Sunday interview: Roger Morris

Be realistic in your expectations, says UK crime author Roger Morris whose first novel, Taking Comfort, was published by Macmillan New Writing last year. Roger Morris has a marketing background and used his experience to promote his own book. (Like me!) He blogs at Roger’s Plog.

1. What marketing did Macmillan do?

Aside from sending out a lot of review copies, there were a number of specific things. Because my book has something of a marketing theme. Macmillan came up with the idea of writing to people in the marketing departments of big companies. A direct marketing campaign, in other words. Also the novel starts at Highgate Tube Station, so they produced and distributed a flyer which was handed out to commuters one morning. They also produced glossy postcards for me to send out to friends and acquaintances which my wife Rachel has been active about distributing. They arranged a number of interviews with local papers. Online the Macmillan New Writing website is an important marketing presence, but Macmillan also decided to film ‘author talks’ which were put on our amazon pages. Generally they have been very receptive to ideas, such as the flyer which was my idea.

2. What kinds of marketing have you done as an author?

I started my blog before publication and have used that to help spread the word in advance. I’ve now branched out into MySpace and have a more conventional website for the book. I also made a trailer for the book which I’ve put on a number of hosting sites. I also filmed a ‘virtual reading’ which is on MySpace. I had always been surprised when people actually bought the book after readings so I thought that putting one on the web would be a good way of reaching more people and spreading that effect.

3. What essential things about marketing did you wish you’d known from the start?

I come from a marketing background. My day job is as a copywriter and I have actually worked (freelance) for publishers in a marketing capacity in the past. So I always knew it would be hard. I think that you have to make the most of everything you do. Sometimes the story is not the book, which is annoying in a way. It may be the trailer or the virtual reading. Thing is a lot of people have books out – what journalists are looking for is a bit of a story. Something that distinguishes you from the mass of other authors.

4. What marketing diffculties did you face?

It was always said that Macmillan would not spend a fortune on marketing – but then again I think that’s rare for any publisher. The six of us who were the imprint’s launch titles probably benefited and suffered equally from the attention that was on the imprint as a whole. The broadsheets [upmarket UK newspapers] took a bit of a snooty view of the whole thing and tended to review the books all together. I only got one solus review and that was the Glasgow Herald and I was very pleased with it. The literary blogger reviews have been a different matter. Rather than concentrating only on the business model of the imprint, there was more of a focus on what the books had to offer readers.

5. What did you learn during your experiences of trying to market your books?

I’ve learnt that I am a shameless self-promoter. On a serious note, I wonder if all this effort might backfire and actually make certain readers dismiss the book. “Oh, he’s just a marketing person, not a writer.” I am a writer who happened to fall into marketing. Why shouldn’t I use some of the things I’ve learned along the way to promote the one product I’ve produced myself?

6. What is the most successful piece of marketing you’ve done?

My blog and being part of the online writing community through various writers’ websites. The blog has brought me to the attention of some influential literary bloggers, like fictionbitch and crimeficreader, who have both reviewed my book favourably. Despite having to buy their own copies!

7. What marketing advice would give for authors thinking about being published by a scheme like Macmillan’s?

Be realistic in your expectations. But be proactive too. Try and think laterally – what is your book about? Who is likely to read it? What innovative ways are there to reach that potential audience that don’t necessarily cost a fortune?

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Filed under Author interviews, book publicity, books, marketing

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