Saturday, January 7, 2012

Promoting Princess: Does social media make a difference?

Promoting Princess: does using the new technologies make a difference in local children’s book sales?

My generation did not promote itself or any of its achievements. We were taught that if of value they would be recognized, something like the world of ‘school prizegivings' (a world before the words ‘awards ceremony’). However those of us who write had heard that as authors we were expected to promote our books, almost as an unwritten part of the contract; almost as if we were a product belonging to the publisher ( that’s what I used to tell my authors, who being from the same generation, didn’t take to this apparent self promotion ) It all seemed … somewhat immodest.

However the world has changed; there are many more players in any given activity, far more competition; if we want to sell our books… And in this brave new world there is social media. It was about two years ago when I heard one of our young writers, Kellie Magnus, give a talk about the importance of social media in marketing. I was inspired to start a blog and actually get onto Facebook. Then I followed with fascination as Geoffrey Philp took us through the processes of writing and publishing his book, Marcus and the Amazons, promoting the book by keeping us abreast of his activities. My friend and fellow writer, Hazel Campbell, pointed out that from everything we have been reading we should be promoting my latest book, Island Princess in Brooklyn on my blog and Facebook. That’s why you’ve seen the cover of the book all over my postings. I also noted with interest Marcia Forbes’ occasional reference to her books, published and in progress, on Facebook. So my friends these were the persons who allowed me to be brave enough to self promote. Therefore it will be interesting to see if all the things I’ve done make a difference.

And by the way I think you still have to be careful how you self promote because Caribbean people will get vexed and wonder ‘who you think you are’, ‘she think she is something big?’ So I think that one has to strike a balance and I’m not sure what that balance is, but we’re in this together so we’ll see what we can learn from my experience.

Here’s a list of promotional activity to date.
1. Pre-print promotion on Facebook and my blog (shameless constant references)
2. The publisher took out ads in the newspapers congratulating me on the Commonwealth award and included the cover of Island Princess in Brooklyn in the ad.
3. Launch announced on Facebook; invitation shown on Facebook and blog. (The sales at the launch were good).
4. Launch reported on Facebook and on blog with photos.
5. Sample copies given to outlets. (In spite of interest, orders from stores seemed to be the usual small initial amounts).
6. Some sent overseas. The overseas ones are to friends and family, not distribution outlets, so I’m not sure that counts; it’s not really a scientific approach to anything.
7. Fortuitously, an excellent full page review appeared in one of our Sunday newspapers, for which I’m very grateful.
Much interest has been stimulated by all of this activity, however I cannot say if it has translated into sales. I was not here for Christmas so was unable to follow up this early initiative with readings in stores. I have not done a survey of bookshops to see if they are carrying the books. This I’ll have to do.

Perhaps in the lead up to child month in May, I’ll have to arrange for readings. I’ll see what my publisher has in mind.
Someone has suggested that with the 50th anniversary of Independence being this year, there must be a place for this book as it relates to the Diaspora. At least there should be promotion in this direction. Having just returned to the island this week I confess I’m thinking more about catching up with work than about Princess.

However monitoring the progress of this book could provide an interesting exercise for all of us, hence my sharing this with you. I know it’s hard to quantify the effect of marketing and promotions, however even anecdotal evidence may give us all something to work with. Will we get answers to any of the following questions?

1.Will steady promotion, using the new technologies as well as traditional methods, overcome the inertia we seem to have to purchasing local children’s book?
2.What platform seems to best suit this book which is a young adult/'tween' novel?
3.Will there be any overseas sales since it deals with the topic of migration, a constant in our lives and that of the other islands?

If anyone has any further promotional ideas or questions which we might focus upon, I’d welcome them.
All the best for the 2012 guys. May we all write bravely and as constantly as we can.


  1. Shoot the sheriff, Diane. Continue to promote your book and do' mind what bad /small minded people have to ay. It's YOUR book.


  2. Thanks, Geoffrey, for being so supportive. I was beginning to feel, as they used to say, 'cute', or in modern parlance, 'away'.

  3. Diane, I hope sales are going well. Have you, who have many awards, entered Island Princess for any? I suggest the International Reading Association's competition and any others you are eligible for.

  4. Thanks for that suggestion, Helen. The thing is as far as I know all contests/awards require that you be resident or published in that country, that is, awards in the USA and the UK. Do you know of any which allow entrants from the rest of the world?

  5. Thank you for sharing. This article is very helpful and informative. We need more article like this. Cheers!