The Telephone Game and Marketing a Book.


Have you ever sat in a line with a dozen or so people, whispered a statement and then passed, what you assumed were the same words, mouth to ear, until reaching the last person in the row? Then, asked that last individual to repeat what was heard. Was it remotely close to the message you originally transmitted? If not, was it similar? Or even close? In my experience, the information received is often times a variation of what was communicated, but after passing through many minds and mouths, takes on a twist of its own.

Enter marketing a book. The, at times, daunting process of introducing a story most people haven’t heard about, clearly and concisely, with little opportunity to misinterpret. That was my goal. A great plan, but not unlike the telephone example, though, things didn’t go exactly as expected.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. The kick off venue to promote my first novel–In the Eye of the Storm Series, Spirit Dance. With Oshkosh a mere 1200 miles from Tulsa, my mind automatically went to Road Trip!

Then, came the brainstorming. After a couple glasses of plum wine on the roof deck of a local sushi restaurant, we had a game plan. Wrap a car, hop on the interstate, and with our wheels transformed into a mobile billboard, we planned to stop at a few strategically researched libraries before arriving at EAA Oshkosh. Once at the airshow, we’d park our vehicle up in front, primo viewing for the roughly 500,000 expected attendees. We even included the roof for ariel impact. What a great way to spread the word, right?

Well, we sure spread the word. But like the Telephone exercise, what came across at times, wasn’t exactly what we intended.

Dubuque Iowa. In the parking lot of the public library. My mom and I climbed out of the Spirit Dance Mobile, about to pitch my suspense story to the young adult librarians. We were pumped, having just come off a very productive experience at the Cedar Rapids Library. We were huddled around the hood of our wrapped KIA Soul, reviewing a few last minute details for our spiel, when a seventy-ish gentlemen who is walking his Dachshund paused and said, “Spirit Dance?” He appeared to be reading from the hood.

Perfect, I thought. It’s getting noticed just as we suspected.

Yes! Mental fist pump.

“Ha,” he added and blew his nose into a hanky. “What kind of dancers are you two?” A crooked smile bent across his thin lips. “Exotic?” His grin widened.

Exotic Dancers? Really?

Mom’s eyes bugged at mine and we busted out laughing. Yep, that’s right. My nearly 70-year-old mother and her rapidly approaching 50-year-old daughter were in Dubuque, IA, parked in the public library parking lot readying for some early bird pole dancing.

Yeesh! I glanced at the black and gold scheme, with an enormous propeller on the rear end; printed in bold letters along the side, hashtag Catchdadskiller in block font beneath it. Apparently not as clear as we thought. I turned and faced the passerby and murmured, “You might want to get your eyes checked.”

It’s all good. I assured myself as we walked up the library steps. This was a fluke. The message is loud and clear. My confidence waned, however, when we were in an elevator in Collinsville, IL and two, twentysomething young men got onboard and asked if we were the “Spirit Dancers.”

Yep, that’s us, do you want an autograph? What we thought was a simple, unmistakable message, was still being misinterpreted.

Good information. I thought and immediately zip-tied a wind sock to the antenna. A small gesture, I realize, but a symbol to remind me, again, that everyone interprets information from their own perspective.

When we got back to Tulsa, I skipped the sushi and the plum wine and beelined for the corporate offices of the team who helped designed my brand.

“What gives?” I asked the designers after explaining the road trip feedback. “You have mere seconds to catch people’s attention these days,” they explained.

“Viewers are reading less and less. Whatever crosses their visual first, is of the upmost and lasting importance.”

As I was leaving, I glanced out the office window at my ride and the first thing I saw was “Spirit Dance.” My thoughts flashed on the ear to mouth game we played as kids.

Got it. Lesson learned...I climbed into the Spirit Mobile and started mumbling more specific tag lines for the sequel. READ Storm Makers, Storm Makers STORY…The Eye of the Storm Trilogy…

EL Chappel author of Spirit Dance/Storm Makers/Risk

“What you doin’ on your back, aah? What you doin’ on your back, aah?”

“You should be dancing, yeah…Dancing, yeah.” (The Bee Gees.)

aka The Glamorous Wife

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