that I don’t have anything to do with reviews in national papers or the lists for national prizes, because I read a book every two days, one a day if I’m not hugely busy, and that means I don’t need people to recommend things to me, with a reading rate of between 250 – 330 books a year, I get round to most things sooner or later. And wherever his target audience is located, I am not there, so I didn’t hear about it.

And if it wasn’t for City Books, in whose target audience I fit with ease, I might have taken a lot longer to find out about Skin Lane … and that would have made me sad. So promotion is good, and knowing how to do it is useful, and I shall be talking about it on and off for the next few weeks.

Leaping Fish courtesy of Fion Gunn. See more of her work at http://www.fiongunn.net


  1. Sara
    23rd April 2008

    Good to have you back in bloggy action.

    And if you had visited Waterstone’s in Brighton you may have come across our (signed by the author) copies of Skin Lane!


    I have been thinking about book promotion too, not that I have a book to promote. But I think that as a writer one can focus on craft, and then acquiring an agent, a publisher, and the Holy Grail of actually getting a book out, but then, who is going to buy it?

    Worrying, I think.

  2. Nik's Blog
    24th April 2008

    Welcome back!


  3. Jai
    24th April 2008

    good to see you back! I have my blog back and running! http://www.jaiclare.com/blog! Not that there’s much there yet

  4. Jai
    24th April 2008

    good to see you back! I have my blog back and running! http://www.jaiclare.com/blog! Not that there’s much there yet

  5. B.A. Goodjohn
    25th April 2008

    I’m crap at self-promotion. So there was a not-so small part of me that heaved a sigh of relief when I learned that my publisher, like many others, didn’t feel the book tour to be the vehicle for sales. It seems that the internet is today’s “tour” and is doing reasonably well for me – sold out initial run in the USA and now in paperback.

    The promotion I have done myself have ranged from “terrible” to “lucrative.” I spent an entire afternoon in a local independant and sold three copies. I went to a signing organized by a non-writer (and perhaps non-reader friend) and sold 120 copies.

    Maybe it’s because I hate self promotion that I’m blase about the lack of it today. Having said that, self-promotion prior to securing a contract IS ESSENTIAL. I hounded more than 60 agents and publishers before I snagged Permanent Press. They then secured publishing contracts in AU and Russia on my behalf.

  6. Vanessa G
    26th April 2008

    Good to see the blog back!

    Interesting thing this promotion stuff.

    I think you have to be tough. I think although the Brit instinct is to wilt and say ‘oh no, I mustn’t sell my writing, I will wait for others to do it…’… the truth is, all writers who get anywhere, seems to me, do their promotion well alongside that of the professionals.

    Working with a small publisher, one of the requirements is that you do as much as you can.

    So, you do. Remembering it is the book you are promoting, the product… like any other commodity…and not yourself. All you did was write.

  7. Charles Lambert
    27th April 2008

    I need all the tips you can give me, Kay, so keep them coming…

  8. Kay Sexton
    28th April 2008

    Sara – lesson learned! And lovely to meet you at the weekend.

    Nik – thanks.

    Jai – welcome back! Whoop whoop!

    Bunny – you’re not bad at promotion at all, but we all do think we suck at it, that’s a fact!

    Vanessa – thank you and wise thoughts, it’s a tough issue.

    Charles – see the interview with Lisa; she’s the lady who REALLY knows how to do this stuff.


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