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On publicity and promotion

Another hat I wear is Executive Editor over at the review site ASif!. In this role, I get posted review copies by publishers requesting reviews of upcoming books, I sort out the assignments amongst the reviewers (reviewers choose their own books and they manage their own workloads) and I mail the books out to them. I like to see all the books coming out soon and that I could be reading, if, like, I had time. And it also gives me the chance to see sample media releases, email queries, how to approach and present the material you are promoting and so on.

I've been using some of what I have learned in that process to tailor my own media releases, catalogue and how I approach potential review outlets. I've been privileged this year to have been taken under the wing by several successful people in the industry who have shared a lot of information and contacts with me. So many, in fact, that I need to tailor the promotion of each book because of the scale of the current projects. I have learned a lot about the review/publicity to sales ratio and have been tracking the success of different methods I have trialled this year.

One of the important things that has really been highlighted for me, is to tailor each request to the outlet or person I am approaching. Because my review copies are limited, I want to make sure that each free copy I send out works the best for me. This is why I research the outlets and the people I am sending my product to. I sent A book of Endings out to different places to where I sent Horn.

This all by way of contextualising something that happened to me yesterday. I've been very verbal in parts of this blog and elsewhere about works by self identifying Horror writers. You know, the stuff that's highly purile, simplistic, out for shock value without any depth to actually land a real punch and that revels in the torture, debasing and dehumanising of women. I haven't gone on about it lately cause I discovered this thing I could do, I could stop reading it.

Which is not the same as saying I don't enjoy dark fantasy, horror and thriller elements to stories. A lot of what I published this year was of that nature.

Anyway, I've had a tough week. I am tired and stressed and harried. And yesterday, I pulled a review copy sent to ASif! out of my PO Box. Very nice. I'd followed a bit of drama surrounding this work, piecing together tweets and facebook statuses and comments and replies. So it was nice to see that the book had made it out into the world. And I like to be able to support small press.

However, accompanying this book was a sealed envelope, inside which was a christmas card with a headless woman, scantily clad in christmas themed colours and a dripping knife with the inside that said "Have a bloody good Christmas" and when I turned it over the picture was titled "Santa's Little Bitch". As I said, I was tired and stressed out and as I skimmed this, my experience was: oh look, another objectification of the female body that doesn't deserve a face have a bloody good christmas santa's little bitch.

So what I walked away with was ... wait, did I just get called a bitch? No, not me, her. Oh. They've sent me this nice christmas card and they want me to promote their book for them and they haven't remotely considered that a woman might find that a little bit offensive.

I was tired, didn't sleep well and wasn't sure if I was over reacting. So I held off on this post. I tweeted and facebooked it and a lot of people seemed to agree that it was offensive and unpleasant.

Here's the thing. The book, clearly, is not aimed at me as a reader. And that's fine. I don't have to read it. But something that a publisher should really think long and hard about is, when I send this (request, email, mailout, media release) out to a person who is going to be opening the package (email, letter etc) harried, busy, drowning in other requests and is going to give it 5 secs glance at the end of their day, do I want to risk that those 5 secs could be misinterpreted, offend or be inappropriate to that person? Cause it takes 5 more secs to take the book and put it in the "to the second hand shop" box in my house.

Taking five seconds to read my blog or my facebook or hell, to ask anybody else in the scene, would have suggested that it might have been best to just omit the card from my package. It sure would have saved me being ropable for several hours last night.

I still support small press and I will make the review copy available for review by ASif! reviewers. Am I offended and pissed off that this kind of sexist shit still happens? Hell yes. Did I add it to what I already knew about certain people related to that project (not the publisher/editor) - yeah I did. Do editors and publishers in this country and in the scene in general talk? Yeah they do. Did every one already know about the card fiasco? Yeah they did.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 26th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
I think for the benefit of the rest of us you really need to name and shame. Or link to where someone already has, if they have.
Nov. 26th, 2009 06:28 am (UTC)
Noone has. The anthology is called "Festive Fear" and the picture in question is easily googleable.
Nov. 26th, 2009 09:41 am (UTC)
Nov. 26th, 2009 05:53 am (UTC)
What a horrible thing to get in the mail! I would also feel pretty crappy and ropable about it :/

Do people actually think doing that stuff is a *good* idea? (this is not a question I think I actually want answered...)

I really value that you talk about stuff like this.
Nov. 26th, 2009 06:27 am (UTC)
Yeah people do think that, in fact I would imagine they will be quite taken abakc that I have reacted this way, as though it never ever occurred to them that someone might find that offensive.

[sarcasm] It's all in fun afterall, is it not? [/sarcasm]
Nov. 26th, 2009 05:57 am (UTC)
I do get just a bit fed up with images of women that have been mutilated (and it's hardly ever men, is it...) and when I express my displeasure being told to "lighten up", or "it's art".

You know what, pictures of mutilated living beings are NOT funny, and it is almost NEVER artistic. And the type of people who like to shock others using this type of image just never grew up past the three year old stage where it was really funny to go up to an adult and say "bum"!
Nov. 26th, 2009 06:25 am (UTC)
In this case, the headless refers to the phenomenon of book covers featuring only the middle bit of women - you know, the "good bits" of boob and bum without having to deal with the fact that women have faces and brains that accompany body parts.

But I agree with you - I don't find that kind of material, the mutilating of women remotely clever or insightful or edgy - I just find it repetitively offensive these days. And purile.
Nov. 26th, 2009 07:36 am (UTC)
Mm. I think I mentioned on FB that I'm not easily offended, but that I'd make a note of the sender and their sense of humour. I certainly see it as offensive, but my response to things like that these days is a kind of weary contempt. I just don't have enough indignation to go around any more, y'know?

In line with that notion, the last couple of lines of your post very neatly cover my feelings. Shit like this down the pub might get a laugh, whereupon I might just walk out. But shit like this launched into an industry full of educated, literate people -- well, I figure it gets its own reward without me having to allow myself to suffer too much negative feeling.

Nov. 26th, 2009 07:40 am (UTC)
I did indeed - and I do know what you mean, it's why mostly I don't bother with that stuff anymore (reading or commenting on it). I have much better things to do and read and get involved in.

Somehow I felt I needed to make comment about it because it was in my mailbox - it felt more intrusive and directed, in a way? And just cause I am weary, I don't think I should let it slide. Obviously the message is not yet getting through as it is. Giving up feels like condoning, in some ways.

And yeah, thought it was good to mention that ... not at the pub, not with a bunch of your friends but in an attempt to look profession, not always a good idea.
Nov. 26th, 2009 08:56 am (UTC)
Fair enough, too. I think the choice to respond or not is personal, and depends on how much energy you've got to put into these things, and what results you can hope for.

Mostly, I'm glad it's not getting to you too badly.
Nov. 26th, 2009 08:45 am (UTC)
The card sounds very offensive indeed and had that accompanied a query to us I would more than likely have dismissed the query out of hand, for the same reasons you highlighted above.
Nov. 26th, 2009 08:48 am (UTC)
I'm glad to know that!
Nov. 26th, 2009 09:00 am (UTC)
That's a good point, and one I forgot to mention: if I was sent something like that with a request-to-review, it's very unlikely I'd be co-operating. Presentation isn't everything, but it counts - and that's a seriously discouraging presentation right there.
Nov. 27th, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)
It's very unlikely that I feel like cooperating.

I'm not obligated to do people favours, nor people who insult me in this way.
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Nov. 27th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
Cheers but I might give the chainmail space bikini a skip this time. If it wasn't clear in the original post, I really am not interested in sighting this kind of depictions of females in SF.
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Nov. 27th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
Nah that's cool. I just don't get excited by bad examples of sexism.
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Nov. 27th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
PS was totally not trying to belittle your feelings/reactions to the card - I'm just flabbergasted a chain-mail bikini breakfast shot ended up on a book cover.

Really though? I mean are you *really* flabbergasted considering the context of this entire post? Why should, in this day and age, we be so shocked by the utter belittling and sexualisation of women as being the only representation they get in this genre? It's pretty much the only representation women get in this genre. And the people who perpetuate it are constantly shocked that people are appalled by their behaviour, yet they never seem to take the comments on board for self reflection.

*Hit's the replay button to play the same old tune.*
Nov. 27th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
Agreed 1000%.

Nov. 29th, 2009 12:51 pm (UTC)
I'm not bothered by gore imagery in horror for true artistic effect, but I loathe sexism, and that card would have pissed me off. As well as being sexist, it sounds rather bogan.

You've reminded me that I've received promos for a commissioned music review (pro market) with photos of STD afflicted female genitalia as "cover art" in one CD gatefold.

The only positive thing about receiving that package, was the reviews editor knew I'd critique the misogyny along with the rest of the product - he deliberately handed it on to a feminist writer. Outside the review I couldn't comment on it at the time in a blog, because my contract doesn't allow me to hint at mag content before a copy hits the newsstand - it was a really hard review to write, and I was quite proud of ZT for publishing it.

I'm sorry to hear you were upset by the card, but you're doing a great thing engaging with the issue here. A dialogue about these things is essential.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
Glad it's not just me.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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