Friday, April 13, 2012

Guest author Catherine McNamara: The Countdown Rush

Catherine McNamara moved to Italy after many years in West Africa. Here she translates for a WWI Eco-museum, runs a bed-and-breakfast and skis fanatically. She has great collections of African sculpture and Italian heels. She is originally from Sydney. Among her publications are Nii Kwei’s Day (children’s book published by Frances Lincoln UK, October 2003), The Divorced Lady’s Companion to Living in Italy (to be released on April 16 2012, Indigo Dreams Publishing UK) and Pelt and Other Stories (to be published in 2013, Indigo Dreams Publishing UK)

Just a few more days until the UK release of my debut book and I am uncertain what to feel. I’ve stopped drinking coffee as my nerves already seem alight, although I’ve detected an underlying sense of grace and completion with the approach of this moment. It has been long, as I wrote in a Guest Post here last December, but having read ‘could have been edited more’ in a review of a writer colleague’s debut novel, somehow I am happy my editor and I put in the extra mileage.

Time to celebrate or time to storm the internet with blog posts, interviews and giveaways? Time to place printed bookmarks in strategic places and organise readings? Is there any certainly either one of these – internet or physical promotion – will make a difference to sales?

There are several factors involved in what comes next for me. Primarily: budget. I am working with an independent publisher who though they have printed a beautiful work and sent off review copies to British newspapers, are not present for a book launch or major publicity. That falls into my lap. Which means that any publicity material – bookmarks, extra book copies for blog reviewers or magazines of my choice, a possible book launch in England which is my prime target market for the moment – has to come out of my pocket. Prioritising has become my new catch cry. I’ve tried to target both online and magazine reviewers who have the most followers or independent comments, reviewers who might also cast a kind eye over my genre (thinking lady’s lit) so as to make my investment (author-priced book and postage) worthwhile. Hopefully I may have some positive results. My deepest fear is that of the hundreds of books – both self and traditionally published – released each week in the UK, will mine even reach the desk of a kind reviewer? Column inches are notoriously hard to earn and, not having the clout of a major publisher or having a couple of prizes under my belt, I’m on tenterhooks.

Next, publicity material. I found a cheap local printer and am printing a batch of bookmarks from our cover design. Not a huge expense, but everything does add up. I’m confident they look good and will be worthwhile. It has been said that people need to see seven references to a product to instil familiarity and trigger the will to buy. Well, there’s my marketing theory in a nutshell.

Onward: the book launch. At first I wasn’t attracted to the idea of a book launch in London. Quite frankly, it seemed too much to organise, way beyond my budget (flights from Venice to London!), and some say the book launch being the ‘christening’ of the novel should be a get-together for the exhausted writer and his or her proud friends and family, and is therefore fairly ineffective in cranking up sales. So I put the idea on a back burner for a while, but it kept niggling. YOU’RE NOT DOING ENOUGH, YOU SHOULD BE DOING THIS.

I’ve organised minor events before when I had an art gallery, and being quite a   party girl I’ve hosted lots of big bashes at my home in the summer, but never anything as personal as my debut book launch. Thinking wider, I realised it was time to push myself out of my comfort zone (and Italy which is not my first target market!) and began to research independent bookshops in London that might host a foreign author. I found one, The Big Green Bookshop, and it proved rather painless to organise. I’ve sent invites to friends in London and close by, will haul along one older son and his cousin to serve drinks and photograph, have even managed to send off local (cheaper) prosecco to London for the bash.

Lastly but crucially there is the cost-free but time-consuming promotion that one can and must do online. There is no budget involved except the time you spend away from your job, your home responsibilities, your family, piano practice and pets, and I’m going with the advice of one major site editor whose interview with me will go up next week – online promotion is ‘well worth it’ (Elle Symonds-Trashionista). Like most authors I’ve organised the Blog Tour with various stops along the way. I’ll be up on chick lit, mature women’s, expat, mother sites and booklovers galore – in an effort to expand the appeal of the book which, while escapist and romantic, also addresses the more draining issues of teens and ex-husbands and sees my faded character blossom anew in an Italian world of espresso, alluring sex and unashamed architectural delights.

I realise my book will not appeal to everyone but I imagine all authors must reach this giddy moment. Do I dare to feel satisfied? Will I topple over in my heels at my book launch? Will anyone read my book besides my mother and aunt?


Liane Spicer said...

Welcome back to Novel Spaces, Catherine. Congratulations on your impending release!

Dare to feel satisfied. You won't topple over in your heels. Lots of people will read TDL beside your mom and aunt. Some already are reading it. Remember to take deep breaths.

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Dear Liane,
Thanks so much for having me again and thank you for your wise words. I'm trying to shed my nerves and start to enjoy the whole experience - I'm sure that after the ice is broken I'll be keen to work as effectively as I can.

Our books take such a long time to reach the shelves that it's hard to take a step back and celebrate. It seems there is still so much work to be done. Hopefully there'll be time in London for some dancing and non-Italian food to get this debut writer into the festive mood!

Breathe! Ciao Catherine

Suzie Tullett said...

Enjoy every bit of the experience, Catherine. Although I've no doubt you'll succeed with yet more novels, this is your debut!

As for promotion, even that's fun when you get into the swing of it x

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Thanks Suzie,
I have a feeling that once it starts it will be terrific fun. I'm looking forward to making that leap!
Ciao ciao xcat

Joanne C. Hillhouse said...

I can relate to so much of this right now. Good luck.

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Thanks Joanne, it sounds as though yours is off to a great start. I reread your guest post from last year and found it also hit the spot! Good luck xcat

Karen said...

This is interesting!Publishing your works can be nerve-wracking and full of excitement as well.