Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Marketing Ideas From Boston

While on a trip to Boston this past Memorial Day Weekend I did a few fun touristy things though I’ve probably been to the city a dozen or more times.  A few marketing ideas come to mind as a result.

First, on a 90-minute Boston Harbor cruise, the tour guide revealed interesting factoids about the city that gave birth to the American Revolution (Tea Party).  You’d think they would run out of things to say about an old historical city, but the tour guide managed to share some facts that most people outside of Boston probably don’t know.  For one, the city’s skyline of 2011 apparently was created in the 1960s.  All but one tall building was built in the last 50 years.  The guide mentioned how Paul Revere really didn’t yell “the British are coming” but rather it was the “Redcoats are coming!” because at the time, everyone was seen as British. The tour guide spoke of the surrounding islands and how two of them got pushed together as a result of a hurricane. Pretty cool stuff.

The lesson there is that even an old city like Boston can keep reinventing itself to stay relevant. So you too, as an author, can keep making the marketing of your book fresh. Come up with little known facts, tell a story about them, and make people think about things they’ve taken for granted or accepted as truth.

I also took a tour of Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in baseball.  Home of the Boston Red Sox, the cozy, odd-shaped field was built in 1912.  As a Mets fan it was nice to see the place where the Mets played on the road to a 1986 championship. As a baseball fan, it was cool to learn history about the game I never knew and to go on the field and walk on the outfield warning track by the Green Monster. I also got to sit in the press box, where journalists and reporters watch and report on every game.

The marketing lesson here is how the teams makes money even when there’s no game.  They sold tickets to this tour that’s given every hour. Hundreds of people take the tour at one time – probably over 1500-2000 on a full day. The tour drops you right into the gift shop to buy memorabilia.  Don’t forget to buy your $35 souvenir photo package of the experience.  It’s amazing. There’s no end to what they can charge for. If they said for 20 bucks we can run the bases I’d probably have done it.  If they offered me  the chance to stand at home plate while a pitcher warms up, I would have pulled out the credit card. If they would have a former player sign autographs for a fee, I would have done that. And I’m not even a Red Sox fan. And I’m not alone. Corporations know this and they exploit our loyalty.

Maybe authors should give tours and charge for it.  No matter what you write on, you can probably make a 45-minute event based on it.  Historical fiction can retrace scenes from the book on the streets of the city it takes place in.  Business books, health books, and books on other subjects can tour the places or things mentioned in the book.

If that doesn’t work, you can do what one jogger recently did. In a 48-hour period, he ran over 250 miles, to set a record.  What he should have done was use the run to promote a book. I guess he may get a book deal from this.   He could have had a sponsor and cashed in on the marathon effort. It’s funny, when people do quirky things we both admire them and also question their sanity. But when one finds a way to cash in on the quirkiness we get a little jealous, wondering why we didn’t think of it first.

Should you create a tour?  Should you attempt to run forever or set a record?

Book marketing today will take more than a bookstore signing and a media appearance to get sales going. Think about the odd, the strange, the rare, the visually stunning, the colorful, and all the ways you can market yourself.  Pick one idea and invest in it.  You have nothing to lose.  Those who want to have breakthrough books don’t think about losses, embarrassment or rejection.  They think: How can I be that guy who jogs for attention?

If all else fails, do what I once did as a teen-ager.  It was in the mid 1980’s.  The Mets had a promotional day called Banner Day.  It was the one time in the season where fans can go on the field. Thousands of people would march with decorative banners, posters and costumes in between a double-header. I went with two friends (in my high school days). We didn’t plan in advance.  On the subway ride to Shea Stadium we ripped two brown paper bags apart and took a marker and wrote: “We just want to be on the field.”  Not only did this pathetic “sign” get us entry to the field but it caught the attention of Mets TV announcer Tim McCarver, who laughed as he read our sign over the air and the cameras zeroed in on us.

It didn’t take much effort or expense to get a few memorable seconds on television.  Sometimes you don’t need the big idea or a giant budget.  Just be funny, timely, and honest.

And if all else fails, get a sidekick. Bring your pet with you somewhere and maybe do a dramatic reading of your book while your cute dog sleeps by your feet.  If animals aren’t your style, use cute kids as props. If you don’t have access to either, maybe combine elements you normally don’t see together, such as a bicycle with a missing wheel, a canoe on land, and a couch – all together on your front lawn. It gets your attention, right?

You can have a giant something next to you – a 10-foot tall photograph, or a man on stilts, or a blow-up doll that’s nine-feet tall.  People are drawn to oversized things.

Gimmicky?  Perhaps. Does it get attention, sell books, and draw media coverage?  Absolutely.

Go book a trip to Boston and you may get a few good marketing ideas.

*** To reach Brian Feinblum, contact and follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

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