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“I want to sell a million copies”


I hear this sentence at least three times a day.  A million copies. The magic number.  Just thought I’d throw a few more magic numbers out there….

Here is a brief run down of Stephen King’s latest marketing program for his last book from an October 2011 Wall Street Journal Article.

Mr. King and his publisher, Scribner, face an odd challenge as they unleash an elaborate marketing campaign to promote “11/22/63.” How do you rebrand one of the world’s most famous and successful living authors? Scribner is targeting history buffs with book-giveaway promotions on and history sites. To reach news junkies, the publisher bought ad time on 11 p.m. news programs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The 30-second ad, which will also run on the CNN airport network and on the A&E and Syfy networks, shows archival footage of Kennedy’s Dallas motorcade, with a voice-over that says, “What if instead of justwatching history, you could change it?” Mr. King’s book tour will include appearances at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, the site Oswald fired from. The Dallas museum is preparing to host 1,000 people.

So what do we take away from this?

Mr. King has a huge following and decades of New York Times Best Sellers behind him.

He was on the road for weeks doing events in high-profile locations.

His publisher purchased ads on CNN, A&E the 11pm news in major markets.

Scribner also launched a multi-platform online campaign that gave away over 3000 books.

The magic number since the book released last November?  According to Bookscan, Mr. King has sold 576,361 copies across all formats.

One of the best-selling authors of all time spent over a hundred thousand dollars on marketing with his publisher and even with eBook sales included, did not reach a million copies.

What is the real magic number?

It starts with the amount of time you spend getting the package of your book right

It is followed by the number of months you spend planning and orchestrating your launch

Right behind that is the number of ads and programs you participate in.

But that last number does not count much unless the ads and programs are in top venues (USA TODAY, PEOPLE, CNN…)

Next up is the number of PR and marketing professionals you are working with.

Then is there are the amount of reviews you get

A BIG number is how many retailers are getting your marketing and PR information to convince the buyers to buy your book.

Finally, there is the elusive “tipping point” number.  How many people have to love and recommend your book before it takes on a life of its own?

So what is the answer to the question “what are the right numbers for my book?”.

It is different for everybody, but start with THOSE numbers and THEN tell the world how many you plan on selling.  If you are going to spend 20 hours and $4000 on sales and marketing, your book will not “catch fire”.  The stories of books that grow from nothing and become huge successes have enormous numbers behind them. Numbers of hours, numbers of dollars, numbers of supporters…. the ratio varies, but the totals are the same.  At least a million….


Are things turning around for Borders?


Three months ago, it was announced that Borders was seeking to combine existing stocks in an attempt to bolster their stock prices to above a dollar. Three weeks ago, they announced that their stocks had risen above a dollar all on their own. The cost cutting and new management policies put into place by Ron Marshall seemed to be working. Investors were impressed and the stock has been rising ever since. Last closing, BGI was traded at $2.62.

Business journals that had recently written off the book retailer are now pointing to BGI’s possible rejuvenation. Reporters, who in February named Borders as one of the top 10 companies guaranteed to fail in 2009, are now heralding a new day at BGI.

Will Marshall’s changes be good for the company? What do you think of Borders’ “turn-around”?


Bookstores as the new Top 40 radio station?


It seems that each day brings another industry bulletin about how a bookstore has closed or how a chain will be reducing the number of titles it will carry. Brick and mortar stores are having to make hard choices; limiting their selection.

High retail rents, gasoline for delivery trucks, the economy, and unemployment can all be blamed, but not for long. Yes, it is time for consumers to tighten their budgets, but that is not the driving force behind the reduction in titles on bookstore shelves.

As a culture, we have become used to “shortcuts” and “hot-keys” in our work and home life. Our radios offer the same 100 songs each day with only a smirking nod to “independent” music. Technology does more than entertain and assist us; it often makes our choices for us. As we sink more deeply into our dependence upon technology, we lose our willingness to work for our pleasure.

Gone are the days when we slowly browsed a library or bookstore shelf looking for the perfect book to fit our mood. Those of us who find the time to read a book no longer have the time to search for one. We reach for the review section, listen to the latest NPR praise and ask our friends what their bookclubs are reading.

Armed with a vetted list, we can log on line or run into a bookshop and make a beeline for the front table. Chances are, the 11 books we have heard good things about are stacked there.

It is not that America does not have time for books, we don’t have time for bookstores. That is bad news for both parties. We want a quick hit, a guaranteed success, a sure thing. There is nothing wrong with that, but it will forever rob us of that one amazing “find” that could have altered our thinking; the hidden gem that could touch us so personally and deeply.

I understand the America is asking for fewer choices and that the bookstores have to do what is best for their business… I guess I was just hoping for more time before the book industry became what radio degenerated into 30 years ago…. a place for the masses to be told what to enjoy.