Click here to download a free short story Free short story

“It depends what people hope to achieve”

I asked ten writers ten questions about their relationship with marketing

I first met Jeremy Page when my wife became involved in the poetry scene in Lewes, and now we are stablemates at Cultured Llama, from where I’ve stolen this short biog and details of his new book London Calling. Jeremy is the author of several collections of poems and, since 1983, editor of the bi-annual literary journal The Frogmore Papers. He has also written two plays: Loving Psyche and Verrall of the White Hart, which were performed in Bremen (2010) and Lewes (2014) respectively. He lives close to the South Downs in Sussex and is currently Director of the Centre for Language Studies at the University of Sussex.

At the heart of Jeremy Page’s collection of long, short and flash fiction is the eponymous novella, London Calling, a comic tour-de-force set in a 1980s squat. Other stories feature a woman who remains in bed due to ennui, murder in a crime bookshop, and all the small resentments of a marriage condensed into two paragraphs. These are stories for our strange, unsettling times.

London Calling

Can you tell us a bit about you and your work? What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been writing on a regular basis since I was in my early teens. I published my first pamphlet of poetry in 1989 and since then have published a further five pamphlets and two full collections, most recently Closing Time with Pindrop. I’ve also written a couple of plays, which have been performed in Bremen and Lewes. Writing prose has always been a secondary activity, but my novella London Calling has just been published by Cultured Llama and I’m currently pausing for breath before embarking on the next project (which will be a major reworking of a crime novel  I wrote in the 90s).

How do you approach marketing your work, on a practical level? For instance, do you schedule it for a particular day of the week, or use a different desk, or make time for it every afternoon?

I’m afraid I do it on a very ad hoc basis when I do it at all. I don’t think it’s one of my strengths because I have a horror of self-promotion, inherited from my father.

Some creative people treat marketing as if it’s creation’s evil twin. Is there a way of making friends with it?

Yes, I think so, and in the world of small press publication it’s very important to give it your best shot. Most writers write because they want to be read, so at a very basic level making sure that anyone who might be interested in your work knows that it exists makes perfect sense. And, of course, they’ll need to know enough about it to think it might be for them.

Do you think about marketing before, during, or after writing, or is it ongoing?

Only after writing, though while writing I’m always conscious of the desirability of producing work that people will want to read, which is – I suppose – a precondition for successful marketing.

How do you tend to market your work? (For instance, do you use social media? Do you blog?)

I don’t use social media, but I have a very wide network of friends and acquaintances with an interest in literature as a result of editing The Frogmore Papers for more than thirty-five years and reading poetry at a wide range of venues for the last twenty years or so. I normally use email to alert them to a new publication.

Would you spend a substantial amount of time on a piece even if you knew you wouldn’t or couldn’t publish and sell it?

I think there are two questions here. I can certainly imagine devoting a lot of time to a piece with no expectation of selling it. On the other hand, if I thought something I was writing stood no chance of being published I would normally abandon it (and often do).

Do you use any of these for marketing purposes: school visits, workshops, readings, video book trailers, seeking press coverage?

Mostly readings, occasionally press coverage.

I once heard someone dismiss a career in book marketing by saying ‘he might as well go and sell fridges’ – is selling books really the same as selling fridges?

Only if writing poetry is the same as writing advertising copy!

There’s a lot of marketing jargon around, such as ‘find your niche’, ‘create a sales funnel’, ‘engage with your audience’, ‘create a platform’ – do beginning writers need to engage with it from the start? Has that changed since you started writing?

I think it depends on what people hope to achieve through their writing. If they aspire to make a living at it, then I think they probably need to be more strategic than would once have been the case. If they see it as more of a complementary activity to their crust earning then they have considerably more freedom as to how they operate.

Any examples of book marketing you think worked really well?

I was very grateful to Matthew Stewart for his review of my collection of poems In and Out of the Dark Wood, which provoked a lot of interest (and sales!)

This interview with the author JJ Amaworo-Wilson, in my view, provokes a real desire to read the novel:

Click here to read all of the interviews in the series

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.