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Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

Jun 15, 2018

In this solo episode, Mark shares 10 Ways of Thinking Outside the Ad: Book Marketing ideas that appeal to your target audience.

Prior to the main content, Mark gives a bit of an update on how his Kobo Writing Life FREE first book in series is going two weeks out.

Then he does the Tongue Twister, suggested by his friend Pete, and sponsored by Findaway Voices.

In brief summary, here are the 10 Ways of Thinking Outside the AD that Mark shares:


Mark shares a few thoughts about Julie Strauss with her "Chef in Love" romance books - in particular the amazing Prosecco Heart novel and how that could so brilliantly be tied in to delightful pairings. Food and drink and reading.


This would be the ideal book to give to a wine lover and romance reader. Or maybe package a CD, a book and a bottle of wine with it - it wouldn't have to be a Prosecco although that does nicely tie-in with the title, placed on an author table as a suggestion for how it could be part of an excellent creative gift package.


Mark talks about a few examples from

  • The Jewels of Historical Romance - and how they sent the chocolates to the retailers. Puts them above and beyond.
  • Chris Mandeville - and her book Seeds - brilliant idea
  • Deborah Cooke's Book Charms
  • Glynnis Campbell's Bookish Swag - Lords with Swords letter opener


Based on a few packages mailed to Mark when he was at Kobo from Publishers Group Canada, Mark shares how the inventive packaging for the following books created a memorable and sharable entity:

  • Peter James LOVE YOU DEAD
  • Anne Cleaves COLD EARTH


How Madison Avery created an enscribed penny based on the "Penny for your thoughts" story from her erotic romance collection CAPTURING THE MUSE (all the stories involve female writers and erotic entanglements with her muse, who often takes the form of a sexy man)

Mark's own idea for using t-shirts to advertise local bookstores and libraries where he had scheduled book events that included an "I love to haunt [LOCATION] motif advertising the bookstore


Mark talks about his his of the full life skeleton Barnaby as a prop that he uses as a way to draw in the ideal target readers for his books (as well as to keep away those who are not interested in the macabre), as well as the way that a visual prop specifically related to the book content, can be an easily identifiable differentiator

Though it's not an easy or common thing to do, Mark has witnessed how effective a series of highway billboard ads can be. He shares the huge success that author Brian Horeck saw with his books Minnow Trap and Frozen Beneath.

This is a demonstration of strategic marketing to a target audience (Northern Ontario readers) and aggressive and intelligent salesmanship to ensure the book was available at various non-traditional stores on that northern highway.


Similar to highway signs is the concept of advertising using your own vehicle. Mark was inspired by T S Paul and his car wrap concept. Mark invested in a much more cost-effective car magnet purchase for his own vehicle.

Since Mark's skeleton Barnaby is already sitting in the car all the time, why not put something on the side of the car that explains why the skeleton is there?



Mark took advantage of a specific target audience to start buying tables to sell print books (which still represent 70 to 80% of the book industry overall market) to the core group of fans most likely to enjoy his books.

He also talks a bit about Armand Rosamilia and the Beers N Fears Tour and how this unique merger of local interest with craft beer worked extremely well.


Mark talks about sharing content and quotes from his books on Foursquare (Swarm) as well as using apps like Squirl to introduce locations from where books are set.


Mark also shares the Spirits Untapped Google map that he and Liz created and as well as the Macabre Montreal map as a no cost (except for time) way of increasing SEO for content based on locations from books.


Mark shares his experiences experimenting with live videos via his  #FreeFridayFrights. He shares a bit about the explosion that happened with a video he recorded just this past Friday while up in my home town of Levack Ontario

His "Facebook Live" video about a ghost on Level 2650 of Levack Mine reached well over 3500 views and continues to get re-shared. Compared with the standard dozen to two dozen views most of his videos have received, this is a blockbuster.

It speaks to something Mark learned from his friend Robert J. Sawyer years ago - and that is the importance of defining yourself as a big fish in a small pool. Mark shares how that "big fish in small pool" has elevated sales of one particular book.