Building the Business
Major Media Coverage: Dillman Karate International’s Strategy for Success
by Linda Carlson
George Dillman’s a small publisher. His company, Dillman Karate International, publishes a handful of books on a single topic. But he reports that he’s had publicity many of us only dream about because he believes in this maxim: “Keep bringing good work to the attention of major media.”
His newest book, The Pressure Point Fighting Secrets of Ryukyu Kempo, was brand-new when it caught the attention of Tonight Show host Jay Leno, and it’s pictured in the January issue of Black Belt Magazine.
“It’s easy to get my book reviewed in martial arts magazines,” says this Reading, PA, subject expert, a 10th-degree black belt in Ryukyu Kempo Tomari-te. “But,” Dillman continues, “I’ve also been mentioned in People, Sports Illustrated, and Playboy.” In fact, he recalls, “Playboy called my first book ‘a must read,’” with the result that he was “off and running to get more copies printed!”
That first book, Kyusho-jitsu: The Dillman Method of Pressure Point Fighting, was published in 1992 after Dillman had spent 30 years studying karate. All his products are based on what he was taught in 1972 by a native of Okinawa, Hohan Soken, then the highest-ranking man in the world in karate. “He wanted to tour the USA and meet teachers. Four of us all put funds in a pot to cover his travel and teaching costs,” Dillman remembers.
Ryukyu Kempo is often used to describe all forms of karate from the Ryukyu Islands, where Okinawa is located. It’s based on self-preservation techniques taught by the Chinese when the islands were a tributary state of China. One U.S. association of practitioners describes it as the only martial art that includes the grappling art known as Tuite and the nerve point techniques called Kyusho Jitsu.
The nerve point techniques are the focus of Dillman’s teaching. These pressure points, he says, are weak spots of the body that can be attacked with martial arts, allowing someone of any size to temporarily disable an opponent.
All Alone at ABA
Because he’s always perceived that getting coverage in major media is his most significant challenge, Dillman has stuck to that maxim about bringing his work with pressure points to the attention of writers and editors—in almost every way possible.
“I used that quote from Playboy in flyers that I handed out at my first American Booksellers Association show,” he says. “I took a chance, rented my own booth, and I was the only one in it, with only one book in print.”
The novelty of one man and one book in an entire booth—and that one man in his karate uniform—led to media publicity. Weekly newspapers and the book show daily wrote him up using the angle, “Man here with one book: must be a great book,” Dillman recalls.
Twenty years, seven books, and more than 50 DVDs later, this author/publisher says, “I always stay on the alert. I look at magazines and newspapers and think, ‘Will they mention my work?’” Many have: in fact, Playboy has referred to the books five times.
Dillman isn’t shy about promoting his books to booksellers, either. Call up and ask if you can do a signing, he advises other self-publishers. Of course some stores will say “No,” but there’s always the chance of a sellout, like the one Dillman experienced on a visit to a Chicago Barnes & Noble.
He’d called, saying he’d be in the city, and would like to do a signing. The staff put up a poster about his new book, announced his appearance in the store newsletter—and he walked in to find a crowd awaiting him. Hours later, Barnes & Noble had sold out its inventory, and he’d sold the extras he had in his car. Of course, it helped that Dillman didn’t rely on the bookstore to do all the publicity; he maintains a high profile on the Web and within the martial arts community.
What else is important? Get a domain name that makes sense and helps you promote yourself and your company’s books. Says Dillman: “All the Dillmans out there and I got dillman.com registered!”
Dillman also has high praise for IBPA promotional programs, including the monthly mailings and the joint ad in Publishers Weekly. “It all helps,” he says.
Destined to Follow a Path
This entrepreneur can be described as someone who has seized almost every possible opportunity to pursue his passion, progressing from being a teenage competitor in boxing and martial arts to instructing, speaking, and writing. “It was a path I feel I was chosen to take,” he says. “Every time I tried to get off that path, something brought me back.”
After high school, Dillman served in the U.S. Army, and then, after 12 years, left to open a karate school, working full-time on martial arts for the first time. “Between 1969 and 1972, I won 372 trophies, more than any other black belt, and was listed in magazines as a national champion,” he notes. That, he points out, led to other black belts wanting to study with him, and to other karate schools teaching his methods. Today, 190 schools do.
Dillman Karate International titles are distributed by National Book Network. Dillman also sells his Humane Pressure Point Self Defense book and DVD through an online site that specializes in publications oriented to police officers, firefighters, security personnel, and businesspeople, Things You Never Knew Existed . . . and Other Items You Can’t Possibly Live Without.
His other customers include martial arts retailers in 190 locations around the world that buy directly from Dillman. All in all, he sells seven times as many DVDs as books. “People like visual,” he explains.
At age 69, Dillman has no plans to retire. In fact, he’s not only promoting his new book, he’s thinking about two more. But he is giving some thought to how the pressure points information can be kept available when he’s no longer publishing, and he’d like to find a publisher interested in his material.
Overall, he sounds satisfied. “Everyone at one time or another says they want to write a book,” he observes, adding, “You get a lot of satisfaction when you do get a book written, printed, and on the shelves for sale.”
Linda Carlson, who has no experience in karate, writes for the Independent from Seattle.