Maugham on Marketing

From a different time, W. Somerset Maugham recently appeared in the neighborhood free library box on the Belmont and 68th Avenue corner, near the Line 15 stop, in an old Penguin paperback of Cakes and Ale (1930). Here, he’s speaking of one’s own marketing of one’s own writing:

“When he stood on the platform, in evening dress admirably worn, or in a loose, much used, but perfectly cut lounge suit if better fitted for the occasion, and faced his audience seriously, frankly, but with an engaging diffidence, you could not but realize that he was giving himself up to his task with complete earnestness. Though now and then he pretended to be at a loss for a word, it was only to make it more effective when he uttered it.

18, Cakes and Ale, W. Somerset Maugham, Doubleday 1930. My found Library Box edition published in Penguin Books (U.S.A) 1993.

Maugham’s narrator is talking about the antagonist Alroy Kear, who “could use a man very shabbily without afterward bearing him the slightest ill-will,” and about which one critic actually said, “he [Kear] was a snob…he was a humbug.” (17).

Yet for Kear, we quickly learn:

“No club was so small, no society for the self-improvement of its members so insignificant, that Roy disdained to give it an hour of his time.”


Indeed, so magnanimous does Roy appear to be, that for the continued benefit of the younger writers he often mentions, he

“Now and then revised his lectures and issued them in neat little books. Most people who are interested in these things have at least looked through the works entitled Modern Novelists, Russian Fiction, and Some Writers; and few can deny that they exhibit a real feeling for literature and a charming personality.”


The problem, of course, is that there are far far too few “people who are interested in these things.” Thus the need to self-market, even if one has managed to appear in print by a gatekeeping trad publisher. Revisiting his book for a preface for a later edition, Maugham writes:

“When I wanted to draw the portrait of a writer who used every means of advertisement possible to assist the diffusion of his works I had no need to fix my attention on any particular person. The practice is too common for that. Nor can one help feeling sympathy for it. Every year hundreds of books, many of considerable merit, pass unnoticed.”


One wonders what Maugham might have thought or said of today’s social media outlets, the blogs and author’s pages, readings, panels, yesterday’s cheers and tomorrow’s cancellations, not to mention today’s rises and falls that occur indeed between any given sunrise and sunset:

“He must make himself a public figure. He must keep in the public eye. He must give interviews and get his photograph in the papers. He must write letters to The Times, address meetings, and occupy himself with social questions; he must make after-dinner speeches; he must recommend books in the publishers’ advertisements; and he must be seen without fail at the proper times. He must never let himself to be forgotten.

8. Bold font added.

And Maugham concludes his preface lamenting that at the time he wrote Cakes and Ale, the “cocktail party that is given to launch a book…did not flourish at the time.” Too bad, he suggests, “It would have given me the material for a lively chapter” (8). Could such a chapter be written today following an on-line Twitter or Zoom or blog book launch?

Meantime, we interrupt this post for a commercial break.

First Week Sales: Penina’s Letters

Amazon has reduced the paperback price of Penina’s Letters to $10.23. The e-Version is still $4.99. The photo on the left above is the e-Version cover, to the right the paperback front cover version.

I’ve had no control or input into the pricing changes of the paperback. Initially, Amazon suggested a price in the range of $9.99 to $19.99, and I chose $14.50 (I could not go below or above their suggested range). I might have given shipping and sales tax (which we don’t have here in Oregon) more thought.

Below might be too much information for the casual reader, but if you’re considering an indie project of some kind, you might be interested.

The most recent Create/Space sales report is showing 22 copies sold, all paperback. There could be a few more in the hopper, since sales information appears in the reports at different times depending on where orders are placed:

  • eStore royalty information is available within two to three days after a product has been manufactured (but I think this pertains to the Create/Space eStore). I’ve no idea why no Amazon e-Version copies are showing. Some readers might think they need a Kindle device, but the Amazon e-Version can be downloaded to other devices.
  • royalty information for books, DVDs, and CDs is available within two to three days after a product has been manufactured (There is no stock or inventory of Penina’s Letters – it’s printed “on demand,” i.e. when an order is received).
  • Amazon Europe royalty information for books is available within two to three days after a product has been manufactured.
  • Expanded Distribution royalties appear within 30 days after the end of the month in which the book is manufactured.

I’ll continue to update information as time goes on, and I’ll also be providing more background information on the book here on the blog, maybe weekly or so.

Thanks to everyone purchasing a copy! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please let me know. Feel free to post a review on Amazon after you’ve completed the book. You can do so “anonymously,” if you like. Please keep in mind that I am not Salty Persequi. Sal, my first person narrator, is, like all the other characters in the book, imagined – it’s fiction. Well, if you’ve been reading, you probably have already come to that conclusion, anyway.