Sunday, July 08, 2007


Michael Bay's latest blockbuster film, Transformers, is coming soon to a theater near you. I'm predicting it will make a lot of money.

For the three of you who don't remember, Transformers were toys from the 1980s. One of them was a robot that looked like a truck, which, with some clever manipulation, could be transformed into a truck that looked like a robot.

Why will a movie based on a 25 year old toy make a lot of money?


We remember Transformers the same way we all remember toys from our youth---with rose colored glasses. This movie has automatic name recognition with the Gen-X crowd. Many have children, who are the same age as they were when Transformers came out. They'll want to bring their kids and relive their own childhood.

Plus, Transformers have taken over our stores. You can't go into a supermarket, fast food chain, or watch TV without being assaulted by new Transformer toys and products.

It all fuels name recognition, which generates interest. Transformers will have a huge opening week.

But it will only be able to sustain ticket sales if the movie is good. If the movie is awful, ticket sales will plummet. Word-of-mouth has killed many big movies. I remember Battlefield Earth toys available at my local Toys R Us for fifty cents each. You can't market a turd.

Selling books (you knew we'd get around to that, right?) is also about name-recognition and branding. But word-of-mouth is essential too. A big marketing push by your publisher will fuel demand, but that demand will only be sustained if people like the book and tell other people about it.

Dirty Martini has been out officially for about a week, and began to trickle into stores two weeks ago.

From what I can interpret watching and calling Ingram, the book is doing better than the previous three.

Coop is part of that. Dirty Martini is on the new release table in the chains and major indies. It is in the public eye. Publicity plays a part. Dirty Martini is a Booksense Pick for August, which should help it sell in the indie stores. There have been some great reviews.

Name-recognition is also key. People who enjoyed my previous novels are buying this one. The time I've spent schmoozing booksellers and acquiring MySpace friends is helping my cause (I had three MySpace Friends show up to signings I had in Italy. MySpace works.)

I haven't begun promoting Dirty Martini yet. Very soon my newsletter will go out to 12k people, and I'll do a big Internet promotion. That should spike my numbers. Especially since I'll be "buying" advertising space with contests and freebies (you'll see what I mean when the newsletter is released.)

I'll also be doing some limited touring, which will help the cause.

But, ultimately, the fate of Dirty Martini, and of the series, comes down to word-of-mouth. If people like it, they'll tell others about it. Much of my promotion has been geared toward booksellers, because they are word-of-mouth megaphones. This time around, I'm going to see how many fans I can reach via the net to get them to spread the word.

Another thing about word-of-mouth; it builds. Now that I have four books out, I've found books are four times easier to sell. If I hook one new fan, they'll buy all four. As more books of mine are printed, they reach more people, which generates more word-of-mouth. As more books of mine are released, they take up more shelf space at libraries on at bookstores, leading to more people discovering them.

There's a snowball effect. Sales build on sales. James Rollins once told me that a hardcover is just an advertisement for the paperback. I believe a hardcover is an advertisement for the whole backlist.

But this cumulative effect only happens as long as books are still available. Which is why I spend so much time promoting, not just the new release, but the backlist as well.

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