PUBLISHED MARCH/APRIL 2020
by John Koehler, Publisher, Koehler Books —
An author hosts a book event and runs a bestseller campaign on the same night.
Hillery Schanck loves music and finding new ways to pray and worship God—in church and in private. Several years ago, he started listening to Handel’s Messiah while reading the scripture and words written for the symphony by Charles Jennens. He found the combination of media and senses to be emotionally and spiritually fulfilling.
Since I agreed that the concept had promise, we crafted a mutually beneficial book deal and then found a local orchestra, Symphonicity, that would partner with us to provide the music. It was then posted on Hillery’s website for readers to use as they work through the daily devotionals (themessiahadvent.com).
We also produced a brochure for the Symphonicity Advent concert at the Sandler Center, where the book concept was pitched to about 1,100 people in the audience, many of whom came to sing for the recording.
Hillery then asked me about hosting a book event. Where could he do it? What bookstore? All of the typical questions from a new author. Many believe that they must hold their book events at brick-and-mortar bookstores. But they quickly learn that there is no guarantee what they will be offered by the store. Some bookstores will treat you like royalty, provide you with a gorgeous space to talk and entertain, advertise the event, and handle all sales. Wonderful.
But other stores will put you at an obscure table so you can try and tackle potential readers as they walk by. They may do little or no advertising to speak of and make you feel rather small. Not to mention the wonders of bookstores returning books you fail to sell, a surefire way to upset your publisher.
Many of our authors see more success doing book events themselves versus doing them at a bookstore. By hosting and managing their event at a home, restaurant, business, theater, winery, or anywhere else where a book party can be hosted, authors can control the décor, food, drink, atmosphere, giveaways, pricing, and payments.
Hillery decided to host a big book party at his house and invite a lot of friends to come and celebrate with him. I explained to him that when the author buys books directly from us and marks them up, those books do not count toward their royalties as they are not distributed sales, and furthermore they would not apply toward a bestseller campaign.
Hillery then asked if an author could host a book party and sell books that count toward their royalties and could count toward a bestseller campaign in a given genre. Can you tell he is a financial adviser by day? He could see the benefit and wanted to know how we could do it.
I explained that the key to any bestseller campaign is to get a lot of readers to buy your book on a specific week, or, even better, on a given day. The only kind of bestseller campaign we could pursue was an Amazon category campaign. New books can win a #1 New Release in a given genre and a #1 Bestseller in a given category.
Since he is a creative and a producer, Hillery sorted out the strategy and tactics rather well.
He invited about 70 of his closest friends from his church and others to come to his house for a book party. The invitation was simple and direct that it was about the book. He made it fun. Start with a party. Add the book.
He provided for all of their needs, food and beverages, and fun. If you want people to respond, show them a good time. They knew he was going to ask them to do something or buy a book. But they were hoping (expecting) to be wined and dined a bit.
He gave every guest a signed copy of his softcover. He asked them to read it and give it away. He was considering all of his guests as VIPs who had reach in the community and lots of friends. Giving books to influencers is one of the very best ways of spreading the word and getting sales.
Hillery asked his friends to go online to Amazon right then and there to order his softcover. He explained that by doing that all at the same time, he was hoping to win a bestseller campaign with Amazon. If they could not do it at the party, he asked if they could do it later at home that night. Hillery was including them in a strategy and asking them to be part of his success.
About 50 people bought his book essentially at the same time and on the same day. This would be a tremendously effective and successful book event anywhere for any author, much less a debut author, and, in this case, the result was an instantaneous boost online with his rankings, which dropped from the low hundreds to under 10. Boom.
That number was sufficient for Hillery to win a #1 New Release in Christian Music. And, later, a bestseller in that genre. Both are worthy of promotion, and they can boost the title in Amazon’s algorithms and presentation of “Readers May Also Like” ads. Those rankings and notice and promotion of the campaign generate more buzz and more sales.
We have seen fewer than 20 sales on the same day win a genre award on Amazon, but usually that is with a more obscure category. This type of campaign can also be conducted with online invitations, but the list must be targeted and proven for the campaign to succeed. Some of our authors are also running campaigns using their e-books as the draw.
Good luck with your day campaigns and may the force be with you.
John Koehler is the publisher at Koehler Books and the author of seven books, including the Pocket Guide to Publishing: 100 Things Authors Should Know. He is an award-winning graphic designer and the 1991 Boomerang World Champ, is married with two kids, two grandkids, and lives in Virginia Beach.