Some would call it shrewd guerilla marketing, 2012 style. Others would call it high-mileage performance art. Deborah Emin and Suzanne Pyrch simply call it a fun way to traverse the country and meet some new people on the road-with the added perk of publicizing their self-published books.
Emin and Pyrch, partner publishers of Sullivan Street Press (SSP), recently embarked on a two-month road trip with the intent of travelling from their home base of New York City to Las Vegas over several weeks. Their Prius is carefully packed with the necessary gear to camp overnight at numerous stops along the way.
But the most important item they brought along was a copy of their company's prized title, Scags at 7, written by Emin, which they-as well as friends and strangers they encounter on their trek-will read aloud, word for word, on their journey. What's more, each spoken reading will be captured on video and posted in blog format on SSP's Facebook page and website.
"Our road trip will cover enough territory for us to find readers to read two-minute sections of the book, which we will curate at the end of the trip in September and use in our (iPad) app," says Emin. "I thought it would be fun to do and help us make lots of connections with people in new ways that transcend traditional word-of-mouth about the book."
Emin says she's not aware of any other publisher who has attempted a book promotion in quite the same way, nor is she aware what the video blogging road trip's outcome will be. "I do know that it will keep evolving as we travel," she says. "For example, we will be doing a combined book signing and video reading at an independent bookstore today (July 12), in Inlet, New York. We've never tried it, but we will document the process. It may not work, but it may prove fun for potential readers."
Scags at 7 is the first installment in the four-part Scags series, which tells the story of a woman who experiences a series of awakenings as she grows up. Book one depicts the titular character as a 7-year-old, who learns during a summer vacation that parents can't necessarily be trusted to be who kids want them to be. The second book, Scags at 18, continues the story and is also available for purchase. Books thee and four are in the works.
Emin launched SSP in 2009 after the series' original publisher went into bankruptcy. Loathe to ever hand over her intellectual property to anyone else again, Emin's goal was to publish and market her own books in a variety of formats, including electronic, paperback, print-on-demand (POD, via the Espresso Book Machine at McNally Jackson Books in New York City), and as a "living book" iPad app. Approximately 75% of sales of both Scags books thus far have been ebooks, with POD making up most of the remainder.
"I always wanted to challenge the way traditional publishing dealt not just with writers but with readers," Emin says. "We wanted to publish quality work that would also transition from traditional print to print on the screen to something more digitally significant than that."
Pyrch says SSP turned to POD "because many of our potential readers didn't want to purchase ebooks. The technology was of no interest to them. To accommodate them and some potential authors, we made that decision. The books themselves are printed from PDF files, but there are no costs associated with inventory, warehousing, and shipping.
"The green aspect of the (POD) process makes it the only alternative we could find to just being an ebook-only company, which is why we call ourselves a green e-publisher," Pyrch noted.
SSP has a mailing address but no real office space. Instead, Emin and Pyrch conduct a lot of their business on the road, most notably three years ago when they hosted a travelling book show at various stops along a predetermined route.
"We stopped in towns and read from these books, listened to what readers thought, met lots of writers who wanted to have their books sold through us, and learned so much about readers in all demographics that, were we a larger company, we could have started a newsletter based on all this information," says Emin.
Emin adds that the road trips provide invaluable ways to "make connections with new readers, new bookstore owners and new people who are curious about where the book business is heading. We hope to increase sales and volume of people commenting on the work we produce."
("American Interstate Road Sign" courtesy of Shutterstock.)