Can ordinary authors, many of whom are unknown and untested, command Broadway ticket prices for special events that combine your standard author talk and sign with food, music, and other goodies?
A recent article in The Washington Post (owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos) discussed how bestselling author Jodi Picoult commanded a $95 fee for a special event co-hosted by her publisher, Penguin-Random House, and Good Housekeeping. Fans received a signed advance review copy of her upcoming book, music and dancing, a buffet dinner with wine, a chocolate tasting, and a fashion preview curated by Talbot’s. It’s as if an entire mall of things and events came under one roof.
I love it. Book publishing absolutely should innovate like this. The venue was the Mead Center in Southwest Washington, DC. If bookstores can’t figure out how to make things like this happen, then non-bookstores are the next best place to spread the word.
It’s a simple formula – present an author/book along with other things that people value and turn the moment into an event that gets people talking.
Penguin-Random House seems to be leading the way. They got 500 people to pony up $150 to attend an event for bestselling author Diana Gabaldon, and in the fall it will team with Redbook magazine to launch Sophie Kinsella’s new book at a spa.
Does this mean authors will no longer speak for free or the price of a book? Of course not. These authors will still promote anyway they can – webinars, seminars, bookstore signings, library chats, social media and all the ways one gets the buzz going. But it’s nice to see authors are elevated into stores and that, by association with other popular brands, they are being viewed as desirable and important.
Can this type of event translate into something first-time, or self-published, or midlist authors can do? I don’t see why not.
First, start with a theme. In the megastar scenario, the name author is a draw. In the unknown author version, the draw will be the event’s variety and the theme of not one author, but perhaps a panel of authors. Maybe these events are lower-priced or they involve book giveaways and not book sales. The goal for the author is exposure and the partners or sponsoring businesses will also get exposure and bank some of the proceeds.
Second, why not take the event idea further. How about creating a theatre for authors. They can be 100-to-300 seat theatres where admission fees are charged to hear authors speak, signed books can be sold or given away, and other partners can be brought in as well.
Authors should view themselves as part of the entertainment economy, no matter the subject or genre of their books. Create a show rather than a “talk.” Give people a book plus something else, and not just a book.
Let’s make it a mobile show. Imagine a book event on a train, bus, or plane – or one that’s held in a restaurant, hotel, or underutilized cinema house or church. How about a book pajama party or a book camping trip?
The goal of all this is not necessarily to become a celebrity, but rather, to try new approaches and vehicles to further books in general and your author brand in particular. Books can be marketed in a way that elevates the author and puts him or her on par with musicians, actors, journalists, and community leaders.
It’s time to put some showmanship into book marketing. Books on Broadway. It has a nice ring to it.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014
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