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Tomorrow is Today’s Backup Plan – An Author’s Journey (Part 3)

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You would think that once you have the concept, and have wrestled the bear to the ground with your bare hands, the rest would be a walk in the park. Alas, that is not the case. You may have a glossy cover and 269 pages of funny material, but you have to persuade people to buy it. That much used phrase "If you build it, they will come" is a lie! It takes time, tenacity, and an iron will.

In this third and final part of our series, Ian Coburn explains the wonderful world of marketing the book.

We Have A Book, Now Where Are We Going To Sell It?

To get the book into stores, I needed to market. We released the book in November ’06 to get some response and send it to some national reviewers. We wanted to sell it while we gathered quotes for a new back cover, as well as get it on Amazon. We quickly learned that Valentine’s Day was the best day to officially release the book; we could really play up that angle in the media.

The publisher sent out a press release in mid-January, which yet another person, a public relations consultant I met at another party, wrote. That’s where Simon heard of me and requested a copy of the book for review. Living in Chicago, I have some large resources available. I hit all the local newspapers and television media. Two news stations put me on air in early February, some suburban newspapers covered me, and one of the anchors from a news show I did used the book in his weekly newspaper column, which appears in a popular Chicago paper. The attention brought in orders from Barnes and Noble, who ordered a few hundred books to stock in stores. Airport bookstores and specialty shops, like Spencer Gifts, ordered copies through the standard wholesalers Ingram and Baker & Taylor. The publishing company and the book were on their way.

Soon I started to get radio, where I had more time to discuss the book than on TV. I was brought in by a smaller monthly Chicago news magazine, WASSUP!, to write a dating advice column I named “Lunch is Not a Date,” to which I hold all rights. I’ve now written three very well-received columns for them. The paper has a circulation of 95,000 monthly throughout Northern Illinois and Chicago. Real Chicago, with a monthly circulation of 15,000 in Chicago, brought me in to write “Lunch is Not a Date – The Q&A.” My first column with them debuted last month.

Several smaller Chicago papers have interviewed me. With the book and columns as credentials, I am now a listed expert with a major newswire. I receive lots of queries and have been interviewed on dating and sex subjects — including even my thoughts on lingerie — in various smaller magazines and on websites. I have a quote appearing in the June issue of Glamour magazine and am the main source for an article appearing on Match.com in May. I find time to write articles whenever I can and a lot of stuff about the book and me is circulating around the Internet, much of it due to Simon’s original review. Thanks Simon!

I continuously hit every major newspaper, radio program, and TV show I can, whenever I can squeeze in the time. I’m also currently under consideration for a sex/dating advice columnist position with a major Chicago newspaper (knock on wood). I seek the national attention many books get just for being with a big publisher. This book is earning its marks and I hope as I continue to knock on doors, the larger media will see that and discuss the book and/or review it.

Word Of Mouth And Amazon

The handful of people that read the book back in February spread word of it throughout Amazon at the beginning of March. Some still are and hopefully that pattern will continue. I am careful to emphasize that word-of-mouth is big to the success of this book, because we don’t have the resources and contacts of a large publishing house. Because the book has a broad appeal, readers have recommended it on Amazon book pages in book reviews for chick lit, pickup artist guides, humor books, and a genre called fratire, among others. It was completely unexpected and it has done wonders for the book.

Along with the other coverage on the Internet, I have been outselling most other books in these genres throughout March on Amazon. Books like I Killed: Standup Stories, which was plugged on Letterman by Seinfeld, Better Single Than Sorry, which has lots of national media attention, A Practical Guide for the Boyfriend, which also has lots of national media attention, and others have all been selling less copies on Amazon than God is a Woman: Dating Disasters throughout March and currently in April. (See what I mean about long subtitles?)

As new books emerge, fans of God continue to mention it in their reviews of those new books. It’s very flattering and key to the success of the book, so hopefully it will continue — and grow, if I’m really lucky. Amazon, I’ve learned, is a fascinating place for books. Huge debates and discussions go on, as readers attack and defend their reviews and favorite books. Even authors can become involved. Fortunately for me, my name and the book have found their way into some of these discussions, garnering more interest.

Along with the high review marks for the book (22 total to date — 3 four-stars, 19 five-stars), a steady stream of books are sold daily on Amazon. I can only hope it will all continue. I will get a bad review at some point; it’s inevitable. I cringe at the thought– a friend told me his wife hated it because she thought it was too graphic and sexist, but that she couldn’t put it down. She read it in two days. That would make a great first bad review — “I hated this book but I must admit I could not put it down.” You know your work is engaging when you get a response like that.

Myspace has been helping the book, too. I’ve jumped from seventy friends to well over a hundred after people started to read the book. A line from the book, “Tomorrow is not another day. Tomorrow is today’s backup plan,” is being used by a few people on the site as their catchphrase. Many are naming the book in their “Books” column. The book has also shown up on magazine message boards, like Cosmopolitan. Finally, readers have begun emailing me their dating questions.

It’s all been amazing, unexpected, and I hope it continues for a long time, snowballing more and more into a giant avalanche. The goal is to entertain and offer the advice I can; to do that, I need to reach people.

My target crowd is college students. They stand to enjoy the stories the most and gain the most knowledge from them, at a time when they have the opportunity to meet many people from the opposite sex and explore their likes and dislikes; a time when they can learn the most about themselves and those around them. I definitely wish someone had given me this book back in college. To that end, I worked and continue to work to get the book into key college resources. Fellow authors Streeter Seidell and Sarah Schneider of the immensely popular CollegeHumor website read the book and gave me a great quote for the back cover in the next print run. Author Harlan Cohen, of the popular Help Me, Harlan, recently read it as well and I will be getting a quote for the back from him, too.

A Bigger Publisher And More Marketing

Wider distribution is a factor now. What about getting the book to other countries? Translated into other languages? While many stores stock the book, Borders does not; Firefly Glow Publishing is simply too small for them to warrant giving the book their own special number, which they need to do in order to stock the book. We’ve had numerous Borders contact us for copies of the book, as well as order information. We hope they will assign it a number soon but don’t know when that will occur. The irony is that with the success on Amazon, we have money to put up posters in major bookstores. Barnes & Noble won’t put up posters that aren’t made in-house. Borders will but, of course, not for books they have not assigned a number. Gotta love that irony, eh? The plan is to put up posters in Borders referring people to B&N.

I have been in touch with all my advertising information with the national headquarters for B&N and the district contact for Borders. Both have been very helpful and instrumental in getting the book placed in stores and moved closer and closer to getting a number at Borders. Once that happens, we’ll be hitting them hard with posters. Keep in mind that I did not get a response from either company until I had plenty of successful advertising scheduled to show them.

I continuously hound big publishers with Amazon stats, comparing my book ranks to theirs. I remind them that I am a comedian. I can hit the road and plug the book onstage. I interview and banter well. I can make the audience and interviewers laugh and joke around with them all. With my drive and talent, and their resources… well, who knows how far this book could go? I did get Simon & Schuster to read it. They had some great comments and gave me the thumbs up to send them future ideas. They suggested some changes which would enable them to consider the book for re-publication under their own imprint. The guy I’ve been talking to there is very professional and helpful. I’m hesitant to make the changes for now because it would make the book mostly appealing only to guys and one of the most repetitious compliments its received has been “it works on all levels.” Such a change would remove some of these levels. For now, I’ll keep pounding some of the other big publishers, in case one of them would like to carry it as is. Again, keep in mind that I did not approach these large publishers until I had solid figures to show them. They do not accept queries.

A Word On Shelving

If you’re like me, you think that all new books get displayed in the “new books” section of bookstores. Not the case. Bigger publishers get those spots, which makes sense, since they are primarily responsible for creating the most books and thus keeping bookstores in business. Small published books like mine get buried in their category section, in my case “humor.” Thought you’d like to know.

Where Is The Book Now?

You’re pretty much up to speed. I know this was long and some times tedious, but I wanted to share it all. It’s no good if you don’t share it all.

The message I hope you get here is that with careful planning, hard work, continuous tenacity, professionalism, a good product, targeting the proper crowd, patience, more tenacity, more hard work, and people willing to take time and effort to review your work and interview you — people like Simon — and finally, with the luck of reaching vocal readers, you can get published. You can have your voice heard. For what it’s worth, another idea I have for a book, completely different than this one, is currently under consideration with a large publisher. Once doors start to open, stay on it, more will come and each one will open a little wider each time.

Stay with it and remember the phrase “tomorrow is another day” is B.S. Tomorrow is not another day; tomorrow is today’s backup plan.

You can learn more about God is a Woman: Dating Disasters at the book's website and more about Ian Coburn at his website.

I really want to thank Ian for sharing his experiences with us. I know that Ian has been following this series carefully, and so if there are any budding authors out there with questions, leave a comment. I am sure that Ian will be happy to reply.

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About Simon Barrett

  • Marco

    Wow. Great stuff. I am one of the readers who has been talking about Ian’s book everywhere I can. In fact, I got kicked off a dating message board because they thought I was spamming! I have been following this interview along as he put up the links on his site.

    I’m not a writer or a blogger, but I am an avid reader. I live in OH but have been on consulting assignment in Chicago, where I heard about Ian’s book because as Simon points out, he is marketing it everywhere. I had no idea what authors go thru and applaud you all for doing it. Without you, there would be nothing for people like me to read! I found the comments about publishers and authors being responsible for the decline in literature to be very interesting and make sense. It is getting harder and harder to find good books. More and more they are just about marketing. For instance, I recently read “The Average American Male” which is just horrible and its publisher spent over $10,000 to market it with videos on YouTube. Ian’s book is so much better and along the same genre. $10,000 for it could really make it take off. Yet, it goes unread and unconsidered by such a big publisher or they wanted it changed to the crappy book they are pushing.

    I hope that “God is a Woman: Dating Disasters” does very well. We should all get copies, if for no other reason than to show publishers this IS a book people want and IS what readers want to read. Maybe it could do for books what independent film as done for movies. If it wasn’t for independent film, all movies would be “White Chicks” now; the big places only make good films because of the pressure from small films to compete with them for awards.

    Thank you both Simon and Ian for the insight. I want you to know I’m doing my part; I just talked my friends into buying a bunch of copies off Amazon for their bachelor and bachelorette parties! Thank you to all authors and aspiring ones for your hardwork. Lord knows I couldn’t take punches like these.