Saturday, September 23, 2006

Is It an Opportunity or a Threat?

I’ve observed many times that anything new is often downplayed for the opportunity or talked about as a “threat.”  It wasn’t too long ago that some people spoke against the darkness on the Internet. Now there are some dark places—if you want to go there—but there are many positive uses of websites and information online. It can be an opportunity and not a threat.  Your perspective is important.

1001-Ways-to-Market-Your-BoAs I’ve discussed a number of times in these posts, the area of book marketing has little certain about it. One time a publisher or author will attempt something new and it will work like magic catapulting the book on the bestseller list and the minds and hearts of many people. With the next book, they will take exactly the same steps yet with poor sales results.  Repeatedly I’ve seen there isn’t one single magic formula. Yesterday my mail brought the 6th edition of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer. It’s an excellent resource and I’ve read little of it so far. Flipping through the book, I was impressed with the first point of a talk Kremer’s given for over 20 years about marketing books. He says, “90% of marketing efforts are wasted. This is not a bad thing. This insight tells you that you have to keep knocking on doors, making calls, and sending our letters until your target audience answers.” (p. 696–-yes it’s a huge worthwhile resource and I’m eager to read every page in the coming days)

Here’s another example of this principle of perspective. Maybe you’ve heard about the talk among publishers related to some of their galleys getting out before the release date of a book.  Some books are tightly controlled and have “embargo” release dates where booksellers are penalized if they sell books ahead of the date.  I’m sure you’ve read about it for books like a Harry Potter title.  Also I’ve heard about it happening with advance review copies (ARC) or galleys of these high-profile books.  Sometimes there is a great anticipation and almost frenzy for these advance review copies to read them before it hits the market. I’ve heard of some publishers tracing an ARC which has shown up on an eBay auction to the highest bidding person. And the employee is fired for trying to personally profit from that effort.  Yes, it seems extreme but that’s the level of control which happens with some of these books.

In the September 18th issue of Publishers Weekly, Greg Stielstra writes about this issue in the Soapbox column. Greg is the Vice President of marketing for the Christian trade book group at Thomas Nelson Publishers.  I love Greg’s book, Pyromarketing (and if you haven’t done it yet, follow this link to download the audio version of the book). His article, “Don’t Fear eBay” begins, “When Rick Warren announced his “40 Days of Purpose” campaign to Zondervan’s executives in early 2002, they were intrigued and excited. But when he explained that it required them to sell 400,000 copies of The Purpose-Driven Life to churchgoers at $7 per hardcover copy, the blood drained from their faces. “Do what?!” At that price, those sales would mean zero profit. But Warren was able to convince the publisher to go along with the plan—and the “40 Days of Purpose” campaign eventually grew to involve more than 20,000 churches and millions of books. As it turned out, those “unprofitable” copies created an army of customer evangelists whose enthusiastic, word-of-mouth recommendations influenced shoppers who paid retail for the book, eventually pushing total sales past $26 million in three years. The incident was a classic example of a publisher mistaking an opportunity for a threat.” Then he continues talking about whether the eBay auction is a threat or an opportunity.

I love this subtitle for the article in PW, “Stop thinking about eBay as an auction site, and consider what really happens when someone sells a galley on the site.”

Ok, here’s my lesson for you from this information, the next opportunity is up to you. Yes you have to be out in the market submitting your excellent writing and learning your craft. You have to be rejecting rejection and moving ahead, continuing to craft your book proposal and/or query letter.  Create some unusual book and innovatively market it to the audience and put yourself on the bestseller list. 

An impossible dream? I don’t think so. It’s a dream repeated every single day from authors and publishers as their books enter the marketplace.

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