Guerilla Marketing vs. Chimpanzee Marketing

posted by rdsp

Yes, it’s been a while since I outlined promo techniques for publishers and authors. But I return from the book wars with new and improved methods of attack to share with you. Behold:

* — Who could turn down free exposure to thousands of online viewers? And, at it’s cheapest ($10), you vastly increase your exposure. PRweb isn’t for just anybody, in that they screen the press releases to ensure you adhere to their standards. Hey, that’s a good thing! You can target specific regions and markets, track how many people access your release, how many media outlets pick up the release, and if you contribute money the amount of options grows. For instance, you can then target multiple markets. On the average our press releases are getting picked up by 60 media outlets and accessed over 5,000 times. Here’s an example of your story being carried by a media outlet:

* Cons — yes, here we go again with the convention thing. We’re big enough to admit that we’re small enough to not make big profits at conventions. The other (established) publishers can afford to go to these events and sit behind the table letting the name recognition of their authors sell books. What we do is break even. Pretty much. But for us direct profit is not the issue, because even though we may actually sell comparable numbers our cover prices are much lower than the hardcover publishers. No, what we do is walk in and own the place.


Yes, you can do such a thing. First of all, you have to coordinate with your authors and the organizers months in advance. Make sure some of them can be on hand, and that they’re involved in the programming—readings, panels, signings. Make handouts that have either their picture, or their cover, or both. Give some to the authors to distribute personally, put some at the flyer tables (and phone booths and wherever else), and save some to hand out at your table. This allows you to engage customers without pressuring them for sales, usually gets them to examine your product more carefully, and a lot of times actually gets them to attend the events! Also make photocopies or posters featuring the same photos, and put them up where you can. If the hotel disallows anything being put on the walls, you can simply design your poster lengthwise with three different sections. Fold it so each section is one side. You now have a trifold that can stand on its own. Place it on all the coffee tables, phone booths, drink stands, and flyer tables you can find. Booyah! Leave your bookmarks at all of these places too.

There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing people walk around with your flyer, saying to each other, “Hmm…D. Harlan Wilson…I’ve heard of them before!” Yes, that’s an absurdist author I was publicizing at a horror movie convention. How did those kids hear of him? Because they passed by 3 posters and several stacks of handouts and bookmarks on the way in is how! That’s just it though; when you’re creating a cult of personality it’s all about convincing people that the person in question is important, regardless of what they think they know about that person. I overheard incredible buzz about the RDSP authors at Horrorfind this year (and the press itself!), whereas you wouldn’t know about the other publishers unless you combed the dealers room.

But as I said earlier, they’re in a position where they don’t have to run around like crazy. People know of their product, and probably plan to buy it before even arriving at the con. RDSP, on the other hand, has only been around 8 months. However, our cache grows with every outing, specifically because of our prior outings. And as for the “cult of personality” thing, it only works if you can deliver the goods. Nothing turns people off more than hype without payoff. Don’t make outrageous claims, don’t get in people’s faces about it. Just make sure It’s clear who, what, where, and when. They’ll show up and discover the “why” for themselves.

* Correspondence — When you do these events, always have a mailing list available for people to sign. Then use it. Don’t bombard people with e-mail announcements every week, but do send them the “biggies.” Even better is to send postcards in the mail announcing your new releases. Several people have commented on the postcards when we see them again at conventions—they took note and remembered the titles! Also distribute the postcards to the authors and artists involved. As a customer, it can feel good to be “in the loop” when it comes to cool new products. However, if somebody requests to be removed from your mailing list don’t be a dork. Do it politely, with haste.

* What in the world? — There are certain uncategorizable publicity ops you can also take advantage of. At WHA, when we were hosting the hospitality suite, there was a certain diabolic author (Walter Goralski!) pitching his idea for a story that wasn’t a story at all. His “Repossessed” project would be etched into a car! Most people said “Huh?” or “Cool idea,” or simply laughed. We didn’t do that. Instead we followed up with him and said we’d like to sponsor the thing. Imagine a story that is a traveling event, with your company name and logo on it! He drove the thing to Horrorfind in Baltimore and we got permission to park it right in front of the entrance. Yes, MANY people took note. In fact, Douglas Bradley (Pinhead) came along and read it…and thought it was brilliant! How cool is that? We’ll be in Walter’s home town for the World Fantasy Conference and Horrorfind West this Halloween, allowing for even more art car exposure.

Now, it doesn’t have to be an art car. There’s plenty you can do to draw people in outside the bookshop, outside the conventions. Yes, it’s true, readers are three dimensional people into other subjects! Sponsor a band, work out something with a sculptor, sponsor events at a nightclub your target audience would frequent. You know people who do things. How many of them are doing something you could get involved with at a minimal expense?

Remember, guerilla marketing is completely different and cannot be held to traditional standards. Here’s a war story that illustrates the point. During the Vietnam War there was a village that gave marginal assistance to US forces. When the VC learned of this this stormed the place. Of course, the US military was able to swoop in and blow them to kingdom come—but not before the VC had killed the village elders. To the USA it was a concise military victory, but no villages in the region ever helped the US again. You see, the VC had made their point: they were willing to die in order to wipe out those who went against them.

I’m not saying you have to die in order to be successful, or that you even have to hurt yourself. If you can get yourself in a position where your promo efforts are paying for themselves then by all means pursue them. Your patience will be rewarded.

current mood: Lickable
current music: Serpentia by Danzig