Random House of Canada is experimenting with a different kind of book tour this fall--one that guarantees book sales from every person attending a launch. Working with strategic marketing partners such as Fairmont Hotels and Air Miles, the company is creating ticketed events that include a copy of the book in the price.
It’s a different kind of business model, says Tracey Turriff, senior vice-president, director of marketing and communications. “There are some situations with bookstore events where even if you have a great crowd, you don’t necessarily always sell a lot of books at those events.”
Granted, it may be a little easier to experiment with a national tour for author Natalie MacLean and her book Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines than some other kinds of books. The events include wine-tasting and sometimes a three-course meal, and the author has a following for her wine newsletter of about 150,000 people. “This is the second book we’ve done with Natalie MacLean, and it seemed like a great opportunity, given all the connections she has and given the nature of the book, to try to do something a little different and non-traditional and innovative hopefully,” says Turriff. By the end of November, MacLean will have wined and dined with readers at 17 events across Canada and there are more planned for 2012. “Seventeen events is a lot obviously for an author to do, so one of the goals was to ensure that there are books sales for Natalie,” says Turriff. The events range in size from 50 to 250 people, and in price from C$45 to $100, with the highest including meals.
In some cities, Random House is still partnering with bookstores on events. Toronto bookseller Ben McNally is well-known for hosting brunches at the posh King Edward Hotel that allow readers to meet authors while enjoying a meal, and occasionally, he does dinner events at Grano Ristorante. For MacLean, he’s increasing the usual size from 50 to 60 people to 100. For $100, people attending get a three-course meal, a copy of a book, dine with the author and hear the author talk.
“One of the things we’re seeing more and more is there are a lot of readers out there who want that experience,” says Turriff. “But in every market, there wasn’t necessarily [a bookseller] who had an arrangement in place or the means or know-how to build some sort of event like this.” So in some cities, Random has created the event on its own, and in others, worked with corporate strategic partners.
Random had previously partnered with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts to create stand-alone events – a dinner with Nigella Lawson and a Mother’s Day tea with authors Elizabeth Hay and Miriam Toews, but MacLean’s national tour takes the idea to a new scale. To do it, the company has again partnered with Fairmont and also with Air Miles, along with various wineries. “Many of our strategic marketing partners have opportunities for promotion that we might not have. They have the means to do outreach to their immediate clients but also many of them do more advertising and so they take on a lot of that co-ordination…, so there’s a lot of those benefits as well as just simply having great events,” says Turriff.
Random publicity manager Adria Iwasutiak, who is working on the tour, says the model and even this kind of event could work for other books too. “The wine and book combination is a natural pairing anyway.”