Oct 132008
 

This election has provided ample blogging material, what with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s peculiar secrecy and need to avoid engaging the Canadian public directly, Elizabeth May being in the debates for the first time, Stephane Dion finding his mojo (as Strombo put it), and Jack Layton being touted as having the best campaign of them all. Well, the latter remains to be seen. He definitely will have if he ties or bests Ed Broadbent’s record for seats won.

Blogging provides instant writing and publishing. No editors are required, just a decent spell checker and some attention to language, nor an agent to represent one to a publisher. No need for a sales guru either with a comprehensive marketing plant. Instead, marketing is done online, the commute confined to an occasional foray to the kitchen for a top-up on the drink of choice. Such a contrast to writing and publishing a book.

The National Post of October 4th had an article on the traditional writing life. It followed Nino Ricci’s path from conception of book to releasing it to the public. Because Ricci had a two-book deal, his agent and his editor received his manuscript simultaneously, otherwise normally agent sees it first then shops it round to publishers. His agent got him a six-figure advance, and once royalties pay that back, he will receive 10 percent for the first 5,000 copies (the article doesn’t mention royalty rate beyond 5,000). But his agent’s work is not done. While the book winds its way through the publishing process, she’s selling it internationally and negotiating film and TV rights. Meanwhile, his editor hones his manuscript with him; even before he started writing, they were talking. And the in-house designer works with him and the publisher’s sales department on coming up with just the right cover. As that is going on, the marketing strategist creates a marketing plan and implements it, even before the book is officially released. Some of the most important marketing is done before the book is printed.

Ricci’s books sell well and garner rewards. It isn’t just because of the effort he puts into creating, writing, and editing it; it’s also because he has this enormous, knowledgeable, experienced team behind him. Self-published authors generally do not. I was fortunate to have an editor behind me, guiding me on the book’s structure, and then the editors at iUniverse looking at the big picture and small details. Still, the most important person in Ricci’s team is the marketing guy. It really doesn’t matter how well a book is written if it’s not marketed aggressively and well. Without that, it doesn’t sell too well. Word of mouth is a self-published author’s best tool. Yet it often doesn’t work, especially when word of mouth translates to lending the book from person to person instead of encouraging the persons to buy it.

Like any self-respecting writer, I would much rather write than market. Marketing requires good health in a way writing does not. Marketing is a learned skill and an art. Effective marketing requires great gobs of optimism, connections, and experience. I have none of that, no team, not much experience, no connections, but I do have web knowledge. Thank goodness we’re living in the age of the internet, which provides opportunities for those sans a marketing team. The trick is which parts of the online life will work best to market my book and my writing. That’s what I’m still learning.

But for one more day, I shall set all that aside and enjoy the election. I see lots of tweeting and a very late night tomorrow as I hope for a surprise ending. Really hate it when the pollsters are right.

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