Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Discoverability continues to be one of the biggest challenges authors face. The market is flooded with books; how are the people who would love your book ever going to find it?
On my recent travels, I read a helpful article on that very issue when I pulled the airline’s magazine out of the pocket in front of me. Author Jennifer Miller wrote an article in Spirit Magazine in which she described how she promoted her debut novel by setting up a “novelade” stand on a Brooklyn sidewalk. The stand consisted of a stack of her books, a plate of home-baked cookies, and a magic-marker, construction-paper sign announcing: “Novelade Stand.”
After three weekends Miller had sold 60 copies of The Year of the Gadfly. She was pleased with the results since she previously had flown to New Hampshire where she sold 4 copies (presumably at a booksigning).
While not every author lives in a heavily-populated area where people actually walk on the sidewalks, Miller’s article included insight from Claudine Cheever, a chief strategy officer at Saatchi & Saatchi New York, who oversees a staff of advertising and social media planners for such brands as Cheerios and Smucker’s. Cheever examined what made the novelade stand effective.
“You’re playing off of an irresistibly charming culture trope that we all love–cookies and lemonade,” Cheever said. “Who wouldn’t buy lemonade from a kid? Who wouldn’t buy a great book from a nice young woman? You’ve created desire in the consumer.”
Miller further observes, “People approached me on the street because I piqued their curiosity. They bought a book from me because I’d turned a routine purchase into something unique and fun.”
Cheever advised Miller to take her novelade stand on the road. When Miller visited a city to promote her book, she should set up the stand, call the local media, and have customers take photos of the stand to post on Twitter and Facebook. Those who do so would be participating in a narrative that Miller was creating around the novelade stand. Their friends, in turn, might decide to participate by reposting the photos. Suddenly word of mouth is occurring, and people Miller might never meet are discovering her book.
Miller described the plan as a way to “create a platform and use it to tell a story. I needed to make novelade synonymous with my brand as an author. But I also needed to create a story around that brand. I would continue to sell Gadfly in Brooklyn, but I would also take it on the road and track my experiences with pictures, video, and blog posts. In fact, as you’re reading this, I’m already writing the first chapter.
“First stop is Nashville, Tennessee, where the hip clothing store, Imogene and Willis, has generously offered me a slice of their sidewalk. If you happen to be en route to Nashville right now [and I was], I’ll be there Saturday, November 17 [bummer, I was there earlier in November], from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. So stop by, pick up The Year of the Gadfly, and enjoy a homemade cookie. Tweet a picture of us to your friends. Become a part of my story.”
And wasn’t Ms. Miller smart? She was traveling to promote her book and novelade stand, so didn’t it just make sense to write an article for an airline magazine that included principles any businessperson could apply?
Speaking of applying the principles, what creative ideas does the novelade stand stir in you?
If you’re coming up blank, what principles from her publicity stunt are applicable to you getting the word out about your book(s)?