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Idle Time Press’ Marketing Idea Leads to Multiple Media Opportunities

Thursday, July 9, 2020   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Christopher Locke
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Idle Time Press’ book, The Circle 19: a Brussels Anthology, was placed throughout Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Belgium by founder Cynthia Huijgens to build publicity for the new title.

This article was originally intended to run in February 2020, but was put on hold as IBPA focused on articles related more directly to the COVID-19 health crisis. Although the world is still far from a time when everything will be reopened and people can aimlessly stroll through public places -- and leaving books in the wild isn't something that would work for all publishers -- this story presents a great example of outside the box thinking when it comes to book marketing.

Cynthia Huijgens (right) is pictured with editor Patrick ten Brink (left) at the launch party for The Circle: a Brussels Anthology at Muntpunt Cafe, Brussels.

Late in 2019, independent publisher Cynthia Huijgens (founder of Idle Time Press) came up with a way to get the word out about her new book, The Circle 19: a Brussels Anthology.

"I walk in Parc du Cinquantenaire every day with my dog,” says Cynthia. “Occasionally, I should say very rarely, I find tucked behind an old oak tree, or lying at the base of one of the park’s many statues, a small sculpture made from natural materials. Someone crafts these treasures with great care and then leaves them for others to find. I thought it was a nice idea to replicate: leave a book tucked into the slats of a park bench or branch of a tree for people to discover. For me, the pleasure of ARC in the Parc is in finding something familiar in an unfamiliar place, and feeling the freedom to enjoy it."

Cynthia explains how this particular park was chosen, “I targeted Parc du Cinquantenaire… and set aside 75 ARCs for this project. The park is a thoroughfare for workers of the European Commission and Parliament commuting to and from their offices. It’s also a place for respite and relaxation, so it is a very well used park. It would have been easy for me to place hundreds of books in parks around the city, and maybe in the future we can afford to do this, but for now, one park felt right for a trial.”

Cynthia says that there were multiple positive outcomes from this out-of-the-box marketing idea. Not only did people enthusiastically attend her subsequent book events with copies that they obtained in the park, but she also landed two media opportunities.

The first was an article that Cynthia pitched to the Brussels Express. Cynthia’s ARC in the Parc idea was unique enough that editor Mauricio Ruiz was happy to run an article about it. Not only did this article provide publicity for the book, but it was also helpful in landing Cynthia her second media opportunity, a 4-minute news piece on Bruzz TV (a local station in Brussels, Belgium) that showcased Cynthia’s ARC in the Parc idea and the writer’s group that Cynthia is part of, Brussels Writers’ Circle.

Polar Bear and the UFO by Cynthia Huijgens

“I was introduced to Anja Strelec,” says Cynthia, “a journalist working for Bruzz TV, through Sue, Manager of Waterstones Bookshop in Brussels (Sue is a fan of the Brussels Writers’ Circle). Waterstones generously offered to organize an event for The Circle 19: a Brussels Anthology and to sell our books. In the weeks leading up to our November 26 launch, Sue emailed Anja and connected us. I sent the Brussels Express article link to Anja and she asked to meet me.”

Garnering media attention can be difficult for independent publishers, but Cynthia was able to get publicity by first creating her own unique marketing campaign and then leveraging it as a news story.

Idle Time Press has multiple books publishing in 2020, including the children’s book, Polar Bear and the UFO, which is publishing in September and the upper middle grade thriller, Boy Between Worlds: The Cabinet of Curiosities, publishing in October.

Four Questions with Idle Time Press Founder Cynthia Huijgens

IBPA: Given what’s happening with the COVID-19 health crisis, is there anything you’d do differently now in regards to your marketing idea of putting out your books in the park?

Cynthia Huijgens (CH): It’s hard to see into the future, but given the strict guidelines we’ve all been living under these past months, I think people will be less likely to pick up a book in the park, or from the shelf at their local library or bookstore, for fear that it is infected with the virus. Will we overcome this? Absolutely.

I’m a very tactile person, I get a lot of pleasure from touching. And discovering a book propped against a tree in my local park with an invitation, “please read me,” is pure frisson. But, for the immediate future, Arc in the Parc may become something virtual. Arc on the Web? Admittedly it doesn’t generate the same excitement, but I hope we can get back to Arc in the Parc early next year.

IBPA: Can you share advice for independent publishers about how they can weather this health crisis for their business?

CH: COVID-19 has brought devastating consequences to our economy and impacted every industry. The sheer uncertainty surrounding the virus makes planning for the future extremely difficult. But ebook and audiobook markets seem to be soaring, as is the internet retail book business. The full impacts are yet unclear, but it may be that the virus has created a dynamic, perhaps more level playing field? In the new scenario, small independent publishers may have an advantage over their big publishing competitors with large overheads and operating costs. My business model functions on contracted labor, and in this new environment, I see an opportunity to tap into talent that may have previously been unavailable to me. I can shift resources around and explore more creative ways to use them. Staying focused and maximizing my limited resources is giving me confidence that my books will be ready to launch on time. Getting them into the hands of readers may require ‘out of the box’ thinking, but I’m in this for the long game and up for the challenge.

IBPA: Can you share some marketing tips for other independent publishers?

The Circle 19 by Cynthia Huijgens

CH: As I was building the marketing plan for this book, it was tempting to think big. After all, the end game is selling books. To this end, every action you take needs to align with that goal. The Circle 19: a Brussels Anthology was the third anthology to feature the work of members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle. The first two editions were published by Harvard Square Editions and each sold less than 500 copies. Harvard Square Editions struggled to make those anthologies commercially viable and as a result, they didn’t want to publish the third. That’s how I came to the project.

I saw lack of viability as a reflection of Harvard Square Editions’ marketing strategy: they’re selling to an international audience. I decided to instead focus local, targeting English-speaking readers in the immediate Brussels region. Local media took an interest and now, just a few months later, we’re raising our international visibility with a recent podcast interview with Book Lover’s Companion in Vienna and now this member spotlight with IBPA. The book has sold in France, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and a few dozen copies in the U.S. We’ve doubled sales over the previous anthology. The Circle 19 is on shelves in four Brussels bookstores and recently made an appearance at the Brussels Book Fair in March.

IBPA: How has it been beneficial to be a member of IBPA?

CH: From the moment I joined IBPA, I have actively sought to learn as much as possible from webinars, directories and resources, and other members. As I am currently in Brussels most of the year, I’m a regular on the webinar scene. They are easy to schedule, and their one-hour interactive format means I can ask questions and get real-time answers. Some are even free! My first “Member Roundtable” webinar was with Robin Cutler from IngramSpark. This hour with Robin was so inspiring, I used Ingram for The Circle 19. Going forward, IngramSpark will be my print-on-demand (POD) of choice. David Wogahn’s “Create Your Publishing Business Plan from Manuscript to Shelf” was equally as excellent, as was Jonathan Kirsch’s “To LLC or not to LLC.” I even won the raffle for a thirty-minute consult with Jonathan.

IBPA: We’re so pleased that your IBPA membership has been so beneficial, Cynthia, and congratulations on all the great publicity for your book!

Click here to read more about Idle Time Press!

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Gail Kearns, Dune Buggy Press says...
Posted Thursday, July 9, 2020
I love Cynthia's out-of-box thinking! Wishing you all the success in our new normal.
Linda Street-Ely, Paper Airplane Publishing, LLC says...
Posted Thursday, July 9, 2020
What a great marketing idea, Cynthia! Thank you for sharing your news! I hope when Covid is a thing of the past, your books will again go out to parks, and maybe more authors and publishers will want to give this a try.

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