Lessons in Marketing: Toby Litt

Typically, I can­not find a web link to the art­icle that Toby Litt wrote in the Guardian Review a couple of weeks back, and neither can I remem­ber exactly what he was writ­ing about, but it was great. So great, in fact, that I had bought a copy of Litt’s latest, Ghost Story, with­in an hour. How’s that for effect­ive mar­ket­ing?

(Heads-up apo­lo­gies for the style of this entry. I’m going to fire it off pri­or to a sunny lunch at Exeter’s quay.)

To Litt. Of course, I’ve heard of Litt. Like many renowned authors I have not yet read, his name is vaguely famil­i­ar, and dur­ing the read­ing of Ghost Story I real­ized that I had heard a review — mostly pos­it­ive — on Newsnight Review some­time last year.

If Litt’s first piece of mar­ket­ing was to write a great piece in the Guardian Review, his second was to write a great nov­el. Maybe that isn’t mar­ket­ing at all. It reminds me of the one les­son I’ve learned in the year-and-a-bit that I’ve been a pub­lished nov­el­ist: The strongest tool in your mar­ket­ing arsen­al is the qual­ity of your product. Sure, your need expos­ure, and the sup­port of your pub­lish­er, and some help­ful people who like your book. But your prose will dry up on the way to the sea if it is not strong at the source.

Ghost Story begins with a sur­real sec­tion that appears to have a ground­ing Litt’s own life (though I may be mis­taken) and out­lines a fam­ily tragedy. The prose is dense and calls upon many meta­phors, cites poetry, and the words roar off at tan­gents barely con­trolled (that’s the impres­sion, and may be incor­rect) by the writer. The tragedy involves the death of a child. The book then makes a jump-cut to fic­tion, where the young couple Paddy and Agatha are buy­ing a house. By the next chapter, some­thing has been sub­trac­ted from their lives, and the rest of the book details their jour­ney through loss, a slow excor­cism of a dead baby called Rose.

Ghost Story is a great book. The little gauge that all writers, if they’re hon­est, have at the back of their minds when read­ing the work of anoth­er — that little gauge shot up to the level marked ‘This guy is good, and the chances that I can pro­duce some­thing as good before I retire are low’. Ghost Story is vivid, beau­ti­ful, con­tains truths, and moments where I stared in hor­ror at the book (I’ve nev­er done that before, even though I’m a fan of the hor­ror genre). So, mar­ket­ing again: Litt has pro­duced the product. Now you know about it. All you need to do is click here. You won’t be dis­ap­poin­ted.

To lunch!

*gal­lops away*

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

One thought on “Lessons in Marketing: Toby Litt”

  1. I read Corpsing when it came out and thought it was “OK-ish”. Not OK enough to make me read any of his oth­ers, but maybe I should be encour­aged by your post­ing.

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