July 29, 2010

Anatomy of marketing campaign, #10: Meta-marketing & luck


How do you market a book written in a foreign language by an author who’s now dead, that was originally published 60 years ago, and has been overlooked by mainstream publishing ever since? This series takes an ongoing, insider’s look at the campaign to get Hans Fallada‘s Every Man Dies Alone on the bestseller lists, by Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson.

You have achieved some kind of zen level of marketing when you achieve meta-marketing, a place where things begin to feel a little out of control, but in a good way — i.e., our marketing campaign about our marketing campaign has achieved an unanticipated amount of attention. On Tuesday alone this week, it was featured on Publishers Lunch and the British equivalent, BookTradeInfo. We got a terrific shout-out on the great blog about international publishing, Publishing Perspectives (“the series should be mandatory reading for any small presses trying to get past what Johnson calls ‘the echo chamber’ of American publishing”). One of the country’s better literary journals, the Virginia Quarterly Review, wrote a lovely commentary about us. And that’s just some of the places I’ve heard of. Then there were all these aggregators I hadn’t heard of — such as BookNewsMatters. Meanwhile, one of my spies tells me that the same day, the publisher of Bloomsbury Press sent a link to the series to all employees.

Meanwhile blogs and twitter accounts were touting the series before and since — for example, there’s this post at the ever-great Bookslut, and at Geof Wisener’s wonderful A Natural Curiosity, and on the Chatter, the blog of the great Los Angeles indie bookstore Diesel, and this tweet from publisher Thomas Riggs & Co. in Montana.

Thanks one and all — getting attention from people we respect like that makes us feel danged lucky. And forgive us tooting our own horn, but the lesson here is twofold: 1. Marketing is about tooting your own horn, and 2. There’s a huge element of luck in all marketing campaigns.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.