If you think that feng shui is something from a Chinese take-out menu, you’re just a little out of touch. Translated literally from Chinese as “wind-water,” this 3,000-year-old environmental art of placement is a hot design trend around the world. Since Pacific Heritage Books was founded in 1992, we have published 13 titles, but my book Feng Shui Dos and Taboos: A Guide to What to Place Where is by far our most successful and best-selling title to date.
The original version, which I wrote and then published in late 1999, has sold 13,000 copies, and the gift book version, published by Storey Books less than a year ago, has sold 200,000 (and counting). Storey’s parent company, Workman Publishing, will release the Feng Shui Dos and Taboos Page-a-Day© Calendar this October. Also, Hay House will publish Feng Shui Dos and Taboos for Love this month, to be followed by Feng Shui Dos and Taboos for Financial Succe$$ next year, and then by a third related title.
The book’s continued success never ceases to thrill and surprise me. I am often asked how it was accomplished with neither a marketing firm nor a publicist. Here are some of the factors that contributed to our success.
Nobody cares more about a title than the author. Being both the author and publisher, I was especially motivated to overcome shyness, take risks, be assertive at shows and events, and develop public speaking skills. However, any author can and should help with promotion.
Research & Targeting
I read everything I could about selling and marketing, and I started to practice my newfound knowledge at the two to six shows a year at which Pacific Heritage Books exhibited. At my feng shui book-signings nationwide, I noticed that 95% of my audience were educated, affluent, non-Asian females in the 30-55 age group. Most of them wanted to use the information to improve their own lives–not to become practitioners.
Even though our feng shui books were picked up by New Leaf at the most recent BEA, I realized that Book Expo was too big and broad a show for us. When a bookstore owner told me about the International New Age Trade Show (INATS),I knew that was the right place to be. Going twice to INATS-East in Orlando also convinced me that I should focus on the Denver show only, especially after I learned that 60% of New Age book and gift stores are located in the West.
Patience & Perseverance
I never leave a show early if I’m an exhibitor, even if everyone else has departed. Some of my best experiences have occurred as a result. During the last 20 minutes of the three-day Hobby Industry Show in February 1999, a woman came huffing and puffing up the almost empty aisle to my solitary table. She flipped through the original version of Feng Shui Dos and Taboos, slid her business card into my palm, declaring, “We want this book,” and then rushed away. I looked down at her card to discover that she was the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Storey Books. By April, I had signed a contract for the gift book version and, in October, the book was being marketed by more than 100 Storey reps to a nationwide gift and book market. Feng Shui Dos and Taboos has the distinction of being Storey’s fastest-selling title in its 18-year history, and the book was featured in the October 29, 2001 issue of Publishers Weekly.
I’ve learned that print, broadcast, and electronic media reps are great if you’re visible and credible. You’ve got to respect their deadlines and come prepared with timely, informative, entertaining, and concise material–a few main points that you can deliver in one to three minute sound bites that have substance, yet leave an audience or listener wanting to know more.
I was invited to appear on Oprah because I wrote the Foreword to a Random House book by one of my feng shui students. The producer at Live with Regis and Kelly found me on my simple, user-friendly feng shui Web site (www.wind-water.com). The producers at the Discovery and Learning Channels saw me on CBS Sunday Morning, whose staff watched me on another network television show. The Time magazine writer assigned to write “a friendly piece on feng shui,” called the Feng Shui for Modern Living magazine in London and was given my name.
Learning from Mistakes
We have all stumbled along the way, but every marketing or public relations error gives us the opportunity NOT to do that again, to make each move or decision a thoughtful, deliberate part of an overall strategy. Evaluate each advertising, marketing, or public relations campaign. Keep what produced measurable results and dump what proved to be wasteful or nonproductive. Don’t keep throwing good money after bad. Cut your losses early and remember that some money isn’t worth making.
Helping People Solve Their Problems
The “unique selling proposition” (USP) for our best-selling Feng Shui Dos and Taboos consists of these 33 words: “There are over 350 books in English about feng shui, but this is the only one that has no chapters to read. It has over 400+ tips listed in alphabetical order by subject.”
We are fully aware that feng shui originated in China, a country whose rich culture is still foreign to many non-Chinese. We know that discovering a complex subject is daunting and that a simple, alphabetical resource that eliminates the need for plowing through chapters is infinitely attractive. Most of the customers purchasing Feng Shui Dos and Taboos wanted something easy to use that would help them transform and improve their lives. They were not interested in becoming experts. The book, which is basically a list punctuated by illustrations, anecdotes, and charts, provides one do or don’t per page and fills that need.
Angi Ma Wong is the award-winning author and publisher of 17 books on a variety of subjects. These include
“Been There, Done That: 16 Secrets of Success for Entrepreneurs” and eight feng shui titles. For more information, visit www.wind-water.com.