Guest Column: Can I Sizzle You a Cigar?
I refuse to participate in recessions. While I'll readily admit that it is tough to break even, let alone increase sales, in this economy, trust me when I say that there are still plenty of opportunities for creative bookselling.
First, a little backstory. I have always had a deep interest in selling and marketing. When I was a kid I sold everything. It didn't take me long to figure out that pairing items increased sales. Selling lemonade? Add chocolate chip cookies to the menu and knock the kid down the block out of business. Selling packets of flower seeds? Offer a free lawn cutting if a homeowner buys five packs instead of just two.
Decades later, I am the managing director of an independent publishing house working with (primarily) military history titles. We launched in 2004 and have more than 100 books in print. Many have garnered awards, earned slots with national book clubs, and have been niche bestsellers. Sales have risen steadily each year, and in an effort to keep the units moving, this year I developed a premium line of cigars. Wait, what?
April 9, 2003, found Marine Gunny Sergeant Nick Popaditch in the cupola of his M1A1 battle tank in Firdos Square, Iraq. An AP photographer snapped a stunning image of the handsome Marine with a puff of cigar smoke curling from his mouth and Saddam Hussein's ominous statue looming in the background—right before American tanks pulled it down. The image that made its way around the globe on the front pages of scores of newspapers forever branded Popaditch as "The Cigar Marine." Popaditch was fighting in Fallujah a year later when he was struck in the head with a rocket-propelled grenade that left him partially blinded and medically retired from the Corps after 16 years. Four years later we published the Silver Star winner's Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage and Recovery (Savas Beatie, 2008). This candid memoir details his service as a tank commander in Iraq, his horrific wounding and his long and difficult recovery, and its impact on his family and his life. The book was immediately well received, and has made the Marine Corps' Commandant's Recommended Reading List every year it has been available.