Pub Rants

Category: promotion

Let’s Talk Co-Op

STATUS: I’m blogging before 7 p.m. Makes me feel like I’m ahead of the game today!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’VE MADE ME SO VERY HAPPY by Blood, Sweat, & Tears

I probably shouldn’t make an assumption as I start this blog entry that readers know what Co-Op means. Given that, I’ll start with what it means in publishing. When we say co-op, we are using this as a short-hand term for referring to a process of publishers paying booksellers for the privilege of having certain titles prominently displayed on front tables, endcaps, or shelves when a book is initially released.

Otherwise, the book is unpacked and placed on the regular shelf—and if you’re really lucky, maybe placed there face out. Usually it’s just the spine that is showing.

Now as you can imagine co-op placement doesn’t occur for every title; it can’t. Too many books are published on any given day which means booksellers can only accept X number of titles for co-op placement depending on the size of the store. And it goes without saying that publishers only have so much money to pay for co-oping as well.

In general, publishers reserve co-op for their big authors and/or lead titles on any given launch list.

But even as I’m writing this and you are nodding your head, you are probably realizing that bestselling titles tend to be prominently displayed for months on end—even years sometimes. Surely the publisher hasn’t paid for the privilege for all that time?

And you would be right. There is an interesting balance dance between bookstores/sales outlets and publishers. Initially, if a title or author is new, a publisher has to pay to get that prime real estate. However, when a title/author has proving him/her/itself, then the balance tips in favor of the publisher as they then no longer have to pay for that prime location. It becomes in the seller’s best interest to have that title prominently displayed because it’s a money maker for them as buyers will be looking for that author or title. And hopefully they’ll buy other titles too on their way to the cash register.

And then there are programs such as Borders Original Voices. If a title gets picked for this program (and the Borders buyer does the picking—publishers cannot pay for this privilege), then a title or author is going to get the full support and backing of this outlet in all kinds of really positive ways—prime location just being one of them. Now publishers do send out hundreds of ARCs for a shot at the possibility but other than that, they have no say in what will be chosen.

It’s a wonderful thing to be picked for this as you can imagine.

Buddy Can You Spare A Buck?

STATUS: I’ve actually been working on two contracts today—in between some necessary phone calls.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GYPSIES, TRAMPS & THIEVES by Cher
(Now you know I can’t possibly be lying about what’s playing on the iPod if I’m willing to ‘fess up to this song being there!)

I read in my daily email from Publishers Weekly that Orbit (the SF&F imprint of Grand Central Publishing) is doing an ebooks promotion [click for the site and where you can buy] for a buck.

Excerpt from the Article:
“In a bid to promote its print and digital lists, Orbit is offering dollar e-books to readers on a rotating basis. Marketing and publicity director Alex Lencicki said the program is currently “open-ended” and will continue as long it is successful. When asked how the success of the program would be measured, Lencicki said if the dollar e-book drives either print or digital sales–or turns readers on to a particular series–it will be a hit.”

First up is debut author Brent Weeks THE WAY OF SHADOWS.

I just did me a one-click to my Kindle. A buck for a brand new book? Heck yes, I’m willing to try a debut author.

What say you?

The How Behind the Perfect Chemistry Rap Video

STATUS: I’m thinking of relocating my agency to the Cayman Islands. Ack. When I left the Caribbean yesterday, it was 80 degrees and sunny. Luscious blue water. When I landed in Denver, it was -4 degrees. Yes, you read that right. Setting all kinds of records here. The high today was 15 degrees.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan

By request, Simone guest blogs about how the video was made.

I thought about doing the video right after I sold PERFECT CHEMISTRY, which was back in January. So this has been “in the making” for almost a year, although the actual production went very fast (from shooting to finished product was 1.5 weeks – the biggest time suck was the editing that my director did alone)

We actually shot the entire video in 1.5 days.

I hired a Chicago director who has a production company. I’d never met him before, but a friend of mine (Ruth Kaufman, on the RWA board of directors) is an actress and was in a short film he produced. His name is Chris LoDuca. If you want to ask him any questions about cost and software (I’m sure he doesn’t need to be in the same city to do the production) you can email him at chris AT loducacreative.com I told him what I wanted and he gave me his production cost up front. Other costs that were added: the audio/lighting guy, studio rental, 2 actors for one day and 9 actors for one full day, breakfast and lunch for the entire cast, costumes (Gino, the main character playing “Alex” didn’t have any gang clothes so I told him to get some big baggy pants and I seriously said, “I want to see your pants hanging down and your boxers showing” Luckily Gino already had tattoos or I would have him go out and get some! – just kidding) I bought the hat, bandannas for the “gang members”, and the cheerleading outfits for the girls with the pom-poms. I let the cast keep the clothes I bought (I wouldn’t in a million years fit into the cheerleading outfits.)

The entire video was shot in 1.5 days. One half-day of shooting the audio portion with only the two main characters, and the next day the entire cast was there from 8am-3pm. (like all MTV videos and rap videos, the main characters are lip synching. It’s 100% their voices, but you can’t lip sync/dance at the same time or else it won’t come out good.)

Chris had just directed a play in the Chicago suburbs, and the Caucasian actors I hired to be in my video were cast in his play so he’d worked with them before. The “Latino” actors I hired were from a Chicago talent agency that we called. They sent us actor photos and resumes and we set up auditions in their studio. I felt like I was on a reality television show…with the hot lights, the camera taping the applicants, and Chris asking them to rap and dance in front of us. Such pressure for the actors!

I’d never met anyone on the production team or the cast beforehand. We were pretty much all strangers (except the few who had worked on plays with Chris before), but everyone got along great and everyone had a great time and we laughed a good portion of the day.

Umm..what else? Oh, yeah. The rap. I had a teacher who does rap make up a song for me with background music he created. But after Chris my director read an advanced copy of Perfect Chemistry, he said that he didn’t think the rap reflected the book enough. He found new background music online on a site that you buy your choice of a ton of background music for $1.00 and all you have to do is credit the guy who made it on your credits page. I think it was hiphopbeats.com or something like that (it’s listed on the VIDEO page of my website with a link). So Chris made up a NEW rap song, and I LOVED it. I definitely changed about 10 lines and tweaked it, but really Chris wrote most of it. I was really in awe of his multi-talentedness!

Funny and true side story: After he wrote it, Chris and his wife made a little demo of the rap to email to me to see what I thought of it. They were practicing/taping the rap into the microphone attached to their computer when his landlord (who lives below them in their apartment building and is a minister) called and asked if everything was okay,that he heard yelling and fighting coming from their apartment, and asked if they needed his counsling. Chris’ response, “Oh, sorry. My wife and I aren’t fighting. We’re just rapping!”

We were going to shoot on location, but then a week before the shoot decided to do it on a green screen and add in the background. Chris did some of the background shots (some I didn’t like and made him change) and the school/hallway shots and football field background I actually took myself at a high school by my house (I asked permission from the principal to take the pics). I do wish we’d done it on location, but this way was a lot cheaper and easier.

Book Trailers—One Step Beyond

STATUS: Everyone should take a holiday before the holidays. I just wish I was here for the next 2 weeks as well. It’s been snowing in Denver but the weather is beautiful here in the Caribbean.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN by Neil Diamond (hey, it’s what is playing in the lobby of the hotel as I type this!)

I can’t think of a better way to kick of the weekend then by sharing with you another creative promotion by my author Simone Elkeles.

This goes far beyond the normal book trailer—which is exactly what Simone wanted to achieve for her book PERFECT CHEMISTRY.


PC is basically a contemporary retelling of West Side Story but without the musical numbers. It’s edgy and funny and this rap video trailer exactly captures that (and of course, gives us music that can’t be captured in the book!)

If you are a YA libriarian or bookseller, feel free to grab the link from youtube and post. The video featured on my blog is more PG-rated but if you need a G-rated version, here’s a link where you can download it or put it on your iPhone. I also click on the link to the ‘making of’ video which is pretty hilarious in its own right.

Enjoy!

Book Party Tips From Marianne

STATUS: Rain to start the day but it looks like it might be clearing up. Time to head to the beach!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

Now I have to admit that not many authors have as cool a day job as my client Marianne Mancusi. She’s a TV Producer. So, when she’s throwing a launch party [which she did last Tuesday for her debut hardcover release of GAMER GIRL with author Melissa Walker (VIOLET IN PRIVATE)] she does have access to a variety of contacts that the average author might not have.

From the press release: “Nationally syndicated lifestyle show Better TV was on hand, filming the event for an upcoming segment on Mancusi and Walker and their books. In attendance were media outlets Vogue, Teen Vogue, ELLE, InStyle, Daily Candy, AOL, Parents TV and CNN. Leading authors in both Young Adult and adult fiction also celebrated with Mancusi and Walker. At the party were Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Maureen Johnson, Bennett Madison, Deborah Gregory, Diana Peterfreund, Michael Northrop, Liz Maverick and Anisha Lakhani.”

Is Mari the gal to friend or what?

From Left: Scott Westerfeld, Mari, Diana Peterfreund, Melissa Walker


Great contacts can indeed go a long way to throwing a successful one, but even with that, she’s got some great tips and I asked if she was willing to share them with you blog readers so here you go!

Being a NYC based television producer I usually attend or cover several events each week. From restaurant openings, to Fashion Week after-parties, to charity balls—I’ve been studying what works and what doesn’t when it comes to throwing a party and used these ideas for throwing my own book party.

Here are some suggestions I used for my own book party, which I threw this week at Butter.

Consider co-hosting the party with another author. One, it’s more fun to plan a party with a partner and two it takes off some of the hosting pressure the night of. You can also potentially double the guest list, increase networking opportunities, and introduce a whole new audience for your books and theirs.

Consider having your party on a Tuesday. It’s a slow day for bars and restaurants and the managers are much more likely to offer up a private room free of charge if you can guarantee them a good bar tab. Offer them prime placement on your invitation (it’s like advertising – especially if you’re sending the invites to the media!) if they agree to host the event.

Invite everyone you can think of – even if you’re pretty sure they won’t be able to attend. It’s a great way to announce your book release without coming off as an obnoxious self-promoter. Also, you may be surprised at who shows up! I invited my friend and fellow author Diana Peterfreund, even though she lives down in D.C. She not only made the trip up to NY, but she brought some A-list author friends with her as well. Speaking of, always encourage people to bring friends/significant others. You’ll get a larger crowd and it will also take the pressure off you to entertain them when you’re trying to work the room.

Create an official invitation with your book cover (if you know a graphics artist, hit them up for help!) and send it to guests by email attachment. (Yes, you can send attachments nowadays. But also put the basic 411 in the body of the email.) This will make your party seem more professional and a bigger deal. You can send this invite to the media as well. Even if it’s your local town newspaper–you never know if they’ll send a reporter to cover the event. Make sure you put “cash bar” discreetly on the invite so people don’t assume free drinks. Send the invitation two weeks in advance, then send a reminder out a day before the event. Ask for an RSVP so you can get an approximate count.

Get creative and make the party fun. After all, your guests are giving up their night for you and probably spending money on drinks and your books—they need something in return. I had the restaurant put out some of their signature homemade chocolates to nibble on—lots cheaper than doing open bar, but still adding value to the event. I also, to go with my “Gamer Girl” book theme, purchased a bunch of fun kids’ games like Hungry Hippos, Connect Four and Operation and put them on the tables. Guests really got into them! You could also bring in a makeover artist or a fortune teller.

Gift Bags! Take a page from red carpet events and make up gift bags for each guest. You can solicit companies to donate products—it’s much easier than you might think! We got Clarins, for example, to donate self-tanning lotions for the bags. Another company donated free yoga class coupons. It’s good advertising for companies and brings added value to your party. Don’t forget to include bookmarks or postcards for your own books in the bags, too! This way the guest will remember you the next day, even if they didn’t buy a book at the event.

Bookselling. We used a traveling bookseller, but if you don’t have one of those in your town, find an indy bookseller and ask if they will come the night of your event and bring books. This way you don’t have to deal with monetary transactions when you’re trying to socialize with your guests. Offer to buy remaining books at cost so they don’t get stuck with extra inventory. Make an announcement once the party is in full swing to let people know they can buy books.

Work the room. The night of the event, don’t linger with your close friends. Try to talk to everyone who showed up. Think of it as being like the birthday girl. Everyone came to see you and should be given appropriate face time.

Follow up. Over the next week, email your guests and thank them for coming. Especially the new people you met at the party. If you have a photo with them in it, send it with the email. And speaking of photos – upload them right away and put them on your blog, MySpace, Facebook, whatever. People who attended want to see themselves and people who didn’t get to go want to live vicariously. But you lose your momentum if you wait a few days.

And lastly, while this isn’t an official tip, make sure you have fun! A book party should be a celebration—don’t get all stressed out with planning that you can’t enjoy yourself at the event. It’s not worth it. Not everything will go right. Not everyone will show up. But just go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

The Art Of Getting Blurbs

STATUS: Completely slammed today so I haven’t had a chance to do anything with my trip notes.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MONEY BURNS A HOLE IN MY POCKET by Dean Martin

So I’m going to be totally lame and let a lovely author make my point for me today. An author of mine alerted me to this post by Lauren Baratz-Logsted over at Red Room and I personally think that every author and aspiring writer cut and paste this advice into a file that you can review over and over.

There really is an art to requesting a blurb. A way of handling it professionally. A way of being gracious if a request is declined. A way of being gracious if a request is granted (goes without saying) but sure enough, one misguided author has managed to flub it completely.

So here’s the link to Lauren’s advice.

Not to mention, Red Room is a rather cool place. You might want to look around a bit. Lots of good stuff for writers on this site.

A Rather Unique Promotional Idea

STATUS: Like a dork, I’m totally dancing around the office while Chutney barks with happiness. It’s the end of the work day on Friday after all.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FLASH DANCE by Irene Cara

Doreen Orion is a local author that I met thanks to Bella Stander. The three of us and John Elder Robison all went out to dinner before her book released.

Her memoir QUEEN OF THE ROAD: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own hit shelves back in June.

Anyone crazy enough to test their marriage by living in a tin box 24/7 for a whole year just might have some interesting promotional ideas.

And sure enough, she does. So check out this idea from Doreen and in her own words.

If you go to my homepage, you’ll see a red box on my book for a sweepstakes. To enter (for great prizes), people have to watch 3 of my video trailers and answer questions based on them. I purposely tried to make the questions funny and in the tone of the book, since the objective, of course, is to generate interest in QUEEN OF THE ROAD (hopefully, the trailers themselves do that, as well).

My fabulous web designer, Steve Bennett at www.authorbytes.com came up with the sweepstakes idea and also designed it. He works with someone who submits to sweepstakes sites. The sweepstakes sites then post the link to my homepage. From there, people can enter. (I did it this way, rather than a direct link to my sweeps so people also get a feel for what the book is like from the home page.) Steve says the prizes need to be substantial, like in the few hundred dollar range. However, an author doesn’t even necessarily need to pay for the prizes on her own, but can get corporate donors. (Celestial Seasonings picked my book as their June/July book club pick, and they’ve been wonderful, so it was easy for me to ask them, but I bet authors can make connections with their own local companies). You’ll notice that when the entry is completed, there is a blurb about the book which includes some of the great reviews it’s gotten (my idea – why waste the space?).

The day after my sweeps launched (August 22nd), my web traffic quintupled. My Amazon ranking went way down. The book is currently in 6th printing after only 3 months out. (THAT’s not just due to the sweeps, as I’ve been doing a lot of radio, and had great book reviews. Just thought I’d throw that in.)

Let me know if you have any questions about this. I truly believe this is a unique way to get thousands of people to view author videos who are already net savvy. And, it seems to be working for me.

Happy Friday!

So Whatever Happened To That Guy…

STATUS: I literally was on the phone from about 9:30 this morning until now. Not continuously mind you but that’s a lot of phone conferences.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DOMINO by Van Morrison

who did the Book Promotion 2.0 youtube hit?

Well, Bella Stander did an interview with Mr. Cass that you might want to check out.

It’s a revealing look on how intention can really make the difference in promotion. Art for art’s sake etc.

And one of my authors, Shanna Swendson, grabs the spirit of GOOD TO GREAT and outlines how it might apply to authors. That’s definitely worth a look!

No Freewheelin’ With The Blurb Endorsements

STATUS: It was quiet for one day. I can’t even believe I said it was quiet yesterday. Plenty to do between now and Thursday. Won’t be in the office on Friday and of course, no blogging.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DEMOLITION MAN by The police

I’m not really going to tally the results this time. Yesterday’s “poll” was more about creating a discussion around blurbs. For an author who is receiving the blurb endorsement, it’s an incredible feeling. That someone way more established than you (or famous) thought your novel worthy of praise. It’s big validation for a debut author in a world where there aren’t many validating moments outside of sales performance. And I always think of it as incredibly generous for an established author to do. When done right, it takes a lot of time to read a novel and it takes even more time to think of a short, pithy blurb that really captures the author’s emotion about it.

Try writing one for a favorite book of yours just as practice. It’s not easy.

For readers, it seems a mixed bag. I do know that booksellers and publishers absolutely do believe that blurb endorsements help to sell books.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned:

1. The author name has to be pretty big—as in immediately recognizable—for it to make an impact.

2. Readers do feel it’s part of the advertising.

3. Authors should not be too carefree about what they blurb as that can shape reader perception—of the blurbed books and for the books that author writes. Blurb only books where the endorsement is really meant.

4. Many readers find it helpful. That maybe they’ll try a new author they might not otherwise if a favorite author has blurbed the book.

5. The text of the blurb is just as important as the blurb itself. Faked enthusiasm is recognizable.

Potpourri of Publishing Tidbits

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!