Monday, 8 June 2015

2 or 3 degrees of separation

Let’s say you have written a book that’s got as far as being published (a very long way). And then what?

If you are with one of the big publishers, presumably their marketing and publicity departments (I’m still not wholly sure of the difference between those two) kick in, and your book gets reviewed everywhere and advertised on public transport and … (Or maybe not. I think it’s true that the more famous the author, the bigger the marketing & publicity budgets; if you are not already famous, the less money and effort is available for making you so.)

If you are with one of the small presses, different story. Very few of these have any money for advertising. And – speaking for myself here – even if I did have a ‘budget’ for marketing and publicity, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I have zero professional experience in this. And frankly, like many others I’m uneasy with the whole notion of publicity, especially self-publicity. (Stendhal: ‘I’m like a respectable woman turned courtesan, at every moment I need to overcome the modesty of a decent man who hates to talk about himself.’)

In practice, I send out the books to a few places for consideration for review (but the lit eds seem to change places frequently, and I can’t keep track). I’ve been known to organise the occasional reading (but many of the CBe authors are dead or abroad or, in some cases, not that interested in readings). (Aside: I once put on a joint launch with one of the big publishers; I suggested they pay half the wine bill; they said they didn’t have a ‘budget’ for this, so CBe paid the full bill; and wine, according my accountant, is not a tax-deductible expense.) I may even tweet. Luckily, a surprising number of the books put out by CBe have benefited from prize shortlistings and more – the Forward, the PBS Recommendations, the Fenton Aldeburgh, the Goldsmiths, the Guardian First Book, the translation prizes – and from the ‘books-of-the-year’ lists in the broadsheets. These are a form of free publicity. They’re one of the things that have kept CBe alive.

And maybe, at this end of the scale, a big budget for marketing and publicity wouldn’t make any difference at all. ‘Six degrees of separation’ is, according to Wiki, ‘the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world’. The books world being far, far smaller than the real world, it’s likely that any potential reader of a CBe book is only three or even two degrees of separation from the book. For the negotiation of these degrees, personal recommendations, and the expression of personal enthusiasm (on the social media of course, but also on the street) may be all that’s needed. These are another thing that has kept CBe alive. Thank you.


Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Charles

What you need to do is come to an agreement with another small publisher whereby you promote each others' books. You would have to trust them of course. According to Jane Holland the publishing world has never been so tough and my friend, the best-selling Australian author Carla Van Raay, is still looking for a publisher for her latest work.

Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish

P.S. Was there any reaction from Faber & Faber to your recent post?

Anonymous said...

I hope this doesn't sound like blasphemy, but couldn't you have a small section in Foyles? I think Notting Hill Books do.