03 February 2009

Putting Their Heart into Marketing

On the morning of this 14th of February, at least 40 New England bookstores and 160 New England children's authors are teaming up to create a huge book-signing called "Kids {Heart} Authors."

This event was the brainchild of my writing-group colleague and friend Mitali Perkins (The Secret Keeper), with the input and cooperation of many other authors, illustrators, booksellers, and publishing pros. Gail Gauthier (A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers) wrote about her efforts here.

Among the many other folks participating are Laya Steinberg (All Around Me I See), Sarah Brannen (Uncle Bobby's Wedding), ACE Bauer (No Castles Here), Kay Kudlinski (Boy, Were We Wrong about the Solar System!) Pegi Dietz Shea (Patience Wright), Mark Tyler Nobleman (Boys of Steel), Susannah Reich (Painting the Wild Frontier), Nancy Werlin (Impossible), Susan Goodman (All in Just One Cookie), Melissa Stewart (A Place for Butterflies), Val Giogas (In My Backyard), Mary Brigid Barrett (Our White House), Nicole Tadgell (No Mush Today), Ed and Barbara Emberley (Drummer Hoff), Denise Ortakales (The Legend of the Old Man of the Mountain), and Linda Crotta Brennan (The Black Regiment of the American Revolution).

So far the joint marketing effort has attracted attention from Publishers Weekly, the American Booksellers Association, the Boston Globe book section, and of course Oz and Ends.

It's a curious sort of press attention, prompted by the novelty of the marketing effort itself, before it's had time to work. I saw the same thing happen when another of my writing-group friends, Greg R. Fishbone (The Penguins of Doom), launched the Class of 2K7 with a bunch of other debut novelists, including Karen L. Day (No Cream Puffs).

Other examples include Mark Peter Hughes's cross-country drive with his family to promote Lemonade Mouth, and Brian Lies's customized bat-mobile for Bats at the Beach. (See, I know all these people, so I remember their marketing, and I'm going to grab this opportunity to bring up their names again.)

Unfortunately, the book industry is a lot better at celebrating authors' own marketing initiatives that measuring how well they worked. There just isn't enough money or time in book-publishing to do what other industries would consider rudimentary market research. A company eventually knows how many copies of a book it's sold, but very little about what made people buy it.

And, alas, once an author has done something new to market a book, then the next author who does the same thing gets much less attention--sometimes none. Even if it really worked the first time. All that wonderful industry attention for the novelty fades away.


Ryan MCFC said...

Thanks for mentioning this! My wife and myself will be participating at the Toadstool Bookshop in Milford, NH. We'll be discussing our book, Sword of the Ramurai, and the history of Moo-Cow Fan Club. Plus playing some games and encouraging everyone to read from our book in funny voices. PLUS we'll have an actual sword maker with an actual Katana (samurai sword) on hand to explain his craft! Come on out. Kids (heart) comics signings from 10-12 our talk from 1-2.

Carol Maltby said...

Curious thing about the titles mentioned in this posting -- almost all of them start with one of the shortest words of the phrase, and end with one of the longest.

Is this a Book Titling 101 practice, is it limited to children's books, or is it just noise being mistaken for signal?

J. L. Bell said...

I count eight titles that fit the pattern of starting with the shortest or tied-for-shortest word and ending with the longest or tied-for-longest.

Which leaves fourteen titles that don't.

Greg R. Fishbone said...

The industry rewards novelty, though I'd love to see Kids Heart Authors become an annual event. So cool.