Monday, November 17, 2008

Drop a Dime for Crime

With the holiday season approaching, and the global economy worsening in many sectors, there is real concern in publishing circles that what is traditionally an important quarter for sales might not live up to expectations.

So I was pleased to read in Publishers Lunch that the American sector of Random House is planning to promote, heavily, the opportunity to give books as presents--something I’ve been doing ever since I earned my own money.
In trying to address nervousness across the business, Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum reports that CEO Markus Dohle “challenged our sales group to see what we can do as a company on behalf of the larger trade to get people in to the book-buying habit for the holiday season.” As a result, Doubleday’s Suzanne Herz led an in-house “mini-task force” that has pulled together an ambitious promotional campaign over the past two weeks.

Aiming for what Herz calls a “got milk campaign for books,” the unifying slogan is “Books = Gifts” and it is designed to promote book sales throughout the industry for the holidays. Applebaum notes, “our retailers have told us that they could use all the help in bringing consumers to the book-buying experience this season.” The Random House team has secured gratis remnant space, online banners and e-mail ads from the likes of the NYT Book Review.

A number of Random House authors--including Dan Brown, Dean Koontz, Christopher Paolini, and Maya Angelou--will appear in promotional video clips (such as Koontz saying, “Books make the best gifts because they keep you in suspense--even after you unwrap them”) set to run on online bookselling sites.
Now, I may well be preaching to the converted, but I always give crime and thriller novels to all my friends and relatives over the holiday season. In some cases, those are the only books certain people will read all year. In these tough economic times, books are the prefect presents. They are relatively cheap (or, as the retail sector calls them, “small ticket items”), easy to mail (especially paperbacks), and they have, over time, become somewhat “unusual” as presents. People often thank me for making them read again by sending them a novel. As readers, we need to support our writers and publishers. So please, when you are thinking of a gift for Uncle Tom Cobley and all, think crime, mystery, and thriller novels.

If you need any help in choosing present-appropriate works this year, note that January Magazine, The Rap Sheet’s sister publication, has already begun posting its gift-book choices for 2008, with more to come in the next few weeks. Its “Best of 2008” feature will appear next month. Last year’s top picks, most of which can now be found in paperback, can be studied again here, here, and here.

And since this is all in the way of doing a good deed, don’t forget to reward yourself with a new crime novel. You know you want to.

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