Yes, marketing is boring and is easily left to marketers. But don’t go away! I need you! If you’re not a poet and not a marketer, I still need you because you’re not in the box. If you are a writer/marketer, tell me what you think works.
Yet it seems an impossible thing, doesn’t it, the selling of a book of poetry in these hard and quickly-changing days? The editor at a mid-size house told me recently that they have dropped their poetry line because none of the books broke 200 copies. 200 copies! And the names on that list were known names.
I have a book of poems coming out in 2011, probably somewhere from March to June. (That’s The Throne of Psyche from Mercer University Press; you can peek at the title poem here.) In terms of planning, that means now.
But we’ve all noticed that things have changed in the past few years. Publishers don’t fork out the money for book tours—and certainly not for poetry! And who can blame them? The free promotion in newspapers and other outlets has slipped away. Book pages have slipped away. The selling of a book of poetry is now the most daunting sell in Book World.
If you want a copy of my book when it arrives, great—leave a comment to say so and I’ll put you on my list. After all, Samuel Johnson often fed himself and Lily and Hodge the cats and the rest of his entourage with a book subscription service. Maybe we ought to revive such things.
But what I’m wondering is, what else can be done? Please put on your crazy, magic outside-the-box hat and speculate. People have done all kinds of antic things to sell novels—have flogged them on the subway, have been recipients of enormous book parties, have corralled people to help sell, have done blog tours.
Unfortunately for the marketing side of things, I am a rather modest person, the kind of person who—with an eighth book coming out—is still having good acquaintances in her tiny village find out that she is a writer. I dislike asking people to do anything for me for various reasons that are probably in the a-bit-mental category. This is not good when it comes to marketing! So I am venturing out of my doorstep to ask for advice, a first step.
One of the many things I’m considering is a book trailer. (Worthwhile? Worthless?) After all, I could hire my future film major daughter—get some use out of that great money-sluice, college.
I’m perfectly willing to do the traditional things—I’ll go where I need to go, but my children are three and my time is limited, and I need to make every event effective. I’m willing to go a distance, but not if I can’t sell books. (Sell enough books for me, and I’ll be there… For that matter, if you want my e-self, I’m always glad to visit blogs, answer serious and ridiculous questions, etc.) But I’m also interested in ideas about how to do things differently, and I just imagine that you (whoever, whatever you are) might have a quirky or brilliant idea. If you have a thought, please leave it.
On book tours:
Author Book Tour Turns Endangered Species
By John Douglas Marshall
“But the economy alone is not responsible for turning book tours into an endangered species. What delivered an equally severe blow to book tours was the concurrent implosion of the media business. Small turnouts at bookstore events could be justified as long as a book tour resulted in significant coverage in the local media. Newspapers, television and radio could extend the spotlight on a book and author well beyond the folks who actually turned up at a reading. But the local media landscape was rocked by a 6.0 earthquake of change. Newspapers cut book features and reviews, just one of their short-sighted desperation moves, a suicidal impulse since book readers were loyal newspaper readers. Local television talk shows were replaced by syndicated offerings from afar.”