PR and marketing go hand in hand and are key to any successful publishing venture. Bethan Ferguson (Marketing, Quercus) and Tory Lyne-Pirkis (Midas Publishing Relations) have worked on some excellent campaigns with great people, and were keen to share their wisdom.
First of all, we should differentiate the two:
Marketing is about a number of things: where your book fits in the market, helping authors and publishers place their book in the market, spending money on campaigns. And of course, social media is key. Understand what you want to say.
PR is free, technically you could do it yourself. Persuade someone to write about you in a paper. It’s really about getting a 3rd party endorsement.
“It’s not about selling books.”
It sounds a controversial statement, but we’ll get to that…
Book PRs need to think beyond the book review in papers, says Tory. 150,000 books are published in print per year, 200-300 are sent to certain papers per week (800 around Christmas), and they often only have 20 slots. That’s too small a chance to hold out on. Instead offer free features, interviews, giveaways. Non-fiction is less likely to get reviews, so be creative.
If you had a few thousand pounds to throw into marketing, where should you start? Don’t advertise, warns Bethan. It’s £2-3k for an add in the Sunday Times, but it needs to be part of a bigger picture to make any impact: accompanying reviews, etc. At the ground level of marketing, it’s not worth it.
Use social media. It’s not about selling books, but making connections with the book trade. Engaging creates engagement, other authors are a supportive community. It’s a real opportunity for debut and new authors, and fosters sales in time through loyalty.
Goodreads is a good area to invest the cash – people there read and discover books, you already have them hooked on reading. Good packages are £2-500 to lift the profile of a book. That and Twitter are good groundings for marketing. Get involved with bloggers – they’re always looking for new authors.
“Does it stand out? Does it grab me?”
If you really want to spend money on your campaign, invest in design, as the book jacket is the most valuable asset. It is, despite what the cliché says, how people judge your product, and how to sell it. Those who don’t get the jacket right find themselves lacking reviews. The notion of standing out is understandable, but the reason publishers produce familiar covers is that they’ve tried different, and customers react to the what they know more. Create a mock cover, take it into stores and see if it stands out where it would sit.
Another consideration is the thumbnail: what looks good in print doesn’t always shine online. An audience member questions if they make new images for both, but it’s really just minor tweaks. It’s more important to retain brand identity in this case.
Look Who’s Back, Quercus’ book on the return of Hitler in the modern day, is a key example of how to distill the appeal of a book into one line: He’s back and he’s fuhrious. Marketing is all about connecting with the reader and getting them to engage with and invest in a book, and distilling into a line or two can be a quick hook.
“Less is definitely more.”
With PR, less is definitely more. Two sentences to capture the imagination, better known as angles or hooks. Look for what journalists are interested in: world days – find an angle in the news to link to the content, link to other books. Despite authors hating being pigeonholed into genres, it’s absolutely essential for marketing.
Authors push their books, but it’s often the authors that people want to know about. They’ll rarely focus on the book. “If there’s anything you can position yourself as an expert on, use it.” They’re loath to use the term ‘personal brand’, but it’s key for every author. They’ve got to think of themselves as a product, not just their books. Events are a good way to build massive audiences and get recognitions. Don’t think of it just in terms of selling books, but about building an audience base/connection.
One audience question stands out, in which they’re asked if making the first book in a series free is good marketing? They don’t ever do it but they do give good chunks for free to hook them in. Have lots of calls-to-action post-marketing, give an incentive for free but make sure you have the second book for sale so they know it’s a series, otherwise they won’t really follow up in most cases.
An insightful snapshot into marketing and PR for books. Full(er) London Book Fair coverage will be available over at SYP Scotland – please follow it if you’re interested in publishing!