Advertising Fiction

Patbookmark Once upon a time, in a place not so far away, I used to spend eight hours a day writing, editing, proofing, and researching my books. I may have spent half an hour at most on email, probably because it was long distance on my dial-up. Ancient times, indeed.

This morning, I spent an hour establishing Twitter and Facebook accounts for a pseudonym I’m hoping to develop for a new type of urban fantasy book I’ve written. I commented on a blog I posted last night, and spent another half hour answering e-mail related to an author co-op for e-books I’m publishing. I had time to squeeze in a few MerelyMagic-SH-2 hours of editing next January’s Sourcebook release, before researching this blog for the wenches. I’m researching blogs now. Later, I need to spend some time on the Kindle boards to promote my e-books, go to my main Facebook and Twitter pages to see what my readers are doing, scour the internet for images suitable for the next book, and talk to my webperson about a newsletter and an update on the homepage for my Merely Magic reissue. Oh, and I have to create a PDF file for a reviewer copy of an original e-book coming out in April.

  Ephesus_31 I figure by day’s end, I’ll have spent four hours on editing and eight on promotion. Just exactly when can I start writing again?

In the interest of curiosity and frustration, I researched advertising and promotion to see who started this insanity, but let’s face it, even the prostitutes in Ephesus advertised their wares by carving directions into stone. (can't find that photo but I dare say this one is Caesar's proclamation to some great achievement–a political ad!) But I’m blaming Benjamin Franklin for the first American advertising, and Pear Soap for the leap from plain text to the first case of branding. Argh, ptui.

According to Advertising Age , the first newspaper ad was in 1704 selling property on Long Island (I’m suspecting no Indians bought it).  In 1729, Benjamin Franklin began publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette and supporting it with the “new advertisements.” For quite some while after that, ads were simple Gazette paragraphs along the lines of Dr. Franklin will be at the corner of Sixth and Vine to sell his hair restorative on Tuesday.  Or Runaway slave, six feet tall, answers to Lou. Contact Joe Schmoe.  Medicine was a popular product and snake-oil salesmen were probably our first ad accounts, but there were no grandiose declarations or attempts to explain product, just the facts, ma’am. (image at

But then Pear’s Soap came along. Andrew Pears was a barber in Soho at the end of the 18th century. He developed a line of cosmetics to help the wealthy disguise dark complexions or conceal skin marred by arsenic cosmetics and harsh soaps. He experimented until he developed a clear soap based on glycerine that became extremely popular because it was original and smelled like flowers. Back in those days, word of mouth sold more soap than he could manufacture. (

Pears But as the business grew and imitations developed, his grandson’s son-in-law, Thomas Barratt, the ultimate snake-oil salesman, took over the company about the mid-19th century. He had French advertising coins manufactured, associated famous people with his “brand,” and used picture advertising of children that equated Pears soap with purity and innocence. His famous bubbles ad made advertising history ( Under his direction, Pears became the first registered brand. (I still shudder when told I need to develop my brand—I’m not soap, thank you!) So maybe I should hate Thomas Barratt instead of Benjamin Franklin.

I understand the need for promotion and branding in this day and age of too much information. I know if I could just write “light, funny, Regency romps” I could develop an association in the reader’s mind. My misfortune is that while I enjoy Regency romps, I also want to write satirical fantasies and alien YAs and a whole host of unrelated material. And because in this economy, publishers rely on sales numbers to buy books, I can sell books a whole lot easier under my name than under any pseudonym—unless I mysteriously brand the pseudonym without having a book out. Jolly fun. So I either choose to write one type of book or find someone willing to take a risk helping me develop a new name. And a second name means twice the promotion. Double argh!

Do you buy by author name? By cover? Or do you just take any book someone hands you and happily enjoy a surprise?  How do you learn about the books you read?