Book marketing is a funny business. First of all, it’s impossible to predict what will sell and what won’t. You just have to put everything you can into attracting an audience and getting the word out, then hope to everything you believe in that people buy your book out of the millions that are already out there. These difficulties are only increased when the book you’re working on isn’t new but, in fact, has been published for twenty-five years.
So why would Ooligan take on this challenge? Well, the book (while being as old as I am) definitely still brings something new to the table. We’ve taken Ricochet River by Robin Cody and given it an upgrade—as well as a face lift. Ricochet River is the story of a group of teenagers living in a small Oregon logging town in the sixties, and it has been used by teachers for decades to illustrate lessons in tolerance, conservation, and small-town culture. It focuses on a Klamath Indian boy who is new in town; a newly built dam that is making it harder for salmon to reach their spawning grounds and survive; and the struggles faced both by outsiders to the town and the rural kids trying to escape it.
As Seth Godin says, “Marketers tell a story.” When marketing anything, it’s important to focus on what sort of story you want to tell, and this is especially true for book marketing. You may be thinking that the story a book tells is obvious—it’s the plot and the characters and the overall content of the book. However, you are in charge of the story when it comes to marketing, and what story you choose to tell can attract different audiences. For example, with Ricochet River, there were a few stories we wanted to tell: Regarding teens and YA readers, we wanted to tell a story of three high schoolers in a small town who have adventures, live, and learn. We wanted educators to know that our book is a great classroom resource and that we’ve added supplementary teaching materials to make their work easier. For an older crowd, we wanted to focus on nostalgia: “Remember Oregon in the sixties? Ricochet River will take you back there.”
Changing the story also applies to how we packaged the book and how we marketed it toward book buyers and sellers. Previous incarnations of the book focused on the beautiful language, literary merit, and serene setting. That’s all well and good, but it leaves much to be desired. We decided to focus more on the characters themselves. And our new cover and back copy will be more appealing to a YA market, while the new supplemental materials are the main draw for teachers and schools.
Although it’s been out for twenty-five years and many people may have heard of or already read Ricochet River, our priority is in reaching new readers and new audiences. We do this through marketing. With the twenty-fifth anniversary edition that boasts a new cover and supplementary teaching materials, we hope to tell a story that is genuine, appealing, inclusive, and timeless.