"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, November 15, 2009

And now, a word from our sponsor

I need to tell you all what a wonderful time I had last weekend, but I fear I must proselytize first. But don't be afraid - it has a little something to do with books, in a roundabout way.

This past Friday night, my son's choir sang the National Anthem at the L.A. Galaxy's soccer game. It was a very important game; as the Major Soccer League Western Conference Finals, it would be televised on ESPN2.

My son is actually in three choirs at school - this is the VHS Vocal Jazz choir, an audition only group. He auditioned for them as a freshman and didn't get in, then worked his butt off to get in as a sophomore, and has been a part of the group ever since. Here's a video of last year's crew (Sonny Boy is the 2nd soloist):

Many of the kids graduated, so this year is populated by new recruits, all strong singers, and all inexperienced at performing in front of 25,000 people, PLUS knowing it will be televised to who-knows-how-many soccer fans (not to mention friends and family across the country).

As the choir booster club president, I helped with tickets, chauffeured the kids to the game, and helped out where the choir director needed me. As a repayment, I got to go down on the soccer field and watch the sound check. (Side note: That field is ENORMOUS.)

I told kids not to expect too much from the televised aspect of their performance. Having watched plenty of sports events with my hubby, I know the cameras do not caress the singer's face for the whole song. They pan the crowd, the players, and sometimes even the flag.

I also know how distressing a TV appearance can be. When I was a flying angel at the Crystal Cathedral's Glory of Christmas, the local news interviewed me. I raced home to see my snippet and was appalled. I realize I have fairly large teeth, but they seemed to leap out of my mouth at the camera with every word I spoke. Actually, it reminded me of someone...

But I digress.

Back at the soccer field, the kids were excited. They were nervous. When it came time to sing, they were magnificent. Their voices rose, strong and reverent, as fireworks went off behind them. It was a great moment.

It also wasn't televised. ESPN2 decided to cut to commercial, rather than show the singing of the National Anthem.

I wasn't disappointed, except to feel badly for the kids who had told Grandma to tune in at 8:00 p.m. But it nagged at me, for another reason.

This game was on November 13th, two days after Veteran's Day. Two days after we've trotted out our Sunday finest to honor the men and women who fought for their country and lived to tell the tale. Two days after our neighborhoods hoisted their flags and held ceremonies.

Two days later and a national TV channel (owned by Disney, I believe) cannot be bothered to display a couple of minutes of patriotism if it means one less commercial spot. For all their millions, they'd still rather have the money.

No, I'm not surprised, but color me disgusted.

What does this have to do with books? It has a lot to do with the marketing, I think. If I were in the MLS public relations department, I'd be demanding that the National Anthem be televised at any MLS broadcast. Why?

Because soccer is not perceived as an American sport. It's regional, at best, for kids. We live in California, so my son played it, from the time he was six until this year. By contrast, it wasn't really an offering for my brother's kids in Illinois - they were more about baseball and basketball. If the Major Soccer League wants to increase its visibility, its attendance at games, its viewers on TV, and ultimately its revenues, it needs to hook into the American consciousness.

One way I'd think they could do this is to market soccer as an American sport. The subliminal message of hearing the National Anthem prior to a soccer game is just one way to start turning the public's mind around, as in, "Hey, Martha, guess what? Americans play soccer!"

Oh, and maybe stop hiring these guys. They may be good, but the country will rally behind home-grown talent before they warm up to the European blood.

So the good thing about Friday night was, I began to think about marketing on more levels. I use the internet, both in direct selling and social networking. At bookstores and festivals, etc, I can hand sell books fairly easily. But what am I missing? What little piece of my novel could be used to sell books? What can I use to reach a more global market?

What about you? If you're an author, what are you using to market your books? If you're a reader, what kind of marketing makes you go out and buy? Even better, what kind of campaign makes you run away?


L.J. Sellers said...

I enjoyed this post. Especially because it made me realize that almost everything relates to marketing in some way. I'm still asking myself the same question about how to sell my books to niche readers, since I don't have knitters or dog clubs or recipes in my stories. If I ever come with great answers, I'll get back to you.

N A Sharpe said...

What a great post - it's funny how once you get in this businees you develop such an awareness of marketing and possibilities missed.

Loved teh video of the kids - very talented group!

Nancy, from Realms of Thought

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I'm using online promoting now as most booksotres in my area are not doing book signings during the holidays. And I'm sending mu query letter out to select agents.

Stephen Tremp

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.