One Author’s Experiment in Marketing
(With Art Thrown in for Fellow Illustration Junkies)

h1 October 11th, 2011 by jules

Would you like to hear one very possible story of smart and ballsy self-promotion before breakfast (though I’m hardly the first children’s-lit blogger to post about it)? Once upon a time, there was a talented author who believed in his manuscript, and he decided to take advantage of his robust online presence to drum up some interest in it.

Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of more than seventy books for children—in fact, those 7-Imp readers with superb memories may recall that he chatted with me in 2008 about his picture book biography, Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman—and he’s super psyched about the subject of his latest manuscript, which has yet to be picked up by a publisher. This nonfiction book he’s written, Thirty Minutes Over Oregon, tells the story of Nobuo Fujita, who … well, let me just share here the flap copy Marc created for the book:

Hiroshima. Dresden. London. Brookings?

Americans know the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii as one of the most infamous events of WWII. However, few on either side know that the next year, the Japanese also bombed mainland America—twice. Navy pilot Nobuo Fujita launched his two-seater seaplane off a submarine and hit the woods outside tiny Brookings, Oregon. He was the first (and still only) wartime enemy to complete an aerial attack on American soil.

None were hurt, but all involved were changed. Twenty years later, amid a blaze of controversy, Brookings invited Nobuo back. Though nervous, he felt an obligation to say yes. He brought his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword, the same he had taken on every war mission. Always a man of honor and now a man of peace, he planned to gift it to the town. He would be devastated if his onetime targets did not forgive him…

The response from many editors to Marc’s manuscript was very positive, indeed. (He shares some of those responses here.) But no one has acquired the manuscript. “The most recurring reason I’m told,” Marc writes at that same link, “is because nonfiction—especially nonfiction about someone who is not a household name—doesn’t sell.”

So, Marc is asking readers what they think—not sharing the full manuscript, mind you—but asking what librarians, teachers, editors, etc. think of the book’s subject matter. And in another clever move that makes illustration junkies like me very happy, Marc garnered his own collection of book covers, as created by a handful of illustrators. Pictured at the opening of this post, for instance, is Kevin O’Malley’s cover-art contribution. Pictured here is the one created by Julia Sarcone-Roach:

To see the rest of the illustrators’ contributions, you can visit this link. And—BONUS!—there are covers as created by children there, too.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Personally, I love it. As in, I would like to read that book, and I very much admire Marc’s persistence in his attempts to see it get published. (As Greg Pincus, social media guru, wrote at his site, “A platform is about many things, but at its heart, it’s about connection. I think this is a great example of how to use what you’ve created – not to sell copies of a book in print, but, perhaps, to put a book in print.”) I have never, ever heard of this slice of American history, I’m intrigued now, and I would pick up that book without hesitation. I find particularly effective the covers that include “and the Japanese Pilot Who Came Back to Apologize” in the sub-title. That, I think, is a sub-title that grabs the attention of readers — and piques one’s curiosity.

Here is an update at Marc’s blog on this project, and below is Brad Sneed’s contributed cover.

Best of luck to Marc, and I hope we readers hold the book in our hands one day soon.

* * * * * * *

Contributed covers are © 2011 of the individual artists and used with permission of Marc Tyler Nobleman.

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5 comments to “One Author’s Experiment in Marketing
(With Art Thrown in for Fellow Illustration Junkies)”

  1. I definitely want to read this book! And as for non-fiction not selling, those editors know it’s not true. They may not be the stars, but nf books are the work horses for publishers.


  2. That book would fly off the shelves in my library media center. My students crave nonfiction especially the guys.


  3. What a unique story, I know I’d love to read it! Good luck Mr. Nobleman!


  4. Great idea, great book. Can’t believe someone isn’t going to snap this up!


  5. This is why self-publishing can be such a boon to so many authors out there. I self-published my children’s book “The True Adventures of Tip the Catahoula-Leopard Cowdog”! See an excerpt at http://barbaragourley.authorsxpress.com


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