Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Trios: Deathwatch, by Nicola Morgan: The Joys Of Promotion

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.

Here’s Nicola:

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!


R.R.Jones said...

Wow Nicola, you sound like a one woman army!!!
I'd hate to get on the wrong side of you, lol.

I think it's an amazingly cool idea getting teenagers involved in writing, there just isn't enough of this sort of thing in the world today.
Well done, I hope it all pans out for you and now I'm so inspired I'm off to scope your other stuff.
All the best.
Reg :-)

Richie D said...

Yes, what a fantastic idea! I wish you every success with this--it's great to get teenagers involved not only in the promotion but in the writing. A wonderful way to encourage a love of literature!

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks very much, both of you. Most people think I'm mad, but you seem to think I may not be (or else you're too nice to say so). I take the view that if you trust people (of any age) and expect a lot from them, they usually come up with the goods, and since teenagers are used to NOT being trusted they tend to respond even better than adults. Tomorrow, I'll send your comments to the pupils (and they haven't seen what i wrote here either yet) and they'll like that you thought it was a good idea. I don't think they've got round to thinking what other adults will think of it. I suspect they're taking it all in their stride and not even realising how special what they've done is.

No time to proof-read that - doorbell gone.

And thanks, Jane!

Anonymous said...

Nicola, darling, you are a publisher's dream come true. I hope your editors are lavishing praise, chocolate, and money on your blessed soul!

Vanessa said...

Just reading this before I head out of the door to Nicola's launch which I'm sure will be fabulous!

I really hope that all this work N's putting in to promote Deathwatch pays off as it is a truly excellent book. And as for the Deathwatch Dash - I'm rather hoping that the girls have secured the recipe for Lynne's chocolate margaritas as I think that will keep us going far better than straight Dairy Milk!

Donna Hosie said...

What a brilliant idea, and bravo to Nicola for having such respect for her target audience.

The Deathwatch Dash takes place on my birthday! I will cheer you on from the other side of the world with champagne, fabulous boots, chocolate and an order for the book. (My eldest child becomes a teenager this weekend, so perfect timing!)

catdownunder said...

All this sounds utterly amazing and downright terrifying. I really admire you Nicola. I could not do what you are doing. I am seriously wondering if I should just stop trying write. No, the blog is too much fun and my young neighbour will not leave me in peace until I have written the next book for her benefit.
Congratulations on your courage - I really mean that.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks for all your lovely comments. I don't thinkk I'd ever thought of myself as brave though. Catdownunder - don't let this put you off, for goodness' sake! Different authors do it differently and each of us do it in whatever way suits us. I didn't do anything like this with my first two books - just a few events that other people set up for me. But, trust me, when you care as much about your book as you have to after the effort of writing it, you will do anything that occurs to you and you won't even think about it.

Donna - happy birthday on June 15th (I will try to remember to think of you!) and thanks for ordering Deathwatch. Happy birthday to your teenager, too! (I think you may need my teenage brain book, Blame My Brain...)

Lynn, could you suggest chocolate to my publishers, please? Praise and a small amount of money, no problem.

Vanessa - the pic you took of my feet last night: hope you're not going to do anything nasty with it! Yes, guys, Vanessa was on her knees photographing my feet. Some booksellers have no dignity at all. I may need to blog about this ...