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Episode 297: How You Can Get Banks, Home Depot and Walmart to Help You Launch a Book

Feb 05, 2020

Jane Ubell-Meyer is an award-winning entrepreneur and former television/film producer (TV credits include Good Morning America and Entertainment Tonight, among many others).

She taught at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology for seven years and is a speaker and mentor to authors and entrepreneurs. These days, she sits atop Bedside Reading, a program that places books by the bedsides in luxury hotels and in the media. She's also the most out-of-the-box thinkers I've ever met when it comes to getting a book out there.
I mean, would YOU have connected a successful launch to your BANK or Walmart? Me, neither.


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1) Find a sponsor and think outside of the box for one—consider calling your local Home Depot, Walmart or even bank to see if they're open to hosting an event or emailing their list

2) Layer your marketing and promotion...don't look at it as "one and done"...hit every medium (print, blogs, podcasts, radio etc) over an extended period of time

3) Do Amazon ads (check out previous podcast guest Dave Chesson's free course on how to do it!


"Book marketing is not a launch and goodbye. If your book is good, it should have a life for many years."


4:14: Best advice for writers without a big marketing budget

10:42: How "sponsorship" for your book marketing isn't always monetary

11:44: How to get a company to agree to sponsor your launch

14:26: The timing and strategy of a launch plan

23:10: The importance of a good cover


Anna:                           00:00                So you were just telling me, Jane, that your dad is, has released his first novel at the age of 88 and you are helping him with the launch?

Jane:                            00:13                Yes. So, my father wrote a memoir a couple of years ago and this is his first novel, it's called the birth mother. So, my dad did not ask me who I should publish with or how to do this. He just did it on his own. He got a hybrid publisher and then he then says to me, okay, my book's coming out. What do we do? So of course, I said, dad, when is your book coming out? And so, he goes, I have no idea. So, we went and checked it out. It turns out the book was coming out in a week and his hybrid publisher did not give him a heads up saying, “You know, Seymour, your book is coming out in six months or three months, it's coming out next week.”

                                    00:56                So that was a little frustrating because I tried to explain to my father that let's do this, that, and by the way, when the hybrid publisher came out with a book, there prices were outrageous. So that was really interesting. And I said, “Dad, you cannot sell a book for $40, that's not going to work.” So, we went back to the publisher and we said, here's what we would like to do. We'd like to change the price of the hard cover and the soft cover. And the eBook press was fine. It was 3.99 and how do we do this? Cause I haven't, I'm not on the publishing side.

Jane:                            01:43                Okay. Okay. With working with a hybrid publisher, you know, oftentimes they dictate the rules to you. And what I've learned now is that that does not have to be the case.

Anna:                           01:55                Let me just interject, that as a hybrid publisher, we leave it all up to the client and we'll advise them. But that blows my mind that a publisher would make all those decisions when it's a service you're paying for.

Jane:                            02:09                That is correct. So that was a big mistake with my father. So, we went back to the publisher and they, we wanted to have the price changed on the book cover and we had had just a few minor changes for changes and they want them to charge my father a ridiculous amount of money for the changes. Anyway, the bottom line is we all got on the phone with them, and we massaged everybody's egos and we massage everybody, and it worked out okay. So, we now have the book coming out with the right a price on it. The changes have been made. And so, we're now at square one. So now what do you do with a book that's coming out? And that's where my father said to me, “Janie, this is all in your hands. Do whatever you need to do.” And I said, “Great,” and here's what I said to him: “Do not think that you're going to make $1 million on this. That's not what this is about.”

                                    03:11                The question is what is your goal with this book? Is the goal just to put it out there a great book and have lots of great raving reviews and get as many accolades as possible? Do you want to sell the book in libraries and bookstores, etcetera? What's the, what is the goal? And he really had a hard time coming up with that answer. So what we decided to do, I said, “Let's just take it step one and let's use you almost as an experiment because this wasn't planned properly.” He did not clue me in about any of the process of publishing. So I said, “Okay dad, let's do the following and I'm going to advise this to everybody. Number one, let's create a budget. What is going to be your book marketing budget? One half the question, the second half of that question is who's going to finance it?” Luckily for my father, he has the means to finance this. But for many other authors, they don't have the means to finance this.

                                    04:14                So for those of you who are listening that do not have the means to finance a really complex and comprehensive book marketing program, my advice is the following. Find a sponsor to sponsor your book marketing program. And what does that really mean? That means let's just say for the sake of argument, your book takes place in Detroit. Go to the Detroit Tourism Board and tell them, “Hey, I just wrote a book. It takes place in Detroit. Can you help me with this? Can you give, create a launch party? Can you, is there any marketing dollars from the city of Detroit for artists working in Detroit promoting the city of Detroit?” So that is a really interesting way to look at things. A lot of businesses, even Home Depot, by the way, they'll have a manager for a local Home Depot, that Home Depot has a discretionary fund to help local people in the community.

                                    05:17                So what I say to people is go to your local bank. Literally, go see if there's a lobby there, say to the bank manager, “Hey, I'm local and can we have a book signing party here?” And if they say yes, then just say, “Here's what I need from you, can you send it out to your list?” The bank. The bank. Okay. Can the bank send it out to your list? Well, here's why banks are good opportunity. Banks are local, they need to get involved in their community. It serves them well to do local events because local events bring people in and that's potentially brings new potential customers to their local bank. So have a book party at a bank.

Anna:                           06:01                That is genius and, I've never. Have you ever been to a book party in the bank?

Jane:                            06:05                No, but here's what I did. I went to my local bank and I said to them, “I have a company, it's Bedside Reading and I have a local author. Do you think we can have a book party right here in the lobby?” And they go, “Oh, that would be great.” I said, “Can you provide wine and cookies or cheese or refreshments?” He goes, “Not even a problem, Jane.” I said, “Can you send this out to your people?” He said, “No, we won't send it out, we'll have posters made, you know? Right. You know, saying you're all invited on December 17th at five o'clock to meet X, Y and Z.”

Anna:                           06:41                Oh my God. And people showed, oh, it hasn't happened yet.

Jane:                            06:44                No, but well, here's what, and let me tell you where I got this idea. When I had, I had another company prior to Bedside Reading and we were the number one celebrity gifting company in the country. Or actually it could be the world, I don't really know. This is years ago and my bank was TD Bank in New York at the time. And after I got done explaining and I was getting a line of credit for my company, the guy said, “I love this Jane, could we do an event in the bank?” I said, “Yes we can.” So I did an event where I spoke, they invited all kinds of people and I think what was provided for women at the time, if my memory is correct, they invited all these women to the bank for evening at the bank branch in like, it was in New York city, I think it was at like a six o'clock cocktails: Meet Jane and talk about small business and being an entrepreneur. They had like 50 or 60 people there. Had I had a book, I would have sold the book. So I always remembered the lobby of banks or great place to have an event after banking hours.

Anna:                           07:47                Amazing. I mean talk about out of the box thinking.

Jane:                            07:52                The other thing is that I went to Home Depot and I had a client the time and, I think he was a builder or something. I said, “You know, just out of curiosity,” I said to the local manager, this is back in when I lived in New York. And I said, “You know, I have an author and do you think that we could do an event here?” He goes, “Absolutely.” And here's why. And he said to me, “You know, Jane, I do have community based dollars.” I said, “Well what does that really mean?” He goes, “Well let's set up an area where do they do demos?” Instead of doing painting demos, they'll do like a, you know, do it yourself book demo and right then and there. So, I didn't do it for a number of reasons, but the guy said yes. So, and then I had a client once who was in Montreal, wrote a book and he went to the local tourism board and he would talk about how to get sponsorships. And I said, “Is there a local tourism board?” He goes, “Yes.”

                                    08:47                So he went to the local tourism board. They gave him, not only do they throw a party for him, they financed it, they, it push it out through all the media. And then his boss, because he had a daytime job, invested $2,000 to help him with the marketing. So it became a tourism board, kind of local guide talking about, you know, Quebec, Montreal, whatever. And it was very interesting. So, I do know that in terms of marketing, think about who's going to help finance this and how do I do it. So one way is to find a company, whether it's a bank or a tourism board or even a company that like Walmart. We had a client once, amazing young woman and she was a young widow at 36 and she had a little daughter and they, her husband died tragically from my heart issue. And she was a widow without a lot of means.

                                    09:49                So what happened was that I said to her, “Who do you know locally?” She goes, “Well, you know, I go to Walmart.” I said, “Go to the Walmart people.” And it turns out she ended up, I said, Walmart's pretty, I don't want to say cheap is not the right word, but they don't shell out dollars easily. So what ended up happening is that they brought her on to be a speaker for them in the community, and they gave her hair and makeup and a car service and she went speaking on behalf of Walmart. And now they're helping women. So she got to be a speaker representing them. And that, sometimes sponsorships don't come in cash. They come in other opportunities. And they ended up and I said “Ask them for this” because it doesn't cost them anything. Can they sell your book on the front page of their website? And they did.

Anna:                           10:40                And that you can't even buy.

Jane:                            10:42                You cannot buy that. That's right. So, sponsorships of how to finance your book marketing come in many different ways. You just have to be super creative. And think about this. What company would benefit, first of all, what company is in alignment with your values, number one. Number two, what company would benefit by being your sponsor? So if you have a book about, it could be a novel, it could be a business book. It doesn't even matter what it is. Find a company that speaks emotionally to your core values. Approach them and say, “How can we collaborate?” So the key, then the next question is who at the company do you connect with? So here's my philosophy in life. Ready? You go to the top first. Because if you go to the CEO and he or she says, “This is totally cool” and tells their marketing director or PR team, “Hey, let's do something with this author,” it happens.

                                    11:44                If you go first to the marketing team or the PR team, then they can easily say no because they don't want to risk thinking out of the box, to their bosses. So, always go to the top and if the top guy doesn't do it or the top woman go to the next layer, so you work your way from the top down. And that's what I would do. And then what you can do is send a FedEx, not by mail, in a FedEx book with a note attached to the book to the CEO. And you say, “You know, I wrote this book, it's coming out and I thought of your company because I thought we're totally in alignment with our core values. And perhaps we could do an event together or perhaps I could speak, perhaps you can give this book away for your holiday gifts. We're coming up on Mother's Day or whatever holiday it is, perhaps, there's a way to synergistically we can both help each other.” And that is my one good tip for the day.

Anna:                           12:45                That's amazing. Now let's, what is the ideal? Okay. You had your dad's situation where there was no time for the marketing. What is the ideal amount of time to have? Is it six months? Some people say the minute you put pen to paper, you should be marketing.

Jane:                            13:03                So here's the thing, the minute you start thinking about what kind of book it is, you have to have a separate file or start brainstorming with yourself, with other people about marketing ideas. Because think about this, this is kind of, it takes away the creativity a little bit, but let's just say for the sake of argument, you're writing a novel and the novel and the protagonist is an artist. And you know, she's an artist and she's working in oils and she is by the beach and it's a love affair or whatever it is, or whatever the story is it doesn't matter. If you think about it, she's an artist. So what happened? What do you think about immediately? I think about Blick, I think about Jerry's Autorama I think about painting. I think about paints and canvases. And I think of all the 5,000 companies out there who are in the art world selling art supplies, every single one of them. Can you imagine if you have 500 companies and they all say, “Oh this is a cool idea, cool book” because she's a painter or whatever that is.

                                    14:03                And they'll say, “You know what, I'll give you 100 bucks for your marketing.” And then all of a sudden, and this is kind of not sure if it's cheesy or not, but let's just say it ends up also being an eBook. And on the eBook, there's a link somewhere in the back saying thank you to our sponsors and then it clicks to their website.

Anna:                           14:21                Not at all cheesy. That's just smart as far as I'm concerned. Yeah.

Jane:                            14:26                There are many different ways to think about it. So I think six months is a good time. I think as you start running, putting pen to paper, you start coming up with ideas. But if you're going to really plan it out and you come up with your dream wish list, where do you want to be? And then you back into it, how, who do I know? Who do I know that's going to get me to the Today Show? Who do I know that's going to get me to TW who do I know that's going to get me to whatever show or radio or whatever?” And in today's world, it's not one thing. It's layer, layer, layer, layer, layer. What I mean is PR and marketing is about doing 50 things. It's not one thing. I mean for my father, we're putting him in about 20 hotels cause that's my business. Bedside Reading, you place books by the bedsides and luxury hotels and in the media. So putting them in the hotels.

                                    15:25                The second thing we're doing is we're, we are doing radio tour, we're doing a blog tour for him. We're doing speaking engagements, we're doing reviews. We're doing, audio kind of readings, which is a new thing. So we're doing an audio reading and then we're putting it out there that it's not an audio. We're doing an audio book, but before the audio book comes out, we can do a Q and A with my dad and I'm going to say, and then I'm going to have him read just like a paragraph or two, not a lot, so that people can get a feeling for my father and what he's about.

Anna:                           16:04                And where do you post that?

Jane:                            16:06                I have on my website, I have an author page and we're going to post it there. We're going to link it to LinkedIn, we're going to link it to Instagram, we're going to link it to Facebook.

Anna:                           16:14                So it's almost like an excerpt, an audio excerpt where if you like it, you can buy the book.

Jane:                            16:19                Yeah, I mean it's going to be more of a conversation with my dad and from the daughter's point of view. And we're, and I'll tell you, I came up with a really interesting thing. So my father wrote a book called the Birth Mother. It's a really multilayered book about a Chinese woman who was assaulted as a young girl. She was sold to a wealthy family, so her biological family could have money to help with medical expenses for their son. And she ends up getting assaulted and she has two twin girls, and they get adopted by an American family. It's a very, lots of layers. Anyway, I said to my father, you know, “I look at you, you're 88 years old.” He gets up every day. He irons his pants because his father did it. He goes to the gym at Equinox in New York city every morning has a trainer, has classes, then he gets dressed, showers, holds court at Equinox.

                                    17:21                Takes an Uber to the office, works from like 11 or 10 to 3:00 PM in between, has lunch with buddies, then he takes an Uber back home. He takes a nap, has talks to my step mom, and then he gets to writing. That's his, he's 88. So, he goes to work every day. So I said to him, “You know, dad, retirement is just not an option.” And I went, “Wow. What a great idea for an article in the New York Times or anywhere.” So we're creating this concept where it's conversations with my father that retirement is not an option. And not retiring at 64, he started a new business. He's the number two shoe boxed company in the country and he had to go to China, starting at age 64, every other month or every two months. And those trips to China led to the story.

                                    18:20                So retirement is not an option led to the book. And so now I'm taking the concept as a marketing tool. It's really, yeah. Getting people to know my father's journey will lead to people being interested in Birth Mother.

Anna:                           18:40                Right. Now some of the things that you, that you mentioned in blog tours, radio tours, how could somebody who can't necessarily hire somebody, how could they do that? Oh, also reviews, you know, an option now for many indie books is you can pay Publishers Weekly to review. You can pay Kirkus. Is that something you recommend?

Jane:                            19:02                We are not paying anybody to write reviews. What, although what we did, we did a blog tour and we do have a publicist that was phenomenal that we're working with. And they're sending the book out to a lot of reviewers, people that, mommy bloggers and people that love to review women's fiction. And we have so far nine reviews on Amazon and one of them is a friend of mine who's an author. That I sent it to. But eight people, I have no idea who they are. And the reviews are five stars, four and a half to five stars. So it's getting people to review the book is the most important thing. The more reviews, the more you sell. And if you have any marketing dollars at all, go buy ads on Amazon.

Anna:                           19:51                Would you say that those, it's hard to figure out the Amazon back end in terms of ads. Should you hire an expert? What's the best way to do that?

Jane:                            20:00                Hire an expert, but I do believe I've created ads on Amazon for other products, like reading lessons that I used to sell. And doing an ad on Amazon is really easy. So it's not rocket science.

Anna:                           20:15                So that you're spending your money wisely.

Jane:                            20:17                Yeah, I mean, you can hire somebody to do it and that's, I think, you know, if you do not know how to do it, just let somebody else who's an expert at it, hire them. I mean, I'm not putting together the radio tour, I found someone to do that. Annie Jennings, we brought her on to do that. I'm not doing the blog tour. I'm not doing a lot of the things that we put into place with my father because I'm not an expert in that. What I'm an expert in, as I mentioned, getting books into hotels and into certain levels of the media, like women's world and [inaudible] for women, all the media outlets that I have access to, I can do that because I'm an expert in what I do in my own little world.

Anna:                           20:59                Right, right. Okay. So in terms of Amazon ads, AMS, is that something that you do it launch week. Do you stagger it? Do you do it once a month? You know, because I think a lot of people, in terms of a launch, people get, and I'm guilty of this through many of my books, my books that were published is I think it's all about the launch. And I forget that a book has a lifetime.

Jane:                            21:23                I don't think so. I do not think so. I think that everyone makes a big deal about the launch because they want to become a bestseller. I just want to tell you something interesting. I have a client who has spent $700,000 a year once on Amazon ads and his book became a bestseller and he said to me, he sold one book a minute for a year. I went, “Oh my goodness.” So he obviously, even if it was at 99 cents, right. He spent so much money on ads. He obviously made his money back. And I believe that book marketing is not a launch and goodbye. I believe that if your book is good, it should have a life and it could have a life for many years. I have a book that we're promoting that was released in 2004. The author got the rights back from the publisher, she put a brand new cover on it and we are now giving it another life, and it's doing really well.

                                    22:21                And she has 20 or 30 books in her series. And she is smart because we're now reaching a brand new audience that never would have known about it. And I read the book and still holds up so many years later. So, and yeah, it's called Cold Silence.

Anna:                           22:40                Cold Silence.

Jane:                            22:44                By Danielle Gerard and it's an FBI story. Female FBI agent who's on the run or in witness protection.

Anna:                           22:51                Great. I love it. I love it. Yeah. A lot of our clients are people who release their books themselves, kind of did a cover themselves, got it done on camera or Fiverr and nothing happened. And so yeah, a lot of times we're taking books back or redesigning the cover. We're doing a real launch. Because people just don't know what they don't know.

Jane:                            23:10                Exactly. I will tell you one thing that's the most, what is the most important part of the book? The cover. If keep a cover can repel or a cover can attract. So the question is what do you want? Do you want your cover to attract or repel a reader? And I will tell you, I have had so many bad covers. I have said to people, “Yeah, what a great concept. Great book. What if you redo the cover?” “Oh, I love the cover, I love this. You know, it's my friend did the artwork and blah, blah blah.” And I went, “It doesn't matter. Do you want readers or not?” And I'm not saying that I'm the arbiter of taste or the arbiter of what's a good cover, but I will tell you I've had, so I look at so many covers a day. I can tell you immediately if it's going to resonate or not. Just because you like a cover doesn't mean it's a good cover. You want a cover that sells. Get your ego out of it. That's what I say.

Anna:                           24:12                Yeah. It's the fact that you can't judge a book by its cover is a lie. Lie, everybody's judging.

Jane:                            24:20                That's right.

Anna:                           24:20                So, okay, well this is amazing. I do want people to know, we as we get close to wrapping up, the services you offer, you mentioned in passing, but it's so cool and I'm so excited that we're going to be partnering a little bit on this. But Bedside Reading puts books in luxury hotels. You explain what that means to anyone who doesn't, right?

Jane:                            24:40                So the concept is, so yes, Bedside Reading places, books by the bedsides in luxury hotels. What does that really mean? So I own the real estate by the side of the bed. When a five star or a guest comes into my hotel, what are they going to see? They're going to see one or two books by the bedside with a little tinted card that says, Welcome to the Mandarin Oriental New York. We're partnering with Bedside Reading. Please take these books are complimentary. So the question is, why do we want that? So, first of all, the Mandarin Oriental is one of my clients. They were my first hotel. And if you go to their Instagram, they have 77,000 followers on Instagram. They will photograph the book and they will post on Instagram your book. That's number one. Number two, who is reading it? People with money, people that are influencers, VIPs, celebrities. We want them holding your book and carrying it around with them and reading.

                                    25:39                The next thing is with our program; I have a relationship with Women's World and First for Women and many other magazines. So we do giveaways in magazines and typically we get between 60 and 124,000 women entering to win our book giveaway every single month. So we have millions of readers, or eyeballs from the women's magazines. And typically, it's one person will win the array of books that we're offering for the month. So layer, layer, layer. We have podcasts now in hotels starting in January 2020. We have the media, Hollywood Weekly, First for Women, Women's World. We have an Instagram program. Where we make somebody author of the day and we push it out. We put money behind it. It's a paid Instagram promotion or our authors. We have a LinkedIn promotion on Facebook. So it's layer, layer, layer layer. And that's what we do.

Anna:                           26:43                So, if people want to find out more about that, the website is

Jane:                            26:48                Yep.

Anna:                           26:49                Easy. Well Jane, I know you have so many more bits of wisdom to share, but I'm so grateful to you for just sharing this. In terms of top three takeaways, I'm going to tell you what I took: one, find a sponsor and that sponsor may not be too glamorous. It may not be at the Today Show. It may be Home Depot or Walmart. Two, start thinking about who you can align yourself with when you are putting pen to paper, slash just conceiving of the book. And three or C, Oh my God, I just had it. Hold on. Oh yeah. Layer, layer, layer, layer. Do not count on one period of time or one avenue. It's this whole stew that makes a book successful. Oh. And Amazon ads, you've got three and a half tips.

Jane:                            27:36                Okay, good. Well that's all right.

Anna:                           27:39                Well, thank you so much and thank you guys for listening. I will see you next time. Thank you, Jane.

Jane:                            27:45                Thank you Anna, so much. Love this.