7 Mardi Gras lessons for Savvy Book Marketers
Mardi Gras is more than just a giant party in New Orleans. It’s also another great opportunity to review some basic book marketing ideas. Here are seven concepts related to this annual Carnival experience.
1. According to historians, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity took hold in Rome, its leaders decided to it would be easier to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith than attempt to abolish them. Eventually, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season, which begins with the Epiphany or Twelfth Night, became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance, fasting, and abstinence from fruit, eggs, meat and dairy between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
MARKETING LESSON: Be willing to adapt. Don’t try to force an idea. If one thing isn’t working, don’t remain stubbornly committed to it. Reevaluate your situation and find another more effortless path.
2. The traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold are so intricately connected with this annual celebration that when you see them outside of a costume shop in early February, they still bring Mardi Gras to mind. And each color has a very specific meaning. Purple represents justice; green represents faith; and gold represents power – all good goals for an author.
MARKETING LESSON: Brand yourself for instant recognition. Wouldn’t you love for your colors, logo, or brand to be as instantly recognizable as strings of purple, green, and gold beads? They can be, eventually, but you have to start somewhere. Think of the instantly recognizable yellow cover of The Help or the white background and red lettering on The Joy of Cooking. Find colors, fonts, and a logo concept that work for you and your book, and then use them everywhere: your website, postcards, email signature, social media sites, ect.
3. The Epiphany marks the coming of the wise men (kings) who were believed to have brought gifts to the Christ child. A popular custom that began with the Epiphany but has morphed into more of a Mardi Gras tradition is the making of “King Cakes.” A plastic baby is baked inside the King Cake, and according to tradition, whoever finds the baby in their piece of cake must buy the next King Cake or throw the next party. A King Cake is made from cinnamon-filled dough shaped into a hollow circle. The cake is topped with a delicious glazed topping and sprinkled with purple, green, and gold sugar.
MARKETING LESSON: Put a prize inside your book. Remember Cracker Jack, the carmel corn treat that came with a free prize inside? You already liked the treat, but once you saw the free prize inside – something small yet precious – it became irresistible. You can do the same with your book. For more on this concept, check out Seth Godin’s book, Free Prize Inside.
4. Though Mardi Gras was originally introduced to New Orleans by French settlers in 1699 and eventually popularized by students who’d visited Paris in 1827, contemporary celebrations occur all over the world. Another common name for the pre-Lenten festivities that culminate on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is Carnival. It is believed to be derived from the Latin word carnelevarium, which means “farewell to meat.” Beyond New Orleans, elaborate Carnival crowds also gather in Alabama and Mississippi in the U.S., as well as in Rio and the rest of Brazil, Quebec City, Venice, Germany, and Denmark.
MARKETING LESSON: Go global. It may take some time to catch on (in the instance of Mardi Gras, it took more than 125 years), but with the right planning and commitment, there is no reason you cannot take your book marketing campaign global.
5. Krewe is the word for an organization that creates the balls and parades during Mardi Gras. Each Krewe, comprised of a captain and several members, has its own style. Throughout the year, the Krewes build floats and hold secret meetings. On Mardi Gras day, the Krewe members don masks and ride on their floats. Every Krewe holds its own parade leading up to Mardi Gras.
MARKETING LESSON: Get yourself a krewe! We’ve talked about this before – you don’t have to go it alone. So don’t. Get a creative, visionary, enthusiastic team behind you, and you will accomplish so much more than you ever could on your own.
6. You may have seen (or heard tell of) the naked torso of a woman or two in the midst of the Mardi Gras mania. “Why would they do that?” is a logical question. Members of the parade krewes throw beads and coconuts and trinkets to the revelers, and some women will do almost anything to get the bauble thrower’s attention. For many, it’s less about receiving the gift than it is about receiving the attention.
MARKETING LESSON: You’ve got to be willing to bare it all. No, not literally. But writing a book means exposing yourself to the world. It means putting your thoughts out there where people can read them and – gasp – comment on them. Make the best book you can, and steel yourself to the critics. But don’t leave anything on the table.
7. Masks create an air of mystery and have fascinated people for centuries; the mask tradition remains a vital part of Mardi Gras. Whether the party is in New Orleans, the Caribbean, South America, or Europe, this pre-Lenten festival includes original masks worn by revelers at masked balls, krewe members in parades, tourists, and partygoers. The masks are thought to allow the individual hidden behind the mask to play out the final moments of fun and to bid “farewell to the flesh” before the austere Lenten season begins.
MARKETING LESSON: Play a role if you’re shy. A marketing challenge many authors face is that they prefer to write. They’d much rather sit quietly (almost anonymously) behind their keyboards and create new works. While ABW (always be writing) is an admirable goal, it’s not going to sell many books. If you want to sell books, you MUST create a visible presence. If this is difficult for you, create a persona that, while not too distant from the real you, is separate from you. What would you like to do but are too shy, hesitant, or reluctant to do when it comes to marketing your book? Great. Let your persona do that for you. Christine Comaford-Lynch’s Rules for Renegades has a lot of great advice about how to do this.
So get out there and employ one or two or all of these ideas and watch your marketing come alive!
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