I am currently the Vice President of Sales & Public Relations for Watkins Media in North America, a 20-person company headquartered in London, England. Watkins is comprised of two major book publishing divisions: personal development (Watkins Publishing) and diet, health, and fitness (Nourish Books). I manage the company’s relationship with our master distributor, Random House Publisher’s Services, and oversee all marketing and PR activity in the territory.
In 2009 I was responsible for the launch and marketing of a book for military history publisher, Osprey, called Tonight We Die as Men: The Untold Story of the Third Battalion 506 Infantry Regiment from Toccoa to D-Day. The book went on to sell 10,000 copies more than our original forecast and continues to be a centerpiece of Osprey’s backlist in both trade paperback and ebook.
To accomplish this, I asked the editor to change the title, which was originally slated to be The Forgotten Battalion (the name under which a related DVD was released) to its present, more poignant incarnation. I also devised a publicity and marketing campaign that centered on one of the stars of the book, Colonel Edward D. Shames, who resides in Virginia Beach, VA. We launched with a tour of East Coast military bases and military museums that featured Col Shames and the two UK-based authors. A few months later, Col Shames appeared in our stand at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s annual World War II Weekend, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. Here is the release I created and still use for the on-going promotion of the book.
Following the initial success, Osprey commissioned three sequels from Ian Gardner: Deliver Us From Darkness, No Victory in Valhalla, and Airborne: The Combat Story of Ed Shames of Easy Company.
In May 2012, Osprey launched a new book called Joshua L. Chamberlain: A Life in Letters, which contained 270 never-before-published pieces of correspondence from the Civil War general who is known as the “hero of the battle of Gettysburg.” The book received a cover story in Civil War Times and a glowing review in the Wall Street Journal.
From March – October 2012, I worked on a book entitled The Boys of ’67: Charlie Company’s War in Vietnam. The book was excerpted in Vietnam Magazine, was reviewed by Brigadier General H.R. McMaster, and would eventually become the inspiration for a National Geographic documentary narrated by actor Charlie Sheen called “Brothers in War.”
The Boys of ’67 was an unusual title for Osprey in that its focus was an entirely American war story–there were no Brits or Europeans involved in the action. Because of that, the success or failure of the project rested entirely on my shoulders. That is to say, I would not be receiving the usual support from Osprey’s UK marketing team.
My first step was to reach out to author Andy Wiest and ask for an interview. From the very beginning it was clear that Andy understood marketing strategy and came prepared with some clear, actionable ideas. I had done my homework too. Prior to our meeting, I had arranged a meeting with an old friend, Chris Artis, who had done the PR for a great book called The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer. Chris told me that the key to that book’s success was his ability to get coverage for some of the veterans mentioned in the book.
When I mentioned this strategy to Andy, he jumped at it and told me the story of John Young, a veteran whose story features prominently in his book. We quickly formulated plans for me to fly to southern Mississippi where Andy and John Young live so that I could get video footage of John for our Youtube channel. We also agreed that we would collaborate on creating a website, a book trailer, and a Facebook page. In addition, we drew up a list of prominent military historians and high-profile military leaders to whom we would send early copies of the book and ask for early reviews. Finally, Andy told me about the existing website run by one of the veterans which housed hundreds of photos taken by soldiers of the company (both living and deceased) during their year in ‘Nam. We agreed that we would utilize the photos in our social media campaign.
Using the photos, I created a book trailer. The copy used in the VO is mine; my colleague Robert Kempe did the VO. Next, I created a website using a basic WordPress template. The purpose of the site was to serve as a hub for our press materials and the metadata of the book. Following that, I worked with Andy on setting up a Facebook page. As of October 2014, the page has 2,400 Likes and is still actively used by members of the Boys of ’67 community.
The combined US sales of the hardcover, paperback, and ebook are over 25,000 units.