Radio waves

Things are percolating for Band of Sisters.  We got a nice bump from the News Hour appearance which in turn is getting us noticed by other media.  On Wednesday Kirsten will do a two hour talk radio set of twelve interviews covering coast to coast.  We should get another bump from that, but how big, and for how long?  I’ll be trying to figure that out for the foreseeable future.  If all this sounds like an editor getting into the publicity side of things deeper than normal you’re right.  Stackpole is a small to mid-sized publisher and has a more hands on approach.  It’s time consuming (being an editor, like being an author, means always having homework,) but it’s also what I love so I don’t really notice, although I think this blog is the closest I’ve come to a social life in months. 

Kirsten is fielding several interview requests a day so part of my job is to keep in touch with her, see how she’s holding up, talk strategy – what to focus on for this or that interview – and otherwise keep my eyes and ears open for trends and opportunities.  None of this would be possible without my truly brilliant assistant, Dave.  He’s the one that has to make sure every reporter/interviewer gets a book in time, or a high res image of the cover for an article.  That’s key by the way, always have a high res image ready to send.  A two sentence article on your book becomes a much bigger plug with an image of the cover, and it makes it a lot easier for readers to find it in a bookstore.  The media have a million stories to track down.  The easier you make their job by providing them with clear images, concise statements (ok, sound bites) and a quick response means you’re more likely to see your name in print, and repeatedly.  Oh, and if you are calling in to a show, radio or tv, be on a land line in a quiet location where you won’t be interrupted.  And never hang up until they tell you the interview is over!  Well, unless you’re really miffed.

Post TV, pre-insanity and Amazonian algorithms

It’s not often an author gets on television, let alone a national program, with her first book, so I am very happy with how she performed. I think being an editor is sometimes like being a parent.  You spend a lot of time and energy preparing to send them out into the world to make you money so you can retire in style (that’s what parenting is basically about, right?)  So, what happens now?  We will target all the network shows again with a press package that will include glossy photos of the author and some of the women soldiers in the book.  Why photos?  TV is a photogenic medium and we need to get their attention.  We’ll include a list of all the media the book has received so far (if you’re curious, go to google news then type in “Band of Sisters”) and we’ll also tell them what’s coming up like the ten plus satellite radio interviews that will in turn get broadcast to over 500 affiliates next week (and this is at no cost to the publisher, another publicity tool I’ll talk more about.)

Since the broadcast on Thursday the book jumped on Amazon to the 1,500 range and has been bouncing around there since.  We get numbers from Amazon weekly (mega publishers get this info minute by minute) so I will let you know what that really means.  Whatever the number, it’s a good sign.  We’ve also been receiving re-orders from accounts, the chains and the wholesalers.  Early re-orders are an indication that the ROM (rate of movement) is robust, another good sign.  This is a better indicator than Amazon.  My very rough guesstimate is that Amazon sales are around 10% of total sales.  The bulk of book purchases are still done in brick and mortar stores. 

So now we’re faced with the oh-so-ulcerific challenge of figuring out how many books to reprint.  Obviously, going back to press is a nice thing, although one could look at it as an indication that you didn’t print enough books in the first place.  But you have to remember this business is one of perception.  Going back to press signals to the accounts, the reviewers, the bookers and everyone else that there is DEMAND for this book.  Of course, demand isn’t infinite.  Books, ahem, have a shelf life,  so there is a significant impetus to strike while the iron’s hot. 

On the writing side, I’m deep into researching book two and looking at cover treatments in stores and online to suggest for A Darkness Forged in Fire.  This is a lot of fun as it’s the first time I’ve ever done it for myself. 

Dealing with a television appearance

I’m thrilled, as is my publisher, that my author is going to be on a national news program tonight.  It does bring with it, however, certain challenges.  What kind of bump, if any, will we get from the show?  Will people stampede to the bookstores in herds, in stately groups of one and two, or watch a rerun of Friends?  It is a dilemma.   If you took any economics in school you’ll remember the old supply and demand conundrum.  Too many books out there and they all get returned making what should have been a success look dismal.  Too few books out there and what should have been a success looks like a missed opportunity.  We’re doing what we can to chart a Goldilocks’ approach and find the amount that’s just right.  Our sales force have been on the phones with accounts talking about the appearance and gaining what insight they can into what the stores are seeing at this early stage (the book only went officially on sale yesterday.)  Then there’s the chance that a booker for another network show, perhaps one of the morning shows, see the appearance and wants the author.  Happy days, but with the potential for peril.  Too many or too few books hangs over us like a dinner at Dionysius’. 

Don’t get me wrong, this really is good news, but with any opportunity there is the risk of overreaching, or not reaching far enough.  On a more immediate level, how does the author get there?  It’s worth remembering to ask if the event that wants you is willing to cover your expenses to get there.  In the case of big networks, they foot the bill which makes it an even sweeter deal.  Then there’s the most important issue of them all – what will the author talk about?  Publicists all remind me to tell the author to be prepared to carry the entire conversation on their own.  Whether it’s your local newspaper interviewing you or Matt Lauer you need to assume they’ve never seen your book before an hour ago.  The well prepared author comes equipped with anecdotes, concise thoughts, a sense of humor and maybe even a clear sound bite.  By and large a good rule of thumb is to keep it light, and keep it tight.  Your book might be dense, but if you’re on the medium of tv that has an entirely different meaning. 

Oh, and remember to breathe…he says as he slumps to the floor.

My kingdom for a chocolate chip cookie

Forget money, fame, and power, I, tragically, was born with an all consuming need for chocolate chip cookies.  When I was younger I scoffed at people with addictions.  I couldn’t understand why they just didn’t quit.  Drink too much?  Easy, stop.  Nose candy for breakfast?  No problemo, save your money and buy bonds.  Chocolate chip cookies?  I could quit anytime I want, I simply choose to continue to purchase said item as my small way of keeping the economy going and defeating terrorists everywhere who want to destroy our way of life, which, I can only assume, would mean a ban on nature’s finest creation.  I think I go running most mornings just so I can rationalize eating them later.  I wonder if this is how marathoners do it?  If I keep this up I could be doing 26 miles and three bags of cookies a day. 

At this point I don’t know if I need an intervention or a tall glass of milk.

My author on the Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS this Thursday!

We’ve been working our butts off to get this book, Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq, and the author, Kirsten Holmstedt, some attention and it’s starting to pay off.  We just confirmed that she’ll be on a panel hosted by Judy Woodruff on the Thursday broadcast talking about women soldiers in the current war.  Considering the book officially goes on sale tomorrow and she has a satellite radio blitz next week this is perfect timing.  To quote a British friend of mine, WOOT WOOT!

There are a lot of factors that go into publicizing a book and most of them are unquantifiable.  When I lobbied for the publicity budget for this book there was no way to guarantee anything beyond the money we’d spend.  Being a smaller, but growing, publishing house, we don’t have a spare 100k lying around to throw at a book, so we have to think very squirrelly, ie. where to plant your nuts for the best effect.  Part of our approach was to get finished copies of the book to a lot of papers, mags, websites and other reviewers and build a ground swell of awareness.  I think it was Stalin that said ‘Quantity has a quality all its own.’  Those reviews and articles when amassed have in turn given us some leverage to go after television by showing them this is something they need to be a part of.  That’s not to say PBS didn’t figure it out on their own (we sent them a copy, too,) but we try to make that decision easier by demonstrating a strong response out in the field.  Basically, you’re trying for that critical mass, or, um… tipping point (hey, what a great term, I wonder if anyone’s used that before?)

By the way, one of the reasons I pushed hard to promote this book was because the author is incredibly energetic in helping herself.  That is a huge plus.  Her website will give you some idea of what she’s done on her own initiative