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High Diamonds to Burning Desert

Battling forest fires in San Diego to release a book
by BMac
February 12, 2004
A relative of mine, Margaret Castle, is a novelist. She published High Diamonds a couple of years ago, and like most first-time fiction writers was truly frustrated by the response of the major bookstores and other booksellers in getting her book out there so the public would learn of it and read it. She had years and years of writing experience, had dozens of non-interested parties read the book before publishing for input, feedback and criticism. She had taken all the 'right and recommended' steps to ensure her book got the best exposure to the marketplace. She had been to book signings, special events, non-profit fund raisers, speeches... you name it, she'd tried it.

She had almost come to the conclusion that from a marketing point of view, the very worst place to try and display and sell one's novel was in a bookstore. Let's face it, only the big publishing houses with the huge marketing and advertising budgets get the exposure and attention, complete with the public relations factories churning out the copy for the media and the cut-out cardboard displays to draw the book store visitor's eye to that particular book du jour.

Then one day I stumbled across BookCrossing.com.

What a wonderful idea! This was a form of viral marketing at its best. Why not get the book into many different hands... for free... and see what happens.

I ticked off all the many reasons why the book should be very popular: it was well written, had lots of suspense, was an autobiographical-fiction story of one woman's rise to the top of the cut-throat stock brokering business world... and lived (just barely) to tell about it.

And an even bigger unadvertised feature: a secret handbook of valuable information was woven into the plot for those who chose to "see" it.

The next obstacle was how to effectively use the BookCrossing advantage. Margaret lives in a small burg that is at least four hour's drive from the nearest airport, or train station. She really wanted me to get at least one book out there, with the hopes that it would start criss-crossing the North American continent and be exposed to as many different readers as possible.
So I settled on the idea of taking it with me on a scheduled trip to San Diego, hoping it would start its bi-coastal travels from there.

As luck would have it, my trip to San Diego coincided with the massive forest fires that engulfed the region two days before my departure. Still, undaunted, I arrived in San Diego, HIGH DIAMONDS in hand, forging my way through the excrutiating smoke and fog-like atmosphere to my hotel. I debated about leaving it in the hotel, but my colleagues in San Diego insisted that I give it to them after I told them of my plans to set it free in the airport. They would not hear of anyone else getting to read it first. Reading the cover and part of the first chapter, they INSISTED that they get to read it first, with the solemn promise to release it in the airport after the fires, or at least give it to a trusted soul who would release it elsewhere in North America.

And they did.

Margaret has received many, many emails about her traveling book, and the secret handbook within. She is all smiles now. I'm sure Amazon.com is quite happy too, considering the number of copies they must have sold by now.

BookCrossing is a valuable and novel (pardon the pun) concept. It spreads the word, exposes many more people to works that otherwise might not be read by others, and allows ordinary book lovers (not just publishing house p.r. people) to tell it like it is about books they might not have seen or even heard of. Someone recently said that of the 70,000 books that got published in America last year, there are at least 100,000 very good ones that have never and may never see the light of day.

Such a shame!

BookCrossing.com will most certainly play a positive role in ensuring that many of those books will, indeed, be read by hundreds of thousands of delighted readers. And that's a very good thing.

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