Thursday, November 02, 2006

Booked At Book Clubs

Last night on the CBS Evening News, they carried a story called Book Beau which caught my attention. I was looking for more detail about this story—and read a hint of it several weeks earlier in a Publishers Weekly news brief. It’s a story of innovation and determination with a solid book product—something other authors should be watching and imitating (naturally with their own twist).

Beneath-the-marble-sky-coveAs background, there is a great deal of competition for readers in the book business. There are about 195,000 new books released into the market each year. Two years ago McPherson published Beneath the Marble Sky: A Novel of the Taj Mahal by John Shors. As a first-time author, Shors was pleased with the good reviews from trade journals and other publications. But his sales were modest by any standard and disappointing. In June, NAL Trade released the paperback of his book and the new edition gave Shors an opportunity. He included a letter to readers in the back of the book. He made a commitment to speak at book clubs and gave his email address. In three months, Shors has spoken to over 100 book clubs. In some cases, he “appears” to the book club on a speakerphone but Shors is committed to personally touching his readership. His book sales have taken off. According to the report on the CBS Evening News, Shors is currently booking into 2008. His profile has definitely climbed from being a first-time author to appearing on the CBS Evening News and also an article in the October 9th issue of Newsweek.

I’d call this marketing move from Shors innovative and gutsy. Book clubs are a growing effort across the United States. These clubs are honored to have an author willing to talk with them about the book. Each member of the group has purchased the book and normally read it prior to the meeting. Then they can discuss it—and if they can include the author in this discussion—why wouldn’t they go for it?

With the volume of books, there is a lot of noise in the marketplace. It’s hard to cut through the clutter—even for a good book. Authors can’t abdicate the total marketing effort to their publisher. If they do (and they are a first-time author) I suspect they will be disappointed with the results (read sales of their book). As an acquisitions editor, I’ve had to field some of those conversations with authors. It’s not easy and there are no simple reasons or answers. Yes, publishers want their books to succeed in the marketplace. But they have multiple books releasing at the same time—and limited energy for each one. The author has the greatest passion for their particular book. We need innovative authors who will incorporate some marketing efforts into their book plans. The marketing efforts can be something with very little return—and a lot of personal time and expense. The trick is to find the right balance between writing and marketing—and accomplish each one with creativity.

7 Comment:

At 6:58 AM, Blogger Cindy Thomson Left a note...

I read about this too. I think he had a great idea. I just appeared at my first book club meeting last Saturday and the next day received an email from a woman in Las Vegas who said her book club had read my book last August. So, I'm thinking this is a good thing to get involved with as an author. I thought the idea of putting his email right in the published book and saying he's willing to "appear" at book club meetings was a great idea. (And apparently it paid off.)

Brigid of Ireland

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Reading guides and book clubs are a huge movement in the fiction area of the market. I know some publishers are adding a discussion guide in the back of each of their novels. Or they make it available free online.

Because Brigid of Ireland doesn't have a reading guide in the back, you could create one and add it to your website (and other places if you can get these sites to take it). In the back of each guide, you could include a letter to the reader (like John Shors) and offer to appear at book clubs. It is certainly selling books for this one author. Before it gets too over-worked as an idea, maybe it's a bandwagon others could jump on.

Book Proposals That Sell

The Writing Life

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Mike Dellosso Left a note...


I believe this type of personal contact is the wave of the future for authors. Readers want to know the authors they read as real people, not just some name on the spine of a book. Contact with readers is key. The challenge for authors is to come up with new and innovative ways to do so. It'll take some work and imagination, but in this area, I believe a little elbow grease will go a long way toward getting readers excited not just about a book, but about the author.


At 10:49 AM, Blogger ~ Brandilyn Collins Left a note...

Terry, this guy made it on TV just this morning--I heard he was on The Early Show. My son called to tell me about this author and his story, and what he'd done for publicity. Man, got him all the way to national TV. Not bad!

At 11:04 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


I've never seen nor read John Shors' book--but in the last 24 hours, he's jumped into the top 200 books selling on Amazon. National TV exposure must be helping in a huge fashion.

Book Proposals That Sell

At 9:24 AM, Blogger ~ Brandilyn Collins Left a note...

Yeah, well, gimme some a that national exposure. I'll be all over it like a cheap shirt. :]

At 9:57 AM, Blogger The Koala Bear Writer Left a note...

When you find an author you like, you keep reading their books. This fellow is making a connection with his readers, so they'll look up his other books too. Most of us view the authors of our favorite books as our heros; so actually meeting or talking to that author definately makes a big difference. Definately a great marketing tool.


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