I like to think everyone has a superpower; a special gift that they're born with; like my friend Chris for instance who can get an entire Satsuma under his foreskin. However if the weeks since Filthy Still was released have taught me anything it's that mine is not, nor is likely to be, book marketing.
Fortunately this epiphany came in a week when Kay, my beautiful, if perennially angry marketing guru, is away visiting her mother. Unlike her daughter, who looks like she's one step away from shanking you, Pamela just looks like she's one step away from cuddling you to an early grave. Pam and I share a special bond, being the two people who seem to disappoint Kay the most in life. Before leaving however, Kay left strict instructions with Harold her assistant to, and I quote, "motivate the s**t out of my damn author."
I like Harold. He has a unique style, which if I had to sum it up would be rumpled; his clothes have more creases than Tommy Lee Jones' face. It was he who decided, "We need to get some influencers behind you."
Influencer is one of those fashionable buzz terms that seem to have appeared from nowhere recently, like Premium Economy, and is equally misunderstood. They come in all shapes and sizes, from celebrities and sports stars, to a cool face in the crowd, but they're the Holy Grail for anyone with a product to peddle. Harold summed it up. "Say you produce a soft drink that tastes like a dead weasel. How do you market something like that?"
"With lies?" I suggested.
He nodded. "But more specifically. There are ten thousand taste buds in the human mouth, all slightly different. Odds are there are people out there for whom the taste of dead weasel will rock their world. Rather than expend the effort finding them all, you instead focus on one key individual that the others all look up to. And the best part is, even if the influencer says, 'Jesus, it tastes like someone took a dump in my mouth,' people will still try Dead Weasel to see how bad it really is."
"So who are my influencers?" I asked.
He considered this. "It has to be someone who reflects qualities of your work. Someone with a sense of humour, someone who loves a drink, someone who's done some shitty, shitty stuff, but come out smiling."
"You want me to ring Bill Clinton?"
Harold, it turns out, has mastered his bosses expression when dealing with me. "Someone who's never forgotten what it's like to be..." he looked at me, searching for the right word, "desperate."
"Desperate?" I repeated.
"On the very bones of their ass."
"Anthony Bourdain?" I suggested after a while.
Harold nodded. "Perfect. Go get Anthony Bourdain to read your book."
I suspected it would not be quite that simple. Anthony Bourdain is a hard drinking, permanently sarcastic, chef and inspired writer, and judge of that TV program with the really small portion sizes. I am a mildly lazy British author of a book about drinking and drugs and the relationships that happen somewhere in the cracks between, that seems to have gone bestseller despite my best efforts, and with a borderline sociopath for a marketing guru. But hey, I like a challenge, so I spent a decent chunk of my week pushing the very boundaries between research and stalking, and it's a fine line I tell you, a fine line.
I could send big Tony B a copy, but unless you're extremely lucky all you're actually going to achieve is giving his agents intern an early Christmas present. And it's even harder with EBooks. You can still send someone a copy, but they have the option to redeem it for something else instead, to which you then get both the bill and a cheery notification as to what the recipient preferred over your press copy (Doug from Australia, the Hunger Games, really?).
So after a week in which plenty of Bourdain based trivia was added to a brain already overflowing with useless information like English monarchs by length of reign, I got absolutely, totally and resolutely nowhere.
But Anthony, if you're reading this, my name is Dan....
And if you think it tastes like a dead weasel feel free to tell people.
They have not met.