Establishing a Brand via Creative Promotions

Poetry for children can be a niche market, and a few famous names dominate (we’re looking at you, Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss). But Brett Fleishman’s poems for young readers are so funny and charming, and we wanted to plan something special to help his work stand out. 

After requesting that he write a unique poem for “Take Your Child to a Bookstore” Day, we shared it with hundreds of indie bookstores, along with a custom poster. The independent bookseller associations nationwide shared it with thousands of people via their email lists and social media, and the story and poem were picked up by and featured in Shelf Awareness! 

We also put Brett in front of his target audience by connecting him with ReadBoston, an organization which arranges school visits for authors across the city, and coordinating speaking events for him with the Boston Children’s Museum and the Boston Children’s Festival. We even partnered him with the Lowell Spinners (a local minor league baseball team) so that Brett could collaborate with them on an official promotional poem about the team! 

Establishing Brett’s brand by connecting him directly with his most important audience–kids!–was our primary goal, but we didn’t stop there. We coordinated coverage for him with Kirkus, the Midwest Book Review, Book Riot and influential children’s book bloggers. 

Hosting an Unusual Launch for Expanded Opportunities

When setting up a launch event, the most obvious choices are local indie bookstores – and they should be prioritized and celebrated. But also thinking out-of-the-box (or out-of-the-bookstore) can lead to great opportunities!

Cole Williams’ Dr. Brainchild and Radar: A Popcorn Discovery is about a young scientist uncovering the power of the microwave. Such a unique book deserved a unique launch event. We researched and pitched children’s museums in Cole’s area, knowing that these venues already have large built-in audiences of children and parents who are interested in science. 

The Bakken Museum was thrilled to host Williams, and the launch event (personally tailored to reach Cole’s target audience of STEM-interested kids) was a huge success. After the launch, the museum decided to stock the book in the gift shop, and also invited her to participate in the “Women in Science” event that spring! 

With a little creative planning, you may find that offsite venues can help you reach your target audience better than ever!

Networking with Indie Booksellers for Long-Lasting Success

Author and renowned work addiction expert Dr. Bryan E. Robinson partnered with Books Forward for the launch of Daily Writing Resilience (January 2018). His book focused on mindfulness and meditation as tools to improve the writing process, and was a hit with both health media and writing/literary outlets. 

Shortly after our first campaign with Bryan ended, HarperCollins’ William Morrow imprint accepted his next book #CHILL for publication, and we had the privilege of working with him again on a second book launch for December 2018. With tenacious, personalized pitching, we were able to arrange a regular column for Bryan with Psychology Today, multiple interviews with Forbes and interviews with NBC. 

We also opened up a new area of success for Bryan outside of traditional media placements by helping him develop impactful relationships with his regional independent booksellers association. We arranged for Bryan to speak at the Southern Independent Bookseller Association’s summer tradeshow, and we strategically positioned him at our booth so he could network with passing booksellers. Bright and personable, we knew he would make an impression, and he did! 

When we began our Fall 2018 publicity campaign for #CHILL, we pitched his books for inclusion at SIBA’s Spring 2019 tradeshow, even though Bryan himself could not attend the event. Our proposal was accepted; booksellers and tradeshow organizers remembered him from his previous SIBA appearance. Better still, #CHILL was picked to be SIBA’s official January 2019 Book Club Selection, meaning thousands of booksellers all over the South were encouraged to read #CHILL (creating more incentive for them to stock and handsell the book in their stores)! Bryan was also featured multiple times in the SIBA email newsletter, which named his book an official New Year’s Reading Pick.

Here’s a great example of how building relationships with influential tastemakers can change an author’s life and boost a book.

Using “Out-of-the-Box” Creativity for Big Debut Win

It’s crucial for debut authors to make personal connections with their target audience to build buzz for that first release. Historical novelist Jeffrey Stayton wanted to make as many connections as possible; luckily he had an RV, a taste for adventure and willingness to hit the road! 

We knew a book tour would be the perfect way for Jeff to build a following for his gorgeous and gritty Civil War novel This Side of the River. An epic book deserves an epic tour! 

Books Forward designed a 20-stop book tour at venues and festivals across the country. The tour included Southern mega-fests like the Southern Independent Booksellers Association tradeshow and the venerable Southern Festival of Books, as well as plenty of independent bookstores. We also arranged for Jeff to speak at Civil War reenactment festivals and museums–the perfect place to connect with history buffs, who were warmly receptive to Jeff and his new novel.

As a former indie bookseller himself, Jeff knew the power of bookstores and also wanted to celebrate his fellow book community leaders. We set up a “Cheer for the Bookstore!” $250 Scholarship Contest, where indie bookstores nationwide could enter to win by telling us how they would benefit from the money. One of the highlights of the tour for Jeff was getting to stop in the winning stores and meet the booksellers in person! And we appreciated how Shelf Awareness celebrated Jeff’s goodwill.

Jeff also participated in unique promotions such as SIBA’s TRIO Project, which paired him with a musician and artist who each created an original song and piece of art based on his novel. The TRIO art installation was featured prominently at the tradeshow, before touring through the Southern states.

Hitting the Southern California Indie Bestseller List

When Kristen Kittscher launched her second middle-grade mystery, The Tiara on the Terrace, our team had terrific fun working on out-of-the-box promotions!

First, Books Forward organized a special mailing to booksellers and librarians nationwide. Our box included some usual goodies–a copy of the book and swag like bookmarks, stickers, etc.–but we wanted to go bigger. Kristen’s mystery relies on code-breaking tween sleuths, so we designed and produced an interactive scavenger hunt game, complete with a decoding activity to solve the final puzzle. Needless to say, it was a huge hit with libraries! 

Second, we coordinated her national book tour with over a dozen events at prestigious bookstores, including Warwicks, Chevaliers, RJ Julia and a massive NYC launch party at Mysterious Bookshop. We also organized school visits for Kristen, so she could connect with her favorite audience–her middle school readers! 

Last but not least, we organized great media coverage for her with School Library Journal’s Fuse #8, a Publisher’s Weekly Photo of the Day and a book trailer feature in Shelf Awareness

We’re pleased to say that The Tiara on the Terrace hit the SoCal Indie bestseller list. It was a royal win!

Helping an International Author Connect with a U.S. Audience

When New Zealand author Christopher Parker came to us with his debut novel The Lighthouse, we felt we had discovered something truly special, and we couldn’t wait to help U.S. readers discover Christopher’s storytelling as well!

To introduce Christoper’s author brand and debut novel to a wide audience here in the States, we knew our best strategy was to get his book directly into readers’ hands. We designed a gorgeous promotional #JourneytoSeabrook box mailing full of interactive swag to introduce readers to his mysterious and fictional town of Seabrook, Oregon. We implemented a strategic mailing to top American social media influencers and were gratified to see the buzz building quickly!

We also coordinated a Little Free Library giveaway that got Christopher’s book placed in 50 prime locations across the U.S., and we managed an advertising campaign to entice prospective reader fans and grow his email list.

Post-launch, we wanted to build on the momentum already rolling by coordinating a comprehensive e-newsletter campaign for The Lighthouse. We worked with Christopher to discount his ebook (for a limited time to $.99) and put it in the inboxes of thousands upon thousands of avid readers, dramatically helping boost the novel’s review count and stateside awareness. We also made sure to share his audiobook on industry platforms, where it was well-received by dozens of librarians, educators and reviewers.

Christopher’s readership continues to grow after our work together. To date, his book has more than 2,000 reviews on the American version of Amazon and an ever-expanding audience worldwide. He told us:

“It’s definitely crazy to go back through that document and review all the milestones and achievements we were able to reach. Definitely a lot to celebrate. Just yesterday I had the librarian from a town in Parkersburg, West Virginia email me to say how much she loved the book and she’s promoting it around the library and it’s now got a waiting list on it. To get messages like that is just crazy and really demonstrates how far and wide the book has been able to go (and it’s not over yet!)

Thank you again to you all for your hard work and the effort you put into publicizing my novel, and thank you also for your encouragement and support along the way. It was definitely a nervous process sending my baby out into the world but knowing I had you all in my corner and championing the book made it a lot easier.”

Designing a Unique Mailing to Win Big Media

Media outlets receive dozens of books on a weekly — sometimes daily — basis. We knew we had to make our media mailing for Ann Stampler’s YA thriller How to Disappear stand out to get attention, so we got creative! 

This edge-of-your-seat thriller follows a teen named Nicolette and her race to escape a hitman, so we decided to re-create both the hitman’s “hit packet” from the book, as well as the disguise kit used by the protagonist.

Our media mailing included a copy of the book, a personal note from the author, and two large, special envelopes. The first envelope read “Are You the Hunter?,” and included the hitman’s info on Nicolette as described in the novel: “photos” of Nicolette and her house, her “driver’s license” and a checklist of her personal information. (Yes, we created these things!) The second envelope read “Are You the Hunted?,” and included Nicolette’s disguise kit (complete with sunglasses and a tube of hair dye!), the fake ID she uses in the novel, a road map and a “room key” to the hotel she stays at in the book! 

The mailing received a lot of love and attention from the media, who responded warmly to the book (instead of tossing it in the “to read” pile). After the mailing, we were thrilled to see How to Disappear featured multiple times on Buzzfeed (which tweeted a photo of the mailing!), Bustle, B&N Teen Blog, USA TODAY Happy Ever After, Hypable, Heroes and Heartbreakers, PopCrush and more! 

A little extra imagination helped ensure that Ann’s incredible novel won’t “disappear” off the best teen reading lists!

Organizing the World’s Longest Book Tour

A book tour can be a great way to make a splash, and when you’re working with an author as great as Jenny Milchman — it’s an opportunity to create a tsunami! 

Books Forward helped Jenny launch her highly anticipated thriller, Cover of Snow (Ballantine Books), at the venerable Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. Next, we arranged for her to speak to hundreds of bookstore owners and booksellers at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association trade show. Jenny and her novel made a lasting impression; more than a dozen bookstores requested her for events! Although Cover of Snow takes place in upstate New York, the SIBA booksellers fell in love and hand-sold the thriller so that it hit the SIBA bestseller list right out of the gate. 

And that was just the beginning; Jenny is an all-star networker, and she ultimately received 300 bookstore event invitations thanks to her extensive list of contacts that she cultivated in the book industry. She partnered with us on what Shelf Awareness dubbed the “World’s Longest Book Tour,” as she and her family hit the road for an epic cross-country tour over nine months. Our team worked tirelessly alongside Jenny to garner local media attention in every city and town she visited.

After her first epic trip, we teamed up again for the launch of her second book and a brand new tour opportunity: “100 Events in 100 Days.” We assisted with event organization, coordinating private book parties and dinners for her in multiple cities. We also secured reviews and media coverage for Jenny’s amazing efforts. Not only did she get to make new connections and meet tons of her reader fans, but it was like a homecoming when she returned to the independent bookstores who supported her from the start. 

Today Jenny is a USA Today-bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author. We’re thrilled to report that her current publisher has recognized the value of her book-touring skills and sponsored an extensive national tour for her latest novel! 

These days, writing an incredible book is only the first step; authors must also be willing to throw as much energy into promoting a book as writing it in order to be successful. When you make the effort to personally connect with readers and booksellers, and grow your network, the results can be amazing!