Friday, April 4, 2008

Marketing Part II—Side Attack

Yesterday I wrote about my release party, and the goal of starting off with a bang. You’d think that would be the first of my marketing objectives since it coincides with the book’s release. Before I started writing, I just assumed the actual marketing didn’t start until the book came out. After all, what would be the point of marketing a book that isn’t even released yet, right? Man was I wrong.

Turns out that much—if not even most—of the marketing for a book takes place long before the book ever hits the selves, just so it actually will hit the shelves in quantity and people will be looking for it. In book sales you have two things to consider: distribution and demand.

Distribution is putting the book in a place where you can buy it. Of course these days nearly all new books are available online through Amazon, B&N, or even the author’s own web site. But the huge majority of books are still purchased through brick and mortar stores. If I want to have successful sales, I need to get my book on the shelves of as many stores as possible. Fortunately for me, this is all handled by my publisher. I already know my book will be carried by all the major retailers and most of the independents as well.

The second issue, demand, is where I can have some impact. Working hand in hand with my publisher, I need to make sure people look for my book, or having on the shelf space won’t help me much. One thing I can do is get the word out early. And who better to get the word out on the B&M side of things than the bookstore employees themselves. Bookstore employees can be your greatest asset or possibly a detriment. It all depends on how much they know about you and your book. I’ve done book signings where the store employees were actually recommending another book in my exact same genre while I was there. On the other hand, an employee who likes you and your book can hand sell dozens of copies.

Obviously, I want bookstore employees to know my book so they can recommend it. I think this is especially true of children’s/YA books, where parents often come in to buy their kids “a” book not a specific book. They may not know what book to get, so they ask the employee what they would recommend. Also, and I know this sounds strange, but I want them to know me personally. That’s because people like to sell the books of authors they know. It’s great to be able to recommend a friend.

This brings me to part two of my personal marketing plan. In early May I’ll be getting my ARCs. Fortunately Shadow Mountain will get me as many as I need—not typical with most publishers, which is one of many things that makes them awesome! I live about smack dab in the middle of Utah. Within a one day’s drive, I can reach Las Vegas, Idaho, Denver, all of Utah. Focusing just on Utah, Denver, Las Vegas, and Southern Idaho there are the following number of bookstores:

Utah: 3 Borders, 2 Waldenbooks, 10 Barnes and Noble, 1 B. Dalton
Las Vegas: 7 Borders, 3 Borders Express, 4 Barnes & Noble, 2 B. Dalton
Southern Idaho: 1 Borders, 1 Waldenbooks, 1 Barnes & Noble
Denver Area: 8 Borders, 2 Waldenbooks, 1 Borders Outlet, 12 Barnes & Noble

So that’s a total of 58 stores. In addition, Deseret Book, parent company of Shadow Mountain, has 29 Deseret Book stores, and another 23 Seagull stores in the same areas as above. That’s a total of 87 stores. Add the good size independents and we are over 100 stores.

I figure if I take off on Friday afternoon and work through Saturday—coming home Saturday night—I could hit all of those stores over the course of 5 weekends. That means by the time my book actually comes out there will be a minimum of 100 stores that will personally know me and my book. But because I also travel quite a bit for business, I should be able to hit at least another twenty or thirty stores in the evenings.

So let’s be somewhat conservative and say I only make it to 120 stores. Who will I meet? Everyone I can. No point in taking all the trouble of going to a store and not meeting the whole gang. I’ll probably bring some kind of giveaway too. Chapter books, bookmarks, whatever. But in each store, I am specifically looking for the person who runs the children’s books section. That’s who I’m giving my ARCs to. I also want to meet the person who handles school events, book signings, etc. In the Seagull stores the manager does pretty much all of that, so I’ll target them unless they have an employee that specializes in kids books. I’m also going to visit some of the bigger independents. No point in going by the big box stores (WalMart, Cosco, etc), because they don’t have anyone who recommends books for the most part.

At this point I’m sure some of you are asking who’s going to foot the bill for several thousand miles of driving and at least three nights in a hotel? That would be me. Could I get my publisher to pay for it? Probably. But they’re going to be doing my big book tour when the book is actually out. And they are providing all the ARCs. To me it’s a no brainer that I invest some money now to start the snowball rolling, and hopefully make a bunch of friends down the road.
So that’s part two of the plan. Seed every major bookstore within a 24 hour drive with advance copies of Farworld Book 1, and whatever kind of goodies I have. Tomorrow stay tuned for bringing up the flank—part 3 of my marketing plan. Finally on Monday we hit the internet streets hard with the blog tour promotion and prepare to give away 400 advance reader copies!


Melinda said...

I am so glad that you are posting these plans and ideas. I for one would have no clue how to approach the idea of selling a book.

This is very cool.


J Scott Savage said...

Well, I guess we'll see if they work or not. But that makes the process interesting as well.

Candace E. Salima said...

You, my friend, are an inspiration to us all. You are absolutely right on target with this bookstore thing . . . travel away. I'll do what I can to promote your book as well.