Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Globetrotting for Writers

New Zealanders are pre-programmed to travel. Most of us are descended from immigrants only one or two generations back. And being down there in isolation at the end of the world, we like to do overseas experience, "the big O.E." as a part of our career and education. My story isn't quite typical, because most people go home after a year or two. Me, I'm an incurable globetrotter and had almost a full eight years abroad. And I'm abroad again right now.

But I'm also an incurable writer. Travel is a good thing for inspiration, not so much for marketing. Being on the go means it's hard to build up notoriety in any one place. That's why the Internet has taken on a high value in all my strategies—more than would be required if I lived somewhere close to my readers. I cannot easily arrange local booksignings or similar in-person events, so I have no choice but to lean heavily on the World Wide Web.

Guess what? This has its own advantages. All of my marketing time is spent on online efforts, and not a whit on traditional avenues. I work at a flotilla of web presences, interacting with thousands of people on dozens of networks. As a science fiction writer, this brings the added bonus that sci-fi fans can be found congregating in all sorts of hidden corners of the Web. A good marketing day for me is when I find a new geek den full of kindred spirits.

What would happen if the Web collapsed? Apocalypse? Not really. I'm writing about that just now, actually. It wouldn't kill anyone. But, blimey, it would make things jolly hard for globetrotting authors, wouldn't it? Or would we all go back to good old traditional publicity stunts? Oh my gollygobs, if there were no telly, we'd be back to sandwich boards in no time. What fun.

It's a perplexing matter though when American critique partners try to "correct" my British spelling. C'mon guys, who invented the language, huh? The Queen would not be amused, I daresay.

I've worked as a fruit stacker and a police investigator. Helped catch crooks and save lives. Been stuck in Timbuktu, on a tiny Scottish island in stormy weather, and in the recent Dublin floods. Lived in tropical wildernesses and in deepest, darkest Bavaria—in the corner of a kitchen and in a thousand-year-old house. Flown on one-way tickets more often than I remember, many times lacking any clue of what I might do when I get where I'm going. Survived on porridge and prayers. Played guitar in city streets a hundred times. Met the oddest people in the oddest places, learned a handful of languages, and heard many varieties of spoken English. I ask you: How can this not help my writing?

While peculiar experiences may not be a direct aid to marketing, nor even to the craft of writing, they do greatly influence my plots and settings. We've all heard it a million times: A good story is what attracts readers the most. Marketing is worthy of effort, yes. But I'll never forget that my books themselves are their own advertising.

Which brings me to another point of interest. New Zealanders are a die-hard do-it-yourself bunch. We're known for solving most problems with coathanger wire and duct tape. That's why it doesn't bother me in the slightest to self-publish—in fact, on my last visit home it helped me get a nationwide radio interview. Again, the book—together with the website—is its own best marketing. Professional input, plus a steep learning curve, raises a project above the regrettable dregs of the POD world. Only the best will succeed.

So if you're marketing from the ends of the earth, find how the quirks of the culture you live in may help you in your writing journey. But most of all, soak up the unique atmosphere of the place where you are, and use it to make your writing stand out from the rest. An apparent disadvantage might turn out to be your advantage. All things DO work together for good.


  1. What a marvellous post Grace. I can almost hear your Kiwi accent. Gollygobs? That's an interesting figure of speech.
    Congrats on conquering the pressure of marketing. I am tempted to try my unpubped books that way. But first I'd need a l-o-t of help from my friends! Happy travelling.

  2. So true and such a great post Grace. At a recent conference I had editors/agents intrigued by my "voice" and when I looked at it I realized most of it was because words and phrases I thought were in international common usage were Kiwi-isms!

  3. It is so true that our writing reflects our lives. You globe-trotting life intrigues me. On the other hand, I currently live a scant 60 miles from where I was born. While I have traveled from coast-to-coast in the USA, it was with a specific destination in mind and a strictured time frame. There has never been enough time to soak in a new atmosphere.

    No wonder my characters are firmly rooted in place - or seeking a place to set down roots. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

  4. Grace, great post! I totally agree that writing an excellent book is your best marketing strategy. There are indie authors who do a great job at marketing but when you actually read a sample of their work you can't help but feel disappointed and wish they had put more effort into writing a great story. Enjoy your traveling and weaving your unique life experiences and exotic locations into your stories :)