August 29, 2011

To sell or not to sell, is that the question?

I’m gathering information about marketing using online resources as preparation for self-publishing my novel, Where The HeArt Is early next year. This has me thinking about the whole business of marketing and promotion, which I made such a bad job of with my earlier novel, Take It Easy. Now that I have a better idea of what I hate about marketing and what I will never get around to doing, I’m working towards a plan.

As I will publish a very small print run and an ebook simulaneously, a lot of the publicity will be on line, and that means using the dreaded social media. Facebook, aaarrggh! I hate facebook. I’m certainly not going to dump daily book promotion on my facebook ‘friends,’ nor am I going to send a barrage of emails to everyone on my contacts list.

There are all kinds of alternatives, such as using readers’ sites like Goodreads and Librarything and I’m teaching myself about them. And there’s something called a ‘blog tour’ which involves getting other blog writers, who write for readers, to ‘interview’ me on their blog about my book. Or write a review on their blog.

There’s a wealth of ‘how to market your book’ information out there on the web, a lot of it obvious, some objectionable and none delivering magic bullets. Some of it is free, but a number of the people offering it are writers wanting to expand their income stream. Fair enough, but I haven’t found any online course or publication on book promotion that I wanted to buy yet. I’m after some good evidence that the advice on sale has something to offer that I haven’t worked out for myself or read in three other places, before I spend any money.

There’s a big focus in a lot of the material on marketing on identifying a genre and then the audience for that genre. I write fiction. I suppose you could say adult fiction, though there’s nothing “adult” about it. Fantasy, romance, young adult, crime, horror, the categories of genre abound. My book is a novel. I don’t want to be a genre. "Literary fiction" seems pretentious, other qualifiers of fiction just don’t fit.

On the reading front, I am pleased to have finished The Brothers Karamazov.

I’m not sorry to have read it, but I did find it a bit of a slog. Three brothers, not to mention a bunch of other characters, anguishing about themselves, their humiliations, whether or not they love or hate this or that person, and their place in society and rushing in and out of rooms, wrathfully, or in some kind of despair, on urgent business they may or may not get to in the next few chapters ……. There are some fascinating themes; for example, whether people can be "good" without belief in a God and an afterlife. Many times as I read I thought of another writer, or a contemporary situation that Dostoevsky could be referencing. “I think it’s better to get acquainted before parting,” made me think of Gertrude Stein. And, “If everything on earth were sensible, nothing would happen,” reminded me of every television series or soap I ever watched.

Kathleen Jones’s Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller

is a tour de force of a biography. It’s a full and fascinating tale of KM’s life and writing. Her writing of course lives on after her, and Kathleen Jones spends some later chapters examining what happened to her writings after her death. John Middleton Murry was unbelievably mean about money while KM was alive and self-serving in his productions from her unpublished writings. There’s a different portrayal of KM’s relationship with Ida Baker from any I have read previously. Ida was the one who most reliably cared for KM in her illness, even if she often did it ineptly. Steadfast is the word that comes to mind. I liked the way Kathleen Jones ended this book; a lot of it is necessarily concerned with KM’s ill-health, but at the very end KM exits her story as a writer.

I may have to give up reading David Vann, his books are so bleak. The harshness of the Alaskan landscape he sets his novels in is one thing, the terrible, gut-wrenching awfulness of the relationships among his characters is too much. Caribou Island is beautifully written, and the characters are totally convincing and so, so hopeless. One character muses, “…in the end you feel what you feel. You don’t get a choice. You don’t get to remake yourself from the beginning. You can’t put a life back together in a different way.” I agree with this, but in the context of Caribou Island it becomes just too fatalistic.

I don’t know what I’m going to read next, which is unusual. Not that I’m panicked about this, I have several piles to choose from.

August 5, 2011

With a knee operation and subsequent bad reaction to medications behind me, I am now back to reading and at least thinking about writing and publishing.

I'm stumbling along with The Brothers Karamazov, finding it, well, overwrought. Am also noticing how contemporary some of its concerns are and actually improving my understanding of what christianity/religion can mean to people, mainly through the character of Alyosha, the youngest brother. So I’m far from giving up on it, but reading other things alongside.

Re-reading Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live: A Life of Montaigne, is a delight. Bakewell is most impressive in the way she brings together historical context, what is known of Montaingne’s life, his reading and influences, and of course the ideas in his Essays. His ideas about how to live are worth thinking about, though at times I get annoyed with them.

J.M.Coetzee’s Diary of A Bad Year runs three versions of itself across the pages. Along the bottom of each page, separated by a thin line, is the story of a (not overtly sexual) relationship between an aging author and a woman in the same apartment block who types up the manuscript of a collection of thoughts he is writing. Starting a little way into the book is another stream, from the woman’s point of view. Across the top half - and more - of each page are the ‘thoughts’ of the author. I decided to read one strand at a time, starting from the one at the bottom of the pages, and this worked for me. As did the whole book. I admired it and enjoyed reading it and found the ideas of the short essays interesting, particularly the early ones about the state and the succession of power.

I’m finding it hard to think about the publishing of the new novel. There’s still a little editing to do, but that’s no reason to not at least settle on the beginnings of a plan. (Made a phone call to a friend, got more energised, watch this space.)

It seems a long time since I wrote anything new. There are a couple of ideas in there somewhere, I need to shake them out and see if they go anywhere, which means settling down at the computer and getting some words down.

I have written up the China travels, with photos, and put the file up on the web. You can access it at
without having to sign up for anything or identify yourself.

Tian'an Men Square, Beijing.
There’s no way to comment, if you want to make a comment come back to this blog or email me.