Our Snowball-Effect Strategy
by Melynda Lee
The phrase <span
is often used to describe a bad situation that triggers a series of events that
compound the initial problem. In short, things go from bad to worse in a big
way. But the snowball effect can work to your advantage too, and when you’re
out there promoting your new title, there’s nothing like waking up to the
perfect snowfall, packing a handful into your fist, and starting it down the
This past April, Ironcroft
Publishing released Descending
from Duty, a debut thriller by an unknown author (my husband).
Since the story involves a WW II sub loose on Lake Michigan and has strong
regional flavor, we decided to concentrate our marketing efforts in the Great
After we sent review copies, we
received good blurbs and mentions from sources like <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Midwest Book Review, Bookviews.com, <span
and some national associations. But it was when we started spreading word about
the book through our network of friends, family, and acquaintances to the
second and third degrees that things really got interesting.
Get ready. A good friend’s husband
works with a man who is the brother of a political strategist of some renown.
This political strategist was consulting to the campaign team for the
challenger in Michigan’s governor’s race. Because Michigan plays such a
prominent role in Descending
from Duty, we thought it would be fun to get a copy to the
potential next governor of the state. We sent the book up through the chain,
and to our surprise, the political strategist invited my husband to be a guest
speaker at a retreat his campaign staff was attending that week. The event was
a real rush for my husband, and the campaign manager purchased 44 copies of the
novel, one for each staff member in attendance. The snowball had started
Next Muskegon; Then the
We wrote a press release
highlighting the retreat appearance and distributed it to local news media. Our
county newspaper bit. It ran a feature article on <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Descending from Duty and the local
author who was making good. The paper has wide circulation, and we saw an
immediate spike in Amazon sales, plus sudden interest from the local Borders,
which wanted to stock the book so many customers were asking about.
Striking while the iron was hot,
we next targeted newspapers in and around Muskegon, Michigan—Ground Zero in <span
storyline—with press releases that tied the book into the local setting, and we
managed to get a front-page write-up in the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Muskegon Chronicle the day before a book
signing at the Barnes & Noble in town. It was fabulous. The book’s cover
art was front and center on page one. We had a great turnout, and when we had
sold out the store’s stock of 25 copies, we broke into our backup stock and
sold a dozen more for cash at the table.
The impact of the front-page
coverage even spilled over to a local naval museum that figures prominently in
the novel. It enjoyed an attendance surge over the weekend that translated into
book sales, which in turn prompted the museum to order 24 more copies.
Connections Under Water
The snowball kept growing when a
submarine veteran associated with the museum offered to sell copies at his
regional and national submarine-veterans’ association meetings. He feels the book
helps raise awareness of the museum and the vintage submarine on display there,
and he asked to use it in sort of a cross-promotion effort. We give him a 45
percent discount and pay all shipping costs to help him raise money for the
museum, and he gets the book into the hands of readers well outside of our
targeted region. So far, he has placed copies in California, New Mexico, St.
Louis, and the United Kingdom. The tie-in to the submarine-veterans’
association is a wonderful and unexpected bonus, and our continued
collaboration will, we hope, have a sustained positive effect on sales.
Meanwhile: Remember that nice
write-up we got from our county newspaper? Well, about a month after it ran,
the article got posted on the AP newswire. What a magical thing AP is! Suddenly
the little story about a Great Lakes thriller and a hopeful debut novelist
began showing up in newspapers and Web sites all over the region, including
Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, Indiana, and Illinois.
The exposure generated another
Amazon surge and orders from several independent booksellers, as well as mail
orders from out of state. At this writing, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Descending is available from Borders and
Barnes & Noble (thanks to our signing with Partners Book Distributing), and
it has been picked up by 22 independent bookstores, gift shops, and museums in
the lakes area.
In early fall, we began to see a
lag in sales, but we are earnestly working on our holiday promotional campaign
of bookstore signings, charity auctions, and author library visits. Our first
print run (1,000) is almost gone, and we’re trying to time a second run just
right. With speaking engagements and signing events already scheduled for next
year, and the Ben Franklin and Michigan Notable Book Awards coming up, we hope
to keep our snowball rolling.
Melynda Lee is co-founder
of Ironcroft Publishing. She reports that she balances sales and marketing
duties for the press with a career as a resource-room coordinator for
special-needs children in Michigan’s public schools. <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Descending from Duty is the first in a
series of Great Lakes-based thrillers that her husband, J. Ryan Fenzel, is
planning to write.