Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To leaflet or not to leaflet

Ben, who is an artist and knows about such things - artists being well accustomed to doing their own promotion, a skill which even forms part of their Art School education - tells me that for every 100 leaflets you leave in bars etc, one person comes to your event. I groan. I am in the middle of putting together some leaflets for my Chorlton Book Festival event at Lounge Bar (7 pm, Monday November 17th). Maybe I shouldn't be bothering... Oh yes, I should, comes in Ben quickly. It's not just a matter of getting people into the particular event. It's also a matter of spreading the word about your art/book/product/career. For instance, naturally I'll have my website address on the leaflet... I groan again: I haven't thought of putting it on, and I've already printed half the leaflets.

So I spend Sunday evening writing it on the 100 leaflets I've printed so far, as well as the fact that Chorlton Bookshop will be selling books at the event, a courtesy promotion I've also omitted. This is all starting to seem just a tad tedious, not to mention unprofessional... Next morning - yesterday - I print another 80 (before the printer ink gives up) (new details incorporated) and set off from Didsbury to Chorlton for my Leafleting Trip. First, to Chorlton Library where I once led adult creative writing classes very conveniently just down the road from where I lived, to collect some of the nice black glossy festival brochures and official posters of my own event from David Green, who is organizing the whole Festival. David has got the brochure drop covered, so there I am concentrating on my own event, walking amid the orange falling leaves and dropping off leaflets of my own as I go.

First delivery is a single leaflet to the very house I lived in, because... well, would you believe that your son gets invited to his lecturer's house and it turns out to be the one he lived in as a small child? These are the weird coincidences that keep happening to me around that particular house. And as I walk towards it, it occurs to me that it is this street and this house which I used for part of Too Many Magpies, the book I'm in the process of promoting. By the time I'm approaching the house I'm experiencing the weirdest telescope of realities, the street of the book and the street of my own past both imposing themselves over the street of today. The door has been painted grey, which is weird, but the windows with their Belgian frosted glass are just the same, and so is the letterbox through which my letters of acceptance and rejection used to come, in those days before email. Actually, the house looks a bit shut up, blinds down on all the windows. I slip the leaflet through the door, and turn and stare at the street and the fact that the big tree outside the gate has gone and the pavement has been widened, but apart from that it's all much the same. And it's only as I turn out of the road again that I realize that I never noticed whether there are still black and red quarry tiles on the path, or the crazy paving I laid myself in the tiny front garden, and I'm thinking that maybe I just didn't want my memory disrupted...

On the main road I turn into a bar and am immediately stopped by the proprietor who is sitting in his vest outside and calls that he isn't open yet. He takes some leaflets from me grudgingly. As I'm walking away he is reading one and scowling, most likely at the fact that, since the event is in another bar, it is advertising a rival, and I have the distinct feeling they'll end up in a bin. Several bars cheerfully allow me to leave a contribution to their leaflet racks, but most of the other leaflets are for music events, and I have the sinking feeling that I'm not hitting my target market. Lounge Bar, of course, where the event is taking place, has a poster already, fantastically stategically placed on the window beside the door so you can't miss it as you walk in. The Battery Park cafe can only allow me to put one on the back of the toilet door, and there's only space near the edge where moving the lock ruckles it, and I can't see it lasting. Chorlton Bookshop, who are selling books at the event, willingly take a bundle of leaflets to slip into customers' bags, but when I'm too far on my way to Chorltonville to go back I realize that I didn't leave them nearly enough...

By the time I get to Chorltonville and Beech Road I'm feeling a little bit unsuccessful. I slip in through the doors of the Trevor Arms and say to the man behind the bar, who looks as if he might be the landlord, that I don't suppose for a minute he'd put up a poster for me. Well, he doesn't see why not! he cries, and takes it and looks and says approvingly, Yes of course he will! Wow. Encouraged, I go to the pub across the road where several gnarled and hairy blokes are standing around talking dramatically and stare with theatrical interest at my female intrusion, and a young barman with a shaven head and earring puts his thumb up when I ask, and goes so far as to find me some blu-tak and put the poster up for me, and suggests I leave some leaflets on the mantlepiece in the (at present empty) room where those people go, he says, who want a quiet drink. Even the nowadays genteel Horse and Jockey on the green accept leaflets. I wait (quite a long time) in the health shop while the nice lady there schools a not-very-well-looking young man in a tartan cap on how he needs to repopulate his gut, and am rewarded by her warm acceptance of a poster. And the newsagent takes one too, and the Takeaway chippie man says it's absolutely no problem love, and the Lead Station restaurant take leaflets, as does the all-day breakfast bar.

When I get to the bus stop, I don't feel I've had such a wasted trip: I've distributed 120 leaflets (that's 1.2 people likely to come to the event, according to Ben, after all!) and 6 posters, which I agree with Ben is probably the better way to go. And I've had a most nostalgic trip, and so it's fitting that as I get in through the door at home my mobile rings and it's Susannah from South Manchester Reporter wanting to make tweaks to my contribution this week to the column: Things I Love About South Manchester.


Kate said...

Okay you have to now deliver another 80 or you will end up with 0.2 of a person! Seriously good luck sounds like you are workign hard.

Kate x

Elizabeth Baines said...

I wouldn't like to think which 0.2!

Tony Williams said...

Isn't there something along the lines of, people have to hear or see about a product seven times before they buy it? In which case, even if the leaflets don't get anyone to the reading (I'm sure they will), it's all worthwhile. In fact, all you need is a group of people doing a pub crawl, and you'll have instant sales!

I really sympathise with the oddity of going back to the places you write about – weirdly unsettling. Sometimes I have consciously stayed away from a place while writing about it, for fear of rupturing the reality/fiction continuum; or, to put it more accurately, freaking myself out.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Yes, best to stay away: the 'real' place in your head is never the real place, really, if you see what I mean!

I had forgotten that about people needing to hear about a thing several times. Good point. Probably something to do with the need to 'normalize' things for people.