Seth Godin recently wrote about the poor marketing skills of some book publishers.
It reminded me of something I experienced a while back. The following is a true story.
In late 2009, hubby and I visited Los Angeles. The trip was part vacation and part business.
While there, we decided do something we’d never done: attend the taping of a TV show. I selected the (now defunct) Bonnie Hunt show because tickets were free and she seems like a fun lady.
Hubby and I, along with nearly 200 other folks, waited over two hours to be ushered into the studio. During our wait, everyone discussed who the guests might be that day. No one seemed to know for sure, but there were rumors that it might be LL Cool J, or Ree Drummond, who has a cookbook that I highly recommend (unless you’re on a diet, in which case, forget I mentioned it). And then someone said that one of guests might be writer John Irving. This is when my heart did a flippity-flip.
John Irving is best known for The Hotel New Hampshire and The World According to Garp. But the reason my heart did a few flips when I heard his name is because John Irving wrote A Prayer for Owen Meaney, one of my all-time favorite novels.
A Prayer for Owen Meaney is truly an amazing book. In fact, everyone who reads this touching novel forms an immediate kinship. It’s true: I read this novel over 15 years ago, but whenever I meet someone who has read it, we immediately want to embrace. I’m not kidding. It feels like we’ve found a rare, kindred soul who share a secret – that the novel A Prayer for Owen Meaney touches you deeply in a way very few novels ever do. It’s right up there with To Kill A Mockingbird, folks.
So. I’m sitting on a bench in the Culver City Studios, waiting to be escorted into the studio and I’m thinking this could turn out to be one of the most amazing examples of synchronicity in my entire life…
Seriously. What are the odds that the one day I decide to be a studio audience member, that the guest is one of my favorite authors? I. Am. Psyched.
We’re escorted to our seats. First, we’re entertained by Bonnie’s warm-up comedian guy (who heckles my husband in front of the entire audience, but that’s another story). And then Bonnie enters. She’s adorable and funny and this audience-member-thing is surprisingly fun. Finally, she mentions that day’s guest.
LL Cool J – check.
Rumor Willis (daughter of Bruce and Demi) – check
the author John Irving – oh good God in heaven – check!
Bonnie confirmed it – John Irving will be one of today’s guest! I can hardly sit still.
The rest of the show is a blur. I’m waiting for John. Honestly, I wouldn’t know him if he was sitting right next to me (even long-time fans often don’t know what their favorite authors look like), but I’m ready to find out.
When he walks on the set, my first thought is “He’s very handsome!”. When he sits down to chat with Bonnie, I realize (duh!) he’s there to promote his new novel.
Here I should pause this story to give some well-deserved “kudos” to the publisher. They did some truly smart marketing when they arranged for John to appear on this national show. I – a longtime fan – was unaware that a new book was available, and now I know. That’s pretty much the definition of good marketing.
Back to the story: As Bonnie and John discuss the book, I’m having the following thoughts: “I can’t wait to read it. I’m going to write the World’s Best Review of it on Amazon! Gosh, he really is quite handsome. I wish I could tell him that I’m a huge fan.”
Then, the following thought grabs me: “Oh my gosh, I bet we’re all getting a free copy of his new novel!!!”
I’ve seen this happen before on talk shows, of course. Ellen does it. Oprah sure as hell does it. After they discuss the book/product/whatever, they turn to the audience and say “And everyone in today’s audience is getting one for free!” at which point everyone erupts in elated applause.
Now I’m really excited, and my thoughts include: “I’m going to tell everyone I know about this! I’ll buy more copies and give them as Christmas gifts. It sounds like a really great novel. This is so awesome.”
Then, all too soon, the interview is over and John exits the stage.
Wait a minute. They forgot something. Aren’t we getting a free copy?
It turns out, no. We’re not getting a free copy, and at the time, it was a mild disappointment, but not really a big deal. It wasn’t until later, when I looked at the situation from the eyes of a marketer (instead of a overly-excited fan) that I realized what a lost opportunity that was. No, scratch that. It was more than a lost opportunity. It was a short-sighted, stupid decision by the publisher to not provide free copies. Why? Think of everything they missed:
1. That wonderful moment on national TV when the audience erupts in applause after being told they’re receiving the free gizmo. Don’t underestimate this moment. Makers-of-products everywhere pay millions of dollars for such moments on national television. In this instance, the publisher could have received it for less than $ 1000 (the Fed Ex cost to ship 200 books to LA + the cost of the books themselves).
2. Two hundred missed opportunities to create a new John Irving fan.
3. No doubt not every audience member was a reader. So what? Give a non-reader a hardcover book and there’s no way they’ll throw it away. They’ll simply give it to a friend who reads. Hell, this was early November. Do you know how many of those free books would have ended up under the Christmas tree, as a gift to someone else? That would have created even more opportunities for John to acquire new fans.
4. Word of mouth. This is the most important of all. By not giving away free copies, the publisher lost any opportunity to generate real buzz. There were bloggers in that audience, Random House. You took away any opportunity for them to go home and blog about the cool book they got at the Bonnie Hunt show.
5. With only 200 audience members, John could have easily signed each copy. Then, each recipient would have left the studio feeling they had something far more valuable than a $ 30 book. They had a personalized item that had been touched and signed by a famous author. That has an entirely different feel to it. Now we feel connected to him.
Instead, we left the studio with a good feeling that quickly passed. Today, I bet 95% of the audience members couldn’t tell you the name of the author who was a guest at the Bonnie Hunt Show on the day they attended a taping.
When an author hires me to produce a book, I tell them in our first meeting: “Plan to give away 5% of your print run.” I wish someone would tell the big guys that.
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Where We Work: Coming in Spring 2010 from HarperCollins Publishers
We’ve been working for many months on this one, and it’s been a blast. Based on the website www.ThisAintNoDisco.com – this book features the most jaw-dropping office interiors from around the world. But not just any offices. This book is devoted exclusively to the media and advertising industry. (And let’s be honest: what industry would have cooler office spaces than the advertising biz?)
The back cover sums it up more eloquently than we can:
Where We Work showcases the interior design of forty-five of the world’s most inspiring work environments from internationally acclaimed and recognized agencies within the Advertising, Media and Design industries.
This book will be in stores in April 2010.
Interesting behind-the-scenes tidbit: During the book design phase, when we imported the text into InDesign, all em dashes changed to hypens. Commas disappeared, as did all italic text. And…it took us a few days to notice this.
As a result, we frantically had to re-copyedit everything at the last minute, and keystroke in over 100 missing commas and other copy editing errors.
Each project has it’s ‘moments’, and we made it through this one, but it wasn’t easy. Just ask our very tired book designers at Anderson Design Group. Thanks Amy, Joel and Edward, for saving the day! A box of cookies is headed your way.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
For the past few months, we’ve been working on an upcoming book that has remained relatively secret…until now.
Where We Work: Inspirational Work Environments From the World’s Leading Creative Agencies will be published by HarperCollins in Spring 2010.
Here’s the cover (subject to change slightly).
This book is based on the (awesome!) website www.ThisAintNoDisco.com which showcases some of the most unique office spaces from the world’s most creative minds.
The book will feature over 45 creative companies from around the world, and display their rarely-seen office spaces. Companies such as JWT, McCann Erickson (China), Neogama (Brazil) and Saatchi & Saatchi (China) show off and discuss their fabulous interiors. These work environments are jaw-dropping.
Interesting tidbit: We originally wanted the title to be “This Ain’t No Disco; It’s Where We Work”, but the publisher declined that title because it’s too ‘slang’. Folks in Asia and other parts of the world may not understand the ‘disco’ reference.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
For all the type lovers out there, here’s a sneak peak at the cover of Typography 30. Released every December, this book showcases the winners of the annual Type Directors Club competition.
Each year, the Type Directors Club selects one well-known designer to create the book, and gives them tremendous freedom to design it as they see fit. (In fact, Carin Goldberg, the designer of TYPOGRAPHY 20, told STEP magazine in 2007: ‘The beauty and the curse of this job is the creative freedom you are given’. )
For over ten years, Crescent Hill Books has produced this 300+ page book showcasing the year’s best typographic achievements in magazines, stationery, books, web graphics and more.
This is one of our favorite annual projects because it allows us to work with designers such as Alexander Isley (who designed Typography 24) and Emily Oberman, who designed Typography 28 (our all time favorite design).
This year’s designer is Sharon Werner from Werner Design Werks in St. Paul, MN.
Note the die-cut front case, and rainbow foil stamping. Each animal is created using a different letter and font, and the rainbow theme runs throughout the book.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
At long last, we’ve posted the winners to this book.
For a complete list, simply select the “Winners Announced” link on this site: www.designingforthegreatergood.com
Over 4,500 design firms submitted their work for possible publication.
Only 325 design firms were selected.
Thank you to everyone who submitted.
The book will be in stores in Jan. 2010.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As many of you know, Crescent Hill Books is a book producer. This means we’re constantly pitching new book ideas to large publishers. This can sometimes be a frustrating process, but we were comforted when a friend sent us this cartoon, which was originally published in the 1950s.
This proves we are certainly not the first to travel this road…
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For many months, The Mini Book of Great Logos has been listed on the Crescent Hill Books submission website. We received thousands of great logos. And then…the publisher paused production. (Dang this economy.)
The result has been frustrating to the hundreds of designers who kindly submitted their work to this book because the project has been sitting in limbo for several months.(Embarrassing to us, no doubt very annoying to you.)
Well, here’s the scoop: In an effort to get the publisher excited about this project (again), we’re absolutely revamping this book.
We’ve changed the title to Logo-liscious (say it out loud; it’s fun); changed the cover design and pretty much given this wallflower a new personality.
Let us know what you think. All new covers created by Jim Nissen and his staff at Switch Studios in Tempe, Arizona.
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Coming in September 2009 from Rockport Publishers, Really Good Packaging, Explained focuses on our favorite form of eye-candy: product packaging.
This cover is actually metallic silver with a brown ‘belly-band’. (What’s a belly-band? It’s pretty much a paperback slipcase that is open at the top and bottom, allowing it to slide on/off the book with ease).
This book is the sequel to Really Good Logos, Explained and has the same premise: four top designers critique hundreds of designs and explain- in six sentences or less – why they work. The result is a fascinating study of package design, from the folks who know this subject well.
Below are some of the beautiful spreads within this book:
We’re still accepting entries to The NEW Big Book of Layouts. The deadline has been extended to August 15th. To submit, please visit our online submission site.
Here’s the snazzy cover design, created by Anderson Design Group in Nashville, TN:
This book will be in stores in May 2010.
and a sample spread:
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The Big Book of New Design Ideas recently received a makeover.
|We went from this:
During the re-design process, some interesting options were created. Below are some covers we almost used….
The publisher decided against these because they were afraid men would shy away from buying a book with a female on the cover. (Hmmm…a thought-provoking theory, and one that we can’t completely discount.)
Revised cover designs by Anderson Design Group in Nashville, TN.
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