Monday, August 21, 2006

A PR Primer...Count it all as Joy!

Hi again!

After a six week absence, I am back online to share some of what I have learned on the first three legs of my summer appearance tour.

Wow, you never know how taxing both physically and mentally life on the road (for business) can be till you try it!

Over all the summer tour has been very interesting as I have had some nice groups of people join me in some locations, and little to none in others, (more on this later).

The International Christian Retailing Show, (ICRS, formerly known as the CBA International), was very exciting, as I gave out 150 samples of Acts of the Spirit, to retailers and distributors, in less than 45 minutes.

Comic Con International was great! We had our best year yet, sales wise, and made many nice connections with other Christian publishers of comic books and graphic novels, as well as with the local and national media, (more on this later also). Sunday's spiritual themes in comics panel, was very well attended, (I had counted about 70 at the highest point), and it generated some wonderful dialog back at the table on the exhibit room floor, (which was right next to the Christian Comics Arts Society).

Wizard World Chicago, was somewhat of a mixed bag, as one tends to get spoiled by CCI. But I did not do as well as I would have liked saleswise and got the same vibe I felt back at CCI in 2004, when I premiered the first Eye Witness book, (like many were afraid to stop when they saw my banner with the ascending Jesus, because they thought I might preach to them or maybe shout out, "REPENT, REPENT YOU SINNERS!"). We have overcome that in San Diego, but this was my first time in Chicago since the late '90s, so I'll get you "flatlanders" some slack.

The great thing about the tour has been the large amount of press coverage it has generated. Most of it very wonderful and complementary. Some not so much. Case in point, read over this article which ran in the L.A. Times last Saturday, August 19th:,1,336917.story?coll=la-headlines-California&ctrack=1&cset=true

Yes, the angle this article took was indeed a surprise,(as the reporter had spent about 3 total hours with me learning about me, my testimony, my mission, the industry and the creative process of making a graphic novel), but the fact the this signing was poorly attended was the focus of her piece?

I've been contemplating/Praying about how to accept a slam or count it "all as joy".
My initial reaction, was that as a Christian, we all know it's good to be transparent, but of course on the other hand, we also realize as a businessman/marketer, that sometimes that does not jive with the message we are trying to convey. In other words, we have a positive message we "try to present" to the media about our products/projects, and would prefer they did not point out the negative, (ex: that "no one purchased a book at a particular booksigning"), along side that message.

BUT TO CARIFY...I had put together this whole summer signing tour months ago, and had made certain assumptions about the level of support, (marketing/media), I would receive from the participating retailers on the tour. But here's a lesson learned, that I will share with my brother artists and publishers. Assume nothing! You must followup to make sure they (the retailers) are doing what they promised as far as marketing of these events. During the west coast tour especially, I learned this lesson after a couple stops had did virtually nothing to promote the signings, in-store or outside of it, (including not even having books on display in the store prior to my arrival), which I will point to in paritially explaining the empty seats at the signing in question in the L.A Times article.

After learning this lesson, I increased my level of followup both to the store managers and the local media in the next stops, (because they certainly were not going to do that in most cases). This did not result in huge turnouts at every stop, but at least greatly improved my chances.

But what it all came down to with someone like me (unknown author) at these booksignings in all manner of stores, was my ability to get local coverage in the media. In Cities like Minneapolis, I could not make that happen, and as Sherwin Schartzrock can testify, (because we did a joint signing there)...that gave us a lot of time to catch up and philosophize about the meaning of life and the state of the industry, while sitting at our table.

But on the other hand in cities like Eau Clair, St. Jospeh and Dubuque,(where I had radio, TV and newspaper coverage), I had people in the seats for very nice Q &A's and even sold a half dozen or so books in each location.

Should we expect more than this? Not unless we are Steven King or Ann Rice...according to media expert, Whitney Kelley, (of A. Larry Ross communications). She says, the typical author at a signing, taking all levels of familiarity by the public into consideration, will sell only 7 books on average at a signing!

Unfortunately, she didn't pass on that nugget of wisdom to me, until well after I had made my plans.

But potential poor showing aside, I look at my summer tour, (from this point forward to be referred to as: "Bob's excellent adventure"), as not a sales success, but definitely a PR success. Making appearances like this, gives local media a reason to cover you...because they have a local event with which to key/angle their coverage of your message, where they might have ignored it otherwise. Off the top of my head, the first three parts of this tour have generated: 6 feature newspaper articles, (5 good, 1 LA Times), 2 TV features and a handful of local radio interviews, (not to mention web only coverage).

Visit a couple of the good ones:

Who among us, would not consider that kind of exposure of our works, (and the Spirit of God within them), as a blessing?

Now excuse me, while I shlank back to my cave and prepare for the last two legs of the tour!

Robert Luedke is the author/illustrator of Eye Witness: A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth and Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit.

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