Archives: Best Marketing Practices

There’s a whole lot of noise about crowdfunding out there, and in recent years, it’s permeated the publishing industry–happily so, since there are more writers wanting to publish than ever before and fewer agents and publishers willing to take the financial risk. Publishing crowdfunding models from Kickstarter to Pubslush (which we wrote about here) to Publishizer (more in a minute) give writers the resources to bring their books to market in unconventional, effective, and creative ways.

Unfortunately, crowdfunding sites have a bad PR problem: first, there’s the desperation factor, the very public admission that you need financial assistance in order to publish because you weren’t given a traditional book deal. (Hopefully Seth Godin has done something to improve upon that image!) And then, if you’re lucky and talented enough to succeed in your publishing campaign, you may have to contend with some serious slack for it.

I was introduced to the very smart and affable young CEO of crowdfunding site, Publishizer, about a year ago. Publishizer’s modus operandi is to give authors the “freedom” they want to publish, freedom that is as much financially-driven as it is creative. Since my business is with authors who are published with commercial houses, it wasn’t the crowdfunding piece (though I was certainly impressed by it) that compelled me. It was the potential of agents and publishers to work with Publishizer purely from a pre-orders standpoint. Some of Publishizer’s authors have raised $20,000-$30,000 in pre-orders; enough not only to produce a print run of books, but to fly around the world  promoting them. As publishing sometimes seems to gallop at an elephant’s speed, you remember those revelatory, re-energizing conversations when you can see yourself at the brink of something new and even earth-shattering for your industry.

Yesterday, the hope I’d harbored for Publishizer came true when a romance author of Full Fathom Five Digital set a campaign live on its site–the very first time Publishizer has launched a preorders campaign for 1) a novelist and 2) an author who already has a publisher in place. In less than 48 hours, The Absolute Novels Campaign has raised over $500, and by the time you read this, it may have broken 6. I am in love with this campaign–because of Publishizer’s design and seamless user experience, because SJ’s story is a real one and a tearjerker, and because the gift options she’s created for those who pre-order the book are brilliantly branded and creative. No doubt there will be haters. But I’m personally wishing SJ and the other authors on Publishizer all success.

“The sport of book promotion is more of a relay race than a sprint.”

It’s almost a cliché to hear an author complain about his or her publicity team. But the fact of the matter is that celebrity has become as important as literary merit, with more titles competing for consumers’ attention than ever before, so authors need to work just as hard as their publicists to promote their work.

That can be frustrating, unless you’re able to “rewire” the way you approach publicity. It begins with remembering that you and your publicist are on the same team, and that the sport of book promotion is more of a relay race than a sprint. There’s no recipe for guaranteed attention, but with the right partner, you can at least have a hand in orchestrating your book’s destiny. As an author and a publicist, here are a few things we’ve learned.

1) Rewire the way you think about publicity.

What does publicity “success” mean to you? If it’s getting an interview on NPR or a book review in the New York Times, you should be plugged into those outlets, knowing the kinds of authors and subjects they cover. While it’s always difficult to attract national media attention, if you can convince your publicist that your book should make the cut—e.g., based on the success of comparable titles, or news trends—you’re giving her the artillery she needs to make the case for you.

If national media isn’t available to you, it’s time to rewire. Coverage by a wide network of bloggers, a Facebook post by a celebrity author, or a viral op-ed in Huffington Post gives you a lot of exposure and often translates to sales. Website analytics yield more data than offline media. We can’t recommend enough that authors follow their traffic, experiment with posting online, and actively engage with reader communities to exploit the loudspeakers of social media.

For Bianca’s book launch, a series about a vintage-obsessed 12-year-old girl who’s carried away to different historical eras, we found immense support from YA and style bloggers, who hosted Bianca on a blog tour and posted images of her book on Instagram. When drumming up book reviews proved difficult, we placed larger profiles about Bianca in adult fashion outlets.

Read the full essay with Bianca Turetsky at PublishersWeekly.com 

Marketing begins with an immediately accessible concept. As more books go digital and jacket art becomes a less important draw to readers, your title becomes your best (or worst) marketer. Look at the New York Times Bestsellers list each week: you’ll see common words repeating almost formulaically by category. How can one tap this formula? Simply by paying careful attention, even just looking at your own bookshelf or Kindle queue. Here are some of the top-selling titles we found to guide you in the right direction. Some might surprise you!

1. Guide to, Ways to, How to: 1,638,764 / 194,230/ 584,472

Practical titles caught us as the most prevalent: promising to fulfill something you need. But you don’t necessarily need to have written a self-help book to use these phrases.  Toby Young’s memoir How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a spin-off of the famous prescriptive business title: How to Win Friends and Influence People picks up on these buzzwords. Even fiction authors can take advantage: think of Melissa Bank’s breakout book, The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

Get creative with nonfiction help titles too by remixing classics like “What to Do When…” (119,112 in Search Results on Amazon) or calls to action, like: “How to Start…” (107,615 in Search). Readers browsing for particular information, whether for personal or professional interest, will respond to both the authority of a “How to” title and the originality of your spin on it.

2. Lives/Life: 1,665,413/1,665,455

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: A Novel, Life Beyond Words, My Horizontal Life, The Secret Life of Violet Grant… We were surprised by the number of books on bestseller lists containing these words. Three possible reasons: the word “life” implicitly suggests an arc, or progression, or wholeness to a story; it caters to voyeurism, an intimate look at someone else’s life; and finally, it brings a kind of drama through that voyeuristic lens. Many readers appear to respond to a title that feels both honest and sensational.

3. Children: 1,649,100

Everyone love talking about kids: Their kids, other kids, genius kids, and “those darn kids!” So it’s no surprise “children” is a popular search title. There are plenty of self-help books on how to raise a child (The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children). However, other popular fiction writers are also quick to play to our parenting sensibilities, like bestselling YA author Ransom Riggs’ novel Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, or Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.

4. House/Home: 1,124,405/481,749

A house: one of the most basic units of life. Houses and homes are close to our hearts as well as our wallets. A self-help or style book focused on the house or home would do well to include these keywords, but even fiction books like House of Leaves by  Mark Z. Danielewski and Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch can capitalize on the ubiquitous and comforting nature of these words.

5. Perfect: 1,057,687

Are we more perfectionist than ever? Apparently so! Popular book titles reveal a lot about human psychology. Using the word “perfect” seems to automatically guarantee a better shot at bestsellerdom, from the book-to-film, A Perfect Storm, to self-help (and in this case self-published) bestsellers, like Creating Your Perfect Lifestyle.

5. You/Your: 776,534  / 486,158

Frame the topic of your book around a well-placed “you” or “your” and you have immediately established a connection with potential readers. You can go the more traditional route: Seeing the Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company, or… Welcome to Your Brain and Don’t Look Behind You are playful takes on this tactic.

Read more »

Trying to publicize a book, particularly by way of newspapers and magazines, can be so challenging for already published or just publishing titles that authors in this position are often turned down by publicity firms. Finding the right publicist has become a bit like finding an agent.

There is enormous value to be had in the months until publication, and when consulting with writers, this has become the starting point of any conversation. Carving out ample lead time to promote or think about promotion can make the difference between a book published proactively and a book published reactively. With 3-6 or even 8 months to plan what you want your publication to look like, the reading world is your oyster. You can begin to craft a marketing strategy including those blue sky ideas that, when you’re publicizing a book retroactively, will be near impossible to achieve. With 3-8 months ahead, you can do a lot by way of networking, social or otherwise, and have a much better shot at mainstream publicity.

But for lack of knowledge or budget, or for relying too heavily on their publishers, many authors find themselves in the retroactive position. Instead of tossing in the towel come what may, I think there are avenues to market or publicize your book in a way that builds an audience perhaps slowly, but also more meaningfully and permanently. Before you begin, it’s crucial to shift your objective from ‘buy my book!’ to ‘learn about my book and see if you like it.’ Don’t fall prey to algorithms and popularity contests. What good are those thousands of followers and friends, those form letters to no one in particular, if these are not people who would realistically enjoy your book?

Here are a few ways to use free social platforms available to everyone to genuinely connect with readers at an individual level:
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I recently wrote an article for Mary Cummings‘ blog on Digital Book World. Hopefully, it answers some of the questions I often hear from authors: Is NPR a possibility? What can I expect in terms of book reviews? Why again is Twitter important? Here is a teaser, and you can read the full article here.

Every book that you could at one point feel in your hands has today become something you can instantly access on your cell phone. For authors, publicists and publishers, this has meant that we’ve needed to re-think the traditional publicity tools—print reviews, radio, and television that once, in the gilded age of publishing, worked so well for hardcovers. More than ever, it may now be online marketing that makes the PR difference.

Permanency and Possibility in Online Outlets

The moment physical became virtual, publicity both expanded and became more limited. Expanded, because we’ve never known a time when so many online outlets have existed—not merely the digital counterparts of print magazines, but an infinite sea of online programs and blogs, each with their own set of followers. When a book is covered online, a title and link are given permanency. Readers have the opportunity to click directly to buy. When it is so easy to move from point of mention to point of sale, and when eBooks are priced affordably (under $5), the possibility of the impulse buy is all the more tenable. The chance any person of a younger generation will see an interesting author interview on television, remember the name of the author or book, remember to find it the next time he or she is by the internet or browsing in a book shop, and finally buy that new book in hardcover at a price point of $25.99…well, it’s a big leap of faith you’re taking on a consumer. The “un-immediacy” of how books are still presented today using these major outlets will be even more of a challenge for forthcoming, instantly gratify-able generations—if those outlets still exist.

When I learn about a book on Twitter, one 140-character tweet from someone who shares my interests can move me to action. Maybe I click on the link to that blog review. From there, a good review will seamlessly send me to an author’s website or Amazon page.

Online PR is Not Less Credible, and Possibly Even Profitable

For eBooks, and particularly those self-published, the reality is that NPR, Today, and People Magazine are not reasonable targets. Forgetting any argument of stigma, the lack of “physicality” becomes an issue for events; you simply don’t have something to hand sell. To further complicate matters, these longstanding book reviewers are often still of the hardcover “old school,” preferring to see physical review copies of books. This is the limiting side of publicity as it exists currently, not future. Fortunately, authors are understanding more and more that there are all kinds of ways to sell a book; a different kind of “hand selling” that may be less a blanket approach, and more about targeting individuals in reading communities like Goodreads, or promoting their own events via Togather, and gathering a fan base to help.

Happily, I’ve witnessed authors in successful campaigns, thrilled by the snowballing effect of online coverage—the kind that doesn’t start and end at publication, but which builds momentum and endures. In best case scenarios, great websites, blog reviews, and social media buzz are capturing the attention of NPR and newspaper reviewers, and a fortunate author can benefit from all means of exposure.

Read the full article

Mary

We were thrilled to sit down with Mary Cummings, the Editorial Director of Diversion Books, to pick her brain on what she sees really working in the world of eBooks, and to get her recommendations for authors on best marketing practices for their books.

First, I’m so curious about how you came to naming your company Diversion.

I can take no credit in the naming of Diversion, as it happened well before my time, but we think of “Diversion” in a couple of ways. There’s the book-as-entertainment aspect, as in “this book is a welcome diversion from my busy day,” but also the very real and important distinction of Diversion as a publisher that has “diverted” from the path of traditional publishing insofar as its digital focus and all that comes with it, but has not abandoned the path altogether. In general, we like to think of Diversion as: “traditional approach, digital focus.”

Why publish with Diversion over Amazon?

Do you mean why not self-publish? Well, if you have time, savviness, and energy to put into publishing and promoting your book in an aggressive, ongoing way, then go for it! But even the most successful self-published authors are turning to companies like Diversion because they see value to more hands on deck, a reputable house backing them and enhancing their efforts, and abandoning the more nitty-gritty, technological, metadata-oriented tasks that are in constant need of management for the entire life of the ebook, assuming it is to be successful. Very few authors will be successful just by putting their work out there–it has to be continually nurtured, updated, and attended to on the marketing end.

Do you predict a fadeout of traditional publishers in favor of eBooks? Read more »

Marketing yourself to find an agent or marketing your book to find a reader are two sides of the same coin. All the same rules apply. If you’re weak on either side…the journey becomes much more trying.

An agent can usually see marketability in a proposal right away. Does this book fall within a greater context of other books that have fared successfully? Is there a clear reader for this book—is that readership wide enough? Is the author well-regarded or well-connected? Where is the evidence of future readers?

Read more »

At first sight, Jim Estill’s blog would appear like many others.

But there’s something Jim is doing that has gotten his business blog noticed. I found Jim while researching the top business bloggers on Technorati for an author I worked with, Alan Wurtzel, the former CEO of Circuit City and the author of Good to Great to Gone: The 60-Year Rise and Fall of Circuit City. Jim’s blog made Technorati’s Top 50 list, not an unimpressive feat in a competitive space. Despite his online popularity and active day job, Jim was not only responsive and thorough in his read of Alan’s book, but he leapt without my asking to write a lengthy, glowing Amazon review. And recommended the book to others who shared his interests.

In publishing, we need more advocates like Jim. I wanted to interview him to lend advice to fellow bloggers and to authors on how we can all be better promoters.

Read more »

Marketing begins with an immediately accessible concept. As books turn digital and jacket art becomes a less important draw to readers, your title becomes your best (or worst) marketer. If you look at the New York Times Bestsellers list each week, you’ll see common words repeating almost formulaically by category. How can one tap this formula? Simply by paying careful attention; even just looking at your own bookshelf or Kindle queue. Here are the top titles we found to guide you in the right direction.

Read more »

Even the biggest authors don’t rely on traditional media to break out their books.

In the past several decades, Paulo Coelho has sold more than 140 million books worldwide and is the all-time bestselling Portuguese language author. His most recent book, Aleph (Knopf, 2011), was featured on the front page of The New York Times’ Arts Section. But despite this prime feature and his already profound reputation, the book, initially, couldn’t break the Amazon top 100. Read more »