Another Madison-based publisher, University of Wisconsin Press, has pushed its marketing efforts outside the proverbial box.
UW Press authors appear at venues such as nature centers, churches, senior centers, high schools and sporting goods stores in addition to bookstores and libraries, says director Sheila Leary. Press representatives also take informational booths to major regional events such as the Wisconsin Garden Expo.
Some of these nontraditional events are natural extensions of the books' content, Leary says. A book on fishing might be a good match for a store like REI or Fontana Sports, she notes. And a venue that hosts a successful event for one fishing-oriented book will often get recommended to other fishing-focused authors who want to take their books into the community.
Nowadays many authors drum up support for their books, even if they have a publicist to get the word out, Leary adds. They blog. They tweet. They search for venues and engineer their own events. In fact, the rise of the author-as-promoter role is perhaps the most important change to the publishing landscape over the past few years, Leary says.
What does this mean for authors, then? It's safe to say that writers of trade books need to develop their social skills, or at least their social-media skills. They must be able to think like party planners, to some extent, and they have to get comfortable with talking about themselves, as excruciating as that may be. Gone are the days of literary recluses like Marcel Proust and Emily Dickinson.
In addition to working with enterprising authors, UW Press knows the value of partnering with other organizations. For example, collaborations with Wisconsin Public Radio have bolstered sales of UW Press audiobooks, Leary says.
"We license books that are read on shows like Chapter a Day and then allow WPR to make an audiobook CD, which they can sell but we can also distribute," Leary says. "It's worked really well because they're set up to do audio recordings, but we have a broader reach in terms of distribution channels."
UW Press has also begun teaming up with smaller presses more frequently, especially for books with a regional focus, Leary says.
"We do a lot of distribution for small publishers. Some of those are tiny commercial publishers like Borderland Books out of Madison and Itchy Cat Press out of Blue Mounds. And some are museums like the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Chippewa Valley Museum," she says.
Though UW Press hasn't significantly increased the number of local- and regional-interest books it publishes, its confidence in Wisconsin writers is as robust as ever, Leary says. The press works hard to help notable local authors like Jerry Apps (Tamarack River Ghost, Cranberry Red) and William R. Drennan (Death in a Prairie House) garner national attention. And while it views its audience as international, it recognizes the modern adage that what's global is also local.