If you’re looking for a unique promotion idea to help your book stand out from the crowd, read on. A little creativity may be all you need.
(Want to Launch YOUR Book into Space? Contact Kevin McGill directly for more information and current launch schedule)
Some time ago I ran across a video of author Kevin McGill launching his book into space via weather balloon. For your viewing pleasure, here is that video:
I was curious how he launched his book into space so I asked him for an email interview.
Kevin McGill, author of “Nikolas and Company: The Merman and the Forgotten Moon,” launched his book into space at an altitude of nearly 100,000 feet and got the whole thing on video. This resulted in a five minute interview on CBS11 in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX for the ten o’clock show, which reaches 6.2 million people in the metroplex and surrounding area, as well as a tweet from @GoPro to its 692,000 followers.
What inspired you, or gave you the idea to launch a book into space?
Legos. To be more specific, a YouTube video I watched about two Canadian boys that sent their lego man and Canadian flag into space. My first response on seeing the video was pretty obvious:
I. Have. To. Do. This.
I’m a big nerd when it comes to anything space related. I didn’t know you could do something like that. I began obsessing about what I could send up. Sending my book up wasn’t even an idea until a week later.
What were the approximate total costs to plan, launch and recover the balloon with payload?
* SPOT GPS tracking device…$86.95
* Year subscription to SPOT GPS…$99.99
* GoPro 1080p HD waterproof camera…$199
* Extended life GoPro battery…$39
GoPro Fog inserts…$7.49
* Rain X…$11.65
* Rain X Glass Cleaner…$4.99
* 32 GB SD card…$49
* 3 600g weather balloon…$60
* 36″ neon orange and white parachute…$100
* Gas cylinder brass fitting and balloon fill tube…$12.99
* Black latex gloves for handling balloon…$9.99
600g of Helium…$100
You’ll note that I included Rain X, Rain X Anti-fog wipes, and GoPro Fog inserts on the list. These all keep the GoPro casing dry, which is extremely important. Why? First, space is cold. We learned not only will your screams not be heard in space, but things fog up as well. Any moisture that gets inside the casing will fog or freeze because of the extremely low temperatures. Your space video will turn out soft and dreamy. Be sure to keep your GoPro casing dry.
What technology did you use to find and receive the camera/payload system?
SPOT GPS. Some have tried to use their cell phones as a GPS device. I would stick with SPOT or Garmin. Cell phones can move out of cell tower range.
By the way, always test to make sure your GPS is activated before you launch. Never assume that it is always transmitting, whether you turned it on or not. It is not like a cell phone. If you notice, I am wearing different shirts in the pictures. We (ahem) lost our first space-book payload that way. It was a hard lesson to learn. I took my solace in my own tears and half a dozen YouTube videos that showed NASA’s early rocket tests falling over on their side and imploding into the launch bay.
Where did you launch the balloon from and where did it land?
I launched the space-book vessel from White Rock Lake, Dallas.
How high did it go? How far did it travel?
While we didn’t have an altimeter on the space-book vessel, our guess is it went 90,000 feet, conservatively. The highest these vessels, with this payload, and 600g helium balloons, rise to is 109,000 feet. Now, this isn’t really outer space. It’s considered “near space”. It is the area between 65,000 feet and 325,000. It came down about 31 miles away in Kaufman, TX, off of highway 175. It landed forty feet up in a tree. But no worries on that. I made my army buddy come with me and climb the tree.
What kind of special permission is needed to launch a balloon into space? Do they have designated areas to launch?
There is no designated area to launch. You can launch anything under 15 pounds without contacting the FAA. But still, just as a courtesy, most people contact FAA before launching their weather balloon.
Did you receive mainstream media attention for your book launching into space video?
I did get media attention, actually. GoPro tweeted about the launch to its 692,000 followers. I also landed a five-minute interview on CBS11 in Dallas/Fort Worth TX for the ten o’clock news, which reached 6.2 million people in the metroplex and surrounding area. Got a good deal of exposure that way. Oh, and of course, this interview for the most popular indie book site on the planet ;).
Once the video of the launch hit YouTube, did you notice an increase in sales? Interview requests?
I did have a nice bump for the next couple of weeks, but as Seth Godin points out, marketing is about the long tail. I might have gotten some sales that weekend, but what really counted was the long-term effect, which worked out in the best way possible. Schools and libraries started contacting me.
Middle-grade fantasy authors know that schools and libraries are the bread and butter for marketing. Because of their age, my audience, preteens, are very difficult to reach. They have little buying power and typically do not own an ebook reader, so the marketing channels are limited. The only way for an author to really reach them is to first engage with the “gatekeepers”, or teachers, librarians, and parents. Well, have you ever contacted a fifth grade teacher and said, “Hi. I’m just a dude that, you know, wrote some books. I don’t have a traditional publisher who could vet me and keep me from inviting readers to join my lunar cult.
Can I come talk to your impressionable-minded students?” But with the space-book launch and the CBS11 interview, I could start my conversations off saying, ” I sent my book into space because I want to show pre/teens, who would rather play video games, that a book is cool and it can take them anywhere. I was invited onto CBS11 to promote childhood literacy. Can I show your students the video and talk about books?” Not one teacher or librarian has turned me down. In fact, I just completed a summer book tour to most of the Dallas County Public Libraries.
I showed them the video and did a book signing for nearly three-hundred kids. The kids reacted so positively to the video and the Nikolas and Co series, that not only did the majority of the libraries in Dallas County stock my book series, but several librarians have asked me to come back in the fall. I’m also working out something with one of the local school districts to visit all their students between the fifth and eighth grade.
Do you have any closing thoughts or comments about how you’ve single-handedly brought us into the golden age of literary space travel?
Actually, I do have a last thought. Regarding marketing, what I hope other authors don’t take away is: you should launch your book into space. Rather: you should follow your delight. At the end of it, your readers respond best to marketing ideas that are fun, a little crazy, but most importantly, you. If you’re true to your books and true to your own delight, then the marketing ideas will be the easy part.
MORE ABOUT KEVIN AND HIS BOOKS:
Get his first book for free on Kindle!: Nikolas and Company: The Merman and The Moon Forgotten #1