In a marketing move to overcome the challenges facing publishers in search of an ever-elusive customer base, Seattle's Pear Press has teamed with Alaska Airlines to promote its bestselling Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School (2009) by molecular biologist John Medina.

Pear Press founder and publisher Mark Pearson reached an agreement with Alaska Airlines in which the press has provided 10,000 copies of Brain Rules in exchange for free marketing and publicity through the month of March via the airline's website and extensive email list. "We decided to target Alaska Airlines frequent flyer members and focus on their most elite customers. These are the people who belong to Alaska's Board Room, where customers can sit and relax quietly rather than deal with the hassle at an airport's boarding area," Pearson said.

The press's first promotion began the week of March 1 at airports in Seattle, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Portland, San Francisco and Anchorage. Alaska elite flyers that had checked in online were informed of the book giveaway, and given complimentary copies of Brain Rules upon entry to the Board Room at the various airports. Author Medina, stationed in the Board Room in Seattle, signed over 100 books for the passengers on the first day alone. "The response has been unbelievable," reports Pearson. "One woman picked up her copy of Brain Rules before her morning flight out of Los Angeles, and when she landed in Seattle she went directly to the Board Room to have John (Medina) sign it for her." Flight attendants told Pearson that several people on board the first two days were spotted reading Brain Rules in flight.

The goal, of course, is for the Alaska Airlines promotion to generate a lot of buzz for a book that has already sold nearly 80,000 copies in its combined editions (cloth, paper and bundled with a DVD) since it was published last June. Brain Rules, now in its eighth printing, only recently fell off the New York Times bestseller list after a seven-month run; Pearson expects it to return to its former position with the help of Alaska Airlines. He is a fan of Malcolm Gladwell's theory of the "connector" personality type, one who has the ability to bring people together and traverse different social worlds. Pearson's ideas about book marketing seem to resonate in this spirit. Next month Alaska Airlines will begin showing the DVD of Brain Rules on all their west coast flights. "The promotion is mutually beneficial," says Pearson. "The airline wants to add value to its customer relations, too."

Pear Press was started six years ago and has published only two books since then, Medina's and Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job by Dennis Bakke, a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post bestseller. Pearson, 29 and a University of Washington graduate in business, believes that because it takes time to deliver quality content he plans to publish no more than one book every year or two. In October Pear Press will release Medina's second book, Brain Rules for Babies.

"Sometimes travelers are given free cookies on flights when a company wants to promote its brand," Pearson muses. "I'd rather give a taste of a good read than a cookie." As he awaits the latest sales figures for Brain Rules on BookScan Pearson seems confident that his investment in the Alaska Airlines promotion will pay off. "These are the risks we have to take as publishers to reach new customers."