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Going Dutch: Marketing Together
Lorien Kaye -- 6/26/00

One of the most popular sessions at last month's Australian Book Association/International Booksellers Federation conference in Melbourne was conducted by Henk Kraima, director of Collective Propaganda for the Dutch Book, an independent body with a charter to stimulate interest in books and book ownership throughout the Netherlands. The group runs three major campaigns and about 10 minor campaigns every year that garner widespread industry participation, outside support and media interest.

CPNB's most significant campaign, which has been running since 1932, is Book Week. The 10-day "week" aims to "remind the public of the wealth of books available in the bookshops the rest of the weeks of the year" and focuses on the Book Week "gift" and a central theme.

The gift is a short, as-yet-unpublished novel by a well-known author, which is given free with the purchase of any other book worth more than $12 (approximately). Previously, the Book Week author has been a Dutch national, but in 2001, for the first time, a foreigner has been chosen. And what foreigner would contribute to this scheme? Salman Rushdie, Kraima told his audience at the conference, to gasps of surprise.

The theme gives booksellers ideas for window and POS displays, and provides an opportunity for booksellers and publishers to promote some backlist titles. Recent themes have included Indonesia, p try, Dutch landscape, religion and the classics. CPNB also produces a magazine that focuses on books on the chosen theme and features an essay by a respected writer

The Book Week campaign is conducted with the press in mind, Kraima explained. While television and radio commercials are aired during the week, CPNB concentrates on generating free publicity. In fact, the week has become established on the Dutch events calendar and regularly attracts a great deal of media attention. There is widespread coverage about the announcement of which author will write the next gift. Interviews with the author when the gift is released are ubiquitous. And the annual Book Ball--a gala event held to mark the start of the week and attended by authors and other celebrities--has TV crews fighting for entry.

Association member booksellers pay cost price for all promotional materials, and 70 cents for the gift. Non-members pay significantly more. All booksellers are free to decide which campaigns to participate in, and to what extent.

Other Promotions
Children's Book Week aims to entice children and parents to visit a bookstore together. Many of the elements are comparable to the adult Book Week, including gifts, a magazine and commercials. The sponsor of Children's Book Week is given a few seconds at the end of each advertisement to promote its product. Sponsorship has to be appropriate--at the moment, the sponsor is a children's tea producer. There is a separate campaign devoted to teenagers.

Begun in 1955, when the CPNB also initiated an annual children's book award, the announcement of which marks the opening of Children's Book Week.

The Month of Crime was introduced because research showed that people who read only occasionally are mainly interested in crime.

Again, a free book by a famous author is given to customers who purchase any other book over a certain value (not necessarily crime), advertising is produced, booksellers purchase (at cost) POS materials and offer discounts to their customers. And, again, television commercials are shown. Most publishers focus their promotional efforts for crime books on this month, June, which has traditionally been a quiet month for book sales in the Netherlands.

The free book is usually secured by asking authors for unpublished stories. Participating authors have included Frederick Forsyth, Stephen King, James Ellroy and David Baldacci.

Other CPNB campaigns include a travel book week; awards chosen by readers; the announcement of the 100 bestselling titles of the year; awards for best designed books; and the promotion of books to older children who are not covered by the children's Book Week campaign. To this end, CPNB produces a magazine called Shock Your Parents: Read a Book, featuring hip teenagers talking about their favorite books.

The CPNB also buys print ad space on Mother's Day and for other events, and lobbies the press, which includes setting up twice-a-year meetings between publishers and members of the media.

While participation in any of the programs is discretionary, the media buzz around the campaigns means that a bookstore would suffer by not being involved. Even those that are not members of the trade associations tend to participate, although they pay significantly higher costs for materials.

The extent to which the market has grown in the Netherlands is clear. Public participation rates can be gauged by the print run of the Book Week gift, which has risen steadily from 382,000 in 1984, to 505,000 in 1990, to 596,000 in 1995, and now to 768,000 in 2000. This means that this year the gift was purchased by one in every eight Dutch households, a remarkable feat. Moreover, some 30% of children between six and 12 bought a book during Children's Book Week.

Henk Kraima's enthusiasm and a sense that something similar would be achievable in Australia resulted in conference delegates voting for the Australian Booksellers Association to make every attempt to implement a similar program. The group might spend some of the marketing money from the Book Industry Assistance Scheme, a government-funded program that aims to soften the blow of GST on the industry. In fact, Kraima has spoken to the promotions consultant working on BIAS, who has met with representatives of the Australian Publishers Association. It is likely that at least some aspects of CPNB's programs will be adopted in Australia.

Kaye is the editor of Australian Bookseller & Publisher.
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