Wednesday, August 11, 2004

In Which I Blushingly Promote My New Book

There's no such thing as a graceful and dignified book-promotion statement from an author, so I'll just get right to it: my latest is on the market in the UK. It's called MOUSE INVADERS, hardback, published by Macmillan Children's book and my name on the book is MANJULA PADMA. It's the sequel to last year's literary phenom, called MOUSE ATTACK.

Okay, I admit 'literary phenom' is a deliberate falsification of the truth, as MA performed only medium-well. The publisher's hoping that the paperback, which is also just out, will do better. According to Picador India, MA's paperback is currently on the Indian market too, as of the recent weekend. This means I will NOT be walking into any bookstores for at least two months -- I am told that ALL authors go sniffing around in stores to see whether or not their books are being well-displayed -- the idea of being suspected of doing this fills my veins with ice-water, and thus ... no bookshops for me except for GIGGLES BOOK SHOP in Madras. The owner, Nalinia Chettur is such an avid bibliophile that her shop looks a little bit like a long narrow cave made entirely of books, at the very end of which she awaits her customers. Despite the real danger to fragile customers of being buried under an avalanche of best-sellers, her shop is well-loved and well-visited. I go to see her whenever I'm in Madras because I know she knows I've come to see her, not my books.

Meanwhile, back to book-promotion: two of my dearest friends have said they believe MOUSE INVADERS is 'FAR superior' to MA -- and they say this without a blush, because at the time MA came out, they said they liked it, but didn't make a huge fuss over it, by which means they allowed me to understand that, as my friends, they would tolerate my book, but would stop short of praising it unduly. The sequel, they say, they can praise without restraint. I am glad to hear this, because I too believe it's better in some hard-to-define way. It's a bit longer, and there are a lot more characters and I think I had more fun while writing it (though that doesn't have to mean anything at all -- sometimes anguish produces great literature. Did I say 'sometimes'?).

A third friend says she can see why these other two friends prefer MI, but she continues to be loyal to MA. I've only given out six books (one to my Madras-based family, one to my US-based family, one to E, and one each to the afore-mentioned three closest friends) so far, and don't plan to carpet-bomb my loved ones with books the way I did last year. This time around, I realize it's plain dumb to give away my precious few free copies, when I know I can't easily buy replacements. Instead, I urge all those of you who are in the mood to be adventurous to buy their copies online or through friends in the UK.

I normally pay no attention to sales-figures and other commercial issues. However, in the past year it has been made clear to me that, unless an author makes SOME effort to sell a book, no-one else will. Editors and publishers only swing into action with a media-blitz when they are reasonably sure that one of their publications is going to rake in returns and meanwhile, they've still got to push out huge quantities of also-rans, which will remain also-rans until some external agency tips them into the bin of front-runners.

It is supremely unpleasant to think this way. For some of us, it's just very difficult to wander around saying, 'Hey, this is a GREAT BOOK -- and I happen to be the author of it -- don't you want to buy a dozen?' The fact that many authors do this has always made them seem faintly ridiculous in my eyes. The alternative, however, is to write books that are read by my friends and relatives and NO-ONE ELSE. I wouldn't even mind that, if not for -- like I've said in the previous paragraph -- discovering that publishers don't like to publish authors whose work doesn't actually sell in the thousands. It doesn't matter how much a book is loved by a small handful of people -- if it's a handful, the author will not prosper and will ultimately not be published by anyone.

Is it ABSOLUTELY necessary for authors to behave like pimps for their own work before they actually become successful? I hope not, because if so, my books will NEVER do well and I'll have to polish brass door knobs for a living. Is there a middle path? Is it possible for an author to be dignified about promoting his/her work, while yet ensuring that it doesn't suffer against the aggressive competition of more ambitious peers? I don't know! The best I can do is just talk about it and to post the web addresses of Amazon's site and also the Pan Macmillan site, from which the book can be bought. Here they are, I hope: Macmillan Children's Books and MOUSE INVADERS, Amazon

Okay and that's it for promotion! Back to polishing door knobs now ...

3 comments:

Opus said...

You've picked the best medium in the known universe to tell everyone about your book. Don’t you have your own web site with all your other work? I wouldn’t rely on the publisher or Amazon to showcase your work. I still have my copy of ‘This is Suki’ and ‘Getting There’, and I look forward to adding to my collection. LOL!
This year’s Comic Con (http://www.comic-con.org/) was FULL of artists pimping their work. So many different artists and styles. Something for everyone, even short flightless waterfowl. I even ran into one of the artists who made one of our ‘wolfs’ for the Raleigh Red Wolf Ramble (http://www.raleigh-nc.org/arts/redwolf_book.asp ) , edited by yours truly.
Yes, it’s absolutely necessary for you to market your own work. You’re not doing enough, as far as I’m concerned. Take advantage of technology and create your web ‘presence’ for all the world to see how talented you are. Of course the second best way to get the word out is word of mouth. So I’ll tell my friends, and they’ll tell their friends, ab infinitum....

Great big hugs!

Amardeep said...

Good luck with the new book! I agree with the previous commentor that some self-pimping is required in this day and age. It is perhaps sad, but it seems inevitable.

Marginalien said...

*grin* 'Self-pimping' for some reason immediately suggested the term PORT-A-PIMP -- an easy-to-deploy, battery-operated free-moving robot-pimp that can be programmed by authors to roam the world promoting books. More sophisticated models could even perform book-reading services in the author's own voice -- anyone desiring to sample a few pages need only insert the requisite price in coins, to be collected by the author. Headphones would ensure that only one person would be able to listen at a time(you wouldn't, after all, want free-loading audiences to develop around a single paying customer). In fact, a truly advanced model might best be called PORTA-PIMP-MISTRESS ... Okay, I think I just drained this idea dry.