Nicola Morgan writes for teenagers and has the unusual habit of involving them in the marketing of her novels. Her new thriller, Deathwatch, is being launched by pupils from The Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh, who not only helped write the book but also appear in the story, by name. Later, one of the girls will write about their experience, and then bookseller Vanessa Robertson, from The Children’s Bookshop in Edinburgh, will complete the trio.
If you'd like to be in with a chance to win your own copy of Deathwatch then answer this question: in which UK city is Deathwatch set (my more resourceful readers will realise that the answer might well be found on the Deathwatch page of Nicola's website). Email your answers to "n at nicolamorgan dot co dot uk", and a week after the final piece in this particular Trio is published, Ms Morgan will pick one name at random out of her virtual hat.
My punishment today is to write out five hundred times: “Next time I have crazy promotional ideas, I will keep very quiet.” Trouble is, if I have an idea I have to act on it. I’ve just paid for a personality assessment, only to be told I’m a raging entrepreneur with “constantly flowing ideas.” This is news?
So, whereas other authors of Jane’s trio pieces (thank you, Jane!) will talk about the agony and ecstasy of the creative process, I will talk about press releases, podcasts and YouTube. And teenagers. I know you’re not meant to work with children or animals, but these are teenagers and beetles, which are entirely different sorts of fish.
Letting teenagers handle promotion may seem bold. True, it can get hairy. For example, to me, deadlines mean “do it now, in case you’re hit by a bus later”; to them, deadlines mean “outwardly, I will look as though I haven’t heard; inwardly, yeah, whatever.” So, last week, I was worried because my brilliant Deathwatch girls (one of whom will be writing the second item in this trio—with a DEADLINE, Ailsa…) had a deadline, because this week they would have exams, choir practices, time-table changes, school camp, climbing Everest (I may have got that wrong), and I was away. I needn’t have worried—I got back from away to find thirty-four emails, covering everything that they’d planned, and more. They’d designed posters, competitions and press releases; they’d written reviews and sent them all over; they’d done on-line wizardry and sent our viral downloadable bug and screensaver around. They’d had ideas that made more sense than mine and politely suggested them without making me feel like an idiot.
They have been charming and amazing and they haven’t finished. They’re organising today's launch-party (that’s where beetles come in) and are accompanying me on the Deathwatch Dash on 15 June, bearing chocolate, I hope. Certainly, Gill and Vanessa from the Children’s Bookshop hope so, as chocolate is essential not only to writing but also to book-selling, we feel.
Oh, the Deathwatch Dash—it’s been reported widely so I can’t get out of it now. To set a world record for the number of separate school-talks by one mad author in one day, I will talk in six different schools. Then die. Briefly, because I’m doing events the next day. Then going to London for three days and other places around the UK throughout June.
Yes, I’ve made a podcast, and a YouTube video featuring the lovely screensavers that my publishers made. Making the YouTube thing would have driven me mad but luckily I was already. So then I made a cartoon animation of an interview. I’ve designed postcards and other materials and… oh, this is getting tiring.
(Are you wondering what my publishers are doing? Fear not: they’re being brilliant in ways that I haven’t told you about. Connecting to readers is my job. And pleasure. That’s what writing is, after all.)
See why I wish I would keep my ideas to myself? But how can I? If I don’t care about Deathwatch, why should anyone else? Besides, it’s not nearly as hard as actually writing—the agony of that afore-mentioned and then ignored creative process is way tougher. And writing Deathwatch was hard, harder than anything I’ve written.
If you want to know: all this crazy promotion isn’t about confidence, but fear: fear that the book will die, fear that the writing struggle will be wasted, fear that people won’t like it or won’t hear about it. It’s that fear that keeps me going. Compared with that, teenagers and gruelling book tours are a doddle.
Regular readers will know Nicola best from her very useful blog. My thanks to her for this lovely piece. Now go and buy her book!