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This article is taken from PN Review 56, Volume 13 Number 6, July - August 1987.

How to Push Poetry Desmond Clarke
DESMOND CLARKE, formerly Marketing Director of Faber and Faber, gives a highly personal account of how he sold the Eliots and Audens of the future.

It is 8.10 am on the Edinburgh Shuttle. In Row 6, breakfast is served to an Easter Egg salesman, an advertising account executive, and me, the marketing director at Faber and Faber. All three of us have a product to sell and a sales pitch to go with it, from 'market penetration' to 'total merchandise support'. In my case, the product is one of the most distinguished publishing lists in the world, which starts with T. S. Eliot and continues with W. H. Auden, James Joyce, Philip Larkin, Lawrence Durrell, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, and William Golding. But it is Golding who reminds me how much I have in common with my two companions, because it was Golding who once described himself, with characteristic modesty, as 'an author, essential, but only the starting point'. Between the genius of Golding and the reader on the Clapham omnibus, or the Edinburgh Shuttle, there is a long line of intermediate customers, all of whom are part of the large machine it is my task to activate. True enough, I have a quality product, but like my companions with their polystyrene mock-ups and video rough-cuts I have to employ every trick of the trade to generate interest and excitement.

In a sense, the sales force, the reps, are the first customers and any marketing director knows, ...


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