Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Unconventional Book Marketing: Outside the Reader Box

by Lydia Netzer

That's me with Keith, who won my book!
Selling to book clubs, book blog readers, book social media users, and bookstore goers is a science. Authors all over the place are pitching to bloggers, interacting with Twitter followers, and reading in stores. I am too. I also find myself looking for weird, off-the-beaten-path methods of promoting my book and others' books. This summer I found one in an odd place: a bike race.

In June I read an amazing book: The Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson. It really struck me how wonderfully Joinson portrayed the experience of riding a bicycle, and how elegantly she connected it to the female identity in the early 20th century. I mean, just the tag line, "Mount and away" sort of thrilled me and I can't ride my bicycle more than 16 mph. Just imagine, I thought, what the female cyclists who race around here in Virginia will think of it. They'll love this book! I thought.

My husband is a cyclist. We know lots of cyclists. He's been racing for years and I've been traipsing around to races with him, meeting cyclists and hanging out. Cyclists are literate, educated, interesting people. They've also got enough cash on hand to drop ridiculous (debatable) amounts of money on knobs and pipes (or whatever) so they can be reasonably expected to spend $25 on a hardback (or $12 on an ebook). I thought I'd mention the book to some cyclists I knew. 

Jr. Champion with Gold in his prize basket.
Then another book struck my eye. My novel shared Amazon's Editor's Picks List for Summer with a book by Little Bee author Chris Cleave, who has written a new book about Olympic cyclists called Gold. What? Another cycling book? And while I hadn't read it yet because it wasn't yet out, I knew based on Chris Cleave's other work that it was going to be fabulous. 

Coincidentally (yes, it is pure coincidence!) my own novel has a cyclist in it! In fact, the male main character rides a road bike, is familiar with Tegaderm, and follows the Tour de France by running around France dressed up like a microchip! Three cycling novels in the same summer... it was an opportunity for cross promotion that my guerilla-marketing brain couldn't pass up. When it was time for my husband's cycling team's annual race, The Franklin Omnium, I knew we had to include these books somehow. 

Simon & Schuster and Bloomsbury Press were kind enough to contribute copies of The Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar and signed copies of Gold, and I tossed in signed copies of Shine Shine Shine, three days before the release. We included novels in the gift baskets for the overall winners, gave them away as prizes in the individual races, and put them on display at the registration area so we could chat them up all weekend to the riders. I was so pleased and happy with how these prizes were received and thrilled to see riders talking about the books with each other, promising to spread the word and let other cyclists know about these books. I really hope our attempt to connect books with target readers they might not otherwise have found will be fruitful for all the authors.

When you're thinking about marketing your book, let your mind go down tangents as you brainstorm where your readers might be. Maybe they're at a sporting event, a concert, a charity event, a farmer's market? A garden store? The history department of your local university? Don't be afraid to look outside the traditional book markets to connect. 

Check out this photo set for more pictures of books in the bike race, and if you're a cyclist, or a space nut, or a mom, a student of Myanmar, a parent of an autistic child, please visit my web site to check out my book. It launches today!


  1. Brilliant post! I trained as a P.R. agent, and the first thing I learned was to think around corners. The second was to follow my gut when looking for a promotional thread. Tackling your own promotions is no different to excavating a plot. Really.

  2. And always give your card to the woman who sells you a hamburger at the local festival. She just might be a librarian! LOL Great post!