Today’s guest is Colin Galbraith, who tells us how FRINGE FANTASTIC came about and how, years later, it still not only sells, but positively affects his writing career. Thanks, Colin!
Half Way To A Winner
How I Kept The Same Book Selling
by Colin Galbraith
I first came to live in Edinburgh way back in the misty and long forgotten year of 1998. It was a long but memorable year: Bill Clinton was impeached, the Good Friday Agreement was signed, Dana International became the first transsexual to win the Eurovision Song Contest, Google was officially formed, France won the World Cup, Germany won the most Gold medals at the Winter Olympics, Armageddon was the highest grossing movie, Frank Sinatra died and little known Scottish writer, Colin Galbraith, had an idea for a book of poetry.
The idea was a basic one but it was one that would end up having repercussions from the day it came to be published in December 2005, through the course of the following five years. The fact it all happened quite by accident is neither here nor there, but how it happened and what transpired as a result, is something that can be repeated over and over given the right set of circumstances. Let me explain.
Here’s the original premise for Fringe Fantastic: a collection of poetry that encapsulates the spirit and magic of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was as simple as that, and as the new boy in town with a bursting enthusiasm to write a book of poetry with a strong theme, it was the perfect choice to be my first chapbook.
Thoroughly inspired by a creative writing course and a couple of short story publications, I finally got to work in the summer of 2005. Much of the research involved getting out and about, which during Festival time in Edinburgh makes for a unique and often thrilling experience. The city becomes a massive cauldron of the odd, the funny, the artistic and the colourful. How then, could a poet possibly fail?
The writing of Fringe Fantastic also led to a few nights out and subsequent visits to several pubs around town. Who said writing was a solitary profession? I kept writing and within three weeks had more poems about the Fringe than I knew what to do with.
Over the next three months the book was assembled; poems selected, photographs inserted, layout decided, and a photographer picked to take the shots for the front and back covers. The book was produced and released to the world on 2nd December, 2005. Voila! I prepared to be bowled over by a mad rush of Scottish poetry readers eager to buy the book.
Except they never came and there was no selling spree. It was then I realised that mere press releases to online venues wouldn’t reach my target readership, and that getting attention in the local Press was harder than I ever imagined. There was only one thing for it: I had to get out onto the streets and sell the book myself.
Over the course of the following year I laid out more leaflets, fliers and posters around Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paisley and any other town or city I happened to be passing through, than trees were being grown in the surrounding fields of East Lothian. But other than sales to friends and family, the book just wasn’t taking off the way I’d hoped.
It wasn’t until the Fringe Festival came around again in 2006 did I realise the mistake I’d made: I didn’t actually know what my target readership was. I took to the streets again, handing out fliers whilst clutching a bag of books and selling them to anyone that showed any interest. The book started to sell. I began working the queues for Fringe shows to promote and sell the book, the queue for the Royal Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle in particular, I found to be particularly responsive.
I quickly realised that tourists formed the main readership of Fringe Fantastic. In Scotland, interest was hard to generate—I was just another wannabe poet with some self-published books to sell—but to the tourist I was offering something unique, something special and different that they could take back home when they left (signed, of course) to remember their holiday by.
Tourists come to Edinburgh every year and in August the population of the city doubles. In book terms this can be seen as half a million new potential readers of Fringe Fantastic every year arriving on my door step. Bingo!
As sales started to increase another strange thing happened. Suddenly I had credibility; suddenly I was a bit of a story. The Guardian and Sunday Herald newspapers both picked me up, as did The Leither and Scotland magazines. A circular effect on promotion had unwittingly been established; sales meant free advertising, which in turn meant more sales. Add a couple of follow-up chapbooks into the equation and all of a sudden I was a book seller.
Five years on and Fringe Fantastic still follows the same regular pattern of sales. Between September and June sales are slow, then in July and August when the tourists hit town, sales rocket. In 2010 I sold almost all of my books online, which I can only attribute to that circular effect of promotion, but the other side effect I’ve seen has been on my other books that have started to trend in line with Fringe Fantastic‘s ups and downs; all beneficiaries of the link between the worldwide phenomena that is the Edinburgh Festival and literature.
I never knew it at the time but it was a great marketing strategy. I’d stumbled into it but the secret is clear to me now: write a book you can connect to an event or place with which you are closely connected, and you are half way to a winner. Sell the book no matter what you have to do—embarrass yourself, don’t be afraid—because with sales comes credibility and with credibility comes attention.
Colin Galbraith is the author of several works of fiction and collections of poetry. Based in Edinburgh, he is a lover of the alternative side of Scottish life, rabbits, cheese and quaffing. Galbraith is an accomplished fake faller. Read more about him here: www.colingalbraith.co.uk
Personal signed copies of Fringe Fantastic can be ordered here.
Fringe Fantastic can be purchased direct from the publisher here.