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Emily Liebert (Photo: Kyle Norton

Featured Article

The Art and Effort of Selling a Bestseller

Marketing a Beach Read

Article by Robin Moyer Chung

Photography by Mindy Briar

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

It’s a well-known fact that a bestselling book sells on its own merit. Also, it’s not true.

Behind every bestselling book, including the two top-selling books in history, Bible (#1), Gone with the Wind (#2), is a major marketing machine.

According to Westport author Emily Liebert, “…you can write the greatest book in the world, but if no one knows about it, no one will read it.” She should know. She’s written five best-sellers and collaborated on two other bestsellers. Her psychological thriller, Pretty Revenge, drops this month.

Take Gone with the Wind. Sales of this saga were buttressed by Book of the Month Club (BOTMC), which ripped it hot from the Macmillan Publisher presses in 1936. BOTMC, started in 1926, capitalized on an increasing demand for literature and a paucity of bookstores and limited access to libraries. By mailing Club-selected books to hundreds of thousands of book-starved subscribers throughout the U.S, they escalated sales and readership of its chosen titles to record heights.

Now, we can sit back and reason that, due to its brilliance, Meg Mitchell’s epic would have enjoyed an exalted existence no matter how fitfully it had inched its way into our national consciousness. Yet if the Club hadn’t delivered the books so efficiently in 1936, had the film not burst into the middle of the ensuing hysteria three years later… who knows?

As for the Bible, well, with over 300,000 Christian congregations in the U.S. and an estimated worth of $1.2 trillion dollars*, it pretty much has the biggest marketing machine of them all.

(Of note, BOTMC selection also included Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926) and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1951).)

Today the author’s challenge is different: with books as accessible and abundant as mold spores at Coleytown Middle School, how does one stand out among them? As Emily says, “There are so many talented authors out there, so you really need to work hard to set yourself apart from the pack.”

In real life, promoting one’s book is far more burdensome than being chauffeured to a packed audience of sycophants, á la Carrie Bradshaw in ‘Sex in the City’. But authors aren’t necessarily successful marketers. Kind of like how doctors aren’t necessarily great businesspeople. Though, to be fair, I never want a businessperson removing my appendix.

So, while slipping through the sharp machinations in Emily’s latest novel Pretty Revenge, I couldn’t help but think: How can Emily be so good at writing yet also so savvy about promotion? Or something along those lines - my thoughts aren’t succinct when they’re bouncing around my cerebrum. Let’s just say it’s the rare individual who excels at this intersection.

Emily’s first published book, Facebook Fairytales, is a non-fiction collection of the social media giant’s triumphs. Not only is Fairytales an uplifting read, it’s excellent marketing in its entirety. Stories include how Facebook connected a couple with a child to adopt and helped find a woman who donated her kidney to a stranger.

Emily recognized the positive power of the now-troubled behemoth, then in its ‘tween stage, and connected with Mark Zuckerberg through a personal contact. Further, she interviewed him for the Forward. Honestly, Mark should consider gold-plating it and wearing it as a necklace/shield/talisman for the next year or so.

Four years later, Emily published her first novel, You Knew Me When. She admits, “I was, effectively, a nobody in the literary world. I realized that I had to do something to set myself apart.”

She wanted a synergetic partnership with an established company that would help propel her book onto different mediums. “I asked myself, what will my readers love?” Emily recalls, “And I came up with nail polish! [Zoya] made me 600 nail polish sets with three nail polishes each that were created and named for my characters in exchange for riding my publicity train.”

With polish sets sold on Zoya’s website, give-aways at readings and included in mailings to editors, producers and bloggers, the novel partnership proved successful at promoting both book and beauty company. Refinery29.com wrote “We've seen celebrities, designers, and even hotels lend their names to nail polish, but until now, we'd never seen a mani inspired by a piece of literature.”

“After that,” Emily states, “I knew I wanted to do some kind of lifestyle/beauty collaboration with each novel.” For Those Secrets We Keep she assembled a beach day IT Cosmetics pouch, and a Gerard Cosmetics lip gloss set for Some Women. For Pretty Revenge, Emily’s going back to nail polish. The glittery colors, like a fistful of shiny back-stabbing daggers, inspired by her female adversaries.

Of interest, there are two ironies in her literary ecosystem. First, she spearheads beauty collaborations, yet she doesn’t wear make-up. She deigns to have her friend slather some on for photo-shoots but with a warning, “I want you to know I’m going to hate every minute.”

Second, behind her friendly demeanor and naturally lovely facade lurks a sick criminal mind. Just kidding. She has no experiential predicate for her writing. All the themes of abandonment and vengeful decimation are born from her imagination, not her personal history. (I was kind of curious about that, so thought you’d want to know, too.) Of Emily, past-collaborator and Real Housewife Teresa Giudice sums her best, "All great things to say. She’s wonderful.”

*based on a 2016 Georgetown University study

“…you can write the greatest book in the world, but if no one knows about it, no one will read it.”

  • Emily Liebert (Photo: Kyle Norton)
  • Emily Liebert (Photo: Kyle Norton)
  • (Photo: Kyle Norton)
  • At a book signing in New York City.
  • KB Glimmer nail polish promotion for Pretty Revenge