Monday 4 May 2015

Effort of a Salesartist

Portrait of the Artist as a 40-something Woman
Behold! It is Monday after 9! Somebody must surely be manning the phone at Gracewing, Ignatius Press' chosen distributor!  So off, quick as a bunny, should my British and Irish readers go to their local bookshop on their lunch break to order it. Don't forget, Ceremony of Innocence, published by Ignatius Press in 2013, is distributed in the British Isles by GRACEWING, TEL: (01568) 616835!

Why not buy two!? Someone please send a copy to blissful Damian Thompson, for lo he is the reigning king of British Catholic media. I am sure he would enjoy it, and maybe bless it in print. My FSSP priest would undoubtedly see this blessing before anyone else, be wreathed in smiles, brag to his friends and mention it at After-Mass Tea. Then, should I actually see the divine Mr T in London, I could sidle up and say "Pardon me, Mr Thompson, but thank you so much for your kind words in the Herald/the Spectator/the Telegraph/Facebook about Ceremony of Innocence. May I buy you a drink?" And when I returned to Edinburgh, there would be more exciting news for my FSSP priest and all the Fogeys, young and old, although inevitably someone (not the priest) would follow up my precious juicy anecdote with a rude remark about the music of James McMillan.

Once upon a time a saleswoman with some media company names or dates...sent me an advert she had received from some company claiming that, for X pounds a month, they would do a hard sell of one's book over the internet. The implication was that I, not the media group that had bought my work for publication,  was supposed to pay the X pounds a month to promote it. However, that was not what got my goat. What got my goat was the company's blurb that told the media company that writers were not interested in selling their books.

Well, what a big fat lie. Edinburgh's Muriel Spark was so interested in selling her books that she spent more than she could afford on her clothes to look more prosperous than she was, which she hoped would intimidate her publisher into promoting her books more assiduously. (It's in Martin Stannard's biography.) Of course, writers are interested in selling their books! They just don't really know how, for their job is writing, not selling, unless they are Dorothy L. Sayers, who worked for an advertising company.

Most writers do not make a good living through their writing. Sad but true. Writers write for money because they love writing so much, that's all they do. I could never afford to be a writer in Canada; how would I afford the transatlantic airfare to holidays in Italy?! Meanwhile, writing for Catholic newspapers pays better than writing Catholic novels (so far), and therefore it is a bad investment for me to go on the road and sell books out of the boot of a car I don't own and can't drive. When I went to London with B.A. to have a reading with Fiorella de Maria--and Ignatius designed us a wonderful poster--B.A. and I spent X pounds, but the bookstore sold only x copies. This was a downer, but up until then I was blissfully happy because I was a Real Writer in South Kensington waiting to give a Reading of My First Published Novel in Westminster. A childhood dream come true, and a bargain, really, at X pounds.

Heavy sigh.

One of the beliefs of the bookselling industry is that appearances sell books, and so the big publishers send (or used to send) their writers on the road to be interviewed by Oprah, et alia. Those were the days. In the contemporary Catholic world, what is supposed to sell books is ads in Catholic media, and the Catholic media all scramble for those juicy advertising dollars without being necessarily successful at pushing the book. The Catholic novelist's real salespeople are fellow Catholics hoping to make £/$50  by writing a book review in a Catholic paper, and I love you people. You come to my house, I feed you the cake.

To be honest, although kudos to the Stateside sales team at Ignatius--especially John Herreid for his great designs and boosterism--my best salespeople have always been my blog readers. My blog readers seem to be in Catholic offices and universities everywhere, putting my name forward for the Edith Stein Conference, or putting my manuscript on the top of the pile, or suggesting me to their boss as someone to interview, or telling their library to stock my books. It's kind of like the secret worldwide movement in Fight Club, only run by girls.

Meanwhile I don't want one of my readers to receive, weeping,  Gracewing's copies back in the Ignatius Press warehouse. How tragic would that be? Thirty of my lovely book babies being sent out to the UK, only for twenty-seven to return home to the US, perhaps even to be pulped one day. Pulped! Recycled! Turned into kitchen towel! And toilet paper! Aaaaaah!

So we must rescue them. We must find them British and Irish homes. Continental European homes are good, too, although it would be kinder if the British and Irish would buy them and then give them to the Continentals as gifts because shipping.  How marvellous it would be, of course, if a German Catholic publishing house thought they must have Ceremony of Innocence on their lists, so German it is, and bought the lovely, lovely German language rights.

If this happened, I would certainly go to Germany to promote the book because I went to Poland to promote the book and many, many good and wonderful things came out of that. Also Germany is closer than the USA, which is prohibitively expensive to get to. The family budget could manage Germany, but not, you know, New York. (The time I appeared at Notre Dame I flew over from Toronto.)

But meanwhile my primary task is to convince all my UK and Irish readers to buy one of the 27 copies, so as the Poles say, Kup teraz! Buy now, by ordering Ceremony of Innocence by Dorothy Cummings McLean (not the other people; be careful not to order the wrong one) from your local bookstore today. If you are in Edinburgh, you may have the luxury of buying one straight from the Crime shelves of my beloved Blackwell's on the Bridges. I buy ALL my new books, pens, notebooks, etc., there.
THIS one. Not those other ones. 


  1. As one of the catholic writers who made X dollars for reviewing your book (twice!), I'll take you up on the cake offer if I ever cross the pond again!

    (For my latest big story, I'd included a quote from John about your book, but the editor cut it :/

  2. Bad editor! Bad!

    Yes, come for cake!

  3. Bad editor! Bad!

    Yes, come for cake!

  4. Did you already send it to a German publisher? Or would you like one of your German Readers to do that? If yes, how does that work, do you just send a copy of the book there and hope for the best?

  5. What usually happens is that an book fairs or when they get the catalogue, foreign Catholic publishers look at the American Catholic books and decide which ones they think would sell in their countries. That's how "Seraphic Singles" became "Anielskie Single"; it was seen in the Liguori catalogue. I think the best thing to do, as a German Catholic, is to read the book in English, and then to review it for a big German Catholic newspaper, saying it really ought to be published in German, so exciting and pertinent is it. That might do something. But your idea is good, so maybe I will start looking up German publishers.


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