BEA Panel Explores the Pros and Cons of Book Marketing Stunts
At BookExpo America on Wednesday, Edward Nawotka, editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, kicked off a session titled "Book Stunts: Surprising Marketing Practices From Around the World" with an arresting statistic.
According to RR Bowker, "the general professional and trade industries released 1.3 million books [last year]," Nawotka said. "When you couple that with the proliferation of self publishing platforms ... that number hit 3 million individual titles published in the United States last year. It's an astronomical sum. Literally a little bit less than one percent of the entire population of the United States ... has published a book."
With so many voices clamoring to find an audience, it's hard to make any one book stand out, Nawotka noted. "There's noise, noise, noise, noise out in the market," he said. "So how on earth do you get noticed?"
For some authors and publishers, the answer has lately come from attention grabbing stunts, such as novelist Jennifer Belle's hiring of several dozen female actresses to ride the subways of New York and laugh uproariously while reading her book.
The stunt got a lot of press, with ample coverage in New York media including the New York Times and New York Post, Nawotka said.
A stunt by German publisher Eichborn had promotional banners tied to flies (the living, buzzing kind), which were released at the Frankfurt Book Fair. American author Brad Meltzer put together a funny YouTube video mostly featuring members of his own family giving his books poor reviews (including a small child's comment: "Interesting premise if you don't think about it too much.")
Of course, the key question is whether these stunts actually translate into sales.
"Entertaining somebody far exceeds getting a [book] review[ed] in some cases," said Erin Cox, a business development director at Publishing Perspectives who is also a literary agent. "You get a lot more impressions if you entertain people .... [these authors] did things that shock people into paying attention, and I think in a lot of ways that does help."