Pressing Concern – How a non-profit publisher gets sales

Imagine you’re a small, independent, Midwestern publisher. In the past decade you’ve seen the writing on the wall; the final chapters of the neighborhood bookseller are furiously getting inked, while the New Giants – Amazon and Barnes and Noble, seemingly have no end to the reach of their tendrils.

Oh yes, and add to that mix a few little innovations like The Kindle and the iPad.  One gets a rumpled dust jacket just thinking about it.

Yet, somehow, miraculously – sales ain’t so bad, Earl. How so?

Well, the folks at Graywolf Press, with whom we’ve worked for years, have been very savvy about getting their tomes of distinction into all kinds of hands.  It hasn’t been easy. No disrespect to Steven King, Dean Koontz, Sarah Palin and other, um, …authors, (all of whom are buttressed by big dough), but Graywolf’s offerings fall well outside the castle walls of mainstream consumption and easy money. They’ve had to fight for shelf space, and have successfully done so using… audio.

Every few months, Fiona McCrae; director and publisher, and senior editor Jeff Shotts (pictured above at his office in the Warehouse District) come into Studio B at Babble-On to record some audio communiques with our engineer, John Lukas. These are, essentially, book specific podcasts that they use to keep their salespeople abreast of Graywolf’s latest releases.  It’s just smart business. On those long drives traveling amongst multiple retailers, why not maximize the chance of getting a successful sale by having your salesperson hear, fist hand, what a particular book is all about?  A book review voiced by those who are, quite literally, closer to the product than anyone.

The current podcasts showcase titles such as “The Adderall Diaries” by Steven Elliot, “The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards” by Robert Boswell and “Crave Radiance” by Elizabeth Alexander (whom at Obama’s inauguration, read her poem “Praise Song for the Day”). We’ve also got a copy of the new collection of poems by author Tony Hoagland entitled “Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty” floating around the studio; definitely worth a look  - along with his wildly popular (amongst the ad folks we see, in particular), “What Narcissism Means To Me”.

All we can say is that by combining these highly original and interesting works with their astute use of podcasting, Graywolf  seems quite honest in referring to themselves as “a rare breed of publisher”.

Here are a few examples of these particular podcasts.

The Heyday of the Insensitive-Bastards The Adderall Diaries Crave Radiance
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