When Current Events Help Sales

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

Sometimes a book hits big because the timing of the release is just right. Some sort of event happens that directly relates to the topic of your book and causes sales to skyrocket. It’s hard to force this kind of natural marketing, however, because it’s hard to predict the future. 🙂

I saw an example of this serendipitous marketing this week. I bet you have read in the news that the alleged Golden State Killer was captured using DNA from a popular ancestry website. I do not want to go into any details about the horrors this person committed, but a true crime book following this case was release in February of this year. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara came out on February 27. She wrote most of it, but passed away before it was finished. Her husband, Patton Oswalt, finished the book on her behalf. It was a popular book at release and reached the NYT bestseller list. The reviews have been outstanding and I’m even intrigued by this book–but I hadn’t heard about it until the arrest was made. I went to Amazon.com that day and saw that the book had reached #2 of all books for the sales ranking.  The only book selling better on Amazon was Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines. I wasn’t constantly watching the sales ranking of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, but it could have reached #1. I wouldn’t be surprised. Because there was the giant break in the case, McNamara’s book got a second, HUGE wave of marketing–and it was completely out of the hands of anyone in the book industry. It was all due to the book release right before the suspect’s arrest.

What should we take from this example of “natural” marketing? I’m not sure beyond realizing that despite everything we do to market a book, the path to the book’s success isn’t always in our hands. Does this mean we shouldn’t try to market? No! Anything we can do to get your book out there will help sell copies. The more exposure, the better!

Have you ever experienced this kind of serendipitous timing with a book release?

Or do you have any other examples of this that you have witnessed in the past?

 

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  1. To me, this is a God thing. I wouldn’t pray, “Lord, bring some cataclysm to make my book sell.” I would pray that my book would make its way into the hands of the people who need to read it. God might answer in a thousand little ways, or in a big thunderclap of action, or by getting it to the one person in all the world who needs it.
    *”Your kingdom come, your will be done . . . with this book. Amen.”

  2. Interesting post, Rachel.
    * The recent release of the remake of the film “Death Wish”, just after the Parkland school shooting caused many to decry the timing, but perhaps it could not have been better because it has helped to illuminate the arguments swirling around the Second Amendment. To wit: how can a very real desire to ‘feel safe’ be reconciled with a very real need for self-defense? (No prizes for guessing which side I take in the debate.)
    * But personally, I have left these banal issues behind; the publication of my WIP describing Elvis’ return on the Mother Ship (it’s why I live in central New Mexico, after all!) WILL, I am sure, coincide neatly with the Great Event itself.
    * As the old Budweiser commercials used to sing, “…the King is coming…”, and for my marriage in Las Vegas, I wore blue suede shoes.

    • You never cease to make me laugh. Oh dear, “Elvis’ return on the Mother Ship…WILL coincide neatly with the Great Event itself.”

    • Mary Kay Moody says:

      You are a hoot, Andrew! And I’m wondering how I missed the old Budweiser commercials singing “…the King is coming…”. (Did you really marry in Vegas?)

      • Yes, Mary Kay, Barb and I did really marry in Vegas. It was our second marriage to one another…the first time I was a prize jerk, full of myself, and I divorced her.
        * I realized I had made a horrible, awful mistake, and when I broke down at work (I was a college teacher) a colleague bundled me into his office and called his wife…who was a counselor. And thus, a long road to becoming human.
        * Barb agreed to at least communicate with me, and a few months later allowed that she wanted her husband back (I was in Texas, she’d moved back to the midwest). We agreed to meet in Vegas for a Family Life marriage conference, and she said that I could mae arrangements, but she wasn’t committed to remarriage yet. She told me that if she DID agree, it was a condition that the ceremony would not be performed by an Elvis impersonator. She had another condition, that she did not tell me.
        * So I set it up, to get the license and be married in a helicopter over the Strip, at night. I tried to get a Catholic priest (we’re both Papists), but was told that it would be difficult. At the very least, we’d have a scenic aerial tour is she wasn’t ready.
        * So, all was set up, we arrived at the aerodrome…and so did a priest who’d just received special dispensation from his bishop…our marriage had not been annulled, and he could do a renewal of vows.
        * And Barb’s hidden condition was that we’d have a priest. Thus, the salvation of the marriage that has saved my soul.

      • And, Mary Kay, there was a bit more fun…during one of the conference sessions, the speaker said that since there probably weren’t any Catholics in the audience, he thought he might tell a Catholic joke.
        * Whereupon I raised my hand politely, stood, and said, “Sir, Ah’m a Catholic, and Ah’m from Texas…and you, sir, are a fixin-to meet Jesus.”
        * Barbara was laughing so hard I though she might need oxygen.

      • Oh Andrew! I love that story or redemption. So hard to live I am sure but so glad it worked out for you both to be together again.

      • Crystal, thank you…it was a hard time, and by grace came healing.
        * One thing I omitted for brevity…during the time we were divorced, I needed surgery that had a mortality rate of 70%…and I did not have anyone with a designated medical power of attorney. The only person I trusted was Barbara, and she agreed.
        * When I told the surgeon, he was silent for several heartbeats, and then said, “You gave the power of a life and death decision to your EX-WIFE????”
        * Yep. I did.

      • Mary Kay Moody says:

        Andrew, what a blessed story! In a helicopter over the Strip! Never heard of anything like that. Special. And indeed, I was laughing along with Barb. Spent a lot of time in Oklahoma & Texas as a teen & i can see the scene with you warning that speaker! Can we sit around a fire pit and listen to your stories when we all get to Heaven?

      • Mary Kay, I’d be honoured to tell you those stories…and more…around Jesus’ fire pit. I hear He’s REALLY good at toasting marshmallows!

      • Yes, I imagine that was quite the shocker for the surgeon … and in a way very humorous. If I were a contemporary romance author, I might be able to come up with a whole book just with that thought. So blessed to hear your stories. I bet Jesus does roast a good marshmallow. We will have so much fun around that fire pit.

  3. Mary Kay Moody says:

    My friend Julie-Allyson Ieron wrote Staying True in a World of Lies: Practical Models of Integrity for Women in the WorkPlace (Sept 2002) and it was fairly slow-moving to getting published. Then the Enron scandal hit. She said suddenly the issue of ethics in the workplace was front & center and she had a cascade of interview requests. Another marketing-by-current-events story. I hadn’t heard about the McNamara book, Rachel. I’m guessing this happens as frequently as the proverbial blue moon. 🙂

  4. The success of JD Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” is partially credited to the drama surrounding the Trump election

  5. I’ve experienced this personally! My 3rd book “Coffee Shop Christmas ” released in November of 2017. It has a strong Police line in it and with the persecution of our policemen the last few years, sales skyrocketed! I currently only have 9 copies on hand and have ordered more!

  6. Angie Arndt says:

    The story behind the story of, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” is as intriguing as the book itself, especially when an arrest was made so soon after it’s release.

    I agree, Shirlee, God is in control. We just have to make sure we do all that we can to promote our work. The rest is up to Him.

    Great post, Rachel!

  7. Amy Debrucque says:

    I also agree with Shirlee. I think its more important to pray that my book landed into the hands of someone who needs it. The idea of a book connecting with people on a personal level, where they can grow and find hope, is its own success.