In John Kremer's book, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books,
he begins by saying, “This book is not intended to be a textbook on how to
market books. Rather it is designed to be an organized potpourri of ideas,
examples, tips and suggestions to stimulate your creativity and encourage you to
explore new ways to market your books.” The same can be said for his 3-day Book
Marketing Blast-Off seminar.
Having just completed Kremer's $495 seminar, I am impressed at
how this stocky 54-year-old man from Fairfield, Iowa (not exactly the hotbed of
publishing) with graying wavy hair and an unpretentious approach can fill people
with hope and the belief that they can achieve best-seller status. What
impresses me isn't that he's capable of motivating people — it's simply in the
subdued nature in which he does it and the attention he gives to each individual
attendee. Unlike many seminars where the trainer's energy and enthusiasm are
sometimes greater than the value of the information shared, Kremer takes a
low-key, soft-spoken approach.
The self-proclaimed wizard of book marketing, spent the bulk
of the three days perched on a stool in front of the room. A single white-board
at his side was his only prop for illustrating the ideas and concepts he shared.
As an independent publisher, I wondered how he would be able
to address the needs of the 21 attendees. After all, we were a mix of
publishers, printers, book shepherds and authors — some of us with books already
in print while others still in the manuscript or idea outline stages. During the
course of the three days, Kremer took time to single out each project and show
how certain topics were more relevant to some attendees than to others. And
unlike some experts who hold themselves at arm's length in order to maintain the
mystique of who they are, Kremer is very approachable and easy to talk to.
Although his approachability is an asset, it could also be
one of his greatest liabilities. Because the tone of the seminar was more
conversational than tutorial, Kremer tended to wander on some of the points he
was making. Often allowing himself to be sidetracked by questions or his own
depth of knowledge on a subject. Much to his credit, he did manage to bring
his stories full circle and tie it back to the original point he was trying to
make. For the most part, these slight detours served as only minor
distractions and didn't detract from the overall intent of the program.
This brings me to my only real suggestion on how he could
improve this seminar in the future...have a well-timed agenda. The room was
set-up classroom style with narrow tables and straight back chairs that are
the devil's contribution to ergonomics. Working without a set schedule, we
endured 2-hour (or more) sessions without an official break. Granted, we're
big people and can certainly decide for ourselves when we need to be excused
to stretch. But in this type of situation, you hate to leave for fear you'll
miss that one tip that would assure your rise to stardom and marketing
During the three days, we covered the following topics: *
The Basics of Book Marketing * How to Create a Best Seller Without Breaking
the Bank * Working with Distributors * Publicity & Promotion * Creating News
Releases * Internet Marketing * Selling Subsidiary Rights * Selling to
Specialty Outlets * Creating a Marketing Plan
Each topic provided ample opportunity for questions and
answers. It was during these free-form dialogues that Kremer was able to
demonstrate the depth of his knowledge and tailor the event to meet the needs
of each attendee. Because there was so much time spent in Q&A, it's safe to
assume that each Blast-Off seminar, while working from the same basic outline,
would be a new experience. That means you could probably attend two different
sessions and still get plenty of new information.
Something else that contributed to making this experience
unique is the range of people who attended. One of the advantages of attending
seminars, regardless of the topic, is the opportunity it presents to meet new
people. And while Kremer may have been the star of the show, there was still a
wealth of information to be learned from the attendees. During the course of
the day, those who had “been there, done that” didn't hesitate to share their
experiences. All too often presenters assume the role of the all-knowing and
don't acknowledge that other people may know more on a topic and also be able
to contribute. Wisely, Kremer was willing to share the stage and let them
talk. By allowing other people to showcase their experiences, Kremer helped
open the door for the attendees to build some camaraderie. This inspired many
people to share meals together and to even explore the local nightlife (we
were in Marina Del Rey, just outside of Los Angeles).
As could be expected during any seminar, there was some
self-promotion. Kremer's approach was more than tolerable. On a couple of
occasions he showed off several of his books and reminded us that he has a
number of reports for sale through his Web site. He didn't do much beyond
that. At no time did it feel as though we were attending the seminar simply to
be sold other products. To his credit, he did give us a free CD-ROM (a $170
value, according to him) that includes many of his reports and databases of
various book publishing related resources. This value-added perk is nice and
helps offset the cost of the seminar.
One thing that I thought was interesting was that on the
first day Kremer was dressed in a three-piece suit. Days two and three, he
wore casual drawstring pants and a button crew shirt. Not that fashion is my
thing, but I thought it odd he would go to the two extremes. Whether it's
related or not, on the first day he seemed confined and less personal. On the
casual days he appeared more relaxed and allowed his humor and personality to
come out in his presentation. I imagine he dressed-up on the first day to get
a sense of the audience. Because we were a less-than-formal bunch, he felt
comfortable dressing down. Personally, I was there to see him. I didn't care
what he wore, just so long as he wore something.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess I had a
flight to catch on Sunday afternoon, so I was unable to attend the last two
sessions — Selling to Specialty Outlets and Creating a Marketing Plan. I
imagine that the latter of the two sessions would also be a good opportunity
to work with Kremer on a one-on-one basis to define and refine a specific
marketing plan to match an individual's needs. While it would be difficult to
create a plan with much substance (I have 20 years experience in creative
development and marketing research ... in-depth marketing plans aren't put
together in an hour or two), this time would certainly present an opportunity
to at least create an outline of things to accomplish.
Would I recommend that you attend a Book
Marketing Blast-Off seminar? Absolutely.
Regardless of where you are in the process, how many years experience you
have, or how much you think you know on the subject, the combination of
Kremer's experience with the knowledge of the other attendees makes this an event worth the price.
— Sam Goller is the director of marketing of Stowers
Innovations, Inc. a Kansas City-based publishing house and forum for the
philosophies, beliefs and strategies of self-made billionaire James E. Stowers,
founder and chairman of the board of American Century Companies, one of the
nation's leading investment management firms with nearly $85 billion in assets
and one of Fortune Magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work for in America.