Friday, September 26, 2008

Marketing for Authors

Here's a great article I read today. Let me know if you enjoy reading this.

During what he called an "abysmal" family vacation in Vancouver, B.C., in 2005, Garth Stein received a call from his publisher, Soho Press, giving him the news that he had received a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award for his novel How Evan Broke His Head . . . and Other Secrets. Speaking at the PNBA meeting in Portland, Ore., earlier this month with the theme "How Independent Stores Helped Make Me Famous . . . and Other Secrets," Stein remembered being excited to have won an award but not sure what the award meant, since he had been living in New York when his first book, Raven Stole the Moon, was published and wasn't familiar yet with the Pacific Northwest bookselling community. Dawn Stewart, a local publicist, called to congratulate him on his award and gave him invaluable advice--visit as many independent bookstores in the Northwest as he could and build relationships with the booksellers.
Because of the PNBA award, Stein was able to set up a number of events. He even offered to lead writing workshops and to draw examples from his book instead of doing a typical reading. Attendance ranged from a handful of people to one event where no one showed. That didn't get him down. To each bookseller who hosted him, he said, "We tried our best. And one day I'll come back to your store when I have a bestseller, and we'll pack the place."
And that's just what he did.
When his bestselling The Art of Racing in the Rain eventually found a home at Harper after many setbacks (Shelf Awareness, April 23, 2008), the folks there gave him a 15-page questionnaire to get to know him better. Asked to list bookstores with which he had a special relationship, Stein wrote down 45 stores and included contact names and e-mails for each. Harper clarified that he wasn't supposed to mention all the bookstores he knew and requested he pare the list down to those with which he had a personal relationship. Stein replied, "I have a personal relationship with every bookstore I visit."
Stein recognized the value of having booksellers guide readers to books that would otherwise be overlooked, such as his own book, told from the point of view of a dog, featuring car racing and Zen philosophy. The Art of Racing in the Rain didn't receive a lot of national media attention (except for a flurry of press when Starbucks selected it as a featured title) because it didn't fit into the literary fiction box. Stein said, "And that's how independent booksellers saved me. Because independent booksellers aren't looking for a box. . . . Independent booksellers read and judge for themselves." While The Art of Racing in the Rain was on the New York Times bestseller list for a few weeks, it has remained on the PNBA list and Book Sense/IndieBound lists because independent booksellers recommend it to their customers. He also appreciates independent bookstores and the people who work there because he realizes the necessity of having a wide variety of books stocked and thus a range of ideas disseminated.
To independent booksellers, Garth continued, "You have an obligation to stay in business. . . . You were drawn to this profession and have taken on the duty of your office to keep a diversity of books on your shelves and keep the conversation going. . . . Sometimes it's hard. We feel we can't keep it up. But please keep doing what you're doing. Keep finding new books. Keep selling them. Keep providing readings and events for your community. Keep fostering the exchange of new ideas. I want to thank you for taking Enzo under your collective wing. I thank you. But more, I thank you for your passion, for you commitment and dedication. Without you, this world would be a very dark place."--Melissa Mueller


Janet Burningham said...

Very interesting, thanks Lyle.

Rebecca Talley said...

Thanks for posting this.

Marsha Ward said...

Good article. Thanks!