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Night Shade Books
Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2005 - 06:54 pm:   

So, things have been interesting lately. We've had a little lesson in promotion, which is that if you build it, nobody will care. We knew this before, but we got a bit too full of ourselves and thought our shit had no stench. Such is not true, given the level of sales and returns on the last ten or so books.

So we've got to get back down to the business of convincing people that our books will cause hair to grow, penis growth, and financial freedom. And we don't have the faintest idea how to go about it.

We know this:

PW, Booklist, Library Journal and Kirkus will sell the mad books to the libraries. We can generally count on PW, sometimes Booklist, occasionally the other two. We've never cracked all four on a single title. None of these will sell books to the trade.

We also know... well, I guess that's all we know. We've cracked the NY Times a handful of times. Sometimes it sells books, sometimes it doesn't. We're in the Washington Post pretty regular, which sometimes sells books and sometimes doesn't.

To make things even more interesting, we've just signed a distro contract. So you're going to start seeing more of our stuff in the chains, particularly starting with the September titles. Full court press on Iain M. Banks, because if we can't sell a new novel from Banks, we're in the wrong damn business. So lots and lots of books in the chains, on the shelves, polluting the new release hardcover tables, all that goodness.

Which means promotion is more important than ever. It's all well and good to get books on the shelves. That's happy. That's a big step. Now how do I convince people to buy the damn things?

There's obvious stuff. A review in EW will move a bunch of books. The president making a statement that people who don't buy our books hate freedom. A papal declaration that those who don't read NS will burn forever. But I'm not sure how to go about getting a papal sanction, so that might be out. And I'm pretty sure Bush hates me personally, so that's a doubtful proposition.

Reviews in the genre journals don't seem to have a lot of impact. Locus, Realms of Fantasy... it's always good to get the coverage, but we need a lot more. So for starters I'm having The Bob help me put a list together of people to send shit to. Pretty sure Scott is on that list, I'm going to send a stack of goodies to Matt Cheney, and anyone that people listen to. I want to become the biggest blog meme going. I'm working on a letter that goes beyond the basic press release, and goes into territory of ideology. This is who we are, this is what we're trying to do, underdog, little guy, etc, etc, etc.

Beyond that, I don't have a clue. What do two guys working from their living rooms do next?
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MarcL
Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2005 - 08:16 pm:   

I p1mped the Hodgson when I was doing the boingboing guestblog. Are you telling me those books didn't EXPLODE FROM THE M@D DEPTHS after that?

Can't hurt to send your screed to Cory Doctorow.
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Simon Owens
Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2005 - 08:27 pm:   

You could try sending to lit blogs who take pdf's, that way you don't have to pay for review copies and the word spreads there. For instance I've reviewed a few prime titles, like The Labyrinth, for LitHaven, and the author only had to send me a pdf.

Another thing you could try is scheduling your authors for as many interviews as possible, maybe pair off an nightshade author as interviewer and another as interviewie and submit it to magazines which accept interviews.
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MarcL
Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2005 - 08:30 pm:   

Or you could send free copies of everything to me, and magical abundance will flow to you.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 01:21 am:   

Yeah, welcome to the rat race! We've got the same problems (on a much, much SMALLER scale) with Fairwood Press and Talebones. And even LESS time to actually DO marketing and PR...
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 07:21 am:   

Take hostages.

Didn't National Lampoon have some success with an ad that said, "Subscribe to this magazine or we shoot the dog?"

Matt Hughes
http://www.archonate.com/
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 09:11 am:   

I just took at look at the online list of Nightshade Books. One problem that strikes me immediately is that a one sentence to small paragraph description of most of the books probably isn't enough. I think, without getting into spoilers, that prospective buyers are going to need more than that. Especially if they are totally unfamilar with the writer in question. Some are self explanatory like Drake's Complete Hammer's Slammers or Haldeman's War Stories, but others are not.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 10:19 am:   

Matt,

This one:

buy this magazine
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 12:40 pm:   

Have you ever considered this from the perspective of a casual buyer, who will purchase only because of name, price point, and packaging? I can't really imagine people will run out and buy thousands (because that's what we're talking about here) of a book title, just on the basis of a review . . .
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JohnPelan
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 03:01 pm:   

If I could figure this one out, I'd be doing a lot more titles. NESFA seems to have hit a niche with the model of extremely large books done by volunteers sold cheaply. There are any number of reasons as to why this particular model doesn't appeal to me. ;-)

We're struggling along to get to the point where we're 50% retail, 50% wholesale at which point the company makes a pretty solid profit. We're also toying with the idea of bringing in an investor that would like to see a pretty damn nice return on their money. That doesn't really help sell more books, but it would give us the flexibility to kick things up to the next level.

Maybe the key is putting naked women on all our covers... Maybe BEMS... Maybe both...

Cheers,

John

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Matt Hughes
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 03:17 pm:   

This may be nuts, but how about commissioned, door-to-door sales in concentrated target areas, like university dorms or apartment blocks that rent to students and young adults?

Maybe even a pyramid structure, where the person who recruits front-line sales staff gets a piece of the commission. Bearing in mind that the standard book store discount is 40 per cent of retail price, there's room there for genuinely energetic sales folks to make some decent money. All you'd need to do is hire the sales manager who would build the sales force.

For bonuses, you might give top-selling salespeople goodies, like signed limited edition copies or mementoes donated by popular authors.

It worked for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Matt Hughes
http://www.archonate.com/

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Sean Wallace
Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 04:41 pm:   

NESFA sells largely to its own club / organisation, which means quite an installed base of customers. It helps, immensely.
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gary gibson
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 06:20 am:   

Maybe something that isn't just a good way to promote books, but a method of advertising that itself gains column inches in newspapers or wherever. Aside from that, what about the Baen thing, where they actually make the text of many of their books freely available on the net? Initially sounds completely barking, but they claim it works for them since people will generally go out and buy something and read it on paper once they've started reading it on screen, and it encourages the word-of-mouth which is finally being recognised as one of the best ways to promote a book. It doesn't seem to have done Cory Doctorow any harm either.

This is totally off the top of my head so it's probably crap and I apologise, but what about intentionally putting out a couple of books by each author into something like that whole bookcrossing thing, then ring a couple of newspapers on a slow day and tell them that you're doing it? The idea being that you're kind of releasing these books 'into the wild' to see if they survive or not, and whether people pick up on them.

Or a subscription model, where for a reduced sum-per-book, people pay a set annual amount for a set number of books, with say a freebie of a less known author thrown in here and there with someone better known like Shepard.

Just a couple of (admittedly vague) thoughts.
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 09:16 am:   

The inherent problem is not driving the converted to buying Night Shade titles, but causing a casual reader to pick one up, I suspect, which is probably more a result of price, packaging, and name. In this sense, I doubt that offering online editions would drive much in the way of significant sales. Since the Banks is probably priced at $24.95, that's not the issue. So . . .

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Douglas Lain
Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 06:40 pm:   

How has Iain Banks been promoted in the past? Where are his readers? Who are his readers? Iain Banks is a name, the main thing is to let his fans know he's got a new book out in the States.
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E Thomas
Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2005 - 02:33 pm:   

Matt Hughes: This may be nuts, but how about commissioned, door-to-door sales in concentrated target areas, like university dorms or apartment blocks that rent to students and young adults?

As someone who works in a university residence hall, I can tell you that normally universities have rules that outlaws soliciting door-to-door within residence halls. However, they will often allow people to rent tables in common areas to try to sell stuff or give away freebies. Most of these groups at my university are either trying to sell us newspaper subscriptions or get us to admit that we are damned unless we join their particular branch of Christianity. I think a lot of residents would be more excited if they were trying to sell science fiction books, although getting most college students to shell out any money at all for things is very difficult.

Douglas Lain and others have a point about trying to figure out who and what the audience is for these books. If you could get a list of relevant audiences (high school media center librarians?), you could send them email information promoting the books and directing them to your site. Getting radio interviews might be another option you could look into--the authors reading short excerpts of their books and then directing people who are interested to the Nightshades site.

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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2005 - 11:51 am:   

Interesting...

http://www.gujian.net/woogle/show.php?search=V2UgYXJlIHB1Ymxpc2hpbmcgdGl0YW5zIHd obyB3aWxsIGRlc3Ryb3kgeW91ISBCb29rIGZhY2UhIC0gSmFzb24gV2lsbGlhbXM%3D&wap=1&show=1

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TCO
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 08:32 pm:   

How has the Banks stuff done?
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2005 - 10:54 pm:   

No clue. It doesn't come out for another three months.
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David Moles
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 12:56 pm:   

Probably doesn't help that the REALLY hard core Banks fans have probably already ordered the book from Amazon.co.uk.

Not that I *cough* I mean, =they=, might not pick up a Night Shade copy anyway.
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JKS
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 03:32 pm:   

Hey, but then are those who have never heard of Ian Banks, or have only read 'The Wasp Factory', went "Yuk", and are only buying the book 'cause it's a Night Shade imprint!

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 03:50 pm:   

There are people who only buy books because they are from Night Shade?!? wow. If only we could clone those people...

If people like that exist, I thank them with all my heart. :-)
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mastadge
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 05:16 pm:   

There are a few books I've bought that I probably wouldn't have thought to pick up if they weren't from Night Shade. Same goes from Prime, Small Beer, and to a lesser extent, PS. Maybe a couple others. When a smaller outfit consistently publishes excellent books, it's much easier for me to justify spending money on a hardcover by an author unknown to me, because it's simply more likely to be to my taste than a random new book I might otherwise have picked up.
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gary gibson
Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2005 - 09:31 am:   

If you can get name writers to enthuse - in fact, pretty much write what's effectively ad copy - for various night shade publications, that might draw people in a bit more. What's currently there seems a bit too brief and sketchy. just a (random, dissasociated) thought. Look at what JeffV does with select writers over on his blog, for instance.
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Don Mayers
Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2006 - 03:58 pm:   

When I am on Amazon's site I tend to spend a lot of time getting directed to other books and music based on the "other people recommend" links and the "So you want to know more about" lists. Hey, if GARY FROM IDAHO likes Scott Walker AND King Diamond, , maybe I should look into these other artists. More often than not, I come across something I decide to purchase.

For instance, a search on Amazon for Edward Lee provides me with this link on the left side of the web page. http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/fullview/2J0V29SNEB2BJ/104-2579136-43 24759?%5Fencoding=UTF8
So, maybe if I have enjoyed some of the items on this list, I will take a chance on some others. Basically, there seems to be a fairly good review and recommendation system on Amazon that NSB could take advantage of. How about everytime someone orders a book directly, they receive an email from NSB a month later, with a link to the Amazon review page for that book. Here is one for a Wellman book....
http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/write-a-review.html/104-2579136-432475 9?%5Fencoding=UTF8&asin=1892389231&store=books

Enter their Amazon username and passwd (don't pretend you don't have one) and voila, instant review. Perhaps someone could create a list detailing their favorite Night Shade books or authors. This would help to get the word out to the average reader not deflowered by small press publishing.

Unrelated: Any other decent used book stores in PDX, other than Powells?

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