Every Saturday morning, my father, Ray Simpson, drives his ’36 armchair sedan Cord (the likes of which are scant in the USA) to Derelict Donuts in Huntington Beach, California. He parks his baby to show off, then strolls around to look at the other vintage hot rods, antiques, etc. The parking lot is always crammed,and the donut shop, at which this all started, is so crowded that you would think students were trying to get into a class on the first day of a semester.
One morning, when Dad actually bought a donut, there was a lady selling her self-printed book on growing up in the late 40s just inside or outside the donut shop. A picture of a car of that era was on the cover of her book. On an impulse, Dad bought the book for $20.00 The book was NOT about vintage cars. I do not even remember if a car was mentioned in the text, because Dad sent it to me after he leafed through it.
The book was not longer than 150 pages if memory serves, perhaps shorter. My father’s message was “Why don’t you do this?” He was not talking about writing a book like the author’s—he was asking why I don’t sell at car shows.
My books have nothing to do with vintage cars although I, personally, love them. But frankly, I see no problem with bringing a picture of my father and his Cord along to a car show, if I were to rent a table put my books on it, and sit behind it. It would be pleasant to talk about cars all day long. I might learn something. I might sell books.
Publishers have used non-traditional marketing techniques back-to- back with the more traditional methods for decades. Now that the two largest bookstores in the country have been forced to change course, publishers are likewise veering away from the traditional with greater urgency.
As Stephanie Clifford and Julie Bosman wrote in the New York Times a few days ago, a great many stores that you and I think of for “apparel, food and fishing reels have been adding books.” And it is working. Consider that the fashion designer Marc Jacobs opened Bookmarc in Manhattan in last fall! Anthropologie has increased the number of books it is carrying and so has Coldwater Creek and Lowe’s. Kitson, an incredibly trendy clothes and gift boutique in Hollywood, sold 100,000 books in 2010. Publishers think about these things. So should self-marketing writers.