Pub Rants

Potpourri of Publishing Tidbits

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STATUS: Do you know how hard it is to work today when it’s 78 degrees here in Denver and the forecast for tomorrow is for cold and rain. Sara and I are really making a heroic effort…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TAXMAN By The Beatles
(couldn’t resist playing this one today)

You guys are all way cooler and hip then I am so I’m definitely behind when it comes to pointing out other cool blogs and stuff. Just recently (I know, I live under a rock), I’ve discovered two new-to-me agent blogs that might be worth checking out—if they aren’t already a part of your daily reading.

Agent Nathan Bransford

And Agent Rachelle Gardner –who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference. She works in the CBA market (and I’m not talking basketball but Christian literature for those of you who might not know the acronym).

So that might be worth checking out.

And here’s an interesting tidbit (that will probably cause controversy) but what the heck, it’s worth sharing and discussing. My author Mari Mancusi participated in an anthology entitled THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR STOMPING. Her publisher, Dorchester, did an interesting promotion for this book. They partnered with an actual online shoe selling company so readers who pick up the book, which is about magical shoes granting powers, can actually buy the shoes featured on the cover via a website listed in the book.

This isn’t brand new as I can name at least two other books (one a YA and the other a nonfiction work) that also experimented with product integration.

Future of publishing going to heck in a hand basket or is this the publishing future as book readers decline and new sources of revenue need to be explored to make it viable?

Or is this just a cute concept for shoe lovers who might dig the boots that were made for stomping featured on the cover?

Let the discussion begin!

29 Responses

  1. Laura (Kramarsky) Curtis said:

    I find the boot thing fascinating because for a while now I’ve been working at this from the opposite side. In my day job, I make and sell glass beads. After getting sick of attempting to name my beads for website sales, I started naming them after my favorite mysteries. Soon thereafter I came up with an idea…sell book/bead sets. This doesn’t leverage the book to sell the bead, but works the other way around–I get to introduce some of my favorite authors to my beady customers. (Beaders read. A LOT.)

    Yes, it’s good for me as a beadmaker, too, because it gives me a “rep” for something unusual in my field. And yes, one day I hope to be doing this with my own books, but for the moment it’s just fun to be able to create new readers. The boot thing…well…unfortunately, I don’t think the world is so much in need of more boot-buyers, but then I am not in the shoe business!

    (You can see one of the tie-ins at Acts of Violets Book and Beads.)

  2. Jean said:

    My first reaction was, ‘neat idea’. But after I realized that they are well, (up here in Canada, there is no nice name for those kinds of boots,) I was disappointed and a bit disgusted.

    Despite the sellout factor, personally, I would hop on that bandwagon if I were an author and was given the chance. So, I guess I am torn on the idea. Marketing is everywhere and you can’t avoid it. For example, try buying a puzzle for a child that does not have some identifiable cartoon character on it. It is impossible. So, I suppose the question is: do authors want to be left behind or do we want to be the last stand when it comes to cross-over marketing?

  3. Hanakoalways said:

    I don’t know about any one else, but as a reader i rarely think about shopping while I’m reading. The book in and of itself is enough of a purchase for me. I don’t think after buying the book i would be compelled to then shop for shoes.

    Reading is generaly an escpae, a cheep escape, where you can be people, and do things you can’t be or do normaly. to then try to incorporate that into your every day existence is sort of defeating the purpous.

    That said, those are great boots.

  4. Deb said:

    IMO, this is special. Because boots are a type of shoe, and shoe-addicts are special, weird, hinky, lovable, obsessed people. So maybe they will love & adore a gimmick that might not work for the rest of us.

    Who’s to say? I believe they’re special.

  5. Amy Nathan said:

    When I read a book I love, I look for connections to the characters and especially to the author. I know this is about marketing and dollars, but if someone connected to my book enough to want to purchase something peddled in it…that would be a compliment!

  6. AJ said:

    I remember when the new series of Doctor Who came out and all the fans wanted to know where to get a jacket just like the one the 9th Doctor was wearing. Of course it turned out it was a second-hand shop purchase and the label was gone, but I imagine if that hadn’t been the case, there could have been some good connections there. As long as the medium (book, tv, movie) doesn’t go, “Wow, look at this great thingy-ma-bob you can get at this website for $24.95! We should all get some!” I say it’s a fine idea. Can’t do it for everything, but as long as it doesn’t go overboard, all the better. It’s like movie merchandise for books.

  7. beth said:

    There will always be tie-ins to some extent. I can imagine that someone might purchase that book because they liked the books…in which case, including a link to where to buy the boots would just be a convenience for them. It’s not like you have to buy both in a package set–if it ever comes to that, then I think you’re in trouble.

  8. Maggie Stiefvater said:

    *shrug* I don’t really think of this as a massive new trend — if the boots weren’t quite so kinky, maybe. But obviously they’re not something that every person who reads that book is going to go out and buy. So I don’t see it so much as a dollar thing as a cutesy sales gimmick.

    Doesn’t bother me!

  9. Julie Weathers said:

    Apparently there is a business that creates clothes and accessories seen on popular television shows.

    The only fashion boots I lust after are Anni’s boots in the Abba video Take A Chance.

    Platform shoes would only result in serious accidents and my children committing me.

  10. Ulysses said:

    Are things really so bad that publishing needs new sources of revenue to make the business viable?

    I can see it as a marketing ploy because there’s the possibility of making more money, but I hope it’s just a matter of making more money, not a matter of making enough.

  11. stephanie said:

    I’m all for the idea. In my day job, I do fundraising and marketing, so I know that even well-intentioned people (whether they’re donors or readers) have a lot going on, so it takes a lot to get their attention. A successful product tie-in will more deeply connect readers to the book – they’ll have something besides the book itself that makes them think about it and it will be a discussion item with their friends…and what’s better than word of mouth for widening your audience?

    The boot idea is cute (although I have to admit that those particular boots scare me a little), but obviously this concept will work better for some books than others. I happen to have a manuscript that features dogs, so the marketing potential is limitless. If there’s one thing people spend money on, it’s their pets, and I can’t wait to get my book out there so I can find fun ways to cross-market it.

  12. Anonymous said:

    I don’t really have a problem with tying book sales to a promotion (thought the ramifications can be a slippery slope to HE-Double Hockey Sticks, were I to let the imagination wander); my only fear is that the book sales will decline beyond the promotion, and the book will prove to be a one trick pony. Does that make any sense?

    As for the story idea, how’d MM get so lucky as to get in on that particular writing prompt? Someone flipping an idea into your lop and saying, “Write a couple short stories, they’re going to be published and you’re going to get paid.” must be pretty cool.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Now it won’t just be the B&N buyer who controls our book covers, but the corporate concerns who use them for product advertising. Isn’t it just a short hop, skip & jump to imagine those same corporate concerns weighing in on (i.e., censoring or determining) the content of the books they’re sponsoring with their advertising money. It’s an ugly, slippery slope (sorry, Faye Weldon!).

  14. Anonymous said:

    Aren’t we already seeing novels being written with corporate tie-ins? Nowadays there’s a complete section at B&N devoted to corporate series like Forgotten Realms, Battletech, Robotech and Dragonlance, books which authors are contracted to write, using an established world with approved content. And now, right in the middle of that rapidly expanding section, you will find books based on popular video games (HALO comes instantly to mind; I had to drag my son from the shelves to the plaintive cries of “But Dad, that book’s about Master Chief! Master Chief, Dad!”). Granted, those books based on games, movies and intellectual properties are a little different from hawking books about boots alongside actual boots, but the idea is basically the same.

    It is a little frightening. But books with content determined by corporate sponsors have been with us for a while, and as long as there are people who need money to buy food and pay rent, there will be people willing to write whatever is asked of them. I myself avoid movie tie-ins, books with neat logos over the titles (and I’ve been chastised for avoiding some things that are actually pretty good reads– a friend told me the RA Salvatore books are excellent), and most of all the video game based novels.

    Though being a confessed HALO addict in partial recovery, I would probably enjoy the hell out of writing a HALO novel. What could be a better way to get into your character’s POV than getting into his actual POV and fragging aliens for a couple hours. God, I’m sweating thinking about it… got to get to a meeting this week.


  15. Anonymous said:

    I think that the idea is wonderful… but I think that they could have choosen an article less… or more…
    well, let’s just say that if my daughter would come home wearing boots like that…she would be grounded… and if my son would bring a girl wearing boots like those, we would certainly know what is the profession of this girl.
    I think that companies should have class, and elegance. And they should convey class and elegance to their public. Why in h.. would I choose to look like a tramp ? Because, have no doubts, that is what all those girls that buy those boots will look like.
    And, I just realize that as open minded as I though I was…. there is a frontier that I am not willing to cross.

  16. Andrhia said:

    I assume the YA book you mean is Cathy’s Book, and that whole lipstick fiasco?

    I think this isn’t really new, it’s just finally creeping up out of the children’s book market. Look at the Cheerios book, or the cross-promotional behemoths of Mattel, Disney and Nickelodeon. It’s nigh unto impossible to walk into a small bookstore for my five-year-old and walk out with something for her that’s more literature and less marketing.

    (Though certain women’s fiction titles I’ve read drop luxury brand names often enough that they might as well count as cross-promotional…)

    I don’t think it’s evil, but I don’t think it’s going to exactly send us into a golden age of literature, either. But hey, new times call for new thinking on how to tell a story anyway.

  17. Michelle Miles said:

    I’m a shoe lover and this does not make me want to rush out to buy the book. In fact, I think the boots are awful. I would never put those on my feet, nor would I be caught dead in those. However, it works for the book cover. 😉

    I’ve heard of this before. There’s a YA book that integrated a cosmetic line – I can’t remember the name of it. I believe it was a journal-type book and the make-up would be available for girls to purchase so they could be like the main character. I’m thinking it was done through Cover Girl, but not sure on that.

    I suppose for the YA genre, if a girl wants to BE like the main character in a book, it would work. And who knows, maybe it is the future of publishing. But for me, I just want a good book that will entertain me. I don’t care so much for the hidden mareketing agenda inside.

  18. Ryan Field said:

    A mention about blogs: Jonathan Lyons writes one of the best agent blogs on the web, if anyone’s interested. He has a great post today about The London Book Fair that most writers would enjoy.

  19. Deanna said:

    New technology landscape = new cross-promo opportunities. I think it’s especially true for the YA market where their (readers)worlds are online. I personally don’t even think there’s much room for judgement here – the way of the world is what it is and kudos for the marketers for knowing that their markets are expanding.

  20. Wakai Writer said:

    Doomsday “this book brought to you by Pepsi” concerns aside, I’d sign on for something like this in a heartbeat. The way I resolve the struggle between my writing as art and my writing as product is through the knowledge that the better it sells as a product the more people will be exposed to the art.

    Therefore anything that gets people thinking, talking, etc. about it is 100% a plus for me (see stephanie’s comment above about word of mouth).

    Besides, for anything that becomes popular enough there will be spinoffs and replicas (ie if someone really loves the book they’ll try to find a pair of boots like the ones in it anyway), and I’d rather have some control over them than none at all.

  21. J.P. Martin said:

    I’m glad that you recognized Nathan Bransford in your blog. I’ve read all of his blog posts and I can say from personal experience that he is knowledgeable AND humorous. So definitely check him out.

    As for the book/shoe marketing campaign, I think that it isn’t a bad idea. We won’t know if it’s a good idea until the sales numbers come in. I always hear people say that the publishing industry is behind the times. A sale is a sale. This is a way to gain new ground. Hopefully it works.

  22. J.P. Martin said:

    I read Nathan Bransford’s blog on a regular basis and I can tell you that he is both knowledgeable and humorous. I highly recommend it.

    As for the book/shoe marketing strategy, I think that it’s not a bad idea. We won’t know if it was a great idea until the numbers come in. A sale is a sale. Hopefully it works.

  23. Kim Stagliano said:

    Well, children’s books have tie-ins all the time and no one bats and eye. Why not adult books. Er, not “adult” adutl books – those tie ins might be creepy, but you get my point.

    I can buy a book in Starbucks now. I’m sure that horrifies some people. I love it.

    I’m all for creative promotion. The market is tight, you need to stand out. If this opens a unique distribution channel then rock on, ladies!

    I like the idea. I love the boots. Alas, I can’t chase my kids in them….

  24. Anonymous said:

    People seem more concerned about the mildly whorish boots than they are about the ramifications of corporations sponsoring novels. Artistically, I think they chose those boots because they appear stern, in keeping with the enlarged word ‘Stomping’. A pair of Uggs wouldn’t go that well with the title– I don’t think they were selling THOSE particular boots as the promotion.

  25. Dave Kuzminski said:

    Product tie-ins have been around for a very long time. I recall a Man From U.N.C.L.E. book back in the 60s where one of the protags used a Gyrojet gun. There really was one then. Ammo for it was one dollar a round and I wanted one because it could put a .357 to shame.

    Look at the James Bond movies. Many, not all, of the gadgets featured in those are real, but they’re also very expensive.

    In fact, any time a character was described in any book, odds are that some clothing or other goods involved a brand name in order to get across the description to the reader. And if it didn’t exist yet, there are folks willing to see that it does. Think Jules Verne’s Nautilus or U.S. Robotics.

  26. Alys Sterling said:

    Weighing in because no one has said this yet – they’ve done it because how tragic would it be if you bought the book and then couldn’t find anywhere to get the boots?

    I mean, I live near Camden Town (that’s London, not New Jersey) so I can just go buy them in a shop, but someone living where I grew up (which would be Iowa) might have a problem finding them.

    Also, completely made for clubbing. For stomping, I’d recommend DMs. (That’s Doc Martens.)

  27. C.J. Redwine said:

    Oooh, I’d love to chime in on this debate, I really would. Unfortunately I’m busy googling how to buy those fabulous boots and, until I own them, can go no further.

    *proud shoe addict whips out Visa and goes to town*

  28. Katherine said:

    Maybe I’m confusing this with something else, but everything I’ve ever read about marketing tie-ins credits Charles Dickens with starting this — Pickwick Cigars and all that. So no, as other commenters have mentioned, it’s certainly not new, and if there was a slippery slope there, we slid down it some time ago — likely before anyone reading this blog was even born.

    Even if it doesn’t sell very many of the “other” product, the idea that these boots have been tied to a book and vice versa will sell a few extra boots and a few extra books, even if few people purchase both. I don’t see anything wrong with it so long as you’re up-front about it.