Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Learning from a New Launch Idea

When it comes to promotion, everything new we try comes with a sense of excitement and a set of new expectations.

I had a new frugal idea for the launch of my new book A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. The idea involved not spending the money I had spent on many of my other book launches and--in fact--actually making money as a speaker in the process. But more about that in a minute.

As those of you who have read The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't know, I tell it like it is so that others can learn from my experience--both boo- boos and successes. You know that I think launches are part of the fun of publishing and that no one should miss doing one. You also know that I warn authors not to have great expectations from book signings unless they are held in one's own backyard. Meaning, unless they are located where you'll have plenty of support from family, friends, etc.

There are other lessons in this premise if we extend them it a tad. As your reading public grows, the arena for successful book signings will grow. As the number of books you publish gets larger you'll see a difference in the kind of support you get for your signings. You'll find more regular readers popping by to get your next release and fewer of your friends and relatives who--if they're not avid readers of your kind of book--will soon find the novelty of your publishing career wearing off.

Those of you who have read The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't also know that anything you do will be far more successful if you build a list of your own interested parties and, yes, USE it every time you make any kind of an appearance. Relying on others' traffic (like the casual reader who wanders through the door at Barnes and Noble) is almost a recipe for little traffic at your signing table and few sales. Further, you will have missed an opportunity to remind the folks on your list of your many coups in the world of publishing.

Those of you have read The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't also know that I believe speaking and teaching to be the number one way build a following and to sell books.

Of course, I knew all this. Because it's in my book and because--as I move forward with my writing--I keep getting reminded of the hard-won lessons I learned from my past careers and from promoting my own books. So I was a bit wary of holding a launch outside my own pond, especially for a book that targets a different audience than any I've ever written before.

That's why when the opportunity to do a launch for A Retailer's Guide to In-Store Promotion at the National Stationery Show at Javits Center in New York came up, I was elated.

Tradeshows, after all, offer a builtin audience and this one offered huge crowds of retailers that this book was written to help. I hoped that would make up for my lack of a personal up-to-date list. I was also familiar with Javits from several Book Expo Americas I'd attended and several gift shows I'd attended at that same venue in the past. It's fantastic!

The Stationery Show executives also asked me to speak at two seminars; one was on promoting online and the other was on promoting in stores. By the way, the seminar and this book on in-store promotion includes several ideas for utilizing the talents of local authors.

The gift show administrators were hugely supportive in terms of promotion, too. There was a full-page story in the daily newspaper that tradeshows use, a full-color ad in their directory, and prominent announcements of the seminars I was doing. There was an article and announcement in their online newsletter, Paperclips, too.

The day after the signing on the tradeshow floor, they followed up with a story and picture on the signing, too (it was believed to be a first for gift shows so it was really news!). In other words, this was a first-rate tradeshow run by a first-rate team.

This new launch idea was super successful in that it confirmed every single one of my original premises about launches and book signings. Here is what it told...mmmm, reminded me of:

1. Launches are wonderful. Everyone should have one. Even after the first or sixth or eighth book.
2. Book signings outside one's own pond are less than stellar for anyone on the emerging-author side of Stephen King.
3. Your own invitation list is important. If you don't have one, keep expectations low or use some of the ideas in The Frugal Book Promoter for developing a great one.
4. Indeed speaking and teaching work miracles. They increase your credibility and instill in your audience a need for more of what you have to give them--something they will find in your books.
5. That doing a launch in a venue other than a private party that you the author must pay for is a frugal and efficient way to go.
6. That even with great advertising and publicity one's reputation must build. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful advertising of all.

This unique experience came down to this: I did lots of good with the seminars I taught, even sold a lot of books at them. The book signing itself was wonderful in terms of exposure and networking, disappointing in terms of book sales.

If I'd been listening to my own advice, I would have known. (-:

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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