Thursday, April 3, 2008

Marketing Part I—Frontal Assault

At a recent conference, I bumped into my editor Lisa Mangum. Almost the first thing she said to me (other than that I’d turned her smiley faces into capital Js in the Q&A. Oops!) was that I should quit waiting for something new and exciting to happen on Book 1 of the series and get writing book 2. We both agreed that it is much easier to have the second book done before you hit the road promoting the first book. So, in good conscience, I can tell Lisa that book 2 is coming along swimmingly. Now I can get back to worrying about how book 1 will do in the exciting but crowded market of YA Fantasy.

Here’s the thing. I firmly believe “Farworld—Water” is good. (Okay, fine, I think it’s so freaking great people will beg for the next book in droves. But I’m not biased at all. Ha, ha.) The thing is . . . I also believe good isn’t always good enough. I once saw a sign in someone’s house that read, “Pray as though everything depends on God. Work as though everything depends on you.” Seems like a pretty sound strategy. Covering all the bases right? I’ve come up with a similar slogan. Maybe I can even get it embroidered on a pillow or something and keep it on my desk. “Write as though everything depends on your book. Promote as though everything depends on your marketing.”

I’ve actually got a little story I wrote to this effect called, “The Parable of the Artist and the Goat.” In essence it boils down to the fact that some darn good books have sold poorly because not enough people heard about them. It’s all about building a big enough snowball and getting enough speed to get it rolling. Numerous studies have been done showing that popularity creates greater popularity. In an isolated environment, people would judge a work solely on how much “they” liked it. But in the world we live in people often make decisions based on what they hear from other people. If we hear people taking about a book or a movie, we are much more likely to see that movie or read that book, and then talk about it with other people—which in turn creates more interest. It makes sense when you think about it. We like to discuss books, movies, restaurants, or whatever and we can only discuss them with people who have already read, seen, or eaten the same thing.

Of course you still have to have a good book or word of mouth can work against you. But getting that word of mouth is key, and as I discussed in a previous blog, it’s tough to get the word out with your first book. Technically this is my fifth book to be published. But the previous four were small print runs (5-10k) that mostly sold regionally, and in an entirely different genre. They gave me lots of training on writing a good story, but very little marketing momentum for the national market.

So over the next few days I’ll post some of the ideas I’ve come up with. And see what you think.

Big idea #1

A really huge release party. Everything I’ve heard says that the first week of sales has a huge impact on future orders. If I can get enough books to sell in the first day or two of the release, I will appear on charts which store managers see all across the country. Working with the lovely and talented Jennifer (Mrs. Savage), we contacted the local Barnes and Noble. Turns out they have a community relations person who is in charge of special events, school visits, book fairs, etc. Also turns out they can donate a % of sales from said event to a school or other group.

So far so good. I’m all in favor of donating money to a good cause. And what better cause than the local library? I LOVE libraries. Not like. LOVE!!! I think I must have spent half my childhood in libraries. Wandering down the fiction aisles and pulling out books at random is just about the coolest thing since wooden go-carts with tennis shoe brakes. It’s like standing in a movie theater and randomly watching the beginning of different movies until you find one you like, and watching it for free. When I make it big, I am going to have a library in my house that actually requires one of those rolling ladders, and it’s going to have cool leather furniture, and interesting odds and ends. But I digress.

So we talked to the librarian about doing a release party on the day the book comes out in front of the library. We would offer free signed posters, free bar-b-q sandwiches and drinks, drawings, and a percentage of every book sold would go to the library. All under a couple of those big white tents on the front lawn of the library on a Friday night in early September. Tell me that wouldn’t be awesome. Of course I would promote it by going to all the local schools and doing presentations for the two days building up to it. Fun huh?

I can also get it promoted and covered by the local papers who I know pretty well (my daughter works for one of them. Heh, heh.) which should generate even more sales for people who miss the event.

But here’s the kicker. Because it’s a fund raiser for the library, we can also put fliers in the utility bills of all 30,000 plus residents of our little town. Free food. Friday night in early September. Part of the sales go to the library. Brand new YA fantasy book in a brand new series. Local author signing. Drawings from local merchants. A flier sent to everyone in the city. Newspapers covering the event. All the schools visited beforehand. Tell me that won’t be a rockin way to kick of the book tour. And if I could sell 500 books or more that night, I would definitely show up on the B&N radar of all their stores.

Okay, so that’s step 1. Tomorrow, The Side Attack.


Suey said...

Great idea! I wish you all the luck in the world. I hope we see you at our school and library!

Brian said...

Cool! After the party, are you going to take a tour around the states??? That would be Awesome!!! I hope you get some big publicity.

Melinda said...

Fabulous ideas. Brilliant!

I will so be there!

Julie Wright said...

You know I think this is brilliant! But I am glad the wise Lisa told you to get writing on book two! I've been solidly waiting for over a year to find out what happens next. Such are the disadvantages of reading a fabulous book before publication.

Seriously though, your marketing ideas are wonderful. You will do great because you have a great product and a fabulous mind to make it all work (having a jennifer in your life certainly helps; everybody needs a jennifer)

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea. So, just to get this straight, Barnes and Noble is footing the bill for the BBQ and everything, and then the library gets a percentage of the income? Score!

J Scott Savage said...

Suey, where is your school and library?

Glad you asked. I'm going to blog about that on Saturday. But the answer is yes.


Excellent. So I have one attendee for sure! Looking forward to seeing you there.


Hey, it's all your fault for giving me great feedback on book one.


I wish. Borders will sell the books and give a percentage to the library. The rest is up to me and my publisher. I'm going to use a caterer from the area and get a better price on food by advertising for them in my flyers. I'm also getting local merchants to donate prizes. I'm sure I'll foot a good part of the expenses, but I can probably get my publisher to cover some costs too. I'd be happy if I break even as long as I sell a ton of books.

Candace E. Salima said...

Count me in . . . I'm there. Just let me know the exact date so that I can put it in my calendar.

I helped Brandon Sanderson do a launch party at Waldenbooks. We sold 187 books in two hours. It seriously rocked. If you need any ideas of how to build the buzz, drop me a line. You know how to get a hold of me.

Suey said...


Heather B. Moore said...

Awesome! I'm coming. Can you add chips and salsa to the BBQ?