Stealth Marketing in the Grand Tradition of the British Navy.

OK, I’ll admit, it’s a tenuous connection, especially in the extremely likely event I’ve got my facts wrong, but there is this lovely story about Admiral Rodney; that he was concerned that the demand of the British Navy for oak trees to make ships was outstripping British supply. He therefore carried acorns in his pockets and dropped them wherever he went. Actually, it may not even have been Rodney who dropped acorns wherever he went… thinking about it, I have a vague recollection that it was some Elizabethan dude…

Sadly I haven’t been able to get a sniff of conformation on this story in connection  with Admiral Rodney or anyone else. The internet, usually a rich source of substantiation for such bollocks, is disturbingly mute on the topic. Then again, it might have been invented in Britain but it’s definitely American and the demand for trivia pertaining to European history is probably limited over there. I expect I’d be more likely to find it using Possibly… if I was better at French. Or maybe I’ll have to find “Our Island’s Story” a three book set of the most engaging and charmingly written, albeit ideologically unsound and dubiously jingoistic, version of British history ever produced.

But I digress. The reason I mention it is because in a small way I like to think I am upholding this proud naval tradition… except with flyers and bookmarks advertising my books rather than acorns.


Eyebombing, harmless naughtiness.

Seldom, do I leave the house without my  pockets weighed down by promotional literature; two business card sized things for books one and two, book marks for three and four, and a packet of googly eyes – because if my target area proves unsuitable for leafleting, there’s always eyebombing.

Wherever I go, I leave promotional bumpf, printed at bargain basement cost. If there’s a rack, I put them in. I was particularly gratified, after leaving some in a hotel when I arrived for the night a couple of weekends ago, to find that the staff had straightened them all out nicely with the other leaflets when I went to breakfast the next morning. As if they were legit.

It helps that as a 45 year old bag, I can pretty much dump these things where they’re not supposed to be in broad daylight, because I look like an upstanding member of the community who is far to old to do anything furtive, subversive or childish. Even if I’m right there, sticking googly eyes on the back of a builder’s lorry, or walking into Starbucks and laying out my  leaflets as if I’m a member of staff, I get the impression that the people who witness it can’t quite believe their eyes or assume my presence there is kosher.

There are other stealthy methods I employ. I leaf through books in the fantasy and science fiction departments in book shops and libraries and slip my cards between the pages for readers to find. I shoved a load into all the Terry Pratchett books in Tesco. I leave them on tables in restaurants and bars, on shelves in stores, slipped behind mirrors in public loos. Naturally I left them on the seat on the tube – on the few occasions I went to London.  I slip them under the windscreen wipers of nice looking cars. Indeed, I have not been above sticking fridge magnets with them on to lamp posts in my locale. Sometimes I even leave whole books. I have even convinced myself that all this works because I have been contacted by a fellow who went home and bought both my books after he and his wife started reading a copy one I left on the shelves in Costa.

Perhaps it sounds a bit strange but all this clandestine activity makes me feel better. As if I am at least pushing the envelope, even if I seem spectacularly unable to push my actual books onto anyone.

It’s easy to get disheartened being an author, even about the things that make you happy, so, for example, a while back, an author friend had a book picked as a read of the month on a forum I visit. I was genuinely over the moon for him because he’d missed out for so long. But it also made me feel a bit disheartened because it occurred to me that of the authors I know well, in the cyber sense, on that forum, I am now the only one who hasn’t ever had a book read in the monthly reads thing. Occasionally stuff like that catches me on the hop and makes me churlishly low – even while I’m being delighted for someone else. I suspect it’s because books are very personal things to write so it’s easy to take that sort of thing the wrong way and feel like the kid in the playground nobody wants to talk to.

Well, we all go through these ups and downs but folks, if you’re going through a down like that I proscribe a bit of stealth marketing, or, if you read books rather than write them, try a bit of cathartic eyebombing. Seriously, it’s a hoot and it’ll pep you up in no time.

So anyway,  it was with much amusement that I read this post on indie hero recently confirming  two things. First, I am not the only one who likes a bit of stealth – he calls it guerilla marketing. Second – tsk – I missed a trick.

I must make myself some stickers.


Filed under General Wittering

31 responses to “Stealth Marketing in the Grand Tradition of the British Navy.

  1. I’m very impressed, MT. I have a few promotional things printed out, but I haven’t taken to handing it out. Every time I begin to work up the courage, I have this vague fear that someone will track me down and scold me for littering their premises. So many business post “no solicitation” signs. Sigh. I’m just not a gutsy person. What I have been doing to market (which you might want to try) is participating in group giveaways. It’s cheap or free in most cases, and helps gain exposure. I’ll let you know if I sell any books as a result.

    • We’re pretty louche about that in GB. No dodgy notices like that here. I missed a trick though. As I went through airport security I got out my kindle, complete with case with one of my book covers on it and the chap said, “wow! What’s that?” I explained and he was interested but the pocket full of flyers it usually contains was empty. Could have kicked myself. 🙂

      I have a sort of giveaway on. Book 1 of my trilogy is perma free, now, in anticipation of the next two.



  2. MT, you have a way of writing that makes me laugh. Good on you for leaving your bumph wherever you go! We writers must take advantage of every opportunity. Maybe I’ll do up some fridge magnets next…..

  3. Reblogged this on willmacmillanjones and commented:
    Eyebombing… Got to start that!

  4. Eye bombing….MTM will be Rick rolling next!

  5. It was Admiral Collingwood
    Most were probably cut down to make pit props for the trenches during the first world war
    But Yes, I’ve copied your habit of carrying a couple of books about my person in case of impulse buyers (Stop me and buy one 🙂 )

  6. Good ideas. I may have to let it ferment for a couple days and see what I can come up with.

  7. texasdruids

    Reblogged this on Lyn Horner.

  8. texasdruids

    MT, I need to steal a page from your playbook. I have piles of promo materials stuffed in boxes. Time to dig that stuff out and start spreading it around. Thanks for the cool ideas!

    • Go for it! I’ve no real idea if it works but, hey, we can hope, and it makes me feel as if I’m doing something over which I have control when a lot of that final push seems to be down to luck: fairy dust and unicorn poo. At least this way it feels as if I’m making my own luck. Oh and thank you for the Reblog.



  9. Someone will eventually pick up your book, and feel that it was written just for them.

    They may even feel chosen, because they found their new favourite book on the train, by chance.

    Great idea.
    – Kim, Eyebombing founder.

  10. Thanks for linking to my blog – – I really appreciate it…

  11. I can just picture you leopard-crawling around phnarking under your breath – ultimate coolness! I’ve just ordered some mugs and t-shirts as well as the cards, so I’ll follow the master now and do as you do. 😀 What are the eyeball stickers?

  12. What a great idea! I have never thought about doing stuff like this, it’s really interesting and imaginative! 🙂

  13. HA! I read that article on Indie Hero, too. It was great, but I think you’ve got them beat…sticking bookmarks into books at bookstores?! Brilliant!! I’m totally stealing your ideas…once I have a book to push, that is. 🙂

    • Go Megan! I have to say I did give #slowreaders a bit of a plug on the creative penn today – another excellent article about the London Book Fair (which I should be at but aren’t because something has to give and I’m on holiday in Texas) and how indie authors can do really well after about ten books and how it’s not a 9-5 job (I wish I had the luxury of doing it 9-5) but if they throw every spare hour at it they will succeed and I just thought, ‘meh’ and then I read Dan Holloway’s book on the way down here and began to feel there may be a second way for people like us… Which I must research and blog about when I get home.



  14. ..absolutely LUV THIS ! 🙂

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