Sunday, 13 July 2014


Marketing 101

Actually this isn't marketing 101 at all - it's more musing on what impact marketing has.

My personal marketing budget runs to introducing our two kittens to my book and snapping them with a broken camera (it works, you just can't see what you're taking pictures of so I take a lot and hope).

I couldn't help noticing there's been quite a campaign for Joe Abercrombie's latest book. Here's what Voyager started to build!

And here's the finished item being paraded around central London!

Spiffing! And all credit to Joe, he's been working very hard on his launch, signing books at a ton of locations, giving talks, making appearances. It's time consuming stuff. My personal circumstances preclude me getting out and about like that, and to be honest, whilst I'm not glad about those circumstances I think I would find all that promotion tough. I'm not someone who is comfortable on stage, performing, or meeting large numbers of people. My first ever event in August is going to be interesting - perhaps I'll love it - we'll have to see how it goes.

My wondering here is how much of an impact all this stuff makes. Abercrombie's Half a King has just debuted at #3 on the Sunday Times Bestseller list. That's great going. The question is, where would it have been without all the appearances, the chariot etc? Abercrombie is a very successful author with large numbers of fans, Half a King is reported to be fine book. I'm sure it would have done very well with far less show.

The question for the marketeers is how many places up the bestseller list did the chariot carry their man? How much did it cost? Was it worth it? It's an imponderable. Here I am posting pictures of the chariot and talking about the book - how much is that worth? Put in a basket with all the other people doing the same thing and weigh it against the $$$ invested...

I think it's pretty sure that a terrible book will sink no matter how much marketing it gets. It's less clear whether a great book will float without any.

Book marketing can be a huge deal. Consider The Night Circus that came out at the same time as Prince of Thorns. It won best marketing campaign of 2011. They had circus performers turn up to numerous venues. Here are two rather tall ladies at a UK bookshop promoting Morgenstern's debut.

I remember going into my own local Waterstones (UK book chain) and passing a 7 foot tall shelf mid-floor, stacked _only_ with The Night Circus, face out. Prince of Thorns was in the fantasy section nestled at the back of the shop, 3 copies. And I'm in no way complaining because Voyager gave Prince of Thorns a great push, getting it into the right shops, getting it on a lot of shelves, and managing to have free copies given away with A Dance With Dragons. Clearly that gave me a much better start than many authors' debuts got that year.

And The Night Circus went on to sell millions. Again, it's reportedly a great book and would very likely have done 90% as well with 10% of the push ... but 'likely' isn't 'certainly' and there's the rub.

Anyway, the TL/DR  version is:  
BUY MY BOOK because ... kittens.


  1. A question that's been asked over and over. Yes I think a huge marketing campaign will sell books so if you're looking to sell one and maybe none after go for it. But the discriminating reader won't be fooled for long so don't try to sell us a bad book twice because it's exciting, can't put it down content we want and then we'll do our level best to spread the word to all our book loving friends and they'll tell theirs and by the second book this guy/gal is a bestseller.

  2. For what it's worth, I'll take your books over The Night Circus any day. :)

  3. Have I been influenced by marketing to buy a book? Yes, I suppose I have. Mr Abercrombie signing in my home town (Newcastle) gave me the motivation to go and buy Half a King and say hi, and thank you for giving me great stories to read. Would I have bought it anyway? No, I don't think I would - I'd have waited til it became available at my local library. All singing all dancing marketing wouldn't influence me to try a new author I hadn't read before. Usually I place my trust for new authors in recommendations from a very good friend who, so far, has always got it right. After all, he did tell me to give that 'Mark Lawrence' a try.

  4. Try having HBO make a series out of your books. That might be a good marketing plan. ;)

  5. I love your books and recommend them to everyone. Couldn't get past chapter 2 in Night Circus. The kittens are a definite marketing plus.

  6. Kittens are an awesome reason for many things!

    "I think it's pretty sure that a terrible book will sink no matter how much marketing it gets. It's less clear whether a great book will float without any."

    I think this is true. Although some terrible books, for some definitions of the same, succeed nevertheless

  7. Its all about brand, and the author is usually the brand, therefore the author must be celebrity.

    The marketers - and the book buyers - do seem to believe that only a very well known celebrity can write a decent book. There are exceptions, yourself included, to prove the rule. They reinforce the belief by occasionally seizing someone unknown who produces a great book, and turning them into a celebrity, but they are very rare. Be careful Mark they are after you...

    Or kittens, maybe puppies or babies?

  8. I think that marketing stuff only works locally. I've never even heard about Night Circus here in Germany. I find new authors on review blogs, publisher's websites, and sometimes Twitter. Having an interesting internet presence / blog helps. I usually check that out, and the Read Inside on Amazon. The rest is the (in)famous gut feeling that a book is worth risking the bucks.