Henry Holt Experiments With Online Marketing: A Q&A With Marketing Director Richard Rhorer
Earlier this year, Richard Rhorer, marketing director at Henry Holt and Company, chose the online social-networking site MeetUp.com—on which visitors meet around a shared interest, first online and then in person—to help better connect the publisher with its readers. To help spread the word about an upcoming release, “What Was Lost,” he used the online tool to invite Web-savvy book lovers to come together at a Manhattan bar with the book’s author, Catherine O’Flynn. Attendees were mailed galleys of the book ahead of time, and about 50 people showed up for the event. “Getting 50 people to attend an event for an unknown author is a terrific result,” says Rhorer.
In addition to generating interest in the title, Rhorer also pulled focus-group information from those in attendance. He tells Book Business Extra that the event was just one of several new digital options Holt is utilizing to help create buzz for its upcoming releases.
Book Business Extra: What did you get out of the recent experience on MeetUp.com?
Richard Rhorer: [This] was just a … small experiment we were conducting. If we offered the book early, how many people would take us up on it? How many people would show up beyond just getting a book [in the mail]? … We had hoped that these people would have Facebook or MySpace profiles and blogs. We did see people who went to that [MeetUp.com event] writing on their blogs about it. That was one outcome we hoped would happen. In terms of the focus group, it helped us as we prepare the final book descriptions for the back panel of the jacket. It was very instructional.
Extra: What can appealing to Web-savvy readers involved in social-networking sites offer to book publishers who are looking to get the word out about a new title?
Rhorer: … In the past, if someone liked a book, they might recommend it to a couple of friends. It’s [common] to see someone with 300 or 400 friends [on a social-networking site]. That word of mouth thing—which we believe is the most effective marketing—can be amplified. People who want to be opinion-makers have these Web connections where they can post a link to a review and 400 people, as opposed to two or three, will see it. It speeds up the process a lot where word of mouth is an essential. Engaging that audience, especially those people online, can be hugely beneficial.