Monday, February 07, 2005

More on book promotion - a "new" approach

Jane Friedman, president and CEO of HarperCollins Publishers, is widely known in the business not merely for innovation (she invented the author tour) but for the highly successful implementation of her big ideas. Now she's got another plan, and it sounds good to me.

After just having blogged on Saturday about the way publishers routinely drop the ball when it comes to sensible book-promotion, I was pleased to find this article yesteday in The New York Times:

Ms. Friedman, 59, says she envisions a day when a reader in a bookstore will reach for a HarperCollins novel the way some parents of young children now reach for a Disney film in a video store - a result of faith in the producer rather than the specific content. To instill that loyalty, HarperCollins is embarking on a project called Publishing Plus, which includes plans to pitch new books directly to readers through e-mail and the Internet and to offer "bonus material" in new paperbacks, much the way peripheral features are regularly included on DVD's.
Sorry, Ms. Friedman, but as clever as you undoubtedly are, you weren't the first to think that stuff up. As I posted in the "comments" section of Saturday's blog entry, my own publisher has been instilling that kind of loyalty in its customers for years and years. Even the hot new idea of offering "bonus material" has been done, most notably in Harlequin's new Signature Select line.

Here's part of what I wrote on Saturday

I believe Harlequin/Silhouette/Steeple Hill actually does
a pretty good job of promoting their "category" books.
But they promote lines, not authors or individual books.
When my book came out people didn't rush out to buy
Brenda Coulter's Finding Hope. They just wanted to snag
one of the latest "Love Inspired" books. That worked in
my favor because Love Inspired is hugely popular and
I'm a nobody.

More from the Times article:

Other publishers have tried to burnish their names as
brands, but with only occasional success. That is
because most people do not walk into a bookstore
looking for a Doubleday novel or a Simon & Schuster
title. Rather, they go in search of a Dan Brown thriller
or the new Bob Woodward best seller.

I would argue that the Harlequin family has done an excellent job of "burnishing" their names. As I already pointed out, people absolutely do walk into a store looking for the latest offerings in their favorite Harlequin/Silhouette/Steeple Hill lines -- and they'll buy the books even when they don't recognize the authors' names. The Harlequin family has been using this approach with great success not just for their "category" lines, but even for their single-titles.

Perhaps it's time for the rest of bookdom to give it a try. Let's see what you've got, Ms. Friedman.


Susan Kaye said...

Bonus material is not new as you point out. I have a copy of "The Double Heart Diner" by Annie Jones, WaterBrook Press, 1999 which has the first chapter of the author's next book tucked in the back. And this is hidebound, non-emergent CBA, folks!

One of the most successful POD authors started out giving ALL her work away. All my work is online. If I ever get to publish, I'll take it down.

Giving out "samples" is old hat in retail. But I suppose that once the higher ups in publishing discover something, all that is old becomes NEW again!

Brenda Coulter said...

You're absolutely correct, Susan. "Bonus material" in books is not a new idea. Although I pointed to Harlequin's new "Signature Select" line as an example, Harlequin has in fact been offering little goodies like chapters from upcoming books for years. I don't doubt that other publishers have done it, too.

Chris said...

Bonus chapters appear in a lot of Tony Hillerman paperbacks, pitching his upcoming hardcover. I used to read them, but then realized I'd wind up not buying the next book in paperback because the opening "sounded familiar." Consequently, I was buying every other paperback for a while and wondering why they'd refer to recent events I'd never read about (things that happened in chapters 2+ of the book I'd skipped).

I'd much rather read an "author commentary" detailing the background of the book, what influenced it, etc.

--Chris (dFm)

Brenda Coulter said...

I, too, enjoy seeing author comments at the end of a book. And you're right -- having read those "teaser" chapters can cause confusion at book-buying time.

Or maybe that's just you and me, der Fieldenmarshal.

Small Blue Thing said...


2005 is the 4th Centenial of Dom Quixote's First Edition, and one of the most important spanish editors has made a Centenial Edition with extra materials. At a first sight it sounded weird to me _as I'm a confessed, proud quixotian.

But at all it's a great work. In one volume, you've got a full-noted, beautiful edition of the novel, while in the second you've got some essays about Cervantes and his work, and every books Dom Quixote quotes along his travels. Yow know, Dom Quixote got mad after reading too many Fantasy & Chevaliers Books. And you can read selected pieces of those novels _what was almost impossible for non-researchers nowadays.

On the other hand, Almudena Grandes, a modern writer, has presented the Special Anniversay Edition of her first novel, with revised texts and... extra stuff. Great. Like Star Wars. Quite worse as Star Wars.

I wonder if some writers are dealing with some sort of... complex?

Blue Thing

Brenda Coulter said...

Blue Thing, I think it was having to read Don Quixote in high school that made me go mad. Every time I see that drawing of Picasso's, I shudder at the memory. ;-)

But I suppose the book is better in Spanish, right?

Small Blue Thing said...

It's just The Book :) _while it's a quite difficult reading, even for Spaniards.

Cervantes made irony and parody of his contemporary Fantasy Books, so you have to know a little about them if you want to understand... any single Don Alonso's word :)

Many High School students just shudder only with mentioning the reading ;) It's teacher's fault, in many cases. Who the Hell could make eat roast beef to a little baby? The same rules for some ancient literatures.

But wait a minute... a Picasso Illustrated Quixote??? I had no remote idea about it. Mhm...

Blue Thing

Brenda Coulter said...

No, I was just talking about Picasso's famous black-on-white drawing titled, Don Quixote. You know the one I mean -- Quixote on his horse with Sancho and his donkey further back, and a big, bright sun just like the ones we all drew when we were six years old. ;-)