I am delighted to welcome Chris Chalmers, author of Dinner at the Happy Skeleton to Linda’s Book Bag today. Often, authors tell me they hate the promotional side of writing and so I asked Chris, who has experience in advertising, what his take was. His guest post makes for interesting reading!
Dinner at the Happy Skeleton was published on 14th October 2017 is available for purchase here.
Dinner at the Happy Skeleton
Dan is the kind of gay man for whom the Noughties might have been named. Warm, witty and serially promiscuous, his heart melts at the sight of a chocolate brown Labrador — but with men, it’s a different matter. He’s thirty-nine and as single as ever, not counting the couple he just met online. An arrangement that looks oddly like it’s going somewhere, until Dan gets fired from his job in advertising.
With time out and a payoff in his pocket, summer presents a world of possibilities; just as the memories surface of the ex he blames for the thinly-veiled chaos of his life.
From London to Ljubljana, a yen for closure sets Dan on the trail of the man who fed his ego into a shredder. Through an eerie encounter at the home of the Olympiad and a sleepover at the Dutch Embassy, run-ins with a fading porn star and the celestial manifestation of Margaret Thatcher, he ultimately confronts his past. Until, with his Big Four-O rapidly approaching, destiny beckons from where he least expects it.
It Pays To Advertise?
A Guest Post by Chris Chalmers
When you tell people you’re an advertising copywriter and novelist, they usually react in one of three ways:
“Oh right … Like Salman Rushdie/Fay Weldon?”
“Of course all advertising creatives are frustrated novelists, aren’t they?”
“You’ll be good at marketing your novels then — lucky you!”
The first is factually true. The second isn’t, since plenty of my fellow copywriters are quite happy being just that. And the third — well, that should be true but I’m not sure how well I live up to it.
Pre-advertising, back in the big-hair days of the late 1980s, I got my first job as a writer in the marketing department of Pan Books. That meant I wrote cover blurbs for everything from kids’ puzzle books to the most literary Picadors, though my big claim to fame was re-jacketing the entire Jackie Collins backlist. Naturally, to this day I think I know about blurbs; I’d no more let someone write mine for me than hand over my long-awaited Friday night chocolate bar. But, as for my subsequent career in advertising, the benefits are harder to define.
When my first novel was published — Five To One, about the day a helicopter crashes on Clapham Common — I took a leaf out of the direct marketing handbook and pushed five thousand custom-printed postcards through the Farrow-&-Ball painted doors of London SW4 … Did it work? Well, the spike in sales wasn’t precipitous, and the profits almost certainly cancelled out by the Indian trinket box I spotted in the window of a swishy Clapham emporium.
Five To One was originally published for Kindle only. So a few years later, when I came to republish it as a paperback and e-book, I did what I’d been telling my clients to do for a decade: I took my marketing push online. The result was Five To One-Minute Movies, a series of 60-second monologues featuring the novel’s main characters played, directed and filmed by me. Posted on YouTube, I linked the films all over my blog, Twitter and Facebook, where they gained traction for a while. What I particularly like about this approach is that they’re there for posterity — to intrigue potential readers into discovering why Ian, Glory, Tony and Mari are on the Common that sunny afternoon when an unforeseen moment changes their lives.
I have a new book out this month, and as I write this my marketing plan is still forming. So far it’s blogger-based, with a dozen stalwart pre-publication readers lined up to give Dinner At The Happy Skeleton their honest shot. Ironically the main character this time is an advertising copywriter (though not for long — he gets fired in Chapter Three). From then on he spends the summer in hot pursuit of a figure from his past, getting up to even more shameful things than flogging high-interest mortgages.
So no, in answer to point three, I don’t think thirty years in advertising has given me the magic-bullet answer to marketing my novels. But I do know that testing audience reaction is a big part of many an advertising campaign. Which is why I’m intrigued to see how enlisting the help of the blogosphere affects the launch of this one.
(Hmm – and we bloggers always wonder if what we do actually helps authors so I look forward to an update on this please Chris!)
About Chris Chalmers
Chris Chalmers is the author of Dinner At The Happy Skeleton, Five To One, Light From Other Windows, and for children, Gillian Vermillion — Dream Detective. He lives in South-West London with his partner, a quite famous concert pianist. Chris has been the understudy on Mastermind, swum with iguanas and shared a pizza with Donnie Brasco. Aside from his novels, his proudest literary achievement is making Martina Navratilova ROFLAO on Twitter.