Does the Digital Age of Books era carry with it a different set of guidelines for marketing books?
Is there a dos and don’ts list that publishers should follow? Should I still be confused when poorly reviewed (and poorly written) books become overnight successes. Perhaps I’ve overlooked the value of book marketing done right. Former Regnery Publishing Marketing Director, Jeanne Crotty, joins us tonight to help me understand the current state of the industry.
LG:Thank you Jeanne for agreeing to an interview. First, tell us a little about yourself. How long have you worked with books? What made you decide on a career in marketing?
JC: I worked in book publishing for five years, and I loved it. Admittedly, I fell into it. Originally I interviewed for a publicity position, but the president of the publishing house wanted me for marketing. I loved to write, I was creative, I was into technology, and I’d always been able to put myself in someone else’s mindset, so I thought, why not give marketing a shot? And I’m so happy I did.
LG: Are there any marketing tools that publishers cannot do without?
JC: Social media is a tool that publishers cannot do without in the Digital Age of Books. If people are going to complain, chances are they’re going to do it online—and as a publisher, you want to be able to address those complaints. Social media networks, be they Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Scribd, a blog, or some other online community provides publishers and authors with the best chance to get to know their readers and address their wants.
LG: When I attended BEA last month, I was surprised to know that publishers like Harlequin Teenencouraged new authors to take social media crash courses. Did authors do this at Regnery Publishing? Should new publishers encourage their authors to do this?
JC: We did encourage authors to take social media crash courses, and I recommend other publishers to do the same. Some publishers point authors to actual courses to take. (Mediabistro has some great ones). Our “crash course” however, came in the form of a social media guide. Some of our authors had never participated in social media before and those whom did, had no idea how to market a product through it. We also had authors who were social media geniuses. Our social marketing guide was designed with each kind of author in mind. For the beginners, we walked them through setting up a Twitter and Facebook account. For the intermediate users, we included tips on marketing a product to a social media community and for the social marketing geniuses, we just told them to keep doing what they were doing.
LG: What is your advice to authors without a Facebook or Twitter presence?
JC: Before I tell an author to get on Facebook or Twitter, I tell him or her to research all social media communities. Not just Facebook and Twitter, but other social media sites such as LinkedIn, Goodreads, academic forums, popular book blogs, etc. It may be that an author’s readers are more active on one of those sites—you want your author to be where his or her readers are.
At Regenery Publishing, we had some authors who just didn’t want to get on social media. They tended to be older or intensely private. For those authors, I didn’t see the point in trying to convince them. If they went on a social media network, chances are it wouldn’t be genuine or the account would languish. In those cases, I would just utilize our company’s social media accounts to promote their book.
In general though, I do think an author should get on at least Facebook or Twitter if his or her readers aren’t concentrated on another social media site. I would encourage Twitter because I think it is easier to use and lends itself to building a community a bit quicker than Facebook.
LG:Have you ever come across a quality self-published book with a poor marketing plan? What suggestions would you give the author? Stick with self-publishing or go the traditional route?
JC: I have not come across that personally yet. While I of course think there is a great deal of value to publishing houses, I would tell the person to consult with a marketing person and other successful self-published authors before going the traditional route. Getting into a traditional publishing is tough, and with the book industry as it is today, there is no guarantee that the traditional route will make your book a success. Moreover, there is so much more room and resources for self-published authors, so why not really try and give it a go before you turn to a traditional publishing house.
LG: Self-publisher Amanda Hocking became overwhelmed with marketing her own books, so she partnered with a traditional publisher. Can marketing be overwhelming for self-publishers? Do you think traditional publishers are better suited for it? Why or why not?
JC: Absolutely. When you have a case like Amanda Hocking, I think it definitely makes sense to partner with a traditional publisher. If you’re a self-published author and people are clamoring for you book, it is in your interest to outsource marketing, printing (for now), and distribution to a company that can handle that kind of demand from both the trade and consumers. Traditional publishers are experts at getting huge sell-in and moving huge amounts of books when there is a huge demand for a certain title, so why not take advantage of their expertise? The benefits, exposure, and subsequent sales far outweigh the costs and portion of money that you give up. Even in a case like Amanda Hocking’s though, you don’t ever completely outsource marketing. It’s just as much of an author’s job to market a book as it is a publishing house’s job. Especially when it comes to someone like Amanda Hocking who has already done a great job marketing herself, the idea is to join marketing forces, not squash one in favor of the other.
LG: Well that wraps up the first part our interview. Thank you again for making time for us.
Join us August 15 for Part Two Book Marketing: Post-Print Era. Please submit your comments, questions or suggestions below. Next time, Jeanne will share her thoughts about Authonomy and give us advice on creating the best email marketing campaign.
An EPublisher Confesses
- The State of Traditional Publishing Houses (persephonemagazine.com)
- Mark Coker: Significant Disruption For Traditional Publishers Still To Come (forbes.com)
- What is the future of publishing? (forbes.com)