Book Marketing and the Lockdown – How Things Can Change

Yesterday, an article in the Observer talked about lockdown heralding a brand new start for the book trade. It tells us a great deal about stats and sales, and is very informative, as one would expect. But it got me thinking about events, about other marketing incentives, and about how books can learn from other disciplines.

In the of the virus and the lockdown, the landscape for book sales is shifting – we know this. Bookstores will need social distancing measures, festivals are unlikely to happen, and your basic signing event will need to change.

In part, this is always an organic process. The days of author-and-pen have been fading steadily for some time, replaced instead by panels and talks. More authors at a single event means more fans, more cross-pollination, more sales. People come to see one author and discover two more (the maths are pretty simple), and everybody wins. Obviously, there are still creators who sign and tour alone, but the rest of us mere mortals are better with wing-people.

And with the current climate, it’s inevitable this will change again. Without events, bookstore websites need to become the destination. Smaller and/or debut authors will be promoted more online – which means less expense and less stress for publicists. The ‘blog tour’ concept is already opening its arms to virtual conventions, and that means more authors, more placements, more content, and more reach out. Zoom panels are a thing, and bookshops or bloggers or both can host these – the possibilities are as wide as your imagination.

But we also know that this climate is difficult for smaller bookshops, and we’ve seen how they’re banding together to fight back against the Amazonian juggernaut. But – and hear me out – what if this cross-pollination can be taken a step further?

In my job, I overlap several different disciplines who all approach marketing in their own way. And there’s a quite frustrating tendency to think that comics people are separate from books people who separate from games people… but, here a thought: what if they’re not? What if your common-or-bookshop geek likes more than one thing at a time? What if they like comics and games as well? And what if book marketing has something to learn?

Amazon is a nasty, soulless giant, with no personal reachout. And this is what we need to exploit if we want to chase it away. We (as much as we ever can) need to offer that things that it can’t – not only the ‘indie bookstore’ personal touch of digital events and signings and involvement, but also the pretty, individual things that we all love to collect, that we can show off across our own social channels, and that make us happy under lockdown. The treasures that you’d only find in your corner store. Books can have collectible variants, like comics. They can have unique artwork, and signed, mini-print editions. They can have steelbook covers, like games, or they can come with figures, if the budget will stretch enough. And why stop there? Why can’t they come in locked boxes, in embossed leather bindings? Why can’t they come with special, exclusive ‘from-the-author’ content that varies from bookshop to bookshop?

(And suddenly, I’m having a wacky idea of a book published in bits, each bit to a different shop, but that might be an extreme case… hell of a trick to do once, though!)

Now, I get that lot of this is a money thing – badges and bookmarks and cakes (on my) are inexpensive, compared to a limited edition run of a hundred numbered steel jackets. But, as the move to (more) digital would seem to be a given, it would be fantastic if publishers and bookstores could find way to back that up!

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Reviews and Tea and Cake

Reviews are funny things.

Get a good one, go orbital. The world is your oyster, and you’re wondering just where you’re going to put that award. Then when you’ve climbed back down and remembered reality, your rational mind takes over and you realise that you’re still just you. The fact that someone loved it is fantastic, they understand it and they enjoyed it, and it’s all fine.

Reviews are funny things.

Get a bad one, and it’s like you’ve been punched. You go on your arse, all your breath knocked out of you and you wonder how to tell your agent you’ll never write again. Then when you’ve stood back up and remembered how to inhale, your rational mind takes over and you realise that you’re okay. Not everyone’s going to like the book, not everyone likes the same thing, it’s all fine.

In Ecko’s case, when you’ve written a book that’s that far outside the box, that has a confrontational lead character, then it’s going to provoke strong reaction. Some people are going to love it, others are going to hate it and find it offensive. And honestly, if they didn’t? Then Ecko wouldn’t be the character he is.

Reviews are funny things.

Too many good ones, and the bad ones keep you grounded. Too many bad ones, and the good ones stop you drinking meths.

Author Jaine Fenn once gave me a piece of wisdom I’ve never forgotten. When Jaine gets a bad review, her husband sits her down and feeds her tea and cake. When Jaine gets a good review, her husband sits her down and feeds her tea and cake…

Bless Jaine. Tea and cake, it seems, is a universal panacea.

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In the Wild!

Raymond E Feist tells a wonderful story about how, when ‘Magician’ was first released, he went round all of his local bookstores ensuring that they sold their copies, and therefore ordered more. I get the impression he’s told this tale more than once!

With this noble legend in mind, I can’t exactly guarantee that my local bookstore will conjure similar vast and ongoing magic… but bless the manager of Waterstones in Sutton for being so supportive!

 

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FP’s Small Press Expo – and a Question…

From an original idea by Jared Shurin, randomly dropped on the table during a meeting, yesterday’s Small Press Expo had the potential to do something new. Throw in NewCon Press’s brand new ‘Hauntings’ Anthology, specifically organised by Ian Whates to launch at the occasion, and a host of titles brought to us by Ian, by Jared’s Jurrasic label, and also by Snowbooks and Myrmidon Books, and we can spin an industry mixer at which everybody wins.

An almighty guest list included Christopher Priest, Philip Palmer, Adrian Tchaikovsky and a host of authors and artists and movers and shakers from across the genres – as well as some good news for the Apocalypse Girls and some subsequent fun in the pub with Fifty Shades of Geekdom (no link for that one – you’ll have to wait!).

Guaranteed, the books department at FP is a little too warm for that many bodies – huge thanks to everybody for eating the cupcakes before they slumped under the heat. Many of us were popping out for a breather, but the fact that everybody came back is testimony to a wonderfully successful occasion.

And it leaves me with a question.

We know that the nature of the book signing is changing – that the days of bloke-with-pen are rapidly falling behind us. We’ve had talks, readings, Q&As, and we’ve flown the FP rocket at other venues, at the British Library and the British Institution.

This month, two weekends in succession, we’ve had big events at the store – both times simultaneously with equally large and well-attended events at comic- and bookstores nearby. So the question is, with bookstores struggling to maintain life against the Amazonian onslaught, (not to mention Katie Price and her – erm – horse), has the very nature of the ‘signing’, the ‘promotional event’, become competitive?

Perhaps not so much in the UK – after all, we’re all mates. People go from one event to the other; we all wind up in the same pub and the bonds of community are as strong as ever. But moving forwards…

…it is that long before we’ll be needing orange speedos and vodka bottles to make an event a success? Please, tell me it will never happen…

 

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Iain Banks and Kim Stanley Robinson

How does that saying go? I love it when a plan comes together?

This one is thanks to Rose at Orbit and Jon at the Brish Library, and it goes something like this…

Forbidden Planet and Orbit Books, in association with the British Library, are delighted to present a unique opportunity to hear two giants of the genre in conversation about 2012, the end of the world, and the future of science fiction. This event will take place in the Auditorium at the British Library.

Tickets £7.50, concessions £5. Doors open 3pm, for a 3:30 start and the event will be followed by a public signing from 5 – 6pm.

For tickets or more information, you can find the event on the FP website.

Conventions, it seems, aren’t the only things that are changing with the times :)

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LOOSE!!

Ecko is loose in the wild. Lock up your flamethrowers!

Cheers for Titan Books who’re doing an absolutely storming job of getting his ass out there – initially at EasterCon, with samplers and badges and readings, oh my.

Reading in public for the first time scared the absolute bejesus out of me. Bless Cory Doctorow for a 30-second pep talk that proved invaluable – through even the mighty Captain Boing couldn’t save me from knees shaking so badly I had to lift my Mac off them (be easier when I have a book!) Thank you to everybody who turned up – and didn’t throw things.

The remainder of EasterCon involved a great deal of badge-pinning – onto anyone who’d stand still for long enough. And many of you were good enough to actually keep them in view. More than a few people came past the FP stall with compliments on the sampler – and I managed to sign my first proper official author-type signature for Paul McAuley.

(And you bet I’ll be watching eBay when the book comes out…)

I also managed to sign the MonQee – in the same room where the project was launched in ’08. For anyone who remembers that, it was a suitably surreal moment.

Apparently, Ecko samplers have also been seen out in the open at the London Book Fair this week – along with a whopping great poster up at the Titan Books stall. As Ecko’s flanked by Bats on one side and Kick-Ass on the other, I figure he’s in some pretty august company and he’ll behave himself – but you just never know.

Anyway, I have a scattered few badges and samplers left over. Not really enough to support an event – but if you want one, please holler!

 

 

 

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EasterCon – The George Effect

You know how it is – when you’re at a Con, you do kind-of concoct the blog post in your head as you’re going along. (Or maybe that’s just a side-effect of being behind a table in the Dealers’ Room?) Either way, this one was going to be all about The George Effect. How GRRM was an absolutely lovely man – and about the effect that having Game of Thrones on prime-time TV, and then at the Con itself, had opened the doors to a whole new range of fans… fantasy becoming mainstream, new credibility and community, we know how it goes…

But hey, looks like David Barnett in the Guardian has done it for me.

Instead, there was a second thread to EasterCon, woven in with the first – and one that’s becoming more predominant with every event we’ve attended…

Costume.

Championed by the wondrously tea-making Doctor Geof, Steampunk, specifically, is becoming more than a thread, it’s becoming a full-on machine. Costuming has been loitering at Cons for decades, but it’s not about Trekkies any more – it has a new glamour and elegance, a full-on social involvement brought in precisely by the media that’s now representing our genre/s. Not only is George bringing in new fans, but the new expansion of the literary into the visual is opening events like EasterCon to a different swathe of people.

Rita’s absolutely right when she uses the word ‘inclusivity’ – this was an event that was all about the welcome. After the SFX Weekender, we were thinking about book conventions and how they’d have to adapt – and lo, here is EasterCon doing exactly that. The changes were obvious, even among the traders. More people, younger people, are attending and reading and and becoming involved.

I’ll talk about Ecko (you know I will!) but not here – this is the place for the ‘thank you’. This EasterCon was about the opening out of traditional social cliches and barriers…

George, genre, glamour and garment, I think we’ll look back at Olympus 2012 as a new beginning for us all.

 

 

 

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Acquisition Announcement!

Titan Books to Publish Genre-Bending Debut Novel by Respected UK Science-Fiction and Fantasy Professional

Titan Books are delighted to announce the acquisition of worldwide rights to the extraordinary novel Ecko: Rising and its sequel by first time writer, Danie Ware.

Ware is the publicist and event organiser for cult entertainment retailer Forbidden Planet. She has been immersed in the science-fiction and fantasy community for the past decade, and has worked closely with a wide-range of genre authors. An early adopter of blogging, social media and a familiar face at conventions, she appears on panels as an expert on genre marketing and retailing.

Ecko: Rising is a unique genre-bending fantasy–sci-fi epic following a savage, gleefully cynical anti-hero. After awakening in a dimension-jumping inn to find himself immersed in his own sardonic fantasy world, Ecko joins a misfit cast of characters and strives to conquer his deepest fears and save the world from extinction. Danie Ware says, “I’ve been writing fantasy since my twenties, and Ecko has been a new set of eyes with which to see the traditional genre. Working with Titan has been fantastic as they have really come on board with both the concept and the project, and have brought an original idea to life.”

Ecko: Rising is scheduled for publication in the UK in autumn 2012, and the US in 2013. Fiction editor Cath Trechman bought the rights from The Cooke Agency. She says, “Danie has created an extraordinary fantasy world, filled with rich, vibrant characters, and a story that is thrilling, compelling and wonderfully unpredictable. We at Titan feel very lucky to have found such a remarkable talent.”

Ecko: Rising will be launched at the Olympus EasterCon 2012 with an exclusive sampler and a reading from Danie Ware at 1pm on Friday April 6th in room 12 (Tetworth). She will also be on a panel discussing promoting yourself online on Sunday at 10am.

For press please contact: Sophie Calder – sophie.calder@titanemail.com / 020 7803 1906

(I love the phrase genre-bending. Just saying!)

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Reading? At EasterCon?

Yes, I will be reading at EasterCon!

It’s at 1:00pm on the Friday, so will be unfortified by alcohol (though possibly not by cake). Please come along, listen, point and laugh, and throw things.

I figure, after Rock Band…

I’ll be sharing the hour with Emma Newman, reading from 20 Years Later – so please bring enough ammunition for both of us!

There will also be panelling, a little later on during the weekend – this one equally unfortified by booze (unless you count the glasses guzzled on the previous evening)…

If you’re awake, I will be moderating the ‘promoting yourself online’ panel with Elspeth Cooper, Paul Cornell, Tom Hunter and Simon Spanton – all of us bright-eyed and busy-tailed at 10am on Sunday morning.

Otherwise, you will find me tied to the Forbidden Planet dealers’ table, as usual, or in the bar!

Oh – and don’t forget to ask us for a Bingo card. Convention Bingo – we’ve been threatening this for at least a year and now we’re committed…

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