Do Publishers Market Books?
A couple of days ago, Michael Hyatt had a terrific post on his blog, Four Reasons Why You Must Take Responsibility for Your Own Marketing. He reiterated truths about the important role you, the author, play in the promotion of your own book. He reinforced what we’ve all been hearing:
Publishers don’t market books. It’s all up to the author.
Yes, everyone keeps saying that. And yet… and yet…
Publishers still have marketing departments.
And like I said in my post Why is Publishing So Slow? part of the reason for long lead times (the time between contract and book release) is the time it takes to put marketing in place.
So what gives?
Do publishers market books or not?
The answer is: Yes, they do.
But not as much as they used to.
And they’re not very effective without the author’s involvement.
So the question is:
What kind of “marketing” do publishers DO?
Just like I explained in my post about whether publishers edit anymore, publishers’ marketing activities vary widely from house to house. In addition, the “bigger” the author (i.e. the more money they expect to make on you), the more they’ll spend on marketing. Nevertheless, I’ve compiled a list of common marketing functions of the publisher. Individually, these things might seem small, yet together they represent tasks that would take you dozens or hundreds of hours AND be prohibitively expensive. And many of them, you wouldn’t be able to do at all because you don’t have the access, the experience, or the contacts.
Herewith, a few things a publisher marketing department often still does (and for “big” authors they go far beyond this):
Prepare promotional materials
- produce and print ARCs (advance reader copies) which are far more expensive on a per-book basis to produce than the actual book
- write flap copy, back cover copy, all catalog and marketing copy
- create a press kit for soliciting reviews and author interviews
- provide printed material to assist author’s own promotion: postcards, bookmarks, flyers, etc.
- Book signing/event support (posters, press releases, bag stuffers)
Trade advertising – print & retail
- placement in publisher’s print catalog
- product placement in retailers’ catalogs & fliers
- print advertising in trade magazines
- in-store product placement (special tables or endcaps)
- print & web ads with distributors (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Spring Arbor, etc.)
- shelf talkers for retail outlets
- a page on publisher website
- working with Amazon & large online booksellers for placement
- assist author in developing their Facebook, Twitter & blog presence
- email blasts to publisher’s list which can include hundreds of thousands of names, including consumers, librarians and retailers
- organize online contests
- set up blog tours
- may help with creating a video book trailer
- advertise in online magazines and newsletters appropriate to the book
- Facebook advertising
- banner ads on appropriate websites
Specialized promotions (specific to type of book)
- work with author to capitalize on author’s own areas of influence, which could include organizations they’re a member of, alumni associations, professional associations, local historical societies, etc.
- promotion to book clubs and reading groups (email blasts or even a mailing of the book)
- pitch to large national reading groups
- submit books to major contests
- trade shows
- pitch to trade magazines for review
- organize book tours & book signings
- press releases, especially locally or regionally where the author has influence
- sending press kits to all appropriate media outlets: radio, TV, newpapers & magazines
- following up on requests for books, sending out review copies
- booking print, broadcast, and online interviews
- included in targeted publisher newsletters to consumers
- send out influencer copies
Don’t forget the sales team!
Most publishers have a sales team (or rep group) who proactively sells titles to retailers. They service the approx. 10,000 bookstores still left in the U.S. (chains and indies combined) plus Walmart, Target, Costco, etc. In addition, the sales department interacts with book clubs (Book-of-the-Month, Literary Guild, etc), international accounts, rack jobbers (for grocery stores and gift shops), nonprofit organizations, and special accounts. This is a “sales” function (not technically marketing) but it’s something publishers do that you, the author, are unlikely to be able to do yourself. And it’s another way your book gets “out there.”
This post is far from comprehensive, and like I said, it doesn’t apply equally to all publishers. But most of the larger houses I work with are providing many of the above listed marketing functions. I’m sure there will be questions because there’s no way I can cover this topic thoroughly in a single blog post.