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What It Takes

What It Takes

Crowdfunding, Part Deux

By Callie Oettinger | Published: August 15, 2014

For the past few weeks, Steve’s interviews with Jeff Simon have been appearing on this site. The last one ran just before Jeff’s Indiegogo campaign ended — fully funded I’d like to add (with a congrats to Jeff and Team Abercorn).

I shared a bit about his campaign via the post “Why You Need to Know About Crowdfunding,” with lessons from crowdfunding that crossover into outreach, for sharing our work.

A few additions to that piece:

If Mozart Could Do It . . .

Alexander Pope did it. Mozart did it. And . . . The “American Committee” (thank them for the base and pedestal of the Statue of Liberty) did it.

And, the three did it without the ease of a computer that could put them in touch with millions around the world.

Yes, they all had known names, but . . . Their outreach was similar to the word-of-mouth outreach that still starts at the local level today.

In Justin Kazmark’s article “Kickstarter Before Kickstarter,” you’ll find Mozart’s experiences in crowdfunding, as well as the stories of the other three:

In 1783, Mozart took a similar path. He wanted to perform three recently composed piano concertos in a Viennese concert hall, and he published an invitation to prospective backers offering manuscripts to those who pledged:

“These three concertos, which can be performed with full orchestra including wind instruments, or only a quattro, that is with 2 violins, 1 viola and violoncello, will be available at the beginning of April to those who have subscribed for them (beautifully copied, and supervised by the composer himself).”

Alas, not all projects reach their funding goals, and Mozart fell short. A year later he tried again, and 176 backers pledged enough to bring his concertos to life. He thanked them in the concertos’ manuscript:

Mozart's crowdfunders. Image credit: Cornell University Library.

So, if you’re looking for other examples of crowdfunding that would work in the realm of outreach, to share your project, consider going local for examples. We don’t know how Mozart got the word out, but the image below offers a clue to what the “American Committee” did. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes

What It Takes

What It Takes

The 10,000 Reader Rule

By Shawn Coyne | Published: August 8, 2014

The sum total of my twenty-two years of experience in book publishing comes down to the number 10,000.

What is a book publisher’s job?

Is it to get a writer on The Today Show?

Is it to buy a full-page four-color advertisement on the back page of The New York Times Arts and Leisure section?

Is it to make sure a book is on the front table of Barnes & Noble for its first two weeks on sale?

Is it to entertain every cockamamie marketing idea an author has…Why don’t we have an ice cream social in Times Square to promote my book about William Howard Taft?

I’ve contemplated all of these tactics over the years as an editor at the major book publishers, an independent book publisher, as an agent and even as an author for a Big Five publisher myself.

What I’ve concluded is that a book publisher’s job is to get 10,000 people to try the book.

Ideally, those readers will give their full attention to at least its first paragraph. If they like what they’ve read, they’ll read the second paragraph…and so on.

That’s it.  Get the book to 10,000 people who will sincerely give it a try.

I know, this pronouncement seems glib and just more headline fodder for Buzzfeed, but think about it.

There are three major trade book-reading generations in the United States today.

1. The Baby Boomers (75 million)

2. Generation X (50 million), and

3. Generation Y (75 million).


Posted in What It Takes

What It Takes

What It Takes

Getting on Base and the Long Game

By Callie Oettinger | Published: August 1, 2014

In his “Acting ‘As If’” post last week, Shawn wrote:

“Our books are not Frontlist. They are backlist, evergreen, long-term commitments. So we spend weeks, months, years on every single one we put out there in an effort to reach what we think is the publisher’s job . . . getting the book into the hands of 10,000 readers. We have plans to promote all of our titles every chance we get, in any way we can do it, for as long as we’re around.”

How is this accomplished?

By getting on base and playing the long game.

Getting On Base

“Your job is to get on base,” says my son’s baseball coach. Ego likes a line drive, resulting in a double or triple, but, end of day, the goal of getting on base eclipses the how of getting on base. Just get there.

In outreach terms, this means focusing on what makes sense, rather than on what Ego wants. Just like a homerun, a weeklong New York City publicity blitz can feed Ego, but just like a homerun, it isn’t a guaranteed grand slam. You can hit it out of the park, but that homerun won’t guarantee more runs batted in than any other type of hit. In other words, a media storm focusing on your book can result in your book being the “it” topic of the week, but it isn’t a guarantee that the book will hit the bestseller list—or sell that many books period.

Going back to Shawn’s “Acting ‘As If’” post, Black Irish Books plays to get on base, just as if it was a Big 5 publisher, but it’s prepped for drawing a walk and advancing play that way, too. Walks aren’t a Big 5 strength. They slow down the game and eat through the time the Big 5 have allotted for outreach. Their business model is focused on larger quantities, on which each title is given a set amount of time to succeed.

Dan Marino, matching the football/baseball mix within this post. Photo credit: Miami Dolphins.

The Long Game

Adding a little football to the mix: Think Dan Marino. Marino’s one of the best quarterbacks of all time, yet his fingers are void of Superbowl rings. Marino was drafted 27th in the 1983 NFL draft, with five quarterbacks preceding him. “Some, like Jim Kelly and John Elway, went on to have splendid careers,” wrote Kristian Dyer for Yahoo Sports. “Others such as Tony Eason and Todd Blackledge, well, not so much.”

Marino’s a backlist bestseller. He didn’t launch at the top of the list, but he outlasted and outplayed many of the others who launched that same year.

When you’re playing for a lifetime instead of for a season, you’ll find yourself adjusting the view.


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