Tell Us About Your Crazy Book Marketing Ideas
Each month this column will feature another wild, crazy, untried book marketing technique that catches our attention - please, no explosives or poisonous snakes -- and we will chronicle it here. Go crazy!
Crazy Book Marketing Idea of the Month
How #@%$ Far Will the Indie Author or Publisher Go?
Kip Cosson began hand painting his own bold, colorful designs on children’s clothes from his apartment 16 years ago, after losing his job at an architectural firm. After a brief period of indecision, he launched a new career that’s been fulfilling and lucrative.
This Month: Selling Books on the Streets of New York
“Losing my job was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” says Cosson. “At first I was thinking, ‘What else can I do?’ but then I saw some t-shirts being sold and said to myself, ‘I can do better than that,’ so I got started and never looked back.”
Hand painting soon turned into higher volume silk-screening and embroidery, and his clothing – bright, child-like artwork on boldly colored shirts, rompers and bibs -- has been sold to stores around the U.S. and street fairs and craft shows in New York City, where Cosson lives. His work has been featured on the covers of TV Guide, Child magazine, Parent magazine, Kids Fashion, and Glamour, to name just a few.
Customers began mentioning how my artwork would be great for a children’s book,” he says. “One day I met a self-publisher who asked me to sell her book at my street fair display, and I quickly sold three copies. Again, I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’”
“The book has been a great new addition to my business, and the Christmas season in New York was a great way to launch it.” For six years Cosson’s had a booth at the Union Square Holiday Market, one of the handful of popular outdoor markets held each year around the city. Street fairs are a great way to reach both locals and tourists, he says.
“I sold over 1,200 books in the first six weeks. Even I am blown away by that. I did not expect this kind of response to my book. I basically made my cost of the book in three weeks. I printed 2000 books to start, and I’m going to have to do a reprint in March or April.” He needed to sell 700 books to break even, so every book after that became profit.
His marketing extends beyond the street fairs and craft shows he attends most every weekend April-December, to the Web and a mailing list of 6,000 customers he’s sold to over the years.
“Since I have a following of customers, the book has been easy to sell. I sell it mostly through my website, a few local stores, and at my holiday market. The book sells really well with t-shirts, especially when customers realize I’m the author, sitting right there.
“What I am finding out about self-publishing is that getting a book into bookstores is not as easy as I thought it would be. Most bookstores would rather deal with distributors, so going door to door with one book is almost not worth my time and energy. Luckily, even if I never sold a copy to a bookstore, I’d be fine.”
He does sells books through a specialty cheese store featured in his book, and he’s working on other tie-ins such as the New York City Transit Museum. Another great cross-promotion is that he features himself in the book selling shirts at a street fair, so it makes a great souvenir for anyone wanting to remember that experience.
“I feel very fortunate with my book, because I know not all self-publishing projects turn out to be as successful.”
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Links to previous Crazy Book Marketing articles: