Launch Party: Behind the success of Geoff Smart's bestselling "Leadocracy"
As the 2012 general election looms, the book marketplace, already flooded with politically themed tomes, will become even moreso. Red and blue and donkeys and elephants and flag pins and profiles in courage… it’s enough to drive even the most fervent politico batty. With so much noise, it can be hard to get your signal picked up. Then we heard about Geoff Smart’s “Leadocracy.” The New York Times Bestseller, published by independent Austin, Texas-based Greenleaf Book Group, is about hiring great leaders into government (where, it’s reasoned, there is a dearth). We were curious to know how Smart and Greenleaf cut through the clutter to get their book noticed—and bought—in great numbers. We caught up with Smart, coauthor of another New York Times Bestseller “Who: The A Method for Hiring,” and Tanya Hall, Greenleaf’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, via email for a quick Q&A about the launch strategy behind the book.
Book Business: Can you tell me a little bit about why you acquired the book in the first place?
Tanya Hall: Geoff Smart is the co-author of the NY Times bestseller “Who: The A Method for Hiring,” and we use his hiring methodologies as best practices here at Greenleaf Book Group. He has a huge platform in the management and leadership space. When we learned he was doing a book about developing stronger leadership in the public sector, we knew it would be a great fit for our line.
Book Business: How was the release date chosen to maximize sales potential?
Tanya Hall: The book officially pubbed on July 4, allowing for some extra patriotic marketing/publicity tie-ins and a head start on all of the other political books that generally come out in the fall.
Geoff Smart: We started spreading the word about the book six months before the presidential election.
Book Business: What sort of marketing mix did you employ and how did you time it?
Tanya Hall: It was a mix of advertising, blogger outreach and the efforts of Cave Hendricks Communications on the PR/media outreach side. Timing-wise, there were a number of hits before pub date and more continue to come in.
Book Business: You mentioned to me political books are hard to sell leading up to an election because there are so many titles jockeying for position in that space. Were there any tactics you used to emerge from that pack?
Geoff Smart: Yes, making the theme oddly nonpartisan and positive in a sea of negativity.
Book Business: So this book was on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (business and nonfiction) bestseller lists in July. How has it continued to do for you?
Geoff Smart: Awesome. Selling in top 100 political leadership books. Over 30 great media hits. The launch exceeded expectations.
Book Business: How did you capitalize on Mr. Smart's previous, co-authored bestseller? I notice that the “A” is very subtly underlined on the book jacket. Is that a nod to "Who: The A Method for Hiring"?
Geoff Smart: Yes, the underlined A is a nod to “Who,” and existing fan purchases from “Who” is how we got to bestseller status. Credibility too—“Who” has been one of the best-selling and most-acclaimed books on hiring leaders in the private sector. “Leadocracy” simply extends the focus to hiring leaders in the public sector.
Book Business: You've got quite the list of endorsements for the book from business leaders. I presume that was part of the marketing push? How did you leverage those?
Geoff Smart: Yes—enthusiastic endorsements from three governors, 30 CEOs and leading scholars gave credibility for early media and motivation to buyers, reinforcing that there is a valuable message in the book.