Marketing (and by extension publicity) have always been an important part of the success of any book, but as we move into an era where most independent publishers’ biggest customer is Amazon the need for stronger consumer awareness of books has never been higher. At every publication meeting I attend, when it comes down to the brass tacks section of how many do we think we can sell each of our channels: UK, Export, USA and Rights/Co-edition will chorus ‘it depends on the marketing’ and all eyes at the table turn to me.
Suddenly marketing isn’t a cog in the wheel of success of a book, now we are the sole difference between a 1,500 copy and a 5,000 copy initial print run. This is the reason why creating agile and targeted marketing plans are the root to how we can succeed in keeping indie publishing relevant, successful and the trend setters for our larger colleagues to follow.
So why has marketing become so vital? Well you just have to look at the number of books available – in the UK according to Nielsen there were just over 630,000 different titles which had some sales in the last quarter – to realise that the stats are against people lucking into finding you, especially on long tail specialists like Amazon.
Because of this there are certain things you need to think about:
- Make sure that every piece of copy you publish about your book maximises it’s ability to be found, but is still a piece of useful, informative text for the reader
- Identify your key reader types and make sure you are where they are, whether that’s PR coverage in their magazines, giveaways on relevant blogs or websites, or promotional positions in key retailers
- Make sure your communications have a benefit to the readers, whether it’s entertaining or useful
- Keep your language relevant to your target market and go back to freshen it up when you can
- Categorisation is key: BIC and BISAC codes may be labour intensive (and when you have a multi-category-spanning title seem like you are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole) but they will give browsers the chance to find your book
- Keep your marketing going, if you are hoping to get on the Sunday Times bestseller list that you should have all your PR and marketing activity happening on publication but if what you want is a healthy publication and strong sell-through then make sure you pace it out
One of the best things I have heard all year was at this year’s Bookseller Marketing Day when the very talented Alice Shortland discussed her hugely successful campaign for Polpo and said ‘instead of worrying about the size of my budget I took stock of the assets that I had’. What a really refreshing, and for me, inspiring peace of advice – so now when I am starting a campaign or evaluating the prospects of a new book proposal I take stock of what assets there are for the project, and then consider what I can do with that and how I can leverage those assets to get the most exposure.
When you have small, sometimes non-existent, budgets this is a brilliant tool for getting the most out of your campaign – and it certainly something that I have found helped me a great deal.
So whilst every department under the sun likes to now use the phrase ‘it all depends on the marketing’ I now say ‘it all depends on the assets that this project has’. The book business is very tough, and as marketers, publicists and those of us who span both disciplines, we have to think of ourselves as the voices for the book, speaking loudly, clearly and to the right people.