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From Pajama Parties to Fight Clubs: What Authors Do to...

Marianne Mancusi, Liz Maverick and Sherrilyn Kenyon took one on the chin post RWA for wearing costumes at the RWA literacy signing. The purpose of the costumes was to draw attention to their books and, of course, to themselves in some manner. These authors are not alone in their attempts to stand out amongst the crowded fiction shelves.

After reading about Craig Davidson’s boxing match/promo event, I was compelled to read his book and then contact him about the reasoning behind putting his body on the line for his books. Another reader mentioned to me the annual pajama party that Beverly Jenkins held. Both Davidson and Jenkins shared some interesting thoughts about books, promotions, pajamas, and Fiona Apple.

***

Craig Davidson wrote The Fighter. On his website, he explains that he is not the UK hairdresser tycoon nor the Springbok rugby player, but a novelist.

No, I am the Craig Davidson who has written a few books. Books about boxing and dog fights and zombies and werewolves and lunatic prison inmates and repo men and more boxing and vampires and sex addicts and grisly dismemberment via crazed killer whale attack. Not all in the same book, mind you. So. If that is the Craig Davidson you’re looking for, you’ve found him.

In the summer, he was the subject of many a blog due to his promotional efforts for The Fighter. Hey, it worked to some extent. I bought the book.

***

a) This was your first novel and the literature fiction field is crowded and some say, dying. What were your promotional plans before the boxing matches began?

Davidson: I mean, typical: my publisher sent me to festivals, sent me to bookstores. That works for established writers, but me, I was driving 6 hours to get to, say, Milwalkee for a reading and nobody was there; just me, the bookseller, and 30 empty chairs. Very uncomfortable for all involved. If your book’s got a lot of “heat” or you yourself are a known commodity as a writer, well, I imagine you don’t go through that. But most writers I know have some horror story like that—only problem being, not every writer ever is able to look back semi-fondly and say, “Yes, there were days when nobody showed to my readings, and now I get 100s.” For some writers, sadly, it’s just an ongoing procession of that, and for me, as a new writer, I don’t know how I’m going to fall: whether it becomes de rigeur or if I can look back and have a laugh at those days, having surmounted them. Hence, I get in fistfights.

b) Some novelists have release parties which include food and liquor. Your release was celebrated by a soft reenactment of the subject of your book: unsanctioned boxing matches. How was it that you decided that boxing matches would be an effective promotional tool?

Davidson: Well, there was food and liquor at my first boxing match/book launch; a bit of an interesting mix, all that booze and testosterone in the venue of a boxing club. It wasn’t totally my idea; in fact, not really at all. My publicist at Penguin Canada, Stephen Myers, called me up and asked would I be willing. For the reasons cited above, I said yes. Stephen was a great sport and actually he fought himself, on the undercard, as Stephen “Ghost Dog” Myers. Then Soho, my US publisher, asked how about I do it again; I had some reservations but they found Jonathan Ames, a great writer and a good sport, and I couldn’t say no. So, I brawled again.

c) Do you feel that the exposure in the media such as the Globe and Mail and the NY Magazine and online at Gawker and Galley Cat has moved any of your books?

Davidson: I don’t know. People ask that, sort of like: Is it worth getting your face bashed in for the slim chance it might sell some books? And I’ve always said I’m not the type of writer, the type of person, really, who’s able to swan around a cocktail party-style book launch firing off bon mots and having everyone saying, “My Heavens, what a sharp pencil he is! Sooooo profound!”

What I have is energy, obsession for what I’m trying to do that at times probably borders on quasi-insane, determination and a hard head. So, whatever I can do to help my publishers, myself, in that ways that I can, I do. If that means eating a couple punches, so be it. I got a good constitution. I heal quick. And in some ways I feel like I’m fighting, doing all this, not for this book or even the next; I had success relatively young, first book sold at 28, and in some ways I feel like my best writing is well ahead of me—like everyone at every job, I have to learn. But in order to get myself to that point where my best work will have a decent showcase, I have to prove something now—and my books have to get some attention, something, at this point to ensure I get more chances down the road. So, in a lot of ways, I’m fighting for a career, not just THE FIGHTER, the current book.

d) Who would be your ideal opponent? Any fear of them biting off your ear or does the headgear effectively prevent that type of boxing injury from occurring?

Davidson: My ideal opponent? An asthmatic, maybe. Run him around the ring, get him puffing, then tip him over with a feather. No, truly, the two opponents I had were perfect—and I say that having lost both fights. But they took it seriously, trained hard, we didn’t flake out in the ring and flounce around peppering each other with noodle-armed whiffles, we really fought, we always finished on our feet and the crowd got a good show in both cases. I ended up with a few lumps, sure, but nothing six or seven beers didn’t cure right up.

e) It seemed that once Ames showed up with Fiona Apple, any effective beating you could put on him was a lost cause. Do you have any plans to attach yourself to a semi famous singer and have her be ringside at future matches?

Davidson: Well, as I said, even if Ames had’ve lost, he’d still effectively won. Fiona Apple, nice to see her there. I was going to try to get a famous singer to attach myself to, but no, nothing’s in the offing. I thought I saw Amy Winehouse rooting through my bushes the other day, but it was in fact just a raccoon—I’m sorry, that’s meanspirited and I don’t mean it; only Amy’s eyelashes, that big mascara’d swoop she puts on them, really does remind me of a raccoon. Anyway, who should I, a big gallumphing red-headed dingbat, be telling anyone how to present themselves?

f) What can you possibly do to top the boxing matches? A tour of boxing matches? Ultimate Fighting? Will you be recreating any more of your stories for promotional purposes?

Davidson: I think I’ve had it with boxing. But I seem to like controversy and friction in my life, and the stuff I write frequently invites harsh words or anger, and the book I’ve recently finished I would like to hope will raise some hackles … so who knows? I may get in more fistfights promoting this next book, should it ever find a publisher, than my last one! I may even win one, though that’s asking a lot from myself.

g) How do you feel about being one part artist and one part marketer/salesman? Did you realize when you sold your book that marketing was going to be a huge part of being a writer?

Davidson: You know, I did. A lot of people don’t know this, and my publishers don’t really trumpet the fact, but my first book (THE FIGHTER is my 3rd published) was horror. And because with a lot of horror books and authors there is no such thing as promotional budgets or publicists or any of that, they had to sell their books themselves—SELL themselves. And they had no problem with it, whereas some of the people I hung out with while in grad school, their idea was always, “Oh, my work will sell itself and I’d never deign to do anything so crass as market myself.” To which, at a certain point, I more or less said, “Well, I hope you are a very, very good writer then, and get a LOT of luck, because otherwise you’d better get used to teaching at some community college.” Me, I got no problem promoting myself, doing everything I can for my books; hey, this is my job, my life, anyone who’s been around awhile knows there’s a huge amount of luck involved with this business and sometimes it’s something tiny—like doing this interview, even—that puts you on someone’s radar screen and, in a roundabout way, makes your career.

And yes, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t envision a day where I didn’t have to get my face bashed in to get some attention for my book, but everyone’s got dues to pay and why should I be above that?

h) And finally, what’s next for you, the writer?

Davidson: Next novel is done. Fingers crossed someone wants to publish it. From there, fingers crossed it sells. From there, fingers crossed someone takes the next one. A lot of finger crossing at this point.

All best, Craig.

Next week, you’ll get to read Beverly Jenkin’s take on her Pajama Party.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

8 Comments

  1. Ann Bruce
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 08:28:31

    My ideal opponent? An asthmatic, maybe. Run him around the ring, get him puffing, then tip him over with a feather.

    LOL. I have to reread the review on this book before the next trip to the bookstore.

    ReplyReply

  2. Gennita Low
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 09:02:44

    Wow, that’s dedication. I’m going to have to get me his book!

    As for promotion, there seems to be an endless round of different things one can do, if one had the time and some traveling money. If you’re a paranormal author, there are psychic fairs, even at RT, traditionally Sunday when most people are leaving, to promote your books. I saw some authors giving both amateur tarot readings AND passing out bookmarks.

    If you’re a fantasy/scifi writer, there’s all the different dress-up conventions that welcome both Dark Hunters and Supernatural fans. I saw some wonderful photos at Marjorie Liu’s site when she was signing at one of them and she met so many kewl cross-genre and scifi authors as well as the Supernatural boys (sigh).

    As a romantic suspense/spy-fi author, there are many RWA chapters who are asking for speakers (they pay for the hotel and convention fees, at least) and after talking to Bob Mayer at the Colorado RWA Convention, he convinced me that I really have to save money and hit the Mystery/Suspense conventions as well, to cross-promote to other readers. I would love to do this but since writing isn’t my full time job, it’s difficult to get the time off to go to so many fairs and conventions.

    Media-wise, I’ve been more fortunate than most because of my unusual occupation (roofer), so I attracted many newspaper articles which attracted local interest to my signings. Somehow or other, a newspaper from my homeland, Malaysia, heard about me and contacted me for a “Malaysians Abroad” feature they had, and I found a number of new readers that way…all the way from home, which made me smile.

    I’m still learning how to get my name out, so any articles about promotion is of interest to me. However, I’m not sure whether I will use Craig’s innovative “fight” publicity. ;-P I mean, who do I take on…hmmm…not Cindy Dees, she’d kick my ass without mercy…definitely not Anne Stuart, she’d send me to a nunnery without mercy…not Lora Leigh, she’d use those scary BDSM maneuvers in her books (and yes, probably without mercy too).

    I know, I know, I’m suppose to find a relevant promotional tie-in with the topic in my book. I write about spies and sex…. Huh. Yo, Valerie Plame, you and me, in the ring right now, biotch!

    ReplyReply

  3. Angela
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 10:36:13

    Seems like historical authors get no love when it comes to live-action promotion! I know that the Beau Monde does have a Regency dress party during Nationals, but that’s just the Regency–which doesn’t need any publicity.

    ReplyReply

  4. Jessica Inclan
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 10:43:51

    For me, there came the time when staring out into a reading of five people, one of whom was my mother, the other my best friend was just not what I wanted to do. I published six contemporary fiction novels about pretty much ordinary people doing what people do to live–of course, I find that fascinating, but there wasn’t much of a costume to wear–and the publicitiy angle was limited.

    I tapped out the hometown I grew up in and raised my kids in–one’s girl scout leader can only come to so many events. My local papers had given me the time of day a few times, and then what?

    So now I’ve dabbled in paranormal romance, and the potential for doing something more wild is out there. But I think you have to decide who it is you are and what you are willing to do. I know we all have to sell ourselves, but the level we go to do that is a personal choice. I often feel like a hawker, a bit of a shill at events where I try to lure people in to my books. “Come into my parlor, little girl,” kind of thing.

    So I admire flat out the writers who can box their way to readers or carry a ginormous hat on their heads or simply deal with mega-lines. I don’t judge people for this because it is necessary and it seems like those who do the costume thing enjoy it. What really is wrong with that?

    What works best for me at this point are services like constantcontact.com, keeping my readers (and people actually do sign up for my list) informed on books and classes that I teach. My web site does a pretty good job, too. I teach for a university that puts out a huge mailer every quarter, and does a wonderful job publicizing its teachers. I pass out business cards, take interviews, write up what my publisher asks for. But I pretty much don’t do the readings any more because my girl scout leader is busy.

    Maybe I need to get out my boxing gloves!

    Jessica

    ReplyReply

  5. Robin
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 11:16:52

    Seems like historical authors get no love when it comes to live-action promotion!

    For which I am profoundly and eternally grateful, lol.

    ReplyReply

  6. TeddyPig
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 11:46:15

    I still think you would get more coverage dating a super model.
    I am waiting for Big Brother to have an all Mystery writer house and watch the fur fly.

    ReplyReply

  7. Marianne Mancusi
    Sep 17, 2007 @ 13:27:37

    I think I’m in love. Long live creative book promotion!

    (Though don’t expect Liz and I to get into the ring anytime soon. I prefer the mental beatings…)

    Also, you should talk to Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame. She held a prom for her teen fans!

    Marianne

    ReplyReply

  8. From Pajama Parties to Fight Clubs: What Authors Do to Get Noticed, Part 2 of 2 | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Sep 24, 2007 @ 04:00:52

    [...] week, we were the recipients of promotional insight from author Craig Davidson, whose promotional boxing matches got this reader out her romance genre [...]

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