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?
You can read all of Miller’s article here. (It has several other ideas in it.) And check out more about her book here. (See, she’s got me promoting her book, and I haven’t even read it!)
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)?
That is quite a unique idea. I’ve been brainstorming a lot about my branding, which is Historical Fiction That Travels, and platform. I just revamped my travel blog to include more about writing and travel and to allow fellow travelers and writers a guest spotlight every Friday to share a travel story. I want my blog, http://www.pensonaworldmap.com,” to connect writers, travelers & readers. I believe this same audience would enjoy my novels, which combine travel and contemporary and historical fiction. I’ll keep brainstorming.
The travel motif has all sorts of creative possibilities.
I agree, Janet. It’s just narrowing down what will work for you and your brand. We’ll just see what happens, but I’ve having fun with it right now. 🙂
Love your blog. What a great idea. Wouldn’t mind being a guest one day, either. Keep up the great work!
Hi again Cheryl! 🙂 Thanks! I’d love for you to be a guest blogger sometime. I have an opportunity on Fridays for guest bloggers. You can find out more information at the bottom of each Fridays post. Hope you’ll submit something. ttyl 🙂
I think the problem is that people who are reading our blogs are authors and not the general public. In this method, we are only selling our books to other offers. With that in mind, we can create a book club among us that works like the pyramid system where for every book that we sell, we agree to buy from someone else. In the end, we will trade profits and no one will make any money…but at least we will sell books.
You’re right, Lynn. It’s the outside writing world we’re wanting to draw in. Interesting pyramid idea. 🙂
Janet Ann Collins
I’m afraid you’re correct about the problem of reaching people who aren’t authors. I have well over 1200 Facebook people, but most of them are other authors who want me to buy their books.
That was so brilliant. Thank you for sharing, I read her article too.
I love thinking about the possibilities that I could maybe use in the future. I think being yourself and summoning up all your creativity really stand out to me. Jennifer Miller was personable, people connections are so important!
Lisa, being yourself is so key to promo ideas. Copying someone else or doing something that isn’t a good fit for you or your brand is most likely a lost effort.
I wonder if the standard book signing is headed for extinction? I’ve heard so many horror stories about authors sitting in a bookstore . . . alone. It IS a little intimidating to walk up to a stranger–an author–and peruse her book. If you decide against it, that’s insulting, if you strike up a conversation, you’ll feel like you have to make a purchase. It’s innately awkward.
But what if there are cookies? What if the author is demonstrating something from her book? A recipe, a craft, a cultural tradition? Suddenly there’s a way for the potential buyer to interact that feels natural, intriguing and engaging.
One of my novels has a character who feeds a town during a drought. I can see attaching book events to feeding the hungry. Bring a food donation and get a percentage off. Hold a reading along with a poor man’s supper (beans and cornbread) to raise money for a foodbank. Give out the character’s family recipe for cornbread along with free samples.
I think people WANT an excuse to engage. And as an author, what fun to give them one!
That sounds like a great tie-in to your theme, Sarah!
I’d say you’re on a roll…pun intended.
Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts
Great ideas, Sarah!
I really like this idea, Sarah.
I agree. That’s my two cents.
Author Jennifer Miller sheds new light on ADDING VALUE.
A home-baked cookie adds value. So does the nostalgia of a lemonade stand — a nice trip down memory lane. So does an article for business people on HOW to add value. So does a good book.
Unless we add perceived value, we resemble the kids selling candy bars for their school outside the grocery store: an annoyance to be avoided.
Nicely played. Thanks for sharing it.
Thanks for highlighting that Jennifer Miller added value, as well as nostalgia, to her publicity idea. It’s funny that a kid’s lemonade stand brings a smile–and often a purchase, but those selling candy bars outside a grocery store face a tough sell. Authors need to think about how they can bring the smile rather than the frown.
Wow, that was ingenious! I am still brainstorming ideas for marketing when it comes time to do this.
One thing a friend of mine did during her debut book signing was set up props that fit from her book. She also held a blog tour that gave away prizes relating to her book. Her book signing was fun (she lives in the same city as me). It seemed like, because she brought a part of her book to life, people enjoyed that and engaged with her, and others at the signing.
I love Sarah’s ideas too, of teaching something that pertains to the story or finding another way to engage potential readers to the story.
Finding ways for readers to connect to your book or to you is the key, I believe. All sorts of creative options are open to us, if we can just *see* them.
I wonder if the key, Janet, is in your word “stunt”. The novelade stand sounded hokey to me at first, but if it got attention, then why not? Just because I find something a little odd doesn’t mean everyone will. As long as our marketing is God-honoring, we need to get outside our comfort zone (which for many of us means avoiding real people and staying chained to our laptops) and do something sensational. Preaching to myself here!
We also ought not ignore the power of free. Perhaps not free books, but something free. (Considering the world we live in, though, I don’t think I would take a homemade cookie from a stranger.) I would definitely stop for a treat bag of wrapped candy!
So glad you shared this today!
Offering a giveaway or added value often is effective, Meghan.
What a great idea! I love hearing how creative people are.
My current series (writing the first book now) has a music thread in it, and I’m a singer, so I’ve considered recording CDs to give away with book purchases, doing YouTube video contests, and doing cool music prize pack giveaways if I ever get my books published. Haven’t thought about it intensely yet, but I will whenever it comes time to write a proposal.
The music motif offers all sorts of options, and you’re double-blessed if you’re musically inclined!
I’ve heard her sing, and she is EXCELLENT!!!
And she has an amazing voice! 🙂
I’ve known a few authors who have had songs written for their books. Some were simply for advertising purposes. I seem to remember one of my clients have a song put to a video we created which would play on a bus trip to some conference. I might not be remembering the details right, but it I liked the idea.
Mark Twain engaged in some of the most brillant marketing for his novels and public speaking performances, doing so in a way that kept his dignity and gave a preview to his potential audience of what they could expect from the finished product.
Too much of contemporary marketing has the feeling of both banality and vanity. Writers work (very, very hard) to create a professional demeanor of bland acceptability that gives all the impression of a card-board cut-out of a human being (the banal part), while appealing to the potential audience to “become a part of something greater” (the vanity part), which for a Christian writer or publisher is a disconcerting tactic to peruse, making the object and goal of the marketing (and perhaps the first and perhaps most impactful relationship with the product for the end-user) consumer-centered instead of Christ-centered: where the marketing is not about what the book says or offers, but about the “ME! ME! ME!” of how the consumer becomes, to quote the Ms. Miller, “part of her story.”
We’d love to hear about some of Mark Twain’s marketing ideas. Not that they would work today, but it’s still informative and helps to boost our creativity.
A novelade stand–what a creative idea! It got me thinking about creative ways I can promote my Christmas novella. Like Lisa said above, whatever I do must be a reflection of me. With the Christmas theme of the book, and knowing what I like to do most at Christmastime, bake, I plan to do some Christmas baking. I thought perhaps some of my famous candy bar fudge, delivered to each of my kids schools (three of them!) and our doctor’s offices might be a good start. Beyond that, I’m not sure, but at least it’s a start.
Starting is the most important part of publicity. As you try different things, you find out what works and what doesn’t.
What a brilliant idea!
In my book, the family has a slight problem with tossing biscuits at each other during meals. It’s great comic relief, so perhaps a biscuit toss at the book signing? No baseball players need apply, though. And the family has a love of apricot jam. Hello, home made jam.
I like that she thought way outside the box. The mythical “box” has got so small though, that marketing has to either go oldschool and have a novelade stand, or think so beyond the norm that are slack-jawed and stunned when the Superbowl ads come on TV. Then again, most of those are retro anyway.
I’ll tell you though, one of the benchmark scenes in my book takes place in the Flagstaff train station, so IF I could swing a book signing there, I’d pop a rivet!! Biscuits, apricot jam and books, now there’s a sweet idea!
Having an event that includes books signing at a significant venue in your book is a great place to jumpstart other ideas.
Because one of my novels is a World War II story, I often attend book signing and school speaking engagements dressed in an antique Army Air Corps uniform. This trick got my photo taken by a photographer from the Indianapolis Star at an event featuring 90 authors, and I sold out my books while the author next to me barely got noticed. (I felt sorry for him.)
Last spring I wore the WW II uniform to 2 homeschool conventions, which hadn’t even been on my radar in the past. I sold over 50 books the first weekend and another 76 at the next convention. In a sea of competition, it definitely helps to find a way to get noticed. 🙂
Obviously you’ve hit on an idea that makes you stand out in a crowded field and memorable. Brilliant! I bet people want to have their photo taken with you, too.
Great idea, Rick! I write WWII hist fict too. I think I shall dress up in women’s period attire for book events in the future. I’m an actress anyway. I’m used to costumes. 🙂
Janet, yes, I do have people wanting their photo with me. Fun for me, fun for them, too.
Morgan, I suggest you set up an automatic search on eBay for something like “WW 2 woman’s uniform.” I’ve seen period uniforms for Red Cross workers, WACs, and others. Since you’re an actress, you may want to go further and “join” the RAF. 🙂
Brilliant! Just brilliant!
I wrote a novel about a young, recovering invalid who discovers a brounie, or house faerie, living in a magical space within her apartment wall. A brounie’s job is to do chores for his family and that’s what Bran does. Naturally any sane woman will fall in love with a guy who does chores for her, and that’s exactly what happens.
I’d always thought it’d be fun to have brownies at my table for promotion as well as little faerie doors, even though Bran is full size and so is his door. But, as I was reading this post, it occurred to me that a sure-fire way to get women to my table or event would be to raffle a gift certificate for Merry Maids. No woman could resist that! Just like no woman can resist Bran, the hot, Scottish brounie who cooks and cleans! 😉
What a great idea, Evangeline. Even the name “Merry Maids” fits so nicely with faeries. What woman wouldn’t adore having someone step into the house and whisk it clean?
I’m in! Let me know when that book comes out. 😉
Since one of the themes in the book is about a musician using his gift for Christ, I thought about buying a stand at the following DC Fest (Christian Rock Music Festival) and signing books there. I thought I’d put up a sign telling potential customers if they say the magic word while at my stand, they’d win a free book. They may just hang around a bit and we could chat. My magic words would be ones chosen from the theme of the book. Maybe I’d have a different one each hour and post the one from the hour before so the customers could come back to see what they are.
That’s a creative idea. You also might think about what added value you could offer at your stand that would cause people to stop in the first place. It has to be something that’s attention-getting fast since people will just walk by if, after glancing at your stand, they don’t “get” what you’re offering of value to them.
Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts
Wonderfully creative ideas everyone has come up with!
The first thing I thought about was giving away Drachta Arsha bread, which is an ancient Faerie bread of cinnamon, hazel nuts and cloves. I made it up for the book, but I have always thought it sounded like something yummy to eat. However, I believe Meghan has a point that some people nowadays would be hesitant to eat food from a stranger. So I thought of a couple other possibilities.
Since herbs and trees are highly important in the plot, both functionally and symbolically, I thought maybe I could give away herbal tea bags or packages of herbs with each book purchase. Also, having tea at a book signing in a library or bookstore might make the book signing a little different. People might be more open to trying the bread in that environment as well.
Another possibility would be to give away signed copies of the artwork I’ve done of the characters.
I would love to give away dragons and unicorns in some form. Since it is a YA novel that is aimed at a female audience, a stuffed animal seems appropriate. What young woman can resist a cute stuffed unicorn? But I’m afraid that might be too expensive. Perhaps I could get some henna tattoos made up and each person who purchased a book would, on the spot, be tattooed with either a dragon or a unicorn.
My final thought is to arrange to do some Celtic storytelling presentations and have copies of the novel available for purchase at the end.
Thank you, Janice, for getting the creative wheels turning.
Christine, the tattoos sound like fun for teens, and the drawings you’ve rendered would be awesome prizes for a contest of some kind.
Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts
Janet, I so want you as my agent, but I know you don’t represent YA. Oh, well! (sigh!) 😉
Love the novelade stand idea!
I’m terrible at cold calling but I know I need to do it. I want to put my self-pubbed anthology of short romance stories into local gift shops, maybe a florist, or even a cupcake shop (there’s a cupcake on the cover). I was on local tv last week and had to say the book is available on amazon instead of at “Oh, So Cute Gift Shoppe on Main Street.”
You know what you gotta do so…go for it!
The novelade idea is clever–I expect she wasn’t doing it during the last hurricane! I haven’t done much promotion myself outside of presenting at libraries. But since the main character in my mystery series is a librarian, it fits together well.
Jacque, she actually had her novelade stand up last summer when it was exceedingly hot in Brooklyn. I suspect some people wished it were a lemonade stand!
Sorry, it appears my name didn’t come through on the above post:
THE TRUTH SLEUTH
Miller’s idea and what was discussed her already is definitely inspiring. I feel like such a fuddy duddy when it comes to these things.
Two of my books are set during Christmas, so you think I would have a lot to work with. One year, I attended our church bazaar, gave away candy canes, and offered entry into a gift basket worth over $100. It didn’t translate into sales, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Packaging your books together all wrapped up in a Christmas bow or in a basket (with an additional cost to pay for the basket) might have done the trick for you at the church bazaar.
Thanks for sharing that thought. What a neat idea.
Dale S. Rogers
What a refreshing, novel idea!
Hey,Janet, thanks for passing that idea on. My writing group and I are thinking of holding a ‘marketing brainstorming’ session and I said I had no ideas but after reading this, and the comments I do have something to offer!
I read that same article, Janet. I spent 8 hours on a plane for a 2 1/2 hour flight and read the article and thought it had a good takeaway. So much so that I jotted her points on a Southwest napkins which is the size of one square of toilet paper.
I tried to think of what I could do. I have a book coming out eventually about caregiving which is not a cheery topic. No walker giveaways.
My core message is “Investing in heaven, while living on earth.” I’m currently giving away a $5 Starbucks card through FB on my website, encouraging the reader to take someone out for coffee. (Although they can’t order anything other than two house grandes.)
Any ideas for my message? Angel costume?
What a fun string of comments after a creative idea!!
I’m taking this idea of creative marketing to a Book Tour level. I enjoy highlighting books and focusing on interesting unique differences – like Christine Dorman’s bread & tea. If I interviewed her on Colorimetry (www.burgandyice.blogspot.com), we would discuss those things, maybe offer a recipe, and find readers who might not have noticed her book before. I want to do that with Prism Book Tours (http://prismbooktours.blogspot.com/), too. Only bigger!
I started blogging to connect with people who might be interested in the type of book I wanted to write. ‘Cause I didn’t personally know anyone who would. Lol. I’m going to say it’s a success even if my first book isn’t finished, yet.