3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer: Sarwat Chadda, author of Devil's Kiss

Monday, July 20, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Sarwat Chadda, author of Devil's Kiss

Hi Sarwat! Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Oh, I’ve been writing serious for about five years and my book DEVIL’S KISS is out here in sunny Britain and will be out in even sunnier USA 1st September (this photo is the US cover) .

It’s about a fifteen year-old girl, Billi SanGreal. She’s a recruit into what remains of the Knights Templar, a secret society of demon killers. I love Gothic horror and medieval history, especially the Crusades period. Though set in modern London my stories are a mixture of all those things, basically monsters, religion and sword fights.

I found my agent, Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary, through entering a writing competition. It’s a fantastic way of avoiding the slush-pile scenario, so do look bear comps in mind if you’re keen to break in. Plus it gives you an idea if you’re ready or not since a lot of these comps will include honourable mentions and runners-up.

Do you/your agency/your house have a website/blog? When did you start
it and who manages it?

I manage my own website, sort of. I also have a blog in there that I started as a bit of fun a year ago, but have recently really gotten into it. It’s mainly me rambling on about writing and getting stopped at airports. My UK publisher has also set up a website for Devil's Kiss.

In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and
must do to promote their book?

1) Okay, if you’re a kids’ author you really should visit schools. It’s not just good publicity but I think it helps remind you of what you’re doing. However much you think you remember your childhood, you don’t (especially if you’re my age).

2) Tours are something publishers organise and may seem a bit overwhelming, but just do your best to enjoy them, rather than dread them. They really aren’t that bad and audiences are humans too.

3) Websites go without saying, not sure about blogs. I can understand how they might end up being a chore. No-one forcing you into this job, so do make sure you remember to have fun. Even if you don’t become a blockbuster, being a writer is about loving what you do.



Did you think about marketing before your book was published? Did you
start prior to getting an agent or selling your book? If so, when and what
did you do?

There was never a formal marketing strategy because I think we were all caught a bit by surprise when the book went to auction the way it did. Therefore, I’ve spent the last year desperately playing catch up. I’m having to find out about the publishing industry very quickly.

Meanwhile I’m concentrating on writing, which should always be the priority, don’t you think?
However, marketing is hugely important and there are some writers out there that have built awesome fan-bases over the Internet. Maybe it’s a generational thing but I’m a bit old fashioned about this. I really enjoy the school visits side of things so will probably build my marketing around those and the school visits are really best once the book is out.



What other advice do you have for authors/writers regarding marketing?

Mold the marketing to suit you, rather than try and copy someone else’s strategy. If your strength is face to face and mixing it up with an audience, do that. If you’re a great blogger and write entertaining blogs and die at the idea of standing in front of a crowd, focus on the Internet stuff instead.

But remember, you can be taught. If you want to do audience work, so go on a public speaking course. Or learn website design. Play to your strengths. That’s the best way to enjoy marketing, which otherwise can feel a bit like a chore.

Do you have a formal marketing plan or is your marketing more random?
If not, why? Would you like to?

My marketing’s pretty random right now because I’m trying a few different things and haven’t quite decided what works best for me. This’ll carry on for a bit longer then in the fall I intend to be a bit more organised. I recently did my first writing workshop and that was fun. It was centred around why The Devil Wears Prada is the same plot as The Godfather. It’s all smart suits and power. Now I know I can make that work and enjoy doing it, I’ll do a few more.

What creative things have you done to promote a book?

I love role-playing so wanted to get the audience to participate whenever I do an event. I’ve got a few props so we get a few kids up to act out a scene they themselves make up. It’s usually pretty gruesome, but very funny. It keeps you on your toes too since you never know what they’re going to come up with and somehow you’ve got to help them turn it into a semi-coherent scene.

How did you market yourself to agents/editors before you were published?

I didn’t. Let’s not forget this is about the book. The book must stand alone. My background is in construction, so I knew nobody in publishing at all. I only joined writers groups AFTER I had an agent and book deal. I think people might believe that there’s some secret trick to getting published. There isn’t. Learn how to write. Write a great story. Agents and publishers are DESPERATE to find great new novels. Be charming, funny, approachable and clever all you want at agent parties and signings and publisher events. It’ll all help BUT only once you have a great book to sell.

I believe the marketing will be built around that. Not the other way around.

Thank you for joining us today!

Thanks Shelli.


jdsanc said...

Great interview. Don't ask me how I found your site, but so glad I did. Even though we hear this all the time, and tell it to our children, just be yourself, it's always worth reminding. I've been wondering about the blog vs not blogging for a long time, but I absolutely love the community aspect, and the chance to come across something like this.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

What a down to earth guy. His book sounds wonderful. I love how very clear he is about what REALLY matters--the writing/the book. Everything else is gravy. Thanks for interview! Always look forward to 'em.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

This was a total pleasure to read. I love the premise of the book, the journey to publication tale and Sarwat's approach to writing and marketing. I look forward to tracking down this book when it's released. Thanks to both of you.

Christina Farley said...

Great interview and good suggestions. I agree as a teacher that having an author come to a school can really pump kids up about that author but I wasn't sure how it works in the high school setting. I work in elementary school but do authors do visits in high schools?

Casey Something said...

Absolutely fabulous advice, especially the bit at the end!

Crystal said...

LOVE this interview with Sarwat, Shelli! I really liked reading about his journey to publication and the advice he gave about playing to your strengths, marketing-wise. And he gave such common sense advice, though, not only about marketing, but what matters most--THE WRITING.