Written by Carol Derfner
Partnership with a Community Organization
When I learned my short memoir would be included in the new anthology, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ‘60s & ‘70s, I immediately began to think of ways to promote the book in upstate New York where I live.
I wished to share the rich and diverse stories found in the book with others beyond those who frequent bookstores and libraries. However, lacking the resources to produce public events by myself, I decided to find a community sponsor, one which:
1) could provide a free venue for a reading or other event related to the book
2) had a proven capacity to advertise and promote events
3) had a built-in audience of members or followers.
I found the perfect one in The Arts Center of the Capital Region, a community-based arts center with a mission to foster arts appreciation and instruction in the area surrounding Albany. The Center offers writing classes—several in memoir—and hosts a series of literary readings in the small theater within their facility.
I volunteered my time to organize and manage one of the readings. The theme? Times They Were A-Changing, of course! We picked a date and I wrote a colorful blurb about the Sixties theme that the Center’s staff used to develop a press release and an informative and attractive flyer featuring iconic images from the decade.
Four months before the March 3rd event, we began to cast a wide net for personal stories under 750 words about the 1960s. The center’s staff took care of contacting local media outlets and emailing both the press release and flyer to the it’s extensive mailing list. We distributed packets of 20 flyers to all the libraries and bookstores in the region. I personally delivered flyers to a number of culturally-specific organizations, veterans groups, senior centers and adult education programs as well as colleges and universities in the area.
We made a second marketing effort two months from the February 3rd deadline for submissions and a final one 30 days out.
We had excellent results. The Center accepted the largest number of submissions ever received for a Bookmarks event and there was a remarkable variety of sixties culture present in the stories the men and women wanted to share about their life experiences during the 1960s.
I ended up choosing eleven readers for the two-hour program — six women and five men. Among others, the topics covered included Dylan’s electric guitar, Manhattan’s fashion industry, an LSD trip and America’s space program, a first-hand account of civil rights work in the Deep South, the race riot in Washington D.C., a veteran’s return from Vietnam and the Woodstock Nation.
We played Peter, Paul & Mary, The 5th Dimension, and Donovan as the audience streamed into the theater on what turned out to be one of the coldest nights of the year. Several of the participants wore clothing from the period and one set up a display of personal memorabilia. Although I did not read my personal story published in the anthology, all of the books I brought with me sold quickly and I came away with orders for more.
While it seemed like a lot of work at the time, the partnership with the arts center is serving as a valuable portal to other promotional partners and sales activities. I made excellent contacts, have some new promotional materials and a number of good distribution lists – lots of lists!
Moreover, through this single event, several thousand people in the area now know about the book. I could not have asked for more success from my initial marketing event for Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the 60s and 70s.