A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
So who’s comfortable with the concept of being a marketeer? Not many hands. I thought so!
It’s the thing we all have to accept as being part of the job. But it’s probably the aspect of being an author that many rank as about as enjoyable as getting a rejection slip.
But then, how you respond to things like rejection slips is, surprisingly, part of your marketing strategy. I know someone, only via social media, who posts about how miserable they are every time something goes wrong. They are often ill and they post about that, too, on an almost daily basis. They share every time they get a rejection. Of course, everyone rallies to tell them how wonderful they are, which is what we should do. But their public face – their brand, if you like – is of someone who’s always losing out and who doesn’t take it very well. I’d never employ them because I’d be convinced they’d go down with a poorly cold every other week. (Heartless, I know).
It’s very hard for creative people to think of themselves as a brand, but that’s exactly how publishers see us. So considering just how we appear to the outside world is more important than most of us care to admit.
I used to be a journalist, so perhaps I am a little more inured to the notion of PR and image than some writers tend to be. I know only too well the transient nature of publicity and how little attention other people really pay. I’m also strongly of the opinion that writers should not take themselves too seriously – as a former radio boss used to say when things went wrong, ‘Nobody dies’ as a result of whatever you do. So I’m quite happy with whatever it takes, whether it’s posting on Facebook and twitter or donning a chicken suit*, because I think it’s all pure froth and bubble. (*Okay, I’ve never been asked to do this, but I know someone who has. And I would, even with my knobbly knees)! Plus, it keeps the publisher happy.
But that’s all image and I’m quite comfortable with that, although, like everyone, I sometimes struggle to hold up the Pollyanna mask. Where I do get uncomfortable is when we switch from PR to the whole idea of the hard sell. I hate to play to the stereotype, but I’d rather eat glass than actually ask someone for money.
At an event where I have to sell my own books, I am mortified during the entire process and can barely look someone in the eye as I hand them their change. I could no more send a tweet directly urging someone to buy my book than I could kick a puppy, and yes, I do understand the moral chasm between the two deeds.
I’ll stick, then, to the softer side of marketing – smiling, social networking and all that stuff. Just as long as someone else is operating the till.
Bea Davenport is the writing name of former journalist Barbara Henderson. Bea worked in newspapers and broadcasting for a long time, including seventeen years at BBC North in Newcastle, where she worked on TV, radio and online.
She left journalism to study for a Creative Writing PhD at Newcastle University. The children’s novel written as part of that, The Serpent House, is to be published by Curious Fox in June 2014. The Serpent House is a historical time-fantasy inspired by the medieval leper hospital once sited in the village where Bea now lives. Before being commissioned by Curious Fox, it was shortlisted for the 2010 Times/Chicken House Award.
The Serpent House is Bea’s first novel for children, although her debut adult crime/suspense novel was published by Legend Press in June 2013, and it will be followed by another crime novel with Legend Press in 2014.
She lives in Berwick-upon Tweed on the Northumberland-Scottish border with her partner, children and one naughty cat.