Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The right view of marketing

This blog is dedicated to Thomas Joseph Hennessy, PhD.
September 23, 1926--November 27, 2008

This blog has multiple purposes and serpentine logic--as usual.

In the Novelist's Boot Camp Workshops (not to be confused with a recent imitation "bootcamp for novelists"--sigh, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I'm flattered--and considering legal action), I'm often asked about how best to market a book.

My usual response is that the focus of the workshops is writing the best book you can write while doing it faster, better, and having more confidence, control, and fun. Marketing and promotion are topics that deserve a separate space, and for the overwhelming majority who attend our workshops their first priority needs to be completing a fully revised, edited, and proofread manuscript.

But there's more to the story.

That a completed manuscript is necessary before one enters the market is obviously true. Marketing--the novelist's first customer being an agent or acquisition editor--can't happen unless the novelist has something to market, the "thing" being a completed manuscript. After the "sale" to the agent and editor comes the second part of marketing, often called promotion. Again, the novelist needs product, although much can and should be done before the actual publication date.

But the Novelist's Boot Camp workshops normally don't specifically address either of these.

And the "why not?" has much to do with being true to one's self--which has much to do with Tom Hennessy.

Tom Hennessy died on 27 November 2008, following a tough battle with Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. He loved and served his wife, his children, his family, and the students and institution of Indiana University loyally, faithfully, and successfully. He was a mentor, role model, coach, counselor, and friend to many. I consider myself exceptionally privileged to have had Tom in my life, and while the physical body of the old Irishman is gone, the gifts he gave me and many, many others will be passed on. Young men or women looking for a role model would be well advised to look to Tom Hennessy.

Tom Hennessy was many things, but above all he was sincere. He understood what was important and what was not, and his time, heart, soul, and energy went into the important things.

Time. Heart. Soul. Energy. These resources are finite. In the Novelist's Boot Camp workshops we understand this point, and we understand that things which matter most should not be sacrificed for things which matter least. What matters most for novelists, we feel, is the sincere and creative act of writing a book-length work of fiction. The workshops and book offer strategies, tactics, techniques, and advice on how to better engage the novelist's creative spirit and how to produce, from that spirit, a work in which the novelist can take pride.

All novelists, one can safely say, wish for commercial success. Yet commercial success is perhaps the most fleeting of all types. I'm sure Tom Hennessy wished for a better salary.

Tom Hennessy was sincere in his focus on what was important. He was true to himself, and in that he made himself a rich man. Those who knew him are richer for the relationship.

Be true to yourself. Nurture, exercise, and grow that creative spirit that is the sincere part of being a novelist and that manifests itself in the act of producing a book-length work of fiction: your novel. The marketing and whatever riches it might bring will pale in comparison to the reward you create for yourself.

Thank you, Mr. Hennessy.