Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

MARKETING BOOKS, AN INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE WALSH

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Bruce Walsh is a wizard book mover according to his boss, Cormorant Publisher Marc Cote. I thought it would be interesting to hear his take on the state of the finer art of bringing books to the marketplace.

Q Linda

You are a book publicist, Bruce. I thought our readers might be interested in seeing your job description.

A Bruce

Actually I am not a book publicist. I am director of marketing and sales. But publicity is one of the hats I wear (directing an intern in this case and a team of publicists in other lives). I learned my marketing and publicity skills as an anti-censorship activist, which is where I also developed my aesthetic.
But the bottom line in promoting books and doing publicity is knowing what the media considers to be a story and then knowing how to package and pitch it. So following media --reading the papers every day and devoring magazines-- and knowing journalists is a critical aspect of doing the job well.

Q Linda

They say playing in a band is like a marriage. How is working with authors LAM? What is the give and take? I assume some writers are hard to draw into the promotion end of publishing and others might be overeager. Surely you have a story or two.

A Bruce

I worked in academic publishing for 10 years and constantly dealt with authors who had a difficult time accepting that the Globe and Mail was not interested in reviewing their dissertations. So one of the big aspects of the job, regardless of the House, is managing expectations. This can be very challenging for first time authors (who don't know what to expect, so expect everything) and midlist authors (who see their collegues move to the next level, while they stay put).
Then there are the famous authors --Atwood, Munro, Urquhart--and in those cases the challenge is managing the media; picking and choosing where the author will appear. Some media outlets will be either disappointed or pissed off, depending on the personality that you are working with.

Q Linda

What is the ideal combination of book and writer for you to work with?

A Bruce

A well connected and ambitious author (who enjoys publicity and can tell a good story) and who has written a good book is ideal. Attractive helps too. But an ambitious author who has not written a good book can be tough.

Q Linda

We have just heard the results of the Giller competition and will now see how the outcome affects sales. How would you rate good reviews, good promo stories, and awards in making your job easier.

A Bruce

Good reviews are great (and thrilling for the author), but they do not a make a best seller. Nor does winning the Trillium or the Dartmouth Book Award -- but fantastic for the author and a stamp of approval for the House. Winning the Giller does make a best seller (winning the GG helps too, but not as much). But winning the Giller and having a good promo story can take a book to a whole new level, a la Vincent Lam (selling something like 250,000 units in pb). When I was at M&S and Alice Munro won the Giller, we doubled her sales from the previous book but they did not approach Lam's numbers.

Q Linda

Do you keep your eye on the bottom line, or do you fall in love with the product? Is book promotion business or romance?

A Bruce

I am a bottom line kinda guy, but if I love a book I will give it everything I got. That might mean I borrow from another book's marketing budget. At the of the day, the numbers have to line up (to quote every business book ever written). In 20 years of publishing, I have never gone over budget, because my first loyality is to the House.

Q Linda

You have just started working for Cormorant Books. What are the strengths you have inherited and what will you be working on improving in terms of Cormorant's profile?

A Bruce

I think Marc is one of the best editors working in the business. Period. He knows how to pick a winner. But in many ways Cormorant is a quite Cdn House. That's not me. Trying new ways of doing things and taking risks is what I am all about. It worked when fighting censorship and it works when trying to break a book out.

Q Linda

What is your idea of a good day in the book promotion business?

A Bruce

Yesterday.

Joseph Boyden won the Giller and we just reprinted his first book, Born with a Tooth. I did an email blast to 300 booksellers and got a confirmation form the G&M that that would put it in their "reprint" listing. Indigo indicated that they would place it next to the Giller winner (I won't hold my breath, but this is a start).
Then Q&Q posted our YouTube video of Charlie Pachter on their home page. We heard back from CBC's The Scene that they want to do something with him. And we made the call to go back to print for M is For Moose.
Review clippings came in and Silver Salts remains the #1 best seller in NB and What's Law Got To Do With It? is #1 in the Wpg Free Press. Next season's catalogue is almost complete and we nailed an ad that will run in this weekend's Globe.
Plus it was a full moon and the rush of the day smoothed out my crankiness.

Thanks!

1 comment

I saw the Pachter video here on Open Book a while ago. Love it.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page