Friday, February 13, 2009

Guest blogger Marisha Chamberlain on author self-promotion.

We asked debut novelist and FinePrint client Marisha Chamberlain to talk a little bit about author self promotion, a subject that is the bane of many a new author's existence (as comments in many of my previous blog posts have pointed out):
Do I Hafta? – A New Novelist on Book Promotion
by Marisha Chamberlain

As I write this, my first novel, The Rose Variations, has been out for just a few weeks, and the buzz has been terrific. This is partly due to the efforts of an outstanding agent (Stephany Evans) and a remarkable publicist (Sarah Reidy) at Soho Press. But I’m working hard at it, too, and I started without a clear model to follow about how to promote your own book.

Social psychologist, Carol Dweck from Stanford University, in her book, Mindset: a New Psychology of Success, published startling findings that show that talent and high intelligence (which many writers possess) can actually undermine success. Why? Because of an unexamined conviction that if one is required to make an effort, it means one might not be supremely talented. Could that be at work in some of these lackluster fiction events by novelists whose work is sublime on the page? I suspect so. Dweck shows us in study after study that effort equals success. Artistic success plus marketing success—that’s what we writers want. No matter how terrific the writing is, if it doesn’t reach readers, what’s the point?

So let’s say a strong effort to market is intrinsic to the writing life. If we accept that, maybe we can face the numbers. Such as: a first novel must achieve hardcover sales to readers of a certain number, in the thousands, for the novel to come out in paperback, and even more crucially, for a second manuscript by that same writer to be sellable. Is that enough to motivate the excellent, if grumpy and introverted, writer? I don’t think so.

The private writing self moans—do I hafta? Do I really hafta do a radio interview at 6 in the morning, followed by a classroom visit at 11, and a reading that evening, of this novel I finished two years ago, when I just want to hole up in my study and work on the book I’m writing now?

Yeah, I hafta. Because if my book doesn’t sell and I haven’t done everything I could think of to get it into the hands of readers, how grumpy am I gonna be then? However, if I can find ways to get back to my study, even in the middle of book promotion, then I remind myself of what it’s all for: to make a life of this. To bring in enough dough to go on writing. Regular writing hours on a new project hidden from public view—that’s what keeps me going, promoting the book that’s out there now
Marisha's new book The Rose Variations came out on February 1st from the extraordinary Soho Press.


Anonymous said...

Excellent posting!

Anna Claire said...

This was a good kick in the pants. Thanks!

cindy said...

yes, we hafta. and congrats on your debut !!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insight and positive attitude towards the less writerly part of being an author.

I hope that when my own opportunity to self-promote comes along, I can remember your advice - that it's the 'hafta' part that enables me do the 'wanna' part of writing.

Thanks again and congratulations!

Robert C Roman said...


Congrats on your success!

Thank you for the post on talent & effort. I know that place, the 'if it's hard work, I must not be good at it' place. I live there, I play there, I work there. Hearing that someone else is there too makes being there less isolated.

Thanks again, and congrats again!