Creative Marketing

In Marketing on August 4, 2010 at 8:49 am

While I think most of us are plotting and writing away and trying to get published, somewhere in the backs of our minds we’re thinking about the next step: selling. Once our book has been published, we don’t get to wander back to the cozy solitude of our desks to begin the process again. No, we must hit the road and pound the pavement. Publishers no longer keep stables of publicists. The reality of being a “successful” writer (read: make enough money to write the next book) in today’s world demands that we apply our creative skills to marketing as well.

I once knew a motivational speaker who couldn’t get his self-published books into bookstores. The covers were slick enough; he had hired a graphic artist to ensure his book looked like it belonged in a bookstore, right down to the bar code. After knocking on dozens of bookstore doors, though, he finally came up with his eureka moment: reverse shoplifting.

Reverse shoplifting, as the moniker implies, required a certain amount of stealth. My friend would saunter into bookstores, looking like a regular, everyday bookstore browser (and hopefully not like a private eye from an old B movie), but one thing made him different: He had a few copies of his own book hidden beneath his coat. When no one was looking, he would leave the books shelved in the appropriate section.

His theory was that when an eager would-be reader tried to purchase the book, the transaction would create an error in the computerized register and the clerk would have to override the system. This would prompt some confusion and a check of the shelves. Seeing more books on the shelf, staff would manually add them to the inventory. When the last copy was sold, the store’s computer would prompt an order.

I never did discover how many books this scheme sold for my friend, but almost 20 years later I still remember it. It was definitely inventive. And today, one of his books is No. 47,518 on Amazon. Not altogether insignificant.

For another take on inspired marketing, read Jennifer Belle’s account of selling her latest book in her post, “I Paid Them to Read My Book.” Her idea garnered coverage in The New York Times‘ Sunday Metro Section and landed her on Page Six of the New York Post.

Posted by Sara.

  1. This is interesting AND funny, Sara, about the Reverse Shoplifting. Thinking about one of my dear friends who is a successful writer (whose name shall remain a mystery), I wonder whether she ever tried it.
    Re: switching from our creative skills to our marketing skills once we get the manuscript out, actually sounds refreshing. I mean, the completion of the manuscript is so labor intensive; I can’t imagine how it would be to jump right back in the saddle again after finishing one. On the other hand, how wonderful to have the words keep flowing out from one’s fingertips, yes?
    Thanks again for creating this site for all of us. I look forward to re-connections, again and again.

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