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Welcome to a very special edition of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson. Normally we release podcasts on Tuesday, and today is Thursday. It’s Earth Day, and in just a few days it is World Penguin Day. I had the chance to interview Charles Bergman, the author of Every Penguin in the World: A Quest to See Them All. Charles and his wife, Susan Mann, took this amazing journey all around the world, to see every species of penguin, photograph them, and write this amazing book. 

Because today’s Earth Day, and because World Penguin Day is coming up on April 25, we wanted to release this very special episode to give you a glimpse into Charles and Susan’s journey, and then also just to make you aware of this important cause of conserving penguins in their natural habitats. Charles Bergman has a keynote coming up on April 25, with the Smithsonian Associates, available for both members of the Smithsonian and nonmembers to register, and there is a fee associated with it. The link is below in the resource section, with information about how you can register for this upcoming event.

Author Journey Background

Becky: I want to let you know that this is the first of several podcasts that I’m recording as I prepare to publish my book, Reach: Creating Lasting Impact for Your Book, Message, or Cause. My book is coming in April 2022. I’ve been interviewing different authors and thought leaders as I write the book, and this interview that you’re about to listen to is one of the interviews in my series as I write my book. So it is a little bit different, but it does focus on ideas and tricks that you can apply in marketing your own book. One of the things I want you to listen for is the fact that Charles’s book came out last spring, just about a year ago, and it dropped right after the COVID pandemic began. I actually didn’t meet Charles and Susan until later and we did this relaunch campaign to get some additional lift for their book. And it’s a great reminder that it’s never too late to use your book, to share your message in the world.  I’m just thrilled to have been able to support Charles and Susan in creating greater reach for their book, and I think their story will have some ideas for you. 

Charles Bergman and Susan Mann’s Interview

Becky: So Charles and Susan, I want to talk to you a little bit today about the ways that you’ve kept your book, Every Penguin in the World, in conversations online. So I’m curious if you could share with me a few ways that you’ve promoted your book since it first came out?

Charles: Well, apart from Weaving Influence, which was a big part of what we did, I’ve had a speech and book talk that I’ve done about 25 different times to various audiences, both large and small. So far the biggest was Penguin International for Penguin Awareness Day. And I will be doing one for World Penguin Day on April 25, with the Smithsonian. So that’ll have a national and international reach. I also identified lots of Audubon chapters. I’ve written about four, maybe five different articles for magazines in one form or another- photography magazines, environmental, and nature and animal magazines. I’ve done, I think, six or seven interviews for podcasts. So quite a range of activities.

Susan: I would also add that we’ve had this steady drumbeat on social media. And so you know, there are regular posts.

What surprises have you encountered along the journey?

Becky: I noticed those. I love following the two of you. So I’m curious about that. You talked about the various opportunities to do online events associated with the book for all the different things that you’ve tried. What surprises have you encountered along the journey?

Charles: Well, there were a couple of big surprises. One of the great surprises was Washington Post did an interview with me, which they published with photos, and that had a huge boost. That was really terrific. I think there’s a certain kind of national media exposure that makes a really big impact and it sustained it for about three weeks, I think. There was a big spike and it hasn’t fallen really all the way back at all and so that’s very, very exciting.

Becky: So is that a sales spike that you saw as a result of the Washington Post piece?

Charles: Yeah, absolutely. 

Becky: In what ways do people reach out to you as a result of that Washington Post interview?

Charles: Well, lots of email messages and lots of Facebook messages. We have a bookplate which I sign and we’ll mail to people if they buy the book and so we’ve gotten lots of requests for the bookplate.

Becky: Oh, wow. Well, I’m so I’m curious about the messages that you got related to the Washington Post piece. Would you say that those came because people saw the Washington Post piece on their own? Or because of the social media exposure that you gave the Washington Post piece through your channels?

Charles: I think one of my big surprises was how many people found it on their own and came to me or Susan. Of course, we did a social media blitz about it. But lots of people found it on their own. It was great. It was prominent on the front page in the travel section and that was exciting. 

Susan: Yeah, I think it’s an important point. I mean, kind of the power of that kind of public relations. I’m not really sure what you would call it, you’d have the correct term for it, Becky, on that. While we were capitalizing on it on social media, it was just amazing how many people did find it on their own and reached out to one or both of us. People that I knew from my career that I hadn’t talked with for several years were emailing out of the blue. 

What particularly about your book attracted that opportunity?

Becky: Yeah, we were so excited to see that win for you. As I’m listening to you talk about it, in terms of my company, and the number of big media wins like that, that we’ve generated in 10 years, we’ve only generated a few. So do you have any sense of what it is particularly about your book that attracted that opportunity?

Charles: Well, I do actually. The writer, Andrea Sachs, likes penguins and was really interested in our penguin journey. In fact, she had interest herself seeing all 18 species of penguins. So, the interview really wasn’t specific. I mean, the interview was broader. I think she did a really good job of doing the interview, but it was grounded in that desire to actually do the trip. I think that really made a difference, and people really liked reading it.

Susan: Yeah, this is maybe a bit more generalized beyond this specific Washington Post question, Becky. But absolutely, penguins are a huge attractor for people, especially in a pandemic year, which makes book sales difficult in some ways. The idea of armchair traveling has been attractive to people. And the book is so beautifully written about the penguin quest, and these amazing photos. And so that’s been really a draw for people. And then the other thing that we hear time after time is that this is something that we did together. And there seems a bit of a romantic idea of a couple pursuing such a huge, adventurous goal over such a long period of time that also seems attractive to people.

Becky: I certainly think so. And when we think about those either books or messages or ideas that take flight or achieve extreme breach it is because they start the basis is something worthwhile, there’s value in the product that you produced. And you have to start with that.

Charles: I would also say, about surprises, I should probably have known this from other books I’ve done but I had this kind of fantasy that the book would sort of take off on its own. That it might find its stride and just sort of manage itself. And all the publicity would just happen because of word of mouth, or whatever. I mean, the real lesson for me, in this particular publishing project, is that we had something we really liked and believed in and got behind it. But it takes really kind of sustained activity on a variety of platforms from a variety of points of view, to kind of build a certain sort of momentum.

It was published last spring, right in the middle of the pandemic. And so we believe that as we came into the fall, that there was a chance for a second kind of launch as it were, and that’s when we contacted you. Our faith in that was really worn out because we went through this huge portion of sales and I think it was a result of all sorts of things coming together over a sustained period of time. And I don’t know when you kind of reach a certain magic quantity, or magic kind of stat state. But I think even the publisher was surprised, happily surprised at how well it did in the fall.

What does keeping your book in the conversation mean to the two of you?

Becky: So I’m curious if I use the phrase: keep your book in the conversation. What does that mean to the two of you?

Charles: Well, it means keeping people talking about it, keeping people aware of it, and keeping it visible. Keeping it visible in some way so people find it and can get a chance to enter into it and see what it’s all about.

Susan: A couple of things come up for me. I mean, one is Chuck’s done such a great job with these virtual keynotes and other ways of keeping the book in the conversation. And my work has been more on the social media side, and so part of what I, and we, are always thinking about with that is keeping the book in the conversation by featuring this cause that we’re so passionate about, that we believe so much in, which is wild animals, penguins, the natural world, and there is this whole environmental message that’s very important to us that is a running theme in social media. One of the other things that I’ve learned through this last, just over a year now, of focusing on social media is that I’m really thinking about the human being who’s looking at Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook. You know, at a post with a penguin photo, or a beautiful Antarctic landscape or whatever, I’m thinking about that person, and what will bring them a moment of joy? What will bring them a piece of information that they can act on? So there is something for me there about the human connection, that’s really important to remember, even when it’s all being done virtually and digitally.

Becky: That’s a really powerful thing to remember, Susan. So it sounds like you’re crafting the content to keep the book in the conversation with the human on the other side of the computer in mind, and ensuring that you’re crafting something that will land with them in a powerful way. 

How long do you envision investing in keeping your book in the conversation? 

Becky: So I’m curious how long you envision investing your energy in keeping this particular book in the conversation, and why?

Charles: Well, I suspect that I’ll keep giving talks about this and have spin-off articles and things like that, going for quite some time. I also think that probably when we get to this summer, that will be a year and a half or 15 months, and we’ll probably wind down on the really serious investment of time, energy, and promoting and move to the next project.

Susan: Yeah, I think there are certain baseline things that we envision doing indefinitely. And, when Chuck and I were talking earlier today, in anticipation of a call, I’m just gonna check my note, because you said it so well. One of the things he said is that, it has been a surprise how much work it takes, how much time, energy, and effort it takes, and that you, just in order to sell a book these days, it’s like you’re bombarding messages on so many fronts so frequently. I mean, I’ve been putting sometimes 10 hours a week into this. You’ve been putting a lot in. And so I think there is for us, we get to the official one-year anniversary of the launch mid-April, and we’re planning certain things into early summer, and then I think from there, it’ll be more maintenance mode, because this is a book that the publisher and everyone agrees is evergreen, that will have a life indefinitely, and so we do want to continue to do some things regularly, and take the foot off the gas pedal. I mean, maybe go back to 25 miles an hour instead of 100 miles an hour. It’s been a pretty intense pace.

Charles: One of my big lessons is that the book promotion requires so much more than the book publisher is able to really provide. They have a number of books that come out with each season, you get a certain amount of attention they give you and I’m not criticizing them or anything like that. I don’t want to be mistaken for saying that. But it takes so much more than they really are staffed or able to put behind it. And you’ve got to be prepared for putting big time and really thoughtful campaigns together to keep your book in the conversation, as you say.

Susan: Yeah, Sasquatch Books has been terrific. We both think very highly of them, but there’s only so much a publisher does.

What might a new project do for the other books that you’ve done in the past?

Becky: Yes, I have experienced that as well. So, Charles, you mentioned another project. So I’m curious what your vision of another project might be and what a new project might do for the other books that you’ve done in the past?

Charles: That’s actually a really interesting question. I don’t know what the next project will be. I have a few thoughts in mind and Susan and I need some serious conversation about it. We have a trip to Hawaii coming up, and that might be when we start thinking about that. But I suspect that whatever we do will be some kind of outgrowth of what this book has been. And I don’t mean that in a literal sense. Like, it’ll be titled, Every Puppet in the World, or something like that. I don’t mean that exactly. But that the voice and the kind of project that this was, the attempt to find some genuine way of speaking about an environmental crisis that the planet faces, in personal terms, with some grounding in emotion, will definitely be part of the lesson that’s come out of this book, because I think people have responded to the story, and the role of the photos and the relation with the story and the fact that it was a joint project, really positively. I suspect those elements will move forward with us. 

Susan: Yeah, I like that. As you say that, one of the other things that comes to my mind that I think has contributed to the book’s success and reach is that, in a way that surprises, I think, both of us a bit, it is absolutely multi-generational. And so, we’ve done virtual school presentations to grade-schoolers. Just yesterday, a colleague emailed me and said that her seven-year-old son was reading the book. I’ve had colleagues say their 10-year-old daughter was reading the book. So we’ve had grandparents buy it for their grandkids. I can think of a number of people who bought the book for their parents’ 80th or 85th birthday, for example. So really, from youngsters throughout the adult years to kind of elders, it’s a book that people find attractive, which is so cool. We love that.

Becky: So you’re also inspiring generations of travelers potentially.

Susan: Well, and we hope generations of environmentalists.

Charles: People whose imagination comes alive in thinking about penguins and nature. That stays with you for your life.

What is the lasting impact the two of you are hoping to create through this book and your other work?

Becky: Well, that leads me to the final question. I would love for you to share a little bit about the lasting impact the two of you are hoping to create through this book and through your other work. 

Charles: I mean, I hope that increased awareness about nature, animals, and penguins are part of what this book is all about. The photos, I think, have played a really huge role in the book, and my goal in writing the book was not to write a photo book and not to write a textbook with some photos in it, but to write a book in which photos and story spoke to each other in some way. And were equally important in the conception of the book, and then the way people experienced it, and that has been borne out. People always talk about the photos and how much they’ve appreciated them and I think that has affected people’s imagination about what penguins are, how many there are, how interesting they are, how cute they are, how unforgettable they are, in so many ways. Those images go in people’s minds and stay with them for a long time and I hope that’s really one of the big impacts.

Susan: You know, as you asked that question, I think about our grandkids, Ben, who is four, and Georgie, who is one. And one of the things that we talk about is, what of the natural world, what wild animals, what ice and other landscapes will be there for them, when they’re the ages that we are now? And I mean, I get teary eyed when I think about that, because there’s so much that’s at stake for wild animals and Mother Earth. And so, for me, one of the most important things is this idea of kind of the book’s legacy being penguin glow and that feeling of joy, something about learning and an insight and education that comes from it, and also inspiring people to take action.

Anything I should have asked you that I didn’t ask that you want the opportunity to say?

Becky: I love that. So is there anything I should have asked you that I didn’t ask you that you want the opportunity to say?

Charles: Well, I guess we didn’t say, I mean, we only referred to it, but I will say that Weaving Influence, actually deciding to go with you guys, was a huge difference maker in the fall. And I had never done anything like this in any of my earlier books, and didn’t know what to expect, really. But I’m really glad we did. It made a huge difference and I just don’t think most authors are capable of this, the kind of push that it requires to sustain over a month. I mean, we really were talking about a year-long campaign, figuring out almost daily ways of making ourselves visible in some way or another to potential buyers, editors, and readers. And there’s just no author I know that’s capable of that, and maybe one or two people are lucky and it takes off and flies off the shelf as they say, but people need help doing this. I think that’s an important discovery for me.

Susan: Yeah, I agree. I mean, you all have been terrific. Your team’s been terrific. It’s been an education process for both of us. Neither one of us has done anything like this before in terms of promoting a book this widely, this frequently, and taking it on. I mean, the book was set to come out right when the world went into shutdown, and so there just was so much pivoting that was necessary. So it’s been a big education process for sure. And we’re grateful for your help and your team’s guidance. 

Becky: Well, we’re grateful to have had the chance to get to know you, and excited to see those projects that might come out from the two of you in the future.

Action Steps

Becky: Thanks for listening to the interview with Charles and Susan, I want to make sure I give you a few action steps because this is the Book Marketing Action Podcast. Charles and Susan talked about the fact that they are looking at a long term view of marketing their books. 

  1. Make a calendar. Get out a piece of paper and make four quadrants on your paper divided into four squares. And in the top left hand square, what I would like you to do is write Q2 2021, then Q3 2021, Q4 2021, and Q1 2022. Now, if you happen to be listening to this, you can adjust the dates to whatever the real dates are, if you’re listening later. 
  2. Make a plan. Then what I want you to do is come up with four ideas or ways that you could market your book and keep your book in the conversation if it has already launched. Come up with one key initiative for each quarter that you can implement. So you know, maybe one of the quarters you want to do a concerted effort around following up with people to get some additional Amazon reviews for your book. So that might be your Q2 priority for 2021. Maybe you want to do a virtual event or book club for your book for Q3, maybe in Q4 you want to do a holiday gift campaign and create some energy around people buying your book as a gift. Whatever it is, spend some time brainstorming four ways over the next year that you can continue to bring attention to your book. 
  3. Share it. If you do that, snap a picture of it and send it to me via email. I would love the chance to hear about your creative ideas, and how to keep your book in the conversation. 

Thanks so much for joining today’s podcast. We will be back next week at our regularly scheduled time. But I’m so glad we had this chance to talk with you today, on Earth Day, about a very important topic.

Resources

  • Learn more about the work Charles and Susan are doing in the world.
  • Check out Charles and Susan’s book, Every Penguin in the World: A Quest to See Them All, on Amazon
  • Connect with Charles on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube
  • Connect with Susan on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Sign up for Charles Bergman’s keynote coming up on April 25th, with the Smithsonian Associates. It is available for both members of the Smithsonian and nonmembers to register. 

If you found value in today’s episode, we hope you’ll take a moment to share it with someone else who might benefit from it. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, please email Becky Robinson here.

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