Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On marketing strategies (part two): why you should give my mother your book for free

My mother, who turned 63 a few weeks ago, is fond of reading. She doesn’t wolf books down like her youngest daughter, but unlike me she has the time to read, so she gets through a fair share of books every year. Since I work in a bookshop it's convenient for me that I can always buy her a book for her birthday or Christmas – I get a discount; but more importantly I don’t have to rush around in other stores desperately trying to find her a gift since I can just pick up a book when I’m at work anyway.

Over the years I have figured out what sort of books my mother likes to read. She is fairly versatile genre-wise, but the books she tends to prefer are often of a certain type. She doesn’t like her books to be too “weird” or too experimental, for instance. Any sort of postmodernism probably falls out of her preferred category. She likes her books to have strong, likeable characters, often female protagonists. She likes a good story, firmly set in an interesting setting – but it doesn't necessarily matter whether that setting is Latin America or 19th century Norway.

Books that she likes and which fall into the above loosely defined category, thus, include anything by Isabelle Allende, anything by Cecilia Samartin, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, and The Island by Victoria Hislop. She has also read and liked a number of suspense/mystery books, such as the Millennium trilogy, books by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, or Swedish mystery novelist Liza Marklund.

The most common denominator of these books, however, is that I have been able to sell them to customers after having explained that “I haven’t read them, but my mother has. She loved them.”

I have recently written about the importance of making the bookseller like your book in order for it to reach its customers. Well, this is also true by proxy. By referring to my mother’s reading preference I am able to sell books that I have not read myself, and for which I might not even be in the target audience.

Thus, the morale of the story is that authors and publishers need to target their audience. Also, if you want to make sure your books sells, you might want to send it to my mother.

Disclaimer: I feel the need to include two things... First of all, I didn't actually mean it literally. Before you all rush off to the post office, let me just explain that I don't expect the mailbox to flow over with free books anytime soon (though I wouldn't mind either).  Secondly, it would also be relevant to include that while I am more than happy to read books in English, my mother isn't. She does speak a little English, but I don't think she has ever read a book in a foreign language. So unless your book has been translated into Norwegian, using my mother as a marketing strategy would probably have a very limited effect.

That being said I still think my story holds a universal thruth. The fact that one bookseller does this probably means a lot of others do too. So perhaps your marketing strategy would be to seek out the friendliest looking clerk at the local bookshop and ask him/her what his/her mother likes to read!


Piedmont Writer said...

Would she read a Regency Romance?

Cruella Collett said...

I'm gonna guess she would, seeing as she has read (and liked) a fair number of novels resembling that. However, I realized I forgot to include a valid piece of information in this post (will edit ASAP), and that is that I didn't really meant for anyone to take this literally. I mean, I wouldn't complain if the mailbox started flowing over with free books, but the thing is that for my mother to enjoy them they probably would have to be translated into Norwegian. That limits the selection, doesn't it?

But it might be a tip for a genre I could look into the next time a book for my mom is on my shopping list :)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I wish I could concentrate to sit down and have a good read like I used to, always had my head in a book but know the pc and my music has taken over,
Enjoyed your post very much,


Jennee said...

You work in a bookstore?!?! I've always wanted to work in a book store but I"m pretty sure my pay check would only be books and that would make it hard to pay the bills. Great post!

Clarissa Draper said...

Oh, YOUR mother. Well, that's better because my mother doesn't even know I write and I'm not that eager to inform her of the fact.

Great post.


Cruella Collett said...

Yvonne - I spent more time in front of a computer than in front of a book too, but I would never give up on books entirely. I just love reading books too much (and by books I mean BOOKS, not e-books - I will never get that buzz, I think).

Jennee - yup, you have successfully identified one of the main reasons I seem incapable of saving any money. I keep all my assets in bookshelves, I'm afraid... (But I like the job. Sometimes...)

Clarissa - oh, you're a closet writer too? I am, or I used to be, or I think I am... I don't like telling people about my writing, but it's been going on for so long that my parents hardly could have failed to notice. However, I don't advertize my blog to my family members, and none of them will ever read anything I write until it's an actual, printed and published book...

Julie Musil said...

Your mother sounds like a smart lady!

Cruella Collett said...

Julie - certainly, my mother is a smart lady. She is clever and resourceful, and she is definitely the glue of the family. And now that I think about it, I should make a point of telling her that more often!

arlee bird said...

I wish I had a daughter who worked at a bookstore. I have one who works at a bakery--Mmmm, good stuff, but it doesn't help my waistline I'm sure.

Having worked in wholesale distribution for many years, I understand of establishing a relationship with buyers. If you become trusted and like a friend they are more apt to rely on your judgement. This is one advantage at being at a tradeshow where you can meet people one on one and let them see, feel, and experience your product. This also is true for salespeople in the field who visit the stores they sell to and learn the demographics of that stores customers and the personal quirks and tastes of the buyers. There's nothing better than finding an advocate who will help sell your product.

Good post.

Tossing It Out

Cruella Collett said...

Lee - that is a very good point, and I guess one that is often undermined by online bookstores, for instance. I have many customers who come back asking for new advice because they liked the last book I recommended. (The tricky part then, though, is to remember what in the world I told them last time...)

Jemi Fraser said...

I use the same kind of strategy in my classrrom. I can use a kid from the class, or from a previous year and say "So-and-so loved this book, it might be right up your alley too". Works like a charm :)

Anonymous said...

I applied just a little too late for a job at my local bookstore a while back. But even though I love to read, I don't read as often as I should, so I wouldn't be able to offer too many recommendations... xD

Very interesting blog as well as blog name. I'll be back to visit for sure!

Saumya said...

Informative post and blog! I completely relate to you when you describe your mother. My mom also reads a lot of books and I would definitely love it if someone cared to ask what she read. YAY!

Cruella Collett said...

Jemi - it's so good hearing about your students and how they have a dedicated teacher to show them the wonderful world of books!

Amanda - there is always a next time, isn't it? I've been working part time for several bookshops for about eight years now, so I should know ;)

Saumya - Thank you! Perhaps you should ask her ;)

Michelle Gregory said...

maybe i could send my book to *you* and you could spread it around Norway. how ironic that would be.

Cruella Collett said...

Sure, I'm a sucker for a good book too! One slight problem with that otherwise brilliant plan is that I have no influence on the publishing part of the industry - I just sell the books - but that's a minor bump in the road, right? ;)

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