Selling the Book ~ Joan O’Callaghan

Joan O'CallaghanWhen my first books, Amazing Days and Places to See, People to See, Things to Do, All Across Canada, were published in the 90s, marketing them was easy -I didn’t have to do a thing! My publisher, Scholastic Canada, did it all – sent out review copies, saved reviews for me etc. My job consisted of filing my reviews, cashing the royalty cheques, being interviewed by my local weekly, and answering “fan mail” from two youthful readers in Labrador who felt I had given that part of the country short shrift.

Ah! The changes wrought by the passage of time! Authors no longer have to search for agents and publishers willing to take them on. The computer has put paid to all that, creating a book bonanza on the internet for readers. This has resulted in a seismic shift in traditional publishing, as these companies struggle to cope with fundamental changes to their industry. Among the changes is the way promotion and marketing is now handled.

Regardless of whether an author has signed on with a big press, a small press, or has decided to go it alone, there is a new onus on him/her to promote as well as write. Traditional publishers are now embedding marketing requirements into their contracts and watching closely to ensure that their authors are adhering to their agreements.

One needs to have a purpose for marketing. In the case of the Mesdames, it is exposure. And so by forming a collective, we hoped to pool our resources, skills and audiences to increase our reach. So what do we do?

Social media is the first and most obvious place to start. A Facebook page, Mesdames of Mayhem, Twitter account @MesdamesMayhem, and a website and blog are de rigeuer, along with tweet teams and blog tours to help spread the word.

Being alert to opportunities can also result in some exciting and non-traditional venues. This has been the case with the Mesdames’ anthology, Thirteen. With help from Friend of the Mesdames, Jane Coryell, we entered into two promotional opportunities with theatre groups who were staging mystery productions. In return for using our website, Facebook page and Twitter account to promote their production, we were given permission to have a table at the theatres in question, sell our books, and be given a boost in the printed programs.

While at the theatre one evening, Madame Madeleine and I noticed a bookstore at the corner. We walked in, introduced ourselves, and handed the owner a bookmark and a book. He immediately told us he would take some on consignment and invited us to do a signing at the store. The local newspaper was on hand to photograph and interview us at the signing.

We contacted several Ontario wineries and invited them to contribute wine to our launch. Most didn’t express an interest, but one sent us a lovely letter wishing us well and enclosing a gift certificate for 10 people to tour the vineyard and enjoy a tasting – this contact has resulted in a reading at one of the winery’s evening events, likely next fall.

The Mesdames have bookings with several libraries in Ontario, to read and discuss the process behind creating and selling Thirteen. We have been invited to participate in some book clubs as well.

There are other irons for the Mesdames in the proverbial fire, but these will keep for another day. In the meantime, we continue to look for opportunities to showcase our wonderful book and our very talented collective of writers.

Several Mesdames joined hostess Cynthia Carpenter of Pickwick Books for a signing in Waterdown on February 1. Pictured here: M.H. Callway, Rosemary McCracken, Melodie Campbell, Cynthia Carpenter and our own Marketing guru, Joan O’Callaghen!

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