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Named to "Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites," this #SharingwithWriters blog is a way to connect with my readers and fellow writers, a way to give the teaching genes that populate my DNA free rein. Please feel free to add to the conversation using the very tiny "comment" link. For those interested in editing and grammar, go to http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ju-Jitsu, LIbraries, and Your Book: A Marketing Lesson

Today we have a guest blogger of note. I've known Shel Horowitz quite a few years. He's a powerhouse behind subjects like ethics, but today he has his book marketing hat on. He consults on both book marketing and publishing and is the author of eight books including Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers.  This post ran originally on his own blog.
Ju-Jitsu, Libraries and Your Book: A Marketing Lesson
By Shel Horowitz

This month's marketing lesson comes from one of the best examples of marketing ju-jitsu I've ever seen.

In ju-jitsu (a/k/a jiu-jitsu), like many martial arts, you use the strength of your opponent, rather than your own strength, and deflect it back on him or her. You get to still be nonviolent and righteous, while your opponent is lying in a heap on the floor.

Similarly, in marketing ju-jitsu (a term that may have been coined by Max Lenderman in 2001), you can overcome an opponent with far greater resources who can afford to hire wildly talent advertising agencies and saturate the airwaves with the result.

In the business world, the classic examples are car rental giant Avis's "we're only #2 so we try harder" campaign, Volkswagen's Small Wonder ads from the 1960s, and of course, the legendary Smash Big Brother ad that debuted the Apple Macintosh in 1984.

In the anti-business world, the day in 1967 Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies threw dollar bills on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange comes to mind, as do many of the Adbusters campaigns, such as Buy Nothing Day.

So what does this kind of guerrilla marketing have to do with libraries? Librarians are thought of as a quiet bunch who rarely make any kind of public stink (though this is actually not true-just ask progressive author and filmmaker Michael Moore, whose book Stupid White Men was saved by a national campaign by librarians).

Well, here's a video (less than three minutes long) outlining a particularly intense use of marketing ju-jitsu: threatened by a Tea Party campaign to defund the library, supporters created a fake campaign in favor of book burning, even saying the event would include live music and refreshments generating massive backlash. They then revealed their true agenda: to raise consciousness that "closing a library is like burning books." This in turn resulted in a massive outpouring of library supporters on Election Day that easily defeated the defunding initiative. And both the book burning announcement and the later clarification got lots of social media buzz and the attention of thee press nationally.

Go watch it now. I'll wait.

Back? Good.

I'd love you to share the takeaways you got in the comments, below. Here are some of mine:

  • Memes have a lot of power. Revulsion against book burning is a deep-seated response to centuries of oppression. Whether in 15th-century Spain, 18th-century America, Nazi-era Germany, or the late Ray Bradbury's fictional dystopia Fahrenheit 451, book burning is seen as an attempt to suppress and control thought.

  • Reductio ad absurdumarguments-taking a line of thinking past its logical conclusion iinto the realm of the ridiculous-still work.

  • Even without funding, an organized populace can defeat injustice, especially when we make it a mom-and-apple-pie issue. (This was the approach we used when we saved our local mountain.)

  • Please share yours in the comments, below.

    Shel, I'd like to extend the conversation a tad. I've heard authors say they'd rather not have their books in libraries because people who are borrowing books aren't buying theirs. They forget that libraries promote learning and reading and without those, they wouldn't have any readers at all. And they may never have had the joy of  writing a book. They also don't seem to understand that great word "buzz" that libraries help to create.
     Please do use the comment button and share. About ju-jitsu marketing, libraries, or the challenges of book marketing in general.


    Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including 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. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, 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 . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:


    1. Well, I'm a believer in an abundant universe. While it would be nice if the US joined some european companies in paying royalties to authors when their books are checked out of the library, I'm still happy to have my books exposed to new readers. They may not buy, but they can rave about us to their friends, and maybe their friends have their wallets in open position.

    2. Exactly, Shel. And libraries have been known to buy a few extra books when a book gets lots of traffic.

    3. Anonymous7:15 PM

      I'm the daughter of a librarian--so I always support my local library.

    4. There are many marketing methods available and it can be very useful to get ranking and also they can get customer on their website.

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