The Power of Podcasting: Bantam Dell Director of Internet Marketing Ken Wohlrob on how offering free content helped "Faefever" debut at No. 3 on The New York Times Best-seller List.
In preparation for the release of "Faefever," the third installment of Karen Marie Moning's “Fever” paranormal thriller series, Bantam Dell decided to utilized a varied set of promotional tools. Regular installments of a free podcast containing the full audio of "Darkfever," the original book in the series; a mass-market paperback release of "Bloodfever," the second entry in the series; and online excerpts of the first few chapters from the new title all helped push “Faefever” onto The New York Times Best-seller List.
Ken Wohlrob, Bantam Dell Publishing Group’s director of Internet marketing, talked to Book Business Extra about the promotional strategy that he helped put together behind the successful release.
Book Business Extra: How did you develop the digital promotion strategy for “Faefever”?
Ken Wohlrob: … It was a bunch of different ideas that collided into one idea. Podcasting a full book's not new. I’d be an idiot to claim we were the first to do it. …The [question] was, “What’s the best book for this?" … The first in a series was the best bet. It was a good way to introduce the characters to those who may not have known the characters. [Karen] thought it was a great way to reach out to new fans.
Since we were doing the first book in the series, we didn’t see it having any negative impact on the new book coming out. We had the new mass-market [paperback of “Bloodfever”] coming out at the end of August, followed a few weeks later by the hardcover [of “Faefever”]. Starting in the beginning of August, we started podcasting “Darkfever,” which led into the mass-market [release of “Bloodfever”]. … We thought, "Let’s use this to snowball into the new hardcover [release]."
It was interesting—at least for me and a lot of people here—in that it was an established author like Karen. But this was a new series for her, and it's crowded territory today. "Twilight" and "True Blood" are ruling paranormal. How do we make a name for her and find new fans? This could distinguish her and give her name recognition. Let’s drive those fans to this author and give them some content.
Extra: How did the podcast work?
Wohlrob: … We spread the podcast over seven weeks. It ran from early August to Sept. 11. ... We tried to keep them relatively short … around 30 minutes or under. … [Audiobook publisher] Brilliance Audio was more than cooperative. ...
Extra: What tips would you offer other publishers who are thinking about this type of promotion?
Wohlrob: I think the one thing that we really did that was smart … [was] to see how this was going to work in the bigger picture of the book. There's a lot of free content out there. Offering free content is not going to make [a book] a best-seller. It has to tie into all the other things. What we did was a very public and easy-to-see promotion, but there was a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff to get people excited and to get people talking about the book. … We didn’t make it the only component. We used it as a great driver.
Extra: What were the results of the promotional efforts?
Wohlrob: The hardcover [of "Faefever"] debuted at No. 3. That's the highest this author has gotten on The New York Times Best-seller List. The obvious benefit is that we had 60,000 podcast downloads. You can keep it up as long as you want. We had 155,000 of the excerpts [of “Faefever”] downloaded. That’s something else that is still [online]. We’re still generating fans. That’s the benefits of doing these online promotions. They can take off on their own. We did see a really, really nice climb in book sales. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. We took an author that had been established pretty well, brought in new fans, and increased sales above the previous hardcover [in the series]. … What we saw was that sales were great for the book and still are. …
Extra: What made this more beneficial than other forms of promotion?
Wohlrob: Everything we did was cheap to do. Small publishers and large publishers could do this. What it comes down to is that you're put in a position [where] you're promoting free stuff. A lot of times that’s where people drop the ball. People don't think they have to promote the free stuff, too. Publishers and publishing, in general, are a little wary of offering stuff up for free. It’s not something people are able to get their heads around. I think if you’re creative enough about it, you can get people involved in characters and use them as a way to bring new people to the table or bring people back to the author or use it as a ramp up to the new book.
Extra: Do you plan to do similar promotions in the future?
Wohlrob: We're in plans to do this with other authors and titles because this was a great success. It really proved that using free content can help drive sales for a book and raise awareness and do all the great things you want it to do. The problem is that recording podcasts and producing them can be time-consuming. It’s not something we can roll out for every book we do. The other thing to stress is that this is not something you want to do for every book. Something will get lost in the shuffle. You’re building an event. If you do it for everything, you lose that this is a big splash. We’re in the works to keep doing that. ...