Interview by Jeff Rivera
Long before the media can cry, “Ding dong the witch is dead,” the publishing industry refuses to go down without a fight. Despite the massive lay-offs, dwindling advances for authors and starving publicity and marketing department dollars, the publishing industry continues to look for additional sources of revenue.
Simon & Schuster forged relationships with companies such as Gotham Group to exploit film and television rights of their children’s books. Houses such as Random House and Hachette have created speaker’s bureaus initiatives. Others, such as HarperCollins have taken a more Alloy Entertainment-approach and created in-house creative teams that hire writers to work on intellectual properties in which they own 100% of the rights to.
Yet there is one stream of revenue which other industries in the entertainment field have made a linchpin and yet is virtually untapped by the special sales departments of the Big Six and the literary agencies who represent the authors: corporate sponsorships.
Time magazine calls Jane Ubell-Meyer a “guru” and she has been known in the celebrity gifting world for over a decade. Her clients include Oscar winners, Fortune 500 companies such as Hertz, Unilever and VirginAmerica. She has become one of the foremost experts in corporate sponsorships.
“The book publishing industry has an opportunity of a lifetime to tap into the millions of dollars available from corporate sponsorships,” Ubell-Meyer says, “They just need to know how to do it.”
Ubell-Meyer shared with us the specific types of sponsorships available to the publishing industry, how to identify the right companies and what makes such companies salivate.
Publishing Perspectives: Jane, are there really sponsorship dollars available to the publishing industry or that just a bunch of hype?
JUM: Absolutely, this is an ideal time in history to begin your initiative for corporate sponsorships. While others are crying poverty, saying “the economy is terrible”, my company, Madison & Mulholland, has been able to tap into this deep well of cash. The challenge is both the individual and the non-profits are not just not prepared they don’t know who to approach, or whom to begin the conversation with, nor do they know what makes them say, “Yes.” Without being armed with that knowledge, there’s no way you’re going to land a sponsorship deal. Some say that the entire book publishing industry is stuck in the Mad Men days, but I disagree. There are many forward-thinking people who are open to exploring different types of dollars and revenue streams that are available. Sponsorships should be at the top of that list. I’ll give you an example, one author, a colleague of mine, published a book with a small publisher on dieting. She lined up a sponsorship deal with an apparel company that financed her nationwide tour. She isn’t a celebrity, in fact she was a first-time author. Another author lined up a deal with a major automotive car company, who not only gave her a hefty deal but also gifted her with a car. Sponsorship dollars are available to publishers, authors and literary agents, essentially the book industry, if you know how to do it.
PP: What does an author, agent or marketing executive at a house need to do to begin with?
JUM: The very first thing they should think about doing if they want to land a sponsorship deal, maybe even before they’ve written one word, is asking themselves “what is their PR & Marketing plan?” I come from the world of media. I was a producer at Good Morning America and Entertainment Tonight. I know exactly how important the media is in creating the type of buzz that will excite a potential sponsor. It is absolutely crucial to landing a deal. The good thing is, if you’re a nonfiction author, you probably had a marketing & promotion plan already in your book proposal. If you’re a fiction author you need to think outside the box. First, what kind of credibility do you have in the marketplace? Google yourself and make sure that you are out there as an “expert” and that people can see who you are and where you come from. Second, ask yourself, “Who are my demographics? Which companies want to connect with my core readers? What is it about my book, my background, my characters –- What is “sexy, sizzling, or truly news-worthy? One quick way to do this is to look at what the headlining news is for the day or what will be “trending” in the next few months and find a way to tie your book into it. Once you have this in place, you’re ready for the next step.
PP: Who do they contact exactly when they approach the sponsors and how do they go about it?
JUM: Good question. Some would think they need to start out with the public relations and marketing departments of the corporations that they are targeting, but I always tell my clients to start at the top and work their way down. Start at the CEO, the VP, the Director or head of a department. It is not that difficult to reach these people if you simply ask around. You would be surprised who you know, especially in the age of Facebook, and who knows whom. We are 6-degrees of separation from everyone, and nowadays, with social media, you could be one or two-degrees away. Simply by doing a quick email to your colleagues or a Facebook update asking if someone knows someone at a specific company is a good way to start. I’m a big believer in LinkedIn to find out who at the companies I should be speaking with. It’s all about relationships though, and a connection, even if it’s as remote as saying your cousin’s kids go to the same school, is better than nothing.
PP: What if they truly don’t know anyone or have anyone they believe is 6-degrees of separation away from the executive they’re approaching?
JUM: If you truly don’t know anyone at the company or have anyone that knows someone, then it’s time to cold call. Notice, I said “cold call” not cold email. Sending out a form letter email blast is just not going to get you anywhere. It’s better to make a list of 10 companies that you want to target and call them, than sending out an email to 400 companies and trying to play a numbers game. This is scary for a lot of people. They worry about rejection, but one thing I teach my clients and students is to change your mind-set. You are simply having a conversation with people; you’re sharing an opportunity. And the secretary or assistant is not there as a gatekeeper to block your success. No, they’re there to assist you. You’re all on the same team. People can contact me via my website and I actually have a script that I use to help you with cold calls and it works like a charm, but the key is to realize you’re dealing with people, and your are creating relationships. The person you’re talking to isn’t just some device you need to get ahead.
PP: Sponsors are no doubt deluged by proposals, what can they do to stand out?
JUM: It’s all about alignment. After you have your PR & marketing campaign in place, and you have established yourself as an expert in your field, you need to create a list of companies that are in alignment with your book. Which companies have the same mission, are reaching out to the same audience, have the same charitable goals you have? Those are the companies that you need to reach out to. Look around you, literally around your desk and your home. What products and services do you naturally use? Those are the type of companies you should be approaching and I always tell my clients not to go after the big fish of the world. Those companies are truly being deluged. Instead, go after the low-hanging fruit. There are many opportunities you could be missing out on if you don’t approach the second-tier companies first.
PP: You also consult with people about corporate sponsorships, how do they contact you if they’re more than just curious about moving forward with a corporate sponsorship initiative?
JUM: We’re putting together a fabulous program in which you can get information about corporate sponsorships — email me.
Jeff Rivera is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheGatekeeperspost.com