The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Battling Enthusiasm

by Anna McDougall

It’s hard enough to get my muse and internal editor to agree, but this week my marketer was back from an extended vacation stirring things up.

She’s a bossy playmate, my marketing self, hogging control of the seesaw, letting my lightweight creative self down to the grass only when she feels like it, and even then, she’s forever nosing into writing projects, pestering him with the practical: But when will it be ready to send out?

Rarely does she take a lengthy break like the one she’s been on since Christmas. Her mini vacation turned into a snowbird escape; she spent months dangling bare feet, from the far end of the board, backed by fluffy clouds, enjoying freedom from objectives, but following an email I received this week, she swooped down, bumping creativity up and out of the way.

The publicist for Adams Media wrote their contributors suggesting we help promote the fall release of the next Cup of Comfort anthology by approaching local bookstores to set up promotional events.

Although my marketer’s new to this type of sales, her passion for chasing opportunity whether it promises life lessons or profits is strong. She craves the thrill that follows an expertly targeted pitch, no matter if the product is homespun or not, and this week she spotted a solid opportunity to drag my bashful creative side through a brand new experience.

As usual, I was of two minds.

Right on! A chance to scope out the process for when we finally get going on a novel.

For crying out loud, I wrote six of the 150 pages in that book. That hardly warrants an event.

The well rested side of me won out and before I knew what was happening, she had co-opted my entire week with list making and telephone calls. Her brainstorms covered pages and pages: where to go, how to promote, the kinds of questions to expect. She flipped through the Yellow Pages listing categories of potential venues: independent, retail chain, Christian/spiritual, self help, parenting, women’s health. That the publishers pay a stipend for each event didn’t hurt her motivation one bit.

Meantime, my better half was bouncing on the top end of the plank, trying to force his side down.

We have to keep producing or you’ll have nothing left to sell!

She ignored him more and more as her confidence grew. At first she chose my clothing and my words carefully when approaching the people behind the counters at the chains, but it became clear early on that to them, a signing was not a big deal. The only cost to promote product they would already have on the shelves would be my time, and fifteen square feet of floor space to hold a table. These arrangements could easily be made over the telephone.

But in her haste, my marketer self made the mistake of assuming all bookstores are the same. She wanted to call the smaller stores as well. Her excuse: We should at least find out if they stock the series.

And the creative reply, Slow down, please? Let’s think this through.

Despite the detailed tour schedule she created, enthusiasm got the best of her and I ended up on the phone with one independent in advance of the planned personal visit.

One of his first questions: “Have you been in to our store?”

Rather than wowing him with my professionalism and marketing insight, my response went something like this: “Uh…well…your store, it’s…I think…yes…it’s been a while.”

The store owner was very kind. Politely he revealed to me, in our short conversation how serious an undertaking book events were for him. He and his partner would first decide whether to order the book at all, and then how many copies. Would this satisfy their clientele? Is the niche too narrow? If they agreed to the event, it would need to be the first in the city. Commitment to a promotional effort advertising the event in off store hours and then hosting a “book launch” complete with “30 to 50 seats, wine and some pastries” was not to be taken lightly.

By the end of the call, my creative side was gloating, and for good reason. It’s common sense, really. Unlike the Chapters/Indigo events booked to take advantage of Saturday afternoon shopping traffic, an event in a smaller bookstore would have to create its own traffic.

Fortunately, I found my way to his lovely store the next day.

So, here I am, one week later with four afternoon signings scheduled, and one book launch evening during which I will read my little story to an actual audience. I admit it has been exciting to feel like a real author this week. My marketer has let go for a while, sated, but she’ll be back in October lecturing me on what to say, how to smile, and what to wear. For now, I just want to get back to writing.


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I'm really excited for you! It's my secret goal to do a reading. Shh. I can't wait. I can't wait. If you get another and don't want to do it, I'll dress up like you and take over, okay? You don't wear culottes, do you? I draw the line.

And congratulations on the cup of comfort anthology. I know a writer who makes a fair chunk of change doing pieces for these chicken-soup-y books. Keep it up.

And lastly, can I borrow your 'marketing self', she's just the bossy boots I need.

Tue Jul 25, 09:16:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I love this, Anna. You're so talented. What a delight to read this blog. The reading sounds exciting.

Tue Jul 25, 02:51:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

this is sooooo exciting, you have to post pictures, how thrilling for you!!! it's wonderful Anna, congraulations, I'm sure the piece is wonderful, I will buy it for sure...Let us know how it goes..xoxo

Tue Jul 25, 05:11:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger H.E.Eigler said...

Anna - as I said on Zoe, Congrats! And let me know where I can pick up a copy, I'd like to support one of our local stores.

Tue Jul 25, 08:58:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

That's great news, Anna!

Your post was both comforting *and* inspiring.

Best of luck and keep us posted!

Thu Jul 27, 05:18:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't mean to miss you, Anna. This article feels perfectly aligned with the universe and your nature, Anna. Loved it. Diane, The Maple Room

Mon Aug 07, 01:07:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I forgot to add, can I get this in the US? Although I'm not a mother to be I need all the comfort I can get. I lurved the jacket.

Diane Smith, The Maple Room

Mon Aug 07, 01:08:00 pm GMT-4  

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