Doing it right

Doing it right: Effective marketing by Orbit Books

Up until last year I had never read a fantasy novel. I firmly believed all of the stereotypes that go along with avid readers of this genre. That was until I haphazardly fell into reading a fantasy novel and got sucked in before I new what had hit me.

Assassin’s Creed is a video game that was released on the Xbox and Playstation 3 platforms at the end 2007. The plot centers around an assassin in the middle ages. It was a wildly popular game that I played through in late 2008, and afterwards had the thought that it would be interesting to read a novel around the games overall setting. Middle ages, assassin, etc.

A few months later I was walking through my local Barnes and Noble and a book caught my eye. On the cover of The Way of Shadows was a figure dressed very similar to the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed.

Exactly what I was looking for.

I purchased and read the novel, along with the subsequent two books released by the author, which launched me into purchasing several other fantasy novels, many by the same publisher.

The reason I tell you this story is because I always assumed this was a pretty random set of events that played out. Playing a video game which stuck in my head long enough for me to happen upon a book with a similar cover which caught my attention enough to buy.

I recently met a publishing director from Orbit Books, the publisher behind The Way of Shadows. I told him about this story and how I have now purchased seven of their titles.

Here’s what he told me…

“It was all planned.”

When Orbit was designing the cover for the trilogy, they thought the title would be something fans of Assassin’s Creed might be interested in. As a result, the cover was designed specifically to catch the eye of fans of the video game.

And thus, a story of effective book marketing is born.

Doing It Right: Hugh MacLeod and his email newsletter

Hugh MacLeod is the man behind and He draws on the back of business cards and sells fine art prints. Over the last ten years he’s grown quite the following for very good reason. His cartoons are funny, poignant and irreverent in all the right ways.

Last year he began heavily promoting his newsletter, originally naming it the list for “Crazy Deranged Fools”. He sent out regular updates with information, print offers and other content that could not be found on his blog. In January he announced gapingvoid 2.0 with the launch of “Hugh’s Daily Cartoon” newsletter. He now sends out a new cartoon every business day with a little riff about his inspiration behind the day’s image and a link to buy the print in his store.

It has been a very successful move for his business. Here’s a few reasons why:

  1. Easy to share – Having a new cartoon show up in your mailbox every day makes it extremely easy to pass along. You can forward it to a friend or click one of the embedded social media links.
  2. Keeps Hugh top of mind – As a newsletter subscriber, you now hear from Hugh five days a week. This keeps him at the forefront of your mind and makes it easier for you to think of him when it’s time to buy a gift for that special someone.
  3. Fun – I look forward to my daily email and immediately open it on arrival. It’s fun to see the new cartoon every day and read about Hugh’s inspiration behind his art.
  4. Interesting to the receiver – Most email newsletters are too word dense and self-serving for the author. Hugh’s email gives something enjoyable and interesting to the subscriber before trying to sell anything.

When you’re thinking through the content of your email newsletter, see if you can infuse it with some of these ideas from Hugh MacLeod’s approach to engaging his tribe.

Bonus Tip: If you’re not an artist, search’s creative commons images for pictures you’re allowed to use for free.