Update: I wrote this note in February 2012. At the time, I was drawing up a marketing plan for my debut novel Daughters Who Walk This Path and felt quite overwhelmed. It has become more comfortable for me to talk about my work, but I still struggle with finding the balance between being appropriate and being obnoxious.
I’m sure most of you heard the news in 2011 that the world’s population has surpassed 7,000,000,000 people. What this means is that there are a lot of us walking around on planet earth. Not only are we competing for the necessities of life, but we’re also competing for the opportunity to display our talents to the most massive audience.
For us creative folks, it is about getting attention for our work. You and I know that no matter how much we admire our genius (really who else would have had the wit to put those two unique words next to each other?) we need the validation that comes from positive feedback and the eventual sale of our works. In a world of shrinking resources, we not only have to put our best foot (writing) forward, we have to toss aside that old-fashioned notion of not tooting your own horn and hire a marching band complete with a book wearing mascot.
I’ll be completely open with you (after all there’s nothing as intimate as an article posted on a public internet site) that this has been a challenge for me. One of the life lessons my dear mother taught came from a Yoruba proverb, “when your yam is sprouting, you cover it with your hand.”
For those wondering why this is necessary, it’s to prevent those lurking, envious so-and-sos’ from standing in the way of your progress. The other thing is that there are so many mouths and a limited number of yams.
The way things go in this present world is that you really ‘need’ to send out a growth announcement about the yam.
“Dear friends and frenemies, it is my pleasure to announce that my recently planted African yam (aka Dioscorea rotundata) pierced through nutrient-rich loamy soil at 21:00 hours yesterday. In the absence of a locust infestation, yam and planter are doing just fine.”
Then it’s essential to tweet daily about leaf formation, green pesticide use, water conservation methods and any unique characteristics of your yam vine. Moreover, when that sweet piece of earthy goodness makes its entrance, pictures of you eating the boiled or roasted yam with spicy palm oil must grace your Facebook page. Please, do remember to close your mouth as you chew. Even when you delete the pictures, you never know where they’re going to turn up.
As I ponder about different (think covert) ways of marketing my work, I’ve thought of having colourful t-shirts made for my children with the book cover and website address printed on it. That way I could get their friends to fall in love with the book during recess. These angelic cherubs, in turn, would tell their parents about it and the parents would pass on the good news to a friend and so on. Yours sincerely the mastermind behind this all, would then smile all the way to the piggy bank.
Before you start judging me, please remember that I’m doing this for the children. A trip back to the magical land of Disneyworld which is at the top of their vacation list is not cheap. And since they are all going to be nuclear physicists or neurosurgeons with perfect teeth, neither are braces or an ivy league university education.
And the way I look at it, it’s never too early to start thinking of a retirement plan, especially since their dear mama is eyeing a timeshare in the Bahamas. Okay, this is the part where I pinch myself back into reality. Ouch.
The takeaway nugget at the end of my long speech is that we wielders of the pen or tappers of the keyboard not only have to keep doing what we do, but we also have to become savvy about marketing our selves. You and your work are the products and selling these products would include public speaking, use of social media, community engagement and platform development. To accept that if we genuinely believe in our message, we need to stand tall and share it, even at the risk of it all coming out as the obnoxious sound of the vuvuzela.