What I am going to say may not win my any popularity awards. But it stems from the query when people first meet me and are told what I do and they artlessly ask, ‘What book have you written?’
I used to find this question either intimidating or plain embarrassing, as if it is an established fact that my name alone should be enough to be instantly recognised. And if it isn’t, that I must therefore be a fraud.
What can any self-respecting author do in this situation? It’s sure to happen straight after your first book appears. In my case I can hardly reel off the titles of eight-five books. The result is that I’m usually left speechless.
But it was this embarrassment that led to one of my brighter ideas. Now obviously this can’t be used on the net where so much of our writerly lives now occur. But this concept still happens to please librarians, schools, bookshops, and people who still like something made of cardboard.
Think of a slip twice the size of a personal card. A bookmark. Remember them? Some people still use them. On one side are displayed all my details: such my name, postal address, mobile number my GST number and the colourful covers of my four latest books.
On the other side is a list of my latest publications under the headings: ‘Adult’, ‘Young Adult’, ‘Middle School’ and ‘Young Readers’.
I have a friendly printer who runs these off, two hundred at a time, and his charges aren’t TOO excessive. Well, he has to make living. Someone smarter than me could run these off him/herself and save on cost.
If someone is handed a bookmark it is harder for that person to hit delete as rapidly as one can with an email. Or a message on Facebook. Or on Twitter. There’s still a certain propriety about being personally handed something concrete. And given that many readers are older than forty, and I see a distinct division between those who read everything on the net, and other more reluctant participants, my bookmark idea works.
Visiting a school to talk about a latest book, children like to be given a little present. A personal bookmark achieves this, and also adds to my own profile. One or two children might even persuade a parent or a grandparent to buy one of my books.
The present problem as I see it after thirty working years, is that there is too much information on the net. Unless we have written something outstanding, or have a huge budget for promotion such as the latest Harper Lee find, in the end there’s not enough to distinguish one book from another unless that book wins a major prize. Word of mouth helps, and so does commenting on Good Reads. But in the end all this isn’t enough. People need something easy to refer to, something printed.
Of course these bookmarks become out of date as I keep producing more work. Thus once a year, usually around February, I order another pile. Now I know this has nothing to do with making an imprint on the net, but I can’t think of a better way for lesser known authors to be able to produce an immediate profile of themselves and their latest work than handing out a book mark and watching the recipient read through it very carefully.