Igniting Sales with Brand Awareness
By Dawn Ius
Maybe you don’t know exactly what 1001 Dark Nights is—but chances are, if you’re a writer or reader of romance, romantic suspense, or thrillers, you’ve seen the branding. It’s hard to miss the prominent logo splashed across the cover of brightly-colored novellas crafted by genre superstars such as Gena Showalter, Christopher Rice, and Shayla Black—and that’s exactly the point.
At its core, 1001 Dark Nights is a marketing company that publishes novellas and uses elevated strategic marketing and relationship building to sell those books and build each author’s overall brand awareness—by a staggering 10 percent a year. That’s no small feat. It’s a fresh and unfamiliar concept developed by two inspiring women whose names you know well: ITW’s Executive Director, Liz Berry, and New York Times bestselling author M. J. Rose.
The brand—and its subsequent collection of novellas—was inspired by the Arabian Nights tale, but retold through paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and erotic romance stories. The series introduces readers to a time-traveling woman from the future, who gets trapped as Scheherazade, and must tell a new story each night to stay alive.
Since its inception in 2014, the collection has transported readers across all kinds of time periods and planes of existence, and the brand continues to ramp up, with both Berry and Rose traveling to conferences, as well as hosting author and reader events of their own to continue generating those all-important reader and author relationships.
In this The Big Thrill interview, Berry and Rose provide insight into what sparked this inspiring initiative, some of the upcoming projects they’re excited about, and what you —as an established or aspiring author—can learn from their efforts.
What motivated the two of you to create 1001 Dark Nights?
Our goal was to take every rule about publishing—book pricing, marketing books, and how authors were treated—and see if we could rebuild the paradigm from the bottom up with our first and foremost goal being to build relationships. Authors with readers, and authors with each other.
Strong women helping strong women. Throwing out the idea of jealousy and competition within a business arena. Seeing if—through cross-marketing and relationships—we could build a company that authors would bring their best to. And one that readers would enjoy.
Has the “change” you sought happened in the romance industry—and if so, can some of that change be attributed to this initiative?
We weren’t hoping to make changes in the industry—just to do things our way and hope we could help and make a difference.
You are each immersed in the thriller industry and with this initiative (and others) the romance genre as well—how do those worlds intersect for you?
The idea was actually planned for the thriller industry—but we learned that the readers in the thriller genre were not as receptive to trying authors who were new to them as readers in the romance genre. And the authors in the thriller genre didn’t have the relationships with their readers that would lead to the kind of involvement we knew we needed to make the idea work.
Both of you are well known for your branding efforts—and it’s clear 1001 Dark Nights is a product of two brilliant minds creating a signature product. Please share some of the thought process that went into creating the brand.
The most important thinking was one word—invest. We knew that branding takes a huge effort both in terms of time and money, and we decided to give it our all. Which meant giving up the idea of making any money for at least a year if not longer, and investing every dime we brought in back into the books.
Also, the graphic representation of the company was key. We knew we needed an easily identifiable name and brand, but one that would allow for the individual author’s name and work to stand out. We are so lucky to have a great team, and between Asha Hossain doing the branding graphics, Jillian Stein managing our social media image, and Chris Graham running our newsletters—the branding is consistent across the board.
You’ve gathered a wide variety of authors—across many genres—to take part in this initiative. How do you select these authors? Can authors apply?
It is by invitation only, actually. It’s a complicated process that involves the author’s social media profile and branding, the way they interact with fans and peers, their genre being either contemporary romance or paranormal romance, their status as a New York Times bestseller, their backlist and front list, along with several other factors.
Be consistent. Figure out who you are and be consistent in everything you do. From your social media and website to your signature line on your email. Everything is important to your brand.
Engage with readers. Every one of them is gold. You need to get involved with them and let them get involved with you. Make it about a relationship, not just a single book.
Engage with authors. We are strong alone, stronger together. Authors working wisely with each other can accomplish great things.
Looking to the future—within the next year, three years, and further if you’ve considered it—what do you envision for 1001 Dark Nights?
We want to keep introducing more authors to more readers, and hope they find each other and fall in love.
To read more about 1001 Dark Nights, or to get your reader hands on any of these novellas, check out the website.
New York Times bestseller M. J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.
With Liz Berry she co-founded and co-operates 1,001 Dark Nights and Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.
In 1998, her first novel, Lip Service, was the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house, as well as published in more than 15 countries, including France (where she is published as Melisse J. Rose).
Rose has been profiled in L’Officiel, Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek, and New York Magazine. She has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the US and abroad, including USA Today, Stern, L’Official, Poets and Writers, and Publishers Weekly.
Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the ’80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Liz Berry has two passions. She is the executive director of International Thriller Writers (ITW), a trade group of over 4,500 thriller writers from around the world. Previously, she was the long-time director of ThrillerFest, the annual gathering of ITW, which happens in New York City every July.
With M. J. Rose, Liz co-founded and co-operates 1,001 Dark Nights and Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.—an Internet marketing company that works to brand authors and expand readership within the romance genre.
Liz has a bachelor of business administration from the University of Georgia and also studied at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Both areas of study have allowed her to gain twenty-plus years of experience in the ever-changing marketing field.
She proudly serves on the Education Committee for the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board, and, with her husband, novelist Steve Berry, operates History Matters, a non-profit foundation dedicated to historic preservation. For more information, visit ThrillerWriters.org, 1001DarkNights.com, and History-Matters.org.