Want to sell books to those who don’t read? Terry O’Reilly tells us how in this month’s issue of “Tell your Story Newsletter”

May 2022 Vol 4 Issue 5

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!


ARTICLE 1: Want to sell or promote books to those who don’t read?! Terry O’Reilly tells us how

STORYTELLER’S CORNER:  The irritating case of “at this time,” with Bryan Garner




Welcome Mid-May 2022!

Mild temperatures and, for the most part, sunshine, have been very welcome through the first half of May, including a couple of days above 20 degrees Celsius! Some Saskatonians have broken out their shorts; and many, their sandals!

Garden centres are opening, with price wars beginning over hanging flower baskets, bedding plants and perennials. . . And the “perennial” question (asked by many, including Leisha Gribinski of CBC radio’s “Saskatoon Morning” last week) is this: “Do we really have to wait for the May long weekend to get planting?”

Hungry for green leaves and flowers, I’ve noticed some shoppers keenly surveying plants from the tantalizing displays at local grocers, as well as at the Berry Barn, Dutch Growers, Floral Acres and other local companies.

And at a recent meeting of the ESL conversation circle that I co-led for newcomers (through Saskatoon Open Door Society), the topic was, appropriately, “gardening tools.” My co-leader, herself an avid gardener, asked participants questions about gardening implements, how to use compost in the garden, and even whether they had inquired about  local seed libraries. Newcomers with backyards or access to community garden plots had stories of previous success.

Open Door’s conversation circle also stressed the importance of getting outside, “drinking in the sun and the air” and digging in moist soil with one’s hands, after another long, Prairie winter. For those living in apartments or condos, I reminded our newcomers that container pot gardening can be an enjoyable alternative. Even folk who have only houseplants can take them outdoors on a balcony, allowing them to flourish in the fresh air and direct sunlight.

What really matters, I suggested to the circle, was communing with nature as much as possible, such as by sitting outdoors with a cup of tea and a good book. It’s so important to be fully conscious of the beauty of these days and to store up that feeling to draw on, in the months after spring and summer end.

And since many people don’t have (or make) time to read during the year, just which book(s) we’ll read in our gardens depends greatly on how books are marketed. So, in “Article One” of this month’s issue of TYSN, I visit Terry O’Reilly’s recent podcast on how to sell books to those who “don’t read.”

In “Storyteller’s Corner,” I return to a usage tip from American etymologist Bryan Garner, for whom the phrase “at this time” is a weed to be pulled from our linguistic garden beds.

And “Shop News” refers to details from my recent ESL teaching and to excellent programs and products from local entrepreneurs who deserve close attention and patronage.

Valued readers, may the appreciable lengthening of our daytime hours and the human respect and equality we still find in our communities help us to cope with these late Covid days and with a globe so torn by violence and strife.

I send renewed wishes for good health, personal growth and prosperity to you all.



Principal,  Storytelling Communications



Article OneWant to sell or promote books to those who don’t read? Terry O’Reilly tells us how . . .

Recently, I listened to a fascinating episode of the CBC radio show, “Under the Influence,” hosted by Canada’s wonderful, (silver-tongued) ad-man, Terry O’Reilly. The topic was “book marketing,” so I knew I had to tune in!

In this late digital age, most ESL teachers, writers, editors, publishers and others who work with words know that promoting a book that they have written, or a bookstore, is not easy. (See Penelope Fitzgerald on this topic, The Bookshop, which for non-readers was made into a great film [lol!].)

As O’Reilly comments, 2.2 million books are published each year in English and yet most adults in North America do not read after high school. To sell a book, he says, you must have “luck, timing, word-of-mouth and some inventive marketing.”

While fewer people now read books than in previous centuries, even in our digital age, book reading is not dead. O’Reilly cites the success of the antique Portuguese bookstore, Avelar Machado (AM) which opened in 1876 and remains the oldest used bookstore in the world. It sells “almost pristine” used books, with barely noticeable imperfections, priced at a much lower rate than new ones.

AM is remarkable, however (O’Reilly tells us), because it has made advertisements to promote its used books that were “suitable for framing.” You may have seen reproductions of these ads—“improved upon” images of James Joyce, wearing taped eyeglasses; Agatha Christie, with a small bandaid on her forehead; and Mark Twain, with a shaving cut papered on his chin!

When classic authors like these bore barely noticeable imperfections, AM implied that gently used books would be just as good (not to mention cheaper) than their new counterparts. And it worked! AM’s sales spiked.

O’Reilly reported that Penguin Classics also created posters with the tagline, “Escape into a book,” with photos of people on busy subways, waiting for buses, or in airports, where remained a single empty seat on which an open book had been placed!

However busy you are, the marketing said, there is still time to escape into a great book. Similarly, Penguin posted images of well-worn, heavily annotated classics owned by famous contemporary authors. Those ads also succeeded.

More evidence that book reading is not dead, O’Reilly reports, comes from India, where the average reader reads 10 hours and 42 minutes per week; contrast that to Canada and the US, where we clock in less than six hours for that period!

How is it that Indians out-read us? In part it’s because more than 70 million people in India buy English language books. However, this has a troubled underbelly, O’Reilly says, since nearly 40% of those books are pirated copies, sold on the streets by gangs for “less than half of the cover price.” Most of the buyers don’t even know their copies are pirated, because the covers and bindings look legitimate. Publishers lose $620 million (USD) each year to such piracy.

Another example of book or arts-related marketing that O’Reilly shares is Netflix’s development of the “Because You Watched” tool, which appears at the end of any movie or show you view on the streaming service. The tool (which has an 85% response rate from viewers) recommends to viewers the next movie or show they should watch.

But, O’Reilly reports, the problem is that often the recommended next movie usually has no relevance to the one you just saw! Analyzing the nature of the new (suggested) show reveals only vague similarities in theme or casting to what you’ve just seen. Accuracy is not the promo’s strong suit, and yet the response rate flourishes.

More relevant still, when Brazil’s bookstore “Librarie Cultura” (LC) saw this “Netflix” effect, it decided to try it with its own spin: LC featured in-store posters and graphics on its social media accounts, connecting movies and TV shows to books.

For instance, one poster said, “Because you watched ‘House of Cards,’ next try reading Othello.” Shakespeare’s themes of politics, murder and betrayal, it implied, make it a good pairing with the Netflix series.

Similarly, O’Reilly reports that LC connected the supernatural, science fiction and horror of another Netflix series, “Stranger Things,” with books or stories by Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. Similarly, “The Matrix” was paired with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

In such campaigns, O’Reilly observes, marketers “connect the dots” between Hollywood and classic books, creating a “powerful gateway to binge reading” among people who would never otherwise read.

In a similar vein, the “Carrefore” supermarket chain in Europe boosted the sales of its “discounted grocery store books” by displaying them near the food they featured: Moby Dick appeared in a stand near the fresh fish section, Snow White next to fresh apples and Bram Stoker’s Dracula near the garlic display! It’s hard to deny the appeal . . .

O’Reilly cites another case of book marketing that (literally and figuratively) takes the cake: a restaurant in Union, CT, which has lined its walls with 9000 books—the “side-order” of any meal ordered there. For every dinner you eat, you can take up to three books home, at no further charge.

Diners are known to peruse the book collection for hours, and the menu is thematically clever, featuring Catcher in the Rye (for a sandwich on rye bread) and a “Charles Dickens’ wrap.” The restaurant’s owners regularly scour used bookstores and sales to stock the restaurant’s bookcases. Movie and music stars Robert Redford and Bruce Springsteen are among the celebrities who have visited, such is the restaurant’s quirky and fun reputation.

In all this marketing, savvy strategists like O’Reilly know, paradoxically, “If you want to reach people who don’t usually buy books, you have to reach people who don’t usually buy books.”

That is, you need to find new ways to reach this audience.

Finally (and the most dynamic story from O’Reilly’s show) is that of “Editora Carambaia” (EC), a Brazilian publisher that has mounted a bookselling campaign like no other. They teamed up with a local college professor, who was leading a bookclub at a nearby prison.

The publisher donated books to the prison to help inmates develop their analytical and communication skills. Soon the prison inmates were found to have read nine times more books than civilians!

So the National Justice Council and EC created a program called “The Prison Reviews,” which turned prison inmates into literary critics by giving them 30 days to read a book, write and submit a review on it.

Some inmates were surprisingly insightful. A committee evaluated their submissions and found the reviews so remarkable that Carambaia turned them into an ad campaign!

Ads appeared over social media, radio commercials and on bookstore posters, bookmarks and other stationery, including videos of inmates reading online. These and a documentary were uploaded to YouTube.

“The Prison Reviews” program also improved inmates’ reading and writing skills, “alongside [their] hope and dignity”: each well-written review took four days off their sentences. (Inmates exchanged one kind of sentence for another!) The program gave a voice back to the most marginalized in Brazilian society and, as O’Reilly puts it, “allowed them to rewrite their destinies.”

So Terry O’Reilly asks, how does a publisher get a book noticed, in a sea of new releases? And how do you get people who don’t read (much) to pick up a book?

Inventive marketing, in his estimation, answers both of these questions.

He says—and all of the above stories confirm this—”the best marketing is rooted in insight and emotion.”

And now it’s your turn. When did you last read a book? And how would you try to market a book you like to non-readers?

Please write me on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you.



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: The irritating case of “at this time” 

The phrase “at this time” drew particular outrage from American etymologist, Bryan Garner, in one of his recent blog postings.

Using the phrase, “at this time,” he writes, “smacks of waffling OFFICIALESE, especially when the phrase comes at a SENTENCE END—e.g.: ‘We don’t have any comments at this time,’ said Disney spokesman Ken Green. . . .‘Our revenues and profits are record-setting at this time,’ Mr. Green said (Christine Wicker, ‘Giant Against Giant,’ Dallas Morning News, 14 June 1997, at G1.)”

The expression “at this time” is certainly verbal filler. But how else can we express something in the present?

Garner responds: “The more natural wording would be something like this: ‘We don’t have any comments right now.’” Or: “Our revenues and profits are currently setting records.”

Garner also cautions of the worse case of “at this point in time” or “at this present time,” which detract even further from concise (and therefore powerful) writing, which is always our writerly goal. (One imagines Garner even more outraged by these phrases!)

And now it’s your turn: Do you find many examples of  similar “filler” phrases like “at this time” in your reading and writing?

Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you. 



I’ve been delighted first to co-lead and now to lead solo a conversation circle  for English language learners at Saskatoon Open Door Society (ODS).  These circles are currently held online (due to our current Covid patterns) but soon will be held outdoors in some of Saskatoon’s most picturesque parks! Many thanks to coordinator Lisa Focardi for her organizing skills.

New immigrants to Saskatoon and area flock to these classes to improve their English language skills, so as to advance their education and/or to secure better jobs.

ODS works hard through many outreach activities  to meet the needs of newcomers to Saskatoon, often in very challenging circumstances. Thanks also to Sukhman Kaur and Kira Epp for the development of the conversation circle program.


Some hot-off-the-press news: Have you heard about the latest program offering from Saskatoon’s Praxis School of Entrepreneurship?

It’s called “digiSMART”, and it provides FREE classes on many aspects of digital technology to business owners, facilitated by team directors Monica and Brent Kreuger, chief facilitator, Deanna Litz, and selected alumni of the school’s earlier programs (me included).

I’ve attended some of digiSMART’s modules and they’ve been amazing –first rate learning and networking opportunities!

digiSMART even includes customized coaching that will assist entrepreneurs in integrating technology into their pre-existing businesses.

An intake is already underway and the program is currently FREE to attend! So call or email program administrator, Elaine Mantyka, NOW, for more information: (306) 664-0500 and elainem@globalinfobrokers.ca


Later this summer, valued colleagues and I will present through digiSMART modules on communication methods:

Christina Cherneskey will teach a powerful podcasting seminar. Read more about her work at PodcastBlast.cc and find her on Twitter and on TikTok @ccherneskey.

Megan Kent’s videography firm, “Little Ox Film Company” will facilitate classes on video production, which has become central to so much of today’s marketing.

And I’ll happily reprise a revised seminar on blogging, also as part of digiSMART. I look forward to helping established entrepreneurs write more of their own marketing materials.


I’m also delighted to promote this month a great local business–Prairie Office Moving and Installation (POMI). It’s located at Unit 6–56th Street East (between Miners and Millar Avenues) in Saskatoon. It’s worth the call and the short drive!

POMI sells gently used office furniture (filing cabinets, desks, shelving units, etc.)  from their storage bay, which is open to the public to view. Its receptionist, Wanda, is knowledgeable and welcoming to clients and positive about phone contact, even after hours.

I found a first-class lateral filing cabinet but also saw other, gently used, pieces at prices far lower than their competitors’! And this, amidst Covid-related shipping supply problems that are said to have inflated the cost of metal furniture.

So for great deals on gently used, office or home office furnishings, visit POMI’s website or call Wanda first:  (306) 477-7778!


There are always more local entrepreneurs and small businesses to promote (and I receive NO affiliate fees for doing so). So please contact me with your good news supplier stories!

But this is a wrap for mid-May!


Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now assist SMEs in closing more sales by communicating more effectively; I help Canadian newcomers land better jobs by improving their language skills; and I write the legacy stories of major companies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website. After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information:

www.storytellingcommunications.ca .