Kay, my acid-toned and perpetually vexed marketing guru, claimed this week that her daughter Lily was better at book marketing than I am. Which was a bold claim, considering Lily is two weeks old and has a repertoire limited purely to looking cute and wailing like a banshee.
However there may be some truth in this statement. As previously mentioned, I am in the somewhat odd position of being a surprise bestseller, and I do mean that quite literally. Besides writing my novel Filthy Still, no one, myself included, knows quite what I've done to make it a bestseller. This includes Kay, who is now making it her mission to figure it out so she can bottle the s**t out of that lightning for future use.
This week's assigned tasks were all about getting features, articles and reviews, which felt like safer ground than previous 'suggestions', as I'm a journalist and write features, articles and reviews for a living, as well as the sundry corporate blogs and content advertising that actually pay the mortgage.
For a new author obtaining any of the holy trinity is a fearsome task; the kind of uphill struggle usually reserved for getting into the White House when your husband had more sex in it last time than you did. It is however essential. A review can make you seem like a better investment in time, energy and emotion for a prospective reader. Whereas an article or feature can instantly sell copies and gain you fans. Not that I claim to have fans; my Englishness still refuses to accept that, though I do have a nice Danish lady who sends me topless photos of herself holding a Kindle, so perhaps I have one, though it's not the paradigm I hope to use in future.
The important thing to remember when approaching the fourth estate is that journalists are the most overworked people in media. It is a world where deadline is God, and failure to meet God is unimaginable. Which is why some bright spark invented the press release.
Papers are about stories renting space on the page, the better the property the better the ad. Yours has to seem like it comes with a hot tub filled with Brazilian supermodels as standard. A good press release, or press bait as it could more accurately be called, should practically write the article for them, without, and I stress this part, actually writing the article for them. If you do that you will just anger them, and journalists are the last people you want to anger, except for perhaps Kay, which in my experience is like poking a large crocodile with a short stick.
The art therefore is to make it so alluring, so tempting that they can't resist. More importantly, the art is to make it seem so quick to knock out that they can do it and actually eat lunch for once.
So I prepared a press release based on my experience and sent it out.
And made about as much progress as human rights in North Korea.
However humans being harder to say no to than emails, after a week of waiting I decided to call up one of the papers and somehow managed to talk my way to an actual reporter, which is much like talking your way to an actual unicorn. George, as I shall call him, remained silent as I ploughed through my pre-prepared spiel before cutting me off with a drawn out, "Aw, that's nice," featuring the kind of sarcasm a San Francisco barman could learn from. "Local boy done good story, is it?"
I sensed my chances vanishing quicker than the Ukrainian national border. "It's been a bestseller in Australia," I muttered, glumly, more to myself than anyone.
There was a pause. "Did you just say bestseller?"
I confirmed that I had.
"What like bestseller, bestseller?" I heard the click of a biro activating. "Tell me more."
I have no idea if it will be a good article or bad, once a journalist takes ownership it is no longer in your hands to decide, only hope. But for any author, published or aspiring, paper or eBook it's vital to feel like you're making progress, that you are in fact taking one step closer to merging dreams and reality. Or perhaps one-step closer to getting Kay to finally stop shouting at you.
Though do remember if you choose to go journalist fishing, take time to consider the proper bait.
Next Week: "I'm just being practical" the most corrosive words in the English language