Marketing strategies: Reinforce textbook adoptions with promotional calendar

Physical geography author Robert Christopherson recently published a calendar to promote the seventh edition of his award-winning textbook, Geosystems.

The calendar’s two opening pages describe the strengths and new features of the new edition, and list the accompanying student and instructor supplements. The calendar itself features factoids that match physical geography and Earth systems science events, as well as photos for each month depicting physical geography subjects, such as the rapeseed crop in full bloom in northern Scottland; frost-shattered rock in Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean; and a birch forest in south-central Norway.

“I have pushed my publisher [Pearson] to do calendars for a decade or more, yet this is our first,” said Christopherson, whose wife, Bobbe, a professional nature photographer, has 383 photos in his new edition of Geosystems, and more than 325 photos in his other two physical geography textbooks, Elemental Geosystems 5/e, and Geosystems, Canadian Edition 2/e, and who provided the photos for the calendar. “I think the concept is an obvious way to reinforce adoptions.”

Using Bobbe’s photography, they made mockups for an 18-month calendar so that two 18-month calendars would span a time period that overlaps the revision schedule of all three of Christopherson’s books. “Wherever there were empty date boxes at the beginning or ending of months, I had Bobbe put photos related to the main photo for the months,” said Christopherson. “Some of these small photos spread over two or three date boxes as panoramas.”

Their original proposal was for another division of their publisher, a trade division, to market the calendars to college bookstores on adopting campuses to sell for a small price to help repay the publisher’s production costs, he said, but that did not happen. They also proposed that the trade division’s sales reps could distribute the calendar to geography clubs and departments that wanted to raise money through sales for activities or scholarships. That also fell through, he said.

They submitted all of 70 of Bobbe’s photos, processed, sized, cropped, and ready for layout, and a skilled publisher oversaw the process of creating the calendar following Bobbe’s detailed design and layout guidance. “We submitted photos in CMYK instead of the usual RGB format – all possible in PhotoShop CS3,” said Christopherson. “We also submitted the physical prints so the printer could check colors.”

The Geosystems calendars were distributed to sales reps at the National Sales Meeting and each rep received a small supply to be distributed at the publisher’s booths at the annual professional meetings. One copy was also shrink-wrapped with each sample copy shipped to professors. “We were compensated for all Bobbe’s work and photos with our own supply of calendars to distribute at our discretion,” said Christopherson.

Each calendar cost a little over $2.25 per unit. “With the inherent trade potential, this could have been easily erased,” he said. “We thought about going ahead with a self-published version had the publisher turned down our latest request to do the calendar. However, the publisher agreed to do it and was supportive.”

Christopherson said the feedback has been excellent, complimentary, and appreciative of the content-specific factoids that offer a tidbit to share with students each day in class. “We recommend other authors create a calendar like this to promote their textbook,” he said.

About Kim Pawlak

Kim Pawlak is Director of Publishing & Operations for the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA). She has been writing about the textbook and academic authoring and publishing industry for 20 years.