Videochat Builds Enthusiasm for Little Princes

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With the help of technology, publisher William Morrow has begun building excitement for the January release of Conor Grennan’s memoir, Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal. Yesterday the publisher hosted a videochat for booksellers and librarians, who heard and saw Grennan talk about his life-changing experience volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal.

The half-hour online web chat included a photo slideshow of the children and the landscape in one area of the screen while Grennan chatted about how he came to volunteer in Nepal. Participants listened in by phone and, at the end of the talk, could ask questions by phone or type them into an IM chat screen.

“The idea for the videochat came up early on, when we were meeting to discuss the publishing plans for the book,” said Jeannette Zwart, vice president of sales for HarperCollins. “Josh Marwell, our president of sales, came up with the idea of doing a video-based author event on a pre-sell schedule, for booksellers and librarians.”

Although “sell-in tours are wonderful ways of introducing an author and book to influential booksellers, so booksellers can see first-hand how effective the author is,” she said, publishers “are limited in how many booksellers we can involve.”

An invitation to the videochat was sent out by the publisher’s marketing department in late August, and responses came back from booksellers and librarians across the country. Even some of the publisher’s own field reps participated in the event, which was organized by Tavia Kowalchuk, senior marketing director for William Morrow and Cookbooks.

“The response has been very positive,” said Zwart. “I think booksellers enjoyed the introduction, and as Conor is so dynamic, I think it helped them get a feel for the book. It’s working as a way to generate ‘buzz’ for the book; a way to help build interest in an actual presell tour, as well as setting up retail marketing plans.”

Bookseller Mandy King of Boulder Book Store in Boulder, Colorado, who took part in the chat, told BTW that it was an ideal substitute for the more expensive sell-in tour. “Publishers have had to cut back on the author dinners, but this is a great alternative. I give props to Harper Collins for trying something new.”

Mary Yockey of Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville, Illinois, said the pre-pub videochat was a “great tool to get booksellers excited” about an upcoming title. “I like the idea that you can get remote access to the chat whether you’re at home or work.” Yockey also suggested that if the video were archived it could be used at staff meetings.

Little Princes tells the remarkable story of how Grennan initially signed on to volunteer at the orphanage as a way to add a little gravitas to a year of traveling, but then fell in love with the kids. He discovered that many of the children had been voluntarily given up by families who had been tricked into thinking they were saving them from being caught up in the country’s civil war. Grennan formed a children’s home and nonprofit organization, Next Generation Nepal (NGN), to reunite as many children with their families as possible. The work continues today, and a portion of the proceeds from the book are donated to NGN.

Listening to Grennan talk about his reasons for writing Little Princes “will definitely help me handsell the book,” said King, who is also hoping to set up an in-store author appearance. “We have many customers who are interested in Buddhism and the outdoors here, so this would be a perfect event for us.”