Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Art Of Marketing

When I published my debut novel, I was labouring under the notion that "I'm a writer, an artiste darling, I don't grubby myself with selling and promotion". Well any self-published author knows that attitude has to go  tout suite and once I'd quickly realised that if I dropped the marketing ball, no one else was going to pick it up for me.

So I threw myself, albeit somewhat blindly, into the task of trying to raise my voice "me, me, look at me, my book is worth reading" above the cacophony of every other independent artists seeking to do the same thing.

So you have to try and do something a little bit different to stand out from the crowd. And while I'm far from definitively saying that the things I did have been successful in promoting sales or increasing my visibility in the throng, I did learn three things.

1) Marketing is actually quite fun, not least the interactions on social media and with bloggers prepared to review or interview you
2) It is also creative, using different muscles to fiction writing, but still definitely a creative process in itself
3) It actually started feeding back and informing the type of writing I was doing, as I discovered new techniques and platforms through engaging with the world of design.

One of the things I came up with to promote that debut novel, was to commission 3 graphic representations of snatches of the novel. All were thematically linked in terms of them involving 'primordial soups' of letters yet to be formed into recognisable words, passing through mechanisms whereby they emerged into words and sentences from the novel. This way of breaking words down into their constituent letters was something I had been playing around with to little effect. But under the impetus of trying to think in marketing terms, it suddenly came together. I commissioned my book cover designer to produce the following three designs:

Another creative offshoot stemmed from me thinking about how to boost my forlorn little blog once I'd launched my debut. I'd never considered myself a blogger, still don't really. But through Twitter I discovered this online community of writers penning very short or flash fiction (stories of 1000 words or less). The community was called Friday Flash and every Friday its members would tweet out links to a new piece of flash fiction for others to read and comment while they read others in turn. I'd never even heard of flash fiction let alone written one, but I dipped my toe in the water and found that the restriction of 1000 words made me think about all aspects of the writing craft. At the beginning of this video, I talk for about 3 minutes on the art of writing the shortest of short fiction.

I set myself the target of writing a flash piece every week for a year and found I carried on beyond that. Then one day I looked back through these stories and was struck by the fact that I now had enough material for my follow up book to the debut novel - a collection of 52 of the best of these stories. I never planned it this way, but now I have three collections published of something I had only embarked on as a way of showcasing my work to promote my novel!

I'm not sure exactly when I discovered kinetic typography. But it was the natural extension of my interest in typography and trying to make work that wasn't monolithic blocks of printed text. What I call non-linear fiction to match the non-linear thought processes of our minds. (It's only the written word that proceeds in orderly, syntactical fashion of words, sentences, paragraphs and pages. The thinking and speaking mind is a lot less regularly structured). I'd given much though to the shaping of the text on a page contributing to the narrative, feeding into the meaning. Think Mark Danielewski's "House of Leaves".for an example. But why restrict myself to the printed page for such things, especially when I could never realistically afford the bespoke printing costs, while Kindle formatting wouldn't allow it within its limited functionality.

Examples of kinetic typography videos abound, where the animation of the text adds nothing other than to echo the voice over. I wanted to produce a video where the very animation of the letters was crucial to the meaning of the narrative itself; that without it, the text would be much more the poorer. The animated letters weren't there as mere garnish, but informed the very meaning of the words they spelled out. In this case, the words were mutating and morphing into words that were close in the make up of the letters spelling them out, but with radically different meaning. So 'months' becomes 'mumps' and 'apposite' becomes 'opposite'.

Whenever I make videos around my writing, I always try to keep in mind that the video should have the same relationship to the writing work that videos do to the pop song; that is it's there ostensibly to promote the song, but it is an art work in its own right, because the visual medium is different to the aural one and a slavish reproduction of the song just wouldn't work. The same thing holds between the visual medium and the written one. But it goes further than that, digital literature can become a literary medium in its own right; such as I hope I demonstrate with the kinetic typography video and the graphics above. And yet all of these things were propelled initially through marketing conventionally written books made up of blocks of text. The distinction between marketing and creative writing and fiction is breaking down in the digital age.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes the need to do one thing we hate (marketing) can lead to truly creative explorations.

Hawksword said...

I still think you are a closet poet Marc, and this post does nothing to dissuade me! lol!
If I had my reading specs on I'd check how many times you refer to your writing as "blocks of text"...I find that an interesting descriptive phrase...I think you only said it twice. ;-)

Richard Bon said...

Really interesting thoughts shared here, Marc, thanks.