With more than seven hundred million English speakers living outside of North America, marketing our books globally is more important than ever. Using the rights acquired during the negotiation process, the International Sales department sells U.S. editions of our books in 240 countries worldwide, working with more than 1,000 booksellers. Export sales account for approximately 12 percent of total PRH U.S. sales, and revenue is growing year over year. As the world flattens, the International Marketing and Publicity team has taken an increasingly important role in our mission to get our books into the hands of readers on a global scale.
There are many ways we help connect our authors to readers everywhere. Purchasing a signed copy makes a reader in Germany feel closer to the writer in the United States; a Skype event transports an author directly into a bookstore in Puerto Rico or a classroom in China; and local tokens of appreciation—such as a handwritten note Charles Duhigg sent to be displayed at Kyobo in Seoul—excite readers.
Aside from regular activities such as in-store promotions, international publicity, and book fairs, here are a few case studies examining how we connect authors with their international audiences.
Case Study 1: Global Blog Tours
Blog tours are a great way to get online exposure and drum up excitement for an upcoming title. Year-round, our team runs global blog tours with more than twenty-five stops, always featuring buy links to our local bookstore partners. For comedian Mindy Kaling’s 2015 book, Why Not Me?, we partnered with bookstores in key markets. The week after the blog tour, sales increased by more than 500 percent. We see similar spikes in sales whenever we run blog tours, especially for young adult titles. YA readers are very engaged on social media, and author involvement such as a guest blog or retweet ramps up the excitement.
We treasure more than sixty book bloggers from all around the world. They are true fans and book lovers, who review our titles on their blogs, create fan art, host giveaways, promote our authors on social media, and even found fan clubs such as https://twitter.com/nicolayoonph, courtesy of Filipino blogger JM, from Bookfreak Revelations.
Case Study 2: Global Author Tours
While online marketing and publicity can be a boon to any campaign, few experiences can replace the excitement of meeting your favorite author in person. We’re always looking to know when authors travel abroad, as we can arrange events and media anywhere our authors visit.
International author events can have a strong and lasting impact on sales, particularly in the Philippines. In fact, during a recent visit, author Kevin Kwan was interviewed on national television, featured on the covers of leading magazines, and photographed in a stylized shoot with two top Filipino models. Fans started lining up at 5 a.m. to meet Kevin, and events were attended by up to 1,000 readers. Kevin’s titles Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend continue to top the bestseller charts in the Philippines, with more than 30,000 copies sold to date.
Case Study 3: Account-Tailored and Regional Campaigns
We often tailor campaigns to regions and specific accounts. For the popular Step into Reading website, we created a Korean version with our exclusive bookselling partner Language World. It includes Korean-language elements for non-English-speaking parents looking to educate their kids, and features Step into Reading box sets, packaged with locally recorded audio, to teach pronunciation.
A second example is when we created a special edition of Holding Up the Universe for National Bookstore in the Philippines. Jennifer Niven, who visited Manila for an author tour right before publication, wrote an introductory letter to readers in the Philippines. We printed 2,000 samples featuring her letter and a chapter to hand out during her visit. This customized edition led to a firm order of 20,000 copies.
Case Study 4: One World, One Book
In 2016, we launched One World, One Book—a premium marketing and sales program that selects key titles for which we hold world rights. It is an opportunity for our authors to be celebrated globally. Two titles have been chosen for the program so far: Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan, and Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran. One World, One Book picks are featured front and center in all sales presentations and at the Frankfurt and London book fairs. We place ads in all trade catalogs, organize galley mailings of 300 to 500 copies to international accounts, and book windows and prime placement in English-language bookstores around the world. Close to publication, we pitch the title to media contacts worldwide (10,000 contacts in the case of Lucky Boy), and highlight the title in ongoing social media campaigns. As a result, export sales for these titles are as high as 30 or 40 percent of overall sales.
In addition to all of these efforts, we work closely with local partners—indie booksellers, national chains, wholesalers, and e-tailers—who play a key role in helping us reach your readers. We create excitement among booksellers by sending out handpicked galleys and highlighting titles at the fairs in London, Frankfurt, Manila, Beijing, and Guadalajara. We place early ads in trade catalogs and create customized POS items, such as T-shirts, tote bags, luggage tags, and bookmarks. We set up online and in-store promotions—from beautiful windows at WHSmith in Paris to displays in the Berlin and Hong Kong airports.
Our social media platforms allow us to engage with book lovers around the globe. Be sure to check out our Facebook page, where we connect with more than 85,000 readers from forty-five countries, to learn more about our efforts, and tune in to global Twitter chats we host with our authors at @PRHGlobal.
Christine Swedowsky is Director of International Marketing at Penguin Random House and works with expert international marketers Julia Huschke and Ingrid Villegas.