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. 

Helping a Genre Publisher Find a Mainstream Audience

As one of the most respected Christian publishers in the industry, Tyndale’s authors have traditionally found success among Christian booksellers and readers (also called the Christian Booksellers Association or CBA market). The publisher knew their titles could also find a wider readership beyond the CBA market. When Tyndale approached us about creating a strategy to promote their titles to a more mainstream audience, we were happy to assist!

Christian and mainstream markets intersect the Southern U.S., (which was also where some of the Tyndale authors were based), so targeting booksellers and readers in that geographic region was a natural first step to not only maximize Tyndale authors’ genre influence, but extend to a broader, receptive audience. We positioned Tyndale’s authors for optimum visibility at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association Tradeshow (SIBA), where they were able to network with and promote to thousands of mainstream Southern booksellers and influencers who were not exclusively faith-based.

We also coordinated blog tours and secured coverage for Tyndale’s authors, including now New York Times bestseller Lisa Wingate, with online reviewers and influencers who cover a diverse variety of genres, which helped expose these wonderful books to mainstream readers across the worldwide. 

With some strategic geographic positioning and creative online exposure, we’re pleased to say that Tyndale’s titles did indeed find a host of new fans beyond their original genre market, growing the publisher’s and authors’ platforms!

Helping A Debut Author Build Her Brand

When Lori Rader-Day joined our Books Forward family in 2014, we knew she was one of a kind. Her debut mystery novel The Black Hour won starred reviews in Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and her writing has since been honored by the Edgar, Macavity, Thriller, Barry, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards. For the past five years, we have been honored to help her build her brand (including four subsequent releases!), and to come alongside her amazing efforts to ensure her books get the recognition they deserve.

During Lori’s first epic book tour around the Midwest, we helped confirm her status as a star on the rise by securing local media coverage around her events, building buzz at her various tour stops. Awards recognitions can also help grow a new author’s reputation in the industry, so we managed nominations for an Indie Next Pick, and celebrated with her when she won!

Now, we are continuing to help grow her author brand and expand her fanbase by targeting well-known literary events with established audiences. Lori’s made the long journey from first-time novelist to established author, and we are looking forward to seeing where her literary career takes her next!

Finding Big Advantages in Small Towns

Big cities like New York and L.A. get plenty of literary attention, but did you know that setting your book in a smaller city–especially one you have a real-life connection to–can have big advantages?

Mystery author Roger Johns went to college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And since the town has always had a special place in his heart, he decided to set his Wallace Hartman mysteries there. This was a smart move, as the relative scarcity of books set in Baton Rouge helped Roger’s books stand out from the highly competitive mystery crowd. 

Books Forward highlighted Roger’s local connection and tenaciously pitched Baton Rouge media, which responded well to the series. We landed a full page spread in the local newspaper (which has a 100,000+ daily circulation), a feature in Southern Distinction magazine and made a splash on local radio. 

Roger’s local connection also caught the interest of indie booksellers, who were eager to promote a book set in their backyard–and his fun and gregarious nature did the rest! We knew he’d be perfect for events, and prioritized his book tour to give him a chance to shine. Roger happily hit the road and appeared at multiple bookstores, festival and conferences. The many personal connections he made with booksellers and readers ultimately paid off, securing him return-spots at events in the coming year.

Leaning into your local connections, no matter how “small,” can give your book a big boost!

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!

Successfully Pivoting from Traditional to Indie-Publishing

LS Hawker is the USA Today bestselling author of the thriller novels The Drowning Game, Body and Bone and The End of the Road, all published by HarperCollins’ Witness Impulse. The Drowning Game was a finalist in the International Thriller Writers “Best First Novel” Awards category, and her books have been translated into eight languages. 

After releasing three novels with a major publisher, LS made the jump to independent publishing for her fourth book, a prequel to her USA Today bestseller. Despite changing her publishing strategy, LS wanted to maintain high-level promotion.

Books Forward designed a campaign that would target high-profile genre reviewers and influencers. We arranged coverage with Killer Nashville, Criminal Element, The Crime Fiction Lounge Podcast and influential mystery Bookstagrammers. We also secured interviews for LS in multiple local papers and on local radio so she could continue to expand her sizeable homebase of fans in Colorado.

We targeted local events, organizing speaking and teaching opportunities for LS at local literary festivals and workshops. She became an in-demand speaker in no time! We organized her launch party at Tattered Cover in Denver, one of America’s most prestigious independent bookstores, as well as a speaking opportunity with USA Today’s Storytellers Project.

For many authors, indie publishing can be a way to take creative control of their careers, and it does not need to mean sacrificing prestige. In this case, the LS Hawker reputation only continues to grow!

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!