Friday, July 15, 2016

The Marketing Lab

This weekend I am going on a marketing lab run by the Scottish book trust, places were very limited and much in demand and I consider myself very lucky to get one. It’s in Edinburgh all day Saturday and Sunday, and the powers that be have just announced that there will a rail strike on that line, on that very day.

I felt I needed to attend the lab as, like many authors my publisher has very limited funds and resources to promote authors nowadays, and given what I have heard from the big publishers – unless you are one of the chosen ones- you too will largely be ignored.  When I was with Penguin, I walked past my own PR person at an event I was appearing at, and she said to me, with no sense of irony… ‘oh hello!  I didn’t know  you were appearing here.’
 It seemed to be the job of my  very hard working, and lovely editor  to constantly kick the marketing team up their collective backsides. So yes, maybe we are better off doing it ourselves.  But I find it al so totally bewildering.
I set up my own business at 21, just me on my owneoo. The last valuation was in excess of 7 figures sterling and that first figure was not a 1. So it’s a big success.
Without ever advertising.
In the early days we were not allowed to, and I never got in the habit. We have no social media presence. We have the best marketing tool a company can have; word of mouth. It astounds those marketing people  who cold call, who claim they could do so much for my business if I just purchased X worth of advertising. And I say I don’t. They say how much busier I could be. And I say so where are we putting those patients as  we are fully booked all the time.
But that.. how would you say it? ‘marketing model’ does not work for selling books… unless you do the other stuff as well.  What about that lady, the one who now outsells Jeffrey Archer, the independently published author who was talking at Crime fest. For her it was just a matter of timing. She was 59 and had just sold her business. She  didn’t want to hang about for a couple of years while publishers got their act together and agents had already told her they wanted to represent her, and that the typescript was nearly good to go. So she published independently after getting the book professionally edited  and soon it was a best seller.
A great success story but here’s the rub. The business she sold was a very successful marketing company  and she spent the first four months marketing that book online, twelve hours a day, six days a week.  And I thought what the hell was she doing? And how can you do that? And can you do that when you have a full time job? And trying to write a book? Never mind a terminally ill father and cat with sinusitis?
I was outlining this blog to a patient who runs a charity and she said that they reluctantly had taken on a social media marketing person  two days a week. It transformed their profile. She is the same age as me and spoke in the same rather vague terms as she doesn’t know the right names for things. You don’t tweet all the time, you tweet when your audience will read it. The demograph is different for your ‘tweetage’. That brings in more tweets so you have to deal with the incoming stuff as well. And how do you do that when I  refuse to look at my mobile phone at work.
So I will be adjusting my social media presence, well Caro Ramsay’s social media presence as I, as a human being do not have any social media presence at all. I find it difficult enough to work the  redit card machine.
  The work does have a facebook page that was not put up by us, facebook just thought we deserved one.
As a human being (ie not a writer ) I am bound by all sorts of ‘not bringing the profession into disrepute’ issues so the sex tape and appearing nude on a motorbike route to a social media fame is kind of out for me.
                                              ( not me!)

I need something I can tweet and Facebook in a  ten minute a day  session.  I have no idea what Instagram is and I have no ambition to make my waist smaller on a selfie.
So I am now thinking why am I going on this marketing lab?   To make the best use of the small time I have available to market myself. So if successful people are busy, and the not successful ones are the ones who have the time to market themselves properly, is that an issue?
And, do I really pay any attention to folk on facebook telling me that their book is wonderful? No. I really don’t. I appreciate an author I already like telling me that their new book is coming out, or here is the cover, what do you think? But I distrust people telling me their own stuff is marvellous. Have they all been on marketing courses. Do they think it makes a difference to their sales?  And does it really?
I had to answer a few questions for the lab.  Whose social media presence do I admire…. Bloody nobody! The answer to what  what I did  want out of the lab was a wee bit longer.
Meanwhile I Iook at the events I’ve been asked to do or chair, the comments I get from people who have enjoyed the books so I can’t be doing too badly
And if one person tweets, and three million people  read it I see that is a good thing. But what happens if  three million people tweet then your wee tweet is going to get lost in  the twittersphere surely.

I don’t even know the correct noun is; tweetage? I shall remain ignorant until Saturday when all will be clear and I shall be a social media mogul.  Or I will be visiting my dad and wiping the cat’s nose. Now a cat with sinusitis?  Is that not worth twittering about…


  1. The frustration that comes through in your writing, along with the humor, is something I deal with also. The need to market and learn all the ins and outs of social media have me more confused each day. Best of success with your newly acquired knowledge!

  2. Ahh, yes, social media. The palliative for all that ails the world of publishing. I wonder if there are any reliable statistics to show the true benefit of it all (other than in fees to the PR purveyors) because it seems to me that unless you come up with a unique gimmick--though the sex tape route may still likely work for some if only in a science-fiction sense--you're just part of the ever broadening band of white noise.

    Still, I'm sure the seminar will be enlightening...but not nearly as entertaining as your quips.

  3. Twitter is the sinusitis of the internet, and both are to be avoided if at all possible.

  4. Caro, you have the potential to become a literary social media monster. At every event you attend or host, your razor-witted reputation precedes you. I would posit that it could be regarded as your USP: the Govan lass with the acid tongue and the ability to break bones with a glance. Who couldn't sell that as a crime writer?

    I look forward to hearing your summary of the event.

  5. I enjoy Facebook. I never tell anyone how wonderful my book is. I would find it very hard to say such a thing regardless of the venue. I put up stuff that I find moving or amusing. I am way past the stage of thinking it will sell books. It amuses me to be involved, and I do feel connected to my friends from faraway that I seldom see. I tweet maybe once a week. I put a photo on Instagram about twice month. But I do enjoy seeing what my friends are posting.
    That said, I get new friend requests quite often and only about 40% of them are for military men whose requests I just delete. So when my my next book comes out in October, I hope more people will hear about it. Will that convert to actual book sales? I haven't the foggiest notion.
    My take on this: NOBODY knows how to market books. If somebody says I should do something because it will sell books, I do it only if it's fun. Fun makes it worth it.

    1. Why don't *I* get friend requests from military men??? I feel so cheated and left out...