Paper Darts Pop-Up: The Secret Sauce of Book Marketing

Tuesday the 18th of June marked the first time I made it to an event at the Paper Darts Pop-Up storefront installation, which seems absurd given how many events they’ve already produced.  The space on south Nicollet, a project of SooVAC that provides storefront exposure to arts organizations for a limited time (in Paper Darts’ case, six weeks), has already hosted art exhibitions, a YourthLEAD/Young Nonprofit Professionals Network campaign that traded professional headshots for work clothes donations, and the Paper Darts Issue 5 release party featuring Sweetpea, Joe Midthun, Carl Atiya Swanson, Jami Jerome, and Justin Schuetz.

I was able to pick up Issue 5 on Tuesday, though—true to Paper Darts form, it’s a specimen of clever, appealing design—because the beauty of a storefront is that, in addition to serving as a gallery and event space, it kind of functions as a store. The walls were done up with installations, both 2-D and 3-D, both analog and digital.  This was clearly a lit-loving environment, as cool and quirky books from local and indie presses were displayed on the walls like portraits.  Apparently this was something of a “lending library,” but I’ll have to get more details on that—simply as a visual, it made me feel a little tingly inside.

People were milling around the space early on, taking a look at the flyers and calendars and all of the materials dropped off by the pop-up’s media sponsors. Some people were already staking out the prime seats in anticipation of the night’s event: a panel about book marketing, featuring the brains of the marketing departments for some of the Twin Cities’ most esteemed publishing houses: Rebecca Schultz of Milkweed Editions, Marisa Atkinson and Erin Kottke of Graywolf Press, and Matt Rasmussen of Birds, LLC.  The panel, co-sponsored by the Loft Literary Center and moderated by Maggie Ryan Sandford, discussed a wide range of marketing topics, from the degree to which authors should be/are responsible for their own marketing to whether book trailers are a worthwhile use of resources.  It was a reassuring glimpse into the machinery of an indie press, as these four young professionals were equally eloquent and insightful.  Their jobs as publicists often involves contradicting those dire declarations that the book industry is either dead or dying, and they each seemed more than up to that task. “As small presses, we have to be increasingly creative. We have to find new ways to reach audiences on a tight budget. We have to be able to identify our audience and reach them without the benefit of a blanket approach to marketing.  Technology, social media platforms in particular, plays a huge role in this,” said a paraphrased amalgam of the four panelists.

photo from the twitter

photo from the twitter

The takeaway–the “secret sauce” if you will–came down to a few helpful hints that apply to all writers in all stages of their careers:

1) Don’t film yourself showering

2) Be nice

3) Don’t expect other people to do everything for you

In hindsight, these helpful tips seem to apply to all aspects of life–the mark of a truly valuable and informative event.

Were you There? Have something to add, or a different take on this event?  Chime in on the comments below, or send us an email at Be sure to check the schedule to the right to be at the next attended event.


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