An Interesting Book Promo Offer

It’s not too often you get the chance to walk a movie premier’s red carpet just because you bought a book.

I got an email from Donna Wolfolk Cross telling me about her promo for Pope Joan, and that’s exactly what she’s offering.

What makes this interesting to me?

We no longer sell books: we sell access. We don’t sell music: we sell access. Creators are no longer stopping at the borders of their creation, but instead, are finding ways to include their audience (hopefully their community) in their experiences.

I support Donna’s idea here. Pretty interesting stuff, and yet another way to get our attention in a crowded world. I haven’t yet read the book, and as I only read fiction recommended by Ann Kingman at present, I’ll have to do my homework before I buy Pope Joan.

Have you read it?

Swing over and look at the Pope Joan promo and come back. What do you think? Interesting to you? runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • robclark

    Not much different than Seth's promotion for his book, Tribes. With a preorder, you were granted access to a ning supported community.

    I would have bought a copy anyway, but the promotion did cause me to preorder several copies though.

    I guess Willie Wonka knew what he was doing when he created the all access golden ticket.

    Great work Chris, you are one of my new favorites.

  • Michael Kindness

    Ann is recovering from oral surgery. I'm not sure when she'll get around to commenting, so I'll tell you that you're in luck… Pope Joan is one of Ann's all-time favorite books!

  • EyeView

    Intriguing, certainly, but I'm not sure the promotion has been pitched quite right.

    In order to qualify to go to a film premier, you have to buy a new copy of the book that has been filmed. To get to the promotion you have to be a fan of Ms. Woolfolk Cross. Given that she has only written one novel, if you are a fan, you have probably already read it. In that case the only way to enter the promotion is to buy something you already own. Ugh.

    Alternatively, you find out about the promotion through a link like this and you haven't read the novel. If you haven't read the novel then the prize is less exciting as you don't know if you're going to enjoy it or not. Meh.

    I may be over-analyzing, but there just seems to be a disconnect here. If she had written other less popular books and the promotion required you to buy one of those, then that would be good.

    As it stands, I'm not excited by a promotion to buy a full price (plus sales tax) version of a book that I can find online second hand for a buck (plus postage) in return for a slim chance of seeing a movie with no release date and every chance of going straight to DVD.

    OK, now there's no question. I definitely over-analyzed it. Sorry folks.

  • Chris Brogan

    Wait… walking the red carpaet at a movie premier is the same as joining a Ning community?

  • Chris Brogan

    Thanks, Michael! Somehow, knowing what you and I share in common, I didn't ask your opinion on this one. : )

  • Chris Brogan

    Well that's certainly a reasonable analysis. So what would you do to improve the story here? WHat would be the alternative way to make this sing?

  • julianna01

    Eye View's analysis sums it up for me and I'm a fan of the Pope Joan story and I didn't know there was a book nor a movie.

    It is generating buzz, because you picked up on it, but how far will that carry the cost of the promo?

    Do I want to buy this book? No, I'll get it from the library. I don't buy books, often.
    Do I know who might be at the primere? No, that wasn't told to me.
    So am I gaining access? Maybe but to what, again I don't know.

    Naw, not a good use of resources.

  • JerrannaCan

    Hey Chris-
    I think the promotional idea is cool, but I wish it wasn't a random drawing. That doesn't create evangelists for the book. Having someone submit a written review of the book, or an essay on what character would you have wanted to be in the book would be better. Especially if they had to post it online somewhere for others to read. That would have built a bigger buzz and created more intrigue in my opinion.

    Thanks for the post the book sounds amazing. I had no idea a woman had ever concealed her identity and sat as a Pope! This book is on my to reading list now!

  • EyeView

    I would spread the love a bit. Instead of making the focus of the promotion her book, why not open it up to any book of historical fiction, or any book at all with the word “Pope” or “Joan” in the title.

    For promotion of the promotion, you have to look beyond the author's fansite. Books are great because there are existing communities that will welcome you as an author and that actively look for new reads and promotional opportunities. Try for an example of a place where authors are mingling with readers to everyone's benefit. There's also, but there are costs involved for an author to be listed there.

    The alternative route is to pitch the promotion to movie fans. This is going to be a limited arthouse release (if it gets released at all) and I'm sure there are communities that embrace those and the opportunity to read the book first. The movie stars David Wenham, who has a bit of a LOTR heart-throb following, and John Goodman, who probably appeals to someone, somewhere. Perhaps they have communities that would appreciate a good read.

    You put me on the spot here. How am I doing?

  • Chris Brogan

    It's funny. We just had the talk about random yesterday with a client, because they want a bunch of really great video content for their project. Random is legally a lot easier to digest. When you have rules about quality or quantity, you get into ways to game the system, ways to circumvent fairness, etc.

    But you're right that it impacts loyalty.

  • Jodi Kaplan

    I read the book (in fact, I own it), and recommend it.

    However, I agree with Eye View. There's nothing there to entice me to join her club, and why would I want a second copy of the book?

  • robclark

    No, not the same, but better. I would not turn down an invite to the red carpet. If I did do the red carpet, it would be but a flash leaving no lasting impact. On the other hand, an exclusive club to people who look through a Seth Godin lens can have a daily and lasting impact on my life.

    I can see how people who read fiction writing get excited over the red carpet though.

    Both are a carrot hanging from a stick that attempt to motivate buyers. Simply different donkeys chasing the carrot.

  • Ann Kingman

    Pope Joan is indeed one of my favorite books, especially for book clubs — though I do think it would make an amazing graphic novel for you comic book geeks! Hmm, Michael should get on that …

    Thanks again for the shoutout, Chris.

  • Franchise Whale

    I think it is a great idea and I have never heard of the author or the book. The NYT best seller list is a number based on time and volume. It get more difficult to make the list the farther away you get from the publishing date. If she would have created a promo that had clues released from inside the book from day one with the ultimate drawing the movie premier, she may have created more loyalty and buzz and had a better shot at NYT. I bet her fans would love to participate in the promo, but fans won't get her to NYT, she needs new readers. I think a general adventure that everyone could enjoy might have more appeal and some viral tracking, content on her website as the receipts pour in where people can submit photos with receipts and they appear on the site, something to get her community more involved.

  • Donna Woolfolk Cross

    Hello, Eyeview! Donna Woolfolk Cross here, the author of Pope Joan–here to disagree with your analysis of this promotion.

    To take your comments in order:

    1. “to get to the promotion, you have to be a fan of Ms. Woolfolk Cross.”

    Not true. Alas, my poor orphaned novel was abandoned by its previous U.S. publisher, so though it was a bestseller in other countries, it didn't even register on the Richter scale in the U.S. My “Walk the Red Carpet” offer–and Chris' mention of it–is alerting many who have never heard of my novel–or of Pope Joan, whose story is surely one of the great lost “mysteries of history”.

    2. “If you haven't read the novel then the prize is less exciting as you don't know if you're going to enjoy it or not”.

    Sorry to say this, Eyeview, but you don't know diddly-squat about the movie business! Many people attending a movie have never read the book on which it is based. Millions read “People” magazine and similar “gossip rags” to find out about the stars who attend a movie premieres, and millions more watch these events on television.

    There's a powerful “draw” to such a special occasion–dressing “to the nines”, walking a red carpet, meeting the stars, attending the after-party, etc. Who cares what the heck the film is–it's the experience one wants! This is what I'm offering–and all for the price of a book purchase (or multiple purchases–for each book bought qualifies as a separate entry).

    As for books: sales are driven by “name recognition”–that is, people buy books that they've heard about –exactly the way they buy “Shredded Wheat” or “Firestone Tires.” “Walk-by” sales in bookstores are driven almost entirely by this principle.

    “Ah, yes,”, you think when you see a familiar title, “I've heard something about that”. Thus: the Red Carpet offer–and the welcome publicity it's getting (of which Chris's is the best so far. Make no mistake about it, guys: Chris is an influential blogger!)

    3. “I'm not excited by a promotion to buy a full price (plus sales tax) version of a book that I can find online second hand for a buck (plus postage)”

    Fair enough. But then you're not the “target audience” for this offer. If you only buy books second-hand, or rent them from a library, good for you! (and certainly I support libraries, to whom I owe my entire professional life).

    But if you buy Pope Joan second-hand, then you won't get this brand-new and significantly improved edition by a new publisher. It has larger print (no need to squint to read it anymore), corrections and additions (every writer's dream of going back to “fix things”), an updated “Author's Note” with new evidence in favor of Joan's historical existence, and a list of “Best of the Best” reading group questions, based on on my many years of chatting by speakerphone with groups all over the U.S. and Canda.

    4. “In return for a slim chance of seeing a movie with no release date and every chance of going straight to DVD”.

    Wrong again, Eyeview. World-wide premiere of Pope Joan is already scheduled for October–either at the Rome Film Festival or in Berlin. No chance this baby is going straight to DVD. Date of the U.S. premiere is still indeterminate only because the European producers are unwilling to show anything other than the “final cut” to U.S. distributors, for they fear “artistic interference”. And the final cut won't be ready for another three weeks.

    The movie WILL open in the U.S., probably this fall. It's possible that it will be a “limited opening” (as with a Woody Allen film) in “selected theaters only”–or it may open wide. That is still TBD. Makes not one jot of difference to my offer, for the winner will still get to attend the premiere!

    5. “a slim chance” of winning. Wrong again. My agent (who is collecting the receipts and will send them to me at the end of the promo) tells me that not that many entries have yet been received. Why play the lottery, with its impossible odds, when this one is actually “winnable”?

  • NatMich

    There was a female pope?! Did not know that but I always love hearing/learning about these kinds of women.
    I think that point that what people sell now is “access” is a really powerful one. For one, because of what you mentioned- the ability to include the audience. I think this can happen in a number of ways (in person/red carpet style :) or using new and growing social networks like Ning and Twitter (as Robclark mentioned).
    And while perhaps tangential, I couldn't help but think that this point was valid for a second reason- as a consequence of the digitization and rapid spread/sharing of information sources. Specifically, I was thinking about the whole “Kindle Scandal” (the sudden deletion or 'removal of access' to Orwell's books).

  • Donna Woolfolk Cross

    “I don't buy books, often”

    Again, fair enough. But again, you have to admit that this doesn't make you the target audience for this promo!

  • EyeView

    First of all, wow! I really appreciate you taking the time to come here and join in the discussion. My name is Daniel, by the way.

    Your willingness to engage with this review of the promotion for your book is my biggest incentive, so far, to go out and buy it. So thank you for that.

    I really hope you find a US distributor for the film although it's not always necessary for success. Your producers did really well with their release of Perfume (based on one of the greatest novels of the past 25 years) which made $135 million worldwide. Sadly only only $2 million of that came from the US despite its award-winning cast and director. The film never played on more than 280 screens which is fewer than the average Woody Allen film is allocated.

    All I meant to say is that given the film's current lack of US distribution and given its probably modest (< $5 million) US box office potential, and given Ms. Wokalek's low US profile any premier for the movie is unlikely to be the paparazzi-riddled affair that potential promotion winners might be expecting.

    I totally agree with your point that most moviegoers do not read the book first which is why I suggested in my second post that the promotion would be better placed somewhere other than on the author's site.

    My final point is more esoteric from a marketing perspective. Although it appears that I have not responded favorably to your promotion, you are absolutely right to note the power of a Chris Brogan mention. You are mistaken, though, in suggesting that I am not the target market for the promotion. I am an avid reader of what publishers describe as 'literary fiction' – Peter Carey, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ian McEwan, Anne Tyler, Salman Rushdie. I am an active purchaser of books. I am a lover of movies. I am an active reader of blogs and sites about movies and books and I read Chris Brogan daily. I am exactly who you should be targeting with this promotion. I am significantly more likely to purchase Pope Joan now that we have had this (pleasant? I hope so!) exchange, but, as a marketer, I am still not impressed by the placement, the format or the content of the promotion.

    I think there is a disconnect between what you are asking people to do and what you are offering them as a reward. I think the people who are likely to do the former are less likely to be impressed by the chance of the latter. In short people who read historical fiction are less likely to be impressed by flying across the country to meet Dan Conner. It's only my opinion and I hope I haven't offended.

    Thanks again for listening.


  • Jesse Giglio

    The “randomly selected” winners thing always speaks spammy database collection to me. If the book physically contained the “golden ticket” IÊ»d be more interested. Not a fan of having to take a next step with my entry i.e. the soda bottle cap code trend. Did I win another soda or not, thatÊ»s all I want to know. I donÊ»t want to join anything, I donÊ»t want updates. If youÊ»re already a fan of the product than your perspective changes, you may be willing to take another step, itÊ»s all about who youÊ»re trying to reach.

  • jimnduncan

    I tend to think that this contest, while appealing to readers, is more likely to appeal to movie buffs. I'd buy this book based on the blurb (and reading a few pages), but honestly can't say the chance to win a walk on the carpet would inspire me to buy it for its own sake. You get this promo before the eyes of avid movie fans, celebrity followers, and the like (who actually read of course) and I think you'd be far more likely to see an effect on sales. Get Ashton Kutcher to tweet about it or some other celeb active in social media with a boatload of followers, and you will most certainly see some sales from it. Will the winner also get to meet the actors of this movie? The appeal here is to the movie fan, which can be good, but it does need to get pushed into venues where they'll see it, not just from the author/publisher sites.

  • kegill

    Agree with Chris here re rules. Moreover, if it's not random, you have to be very clear that the UGC isn't a popularity contest — just ask the “Murphy Goode” winery folks.

    FWIW, I'm glad that promo wasn't a popularity contest, ie, based solely on how many people liked an applicant's video, but MG wasn't clear about that from the start.

  • Dracotorre

    Great promotional idea. Doesn't matter if movie buff or book fan. It uses an event to grab attention for the movie and the book. Even better for movie fans that already have read the book: buy a copy for a friend. I have no interest in red carpet events, but I'm now interested in a book I would have never heard of if not for the promotion. Even better is having a discussion about the promotion and extending the reach. I may buy the book, but skip the contest.

  • Love Streams

    My experience is in marketing business/how to advice authors. I believe the promotion has to fit the author. We all know that it is imperative that an author build a platform through engaging his/her audience. Indeed, new author Gary Vaynerchuk “Garyvee” landed a deal with HarperCollins, Sept. launch, because of his online star power with the belief that his audience is poised to buy his book as an extension of his brand. For this reason, I usually recommend promotions that promote long term audience engagement. Like multiple book purchases for access to exclusive author downloadable content for iPods of Kindles, or contests for personal coaching sessions with authors.

    Given Donna’s book genre, international best seller brand, and link to the movie, it is smart to leverage the timing of her release date and the cache of the movie red carpet event to inspire readers to purchase multiple copies of her book for its US release. The random drawing contest will create buzz and a short term spike in sales, but is unlikely to have an impact on the best seller lists if implemented in a vacuum.

    Regarding the lists. In my experience, Franchise Whale is half correct, the lists are “time and volume” sensitive, but the degree of difficult relative to pub date depends on the genre.

    I have one question for Donna. “What other activities are you doing to leverage the buzz and gain incremental sales within the same time period of the contest to optimize the promotion?”

    Chris makes the point that book promotion is all about access. This means access to the author as well, not just red carpet celebs. Donna, already gets this concept because she offers to host “Reading Groups” on her site. A great way to leverage this is to book the “Reading Groups” by collecting pre-orders, in advance of the events and prior to launch date. The cost to readers is still the price of a book, and the author gets to take advantage of the sales in the time period that is most opportunistic for her.

    The point is, it's never about just one promotion. It's about a combination of promotions, managed so that both audience and author win.

  • sheiladechantal

    Very cool. I have added this to my blog post about this book. Thanks for the info.

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  • Peter Faur

    At the American Idol concerts, producers are running a contest to win backstage passes. It's run in conjunction with Ford. Several videos are played; audiences are asked to text answers about the videos, and several contestants win backstage passes to visit the performers after the show. Once again, the barriers between celebs and everyday people are falling.

  • Tre

    such an incredible but yet so very normal and obvious concept. when you think of it. the good ideas always hit home like that don't they? thanks for sharing this. makes me question a ton about the value of memoir…you know? like where that's gonna evolve to…how can one involve an audience, bring along a community with a memoir? has me thinking a lot….always thanks for sharing finds that many of us wouldn't ever come by.

  • Eva

    As the author has responded here, I'd like to ask her why she persists in implying this novel is 'based on a true story' (as she puts it, one of the great “mysteries of history”). Pope Joan has been well and truly debunked as a myth by reputable medieval scholars and historians (a very interesting myth, though, as it tells us some intriguing things about medieval notions of gender and authority, and also about the medieval propensity for engaging in forgeries).

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  • Donna Woolfolk Cross

    More controversy here than you think, Eva!

    Peter Stanford, former editor of the Catholic Herald (the most widely read and influential Catholic journal in the world) has come out in favor of Joan's existence. The scholar Joan Morris, who got her degree in Liturgical Research at Notre Dame, decided the same thing after a careful study of rare originals of the Liber Pontificalis. The priest Emmanuel Rhoidis and the scholar Friedrich Spanheim also argue for her (Spanheim studied over 500 ancient chronicle records and other documents before reaching his conclusion; his exhaustively detailed work on Joan is over 900 pages!)

    So the debate is far from settled. But I agree that Joan's story can be enjoyed simply as “interesting myth”, for it tells us much about the medieval world, and especially, as you say, the notions of gender and authority.

    Would you be similarly concerned if King Arthur's story was described as a “mystery of history?” As you seem to know your history, you're probably aware that the parts of Arthur's story we love the most didn't appear until over 600 years afterwards, written by a wildly imaginative writer! If Arthur lived–and there's some doubt even about that–then he was probably a warlord by the name of Ambrosianus who fought at a battle of Mount Baden. Yet Arthur's story has been repeated, advanced, promoted to the point where Americans think of it like history–like Henry VIII and his six wives. Meanwhile, Joan's story has been systematically expunged, erased, and ignored. Why?

    Perhaps because of what the 17th-century philosopher Francis Bacon said, “People prefer to believe what they prefer to be true.”

    p.s. Like the work of T.H White and Marion Zimmer Bradley about King Arthur, my “Pope Joan” is a novel–and clearly identified as such. Above all, it's a fast-paced, rip-roaring tale of “what might have been”–which is why it's been made into a movie.

  • Eva

    I'd have to say the sources you quote here have obvious interests in proving this story true. The Catholic church being in the state it is at the moment, I'm sure they'd love the 'proof' of a Pope Joan to divert some of the heat from their other issues. I don't see the editor of the Catholic Herald as an unbiased scholarly source, and I'd also have serious concerns with a priest. Chronicle records are notoriously unreliable, and there have been plenty of forged documents amongst the archival records of the Church (and other medieval institutions), from the Donation of Constantine on down Try something like Alain Boureau's 'The Myth of Pope Joan' for a more scholarly approach. Also, I am well aware that King Arthur is mythical. As full disclosure, I'm a post-grad in medieval history.

    I think it's great (and probably pretty interesting) to write a novel based on this myth, but it bothers me that publicity material continues to refer to it as based on truth (whether this is down to you or not, I don't know). This does a huge disservice to the the many medieval women who's existence is in no doubt, but who's history gets ignored because it's not as sensational as a fictional female pope.

  • Donna Woolfolk Cross

    Let me get this straight: you think the Catholic Church itself has “an obvious interest” in proving this story true? I gotta admit, that's an argument that I've never heard before!

    The Vatican has vigorously opposed this story for centuries. I'm aware of Alain Boureau's work, and it has some merit, but it is no more scholarly than the works of those I cited before.

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  • Home control

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  • Home control

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  • loverevolver4

    This should be a really great book, I think I have read one of the author’s works previously and it was a good read. A friend at my free bible study class is planning on buying it soon and letting me read it after she is finished.

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  • شقق للبيع في الاردن

    I really hope you find a US distributor for the film although it’s not
    always necessary for success. Your producers did really well with their
    release of Perfume.