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Aug 08

Bring Out Your Dead: How Kirsten Cappy Promotes Books to Everyone

Another one of book marketing guru Kirsten Cappy‘s clients came to us with a wonderful story to share. How could we refuse?

In case you haven’t heard, Kirsten is the instructor for the first The Writing Barn Presents workshop: Discovering Your Readers, a Low-Residency Course in the Sane Self-Promotion of Children’s Books. Through her Curious City marketing company, Kirsten has helped lots of authors get their books more attention. Here’s what author Sarah L. Thompson had to say about her experience working with Kirsten.

Not that many people are interested in hanging out in a graveyard while a cold, misty drizzle drifts down your neck. Kirsten Cappy is.

Mercy: The Last New England VampireWe had planned a book launch party to celebrate the release of my fifth novel, Mercy: The Last New England Vampire. When you hear “book launch party,” do you think wine and cheese and polite chitchat as you stand around in a bookstore? Not for a vampire book, not with Kirsten Cappy at the helm.

This book launch party had to be held in a thematically appropriate space — a graveyard. The oldest graveyard in Portland, Maine, with a lovely view of the harbor and some seriously spooky atmosphere. Polite chitchat? Who has time? We had a tour of the cemetery, concentrating on the graves of teenage girls, since the heroine of my novel died (well, sort of) at the age of 19. We had a costumed character portraying Mercy herself, posing for pictures with fans behind a replica of her gravestone. We had a makeup artist offering visitors a choice between ghost and vampire makeup. And we had free temporary vampire tattoos.

We also had drizzle. Oh, we had a rain location lined up as well. (This was fall in New England, and we’re not crazy.) The teen room of the Portland Public Library knew we might be showing up with replica gravestone in tow if the rain got heavy. But it just didn’t have the right feel. Kirsten and I called back and forth on the morning of the event, checked every weather site we could find online, and finally made a decision.

We went ahead with the cemetery, drizzle and all. A few people decided to give us a miss. But more showed up, touring the gravestones under umbrellas and posing with our chilly but uncomplaining actress portraying the lovely, doomed Mercy.

Working with Kirsten has taught me a few things about marketing. Among them:

Nobody owes it to you to come to your launch party or stop by your blog or show up at your book signing, any more than they owe it to you to read your book. People are busy. You have to make your event worth their time — whether that means providing a tour of gravestones or a discounted book or a cool free gift.

If you hand out chocolate, people will show up.

Temporary tattoos make awesome giveaways.

Think about the comfort and convenience of your guests. Provide a trash can. Know where the nearest bathrooms are. Take care of them, and make them happy that they came.

Make it easy for people to give you money. If you are selling your books, make it obvious that you are doing so. Have change on hand. Give a receipt with a smile.

It helps to have good plans, and it also helps to have good friends. Kirsten put out an SOS on the morning of our event, and by the time we were setting up, a pal of hers had shown up with two large tents to keep the rain off me, the books, and our makeup artist.

Ask for help. The tour of the graveyard was conducted by the Friends of the East End Cemetery, a historical preservation group. A friend of Kirsten’s intern provided makeup services. The pizza place across the street (where we held the warm-up and drink-beer party afterwards) was glad to let our actress change into her Victorian costume in their bathroom.

Have fun. Plan the kind of event that you would like to attend yourself.

It might not be your idea of fun to hang out in a chilly, damp graveyard, but the teens who showed up loved it. And so did I.

Thanks, Sarah. I would have loved that event too. Very creative.

To see more photos of Sarah and Kirsten’s book launch party, check out the book’s website. And, if you’re interested in attending the Sane Self- Promotion workshop, check out all the details. Attendance is limited, so book a space early.

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