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Note: This article was written for the London Book Fair Show Daily.
Submitted by:  Susan Ruszala, President, NetGalley (susan.ruszala@netgalley.com)

Like so many people in book publishing, I entered this industry because I love to read. So imagine my delight, when after many years of marketing publishing technology solutions, I was asked to launch a site dedicated to “professional readers.” (Professional reader: noun: Those whose job it is to read, review and recommend books, primarily new books, to consumers). Professional readers are reviewers, critics, media, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and educators, to name just a few, and there are over 57,000 of them already using NetGalley for free to access digital proofs from publishers.

Digital proofs are eco-friendly, fast, and cost-effective
Galley distribution is one of the key publicity and marketing activities performed by publishers and media agencies, but the process of distributing print proofs is cumbersome, expensive, and inefficient. At its simplest, NetGalley helps to simplify and speed up that process by substituting secure digital galleys for print.

Communities of influence are larger than you think
One of the great ironies of print proofs is that their distribution is often limited by budget, and limited to a perceived “A” list of influencers. We’ve often heard from publicists, marketers, digital marketers, library marketers, sales reps and even authors that they’d like to broaden the number of people who can preview their content before it’s published, and that they’d like to know with more certainty the influence and reach of those broader communities. Today’s web technology makes this possible.

The largest segment of our current community is reviewers, comprising just over 50%. Librarians make up 19%, with the remainder split evenly between booksellers, media and educators. Our UK member-base is growing more rapidly as UK publishers begin making content available, and we’re working closely with those publishers to introduce their contacts to NetGalley. We also hope to work with other member organizations as we are with the American Library Association.

Request and invite
New books have a better chance of commercial success when they’re launched into dedicated communities of interested readers. When publishers list their titles in the NetGalley catalog, allowing members to request access, they are identifying and cultivating new influencers as well as connecting with existing contacts.

Publicity is also about pitch: Publishers use our tools to incorporate digital proofs into all they already do for their titles, including pitch emails, giveaways, bookseller marketing, author events, social media marketing and more.

We support DRM (or not)
Despite many industry debates about the pitfalls of Digital Rights Management, an overwhelming 89% of titles we handled in NetGalley last year have security applied to prevent unauthorized sharing or distribution. It’s our opinion that publishers have the right to protect their content as they (and their authors) see fit; but we also offer a DRM-free option for publishers who are interested in making their content more widely available. NetGalley members read on all major devices and tablets; right now the split is about even between Kindle and all other Adobe DRM-compatible devices (iPad/iPhone, Kobo, Nook, Sony Reader, and Android phones/tablets).

We help navigate the digital landscape
Customer service—to publishers and especially to readers—has grown to be a key piece of our business. Though unfortunate, accessing a protected proof on a device is more confusing than it should be. Our team of Concierges is comprised of former book publicists or marketers who understand that a timely, professional response is essential, particularly when dealing with a media contact. With publishers, that same team provides creative examples of how to incorporate digital proofs into specific campaigns, launches new programs like NetGalley at the Library, and helps generate invite widgets for publishers to use when inviting their own contacts to view a title on NetGalley.

Digital is global
There are no boundaries when it comes to information, and this is just one of the many reasons we’re so pleased to be launching officially into the UK publishing market. It’s been our pleasure to work with early adopters like Bloomsbury, Faber and Faber, Harlequin, HarperCollins and Penguin, and we’re looking forward to expanding the number of titles, readers (and local staff) in 2012 and beyond.

Susan Ruszala is the President of NetGalley. Find out more about NetGalley at
www.netgalley.com or visit us at the London Book Fair in the Digital Zone, W845.

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This week has been a busy week. The fact that I just accidentally wrote “Win/Wine” for the headline, is probably an indication it’s a good thing it’s Friday. The fact that I caught the typo is probably an indication I am still sharp enough to host(ess) today’s #FollowReader! (Assuming you’ll all be there to help out…you never know when the tide might turn for the worse).

So, back to today’s #FollowReader. I’ve been blessed to know some very talented book marketeers in my day. As such, I get to hear out about innovative book marketing promotions and marketing projects all the time. Lots of groovy book marketing projects are in the works, and while some may rely on fancy bells and whistles and online components, one thing that all the best book promotions have in common: they put the right books in front of the right readers.

On today’s #FollowReader, we’ll be chatting with some of my favorite book marketing genius friends:

  1. Ron Martinez, of Aerbook, a company offering a unique approach that gives a book its own social identity, plus a linkable web and mobile edition, custom WordPress site, and Reader Radar (providing a platform that connects online conversations around a book).

  2. Brett Sandusky of Kaplan. Kaplan has been around forever, but Brett and the team at Kaplan have some really smart strategies to bring their moving target of an audience and oft-revised materials together year after year. And…
  3. George Burke and Jeevan Padiyar, of Bookswim.com, a book rental company (ala Netflix) who have just launched a promotion that let’s readers choose the book giveaway of their choice (cleverly giving Bookswim a better idea of what kinds of books their would-be customer base are most interested in).
  4. Of course, we very much welcome any and all of you to play along and share your own ideas for smart book promotions. We’ll be starting at 4pm ET, so be there or be square.

    To join this Friday’s #followreader conversation here’s what to do:

    1. Just before 4pm ET, log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
    2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
    3. I’ll start by asking our guests a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
    4. To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write.

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Special Guest Host(ess) Kassia Krozser Leads #FollowReader Chat with Guest Kevin Smokler this Thursday at 4pm ET

This week’s #FollowReader chat will be even more special than usual. That’s because not only will we have a fabulous guest – one Kevin Smokler (@weegee) of BookTour.com, but we will also have a fabulous guest host: BookSquare.com’s Kassia Krozser (@booksquare).

With the combined wondertwin “K” powers of Kassia and Kevin, you guys are in for a huge treat. The chat is largely in celebration of BookTour.com’s relaunch, but is more so a chance for authors, publicists and readers to talk about how books and readers are connecting, and ways to facilitate that connection. If you know Kassia and Kevin, you know this will no doubt be a fun-, and info-filled #FollowReader hour.

BookTour.com's @weegee

About Kevin Smokler
Kevin Smokler is an author, journalist, speaker and entrepreneur. He’s the editor of the anthology Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times (Basic Books, June 2005), which was a San Francisco Chronicle notable book of 2005. His writing has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The LA Times, Fast Company, and on National Public Radio.

In 2007, Kevin Smokler founded with Chris Anderson (editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine) BookTour.com, the world’s largest online directory of author and literary events. Kevin now serves as the company’s CEO, regularly speaking at publishing industry conferences and book festivals throughout North America. In April of 2008, Amazon purchased a minority stake in BookTour.com.

About Kassia Krozser

BookSquare.com's @BookSquare

Kassia Krozser has seen the future and it is good: more people are reading and writing than ever before. She knows that, unlike the dinosaurs, smart people in the publishing business can adapt to changing economics and reader behavior. Kassia dissects this world with love and skepticism at booksquare.com.

Helpful Hints for the #FTR uninitiated – To join the #followreader conversation on Thursday, here’s what to do:

  1. Just before 4pm ET today, log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
  2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
  3. I’ll start by asking a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
  4. To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write.

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It’s almost that time, when bookish folk flock to the largest publishing event in North America: BookExpo America (BEA)/ Twitter @BookExpoAmerica. This year BEA is at the Jacob K. Javits Center in NYC Tuesday, May 25 – Thursday, May 27. NetGalley will be at BEA, so stop by and say hello — we’re part of the Firebrand Technologies booth #3905.

We’ve got a fun way for you to get a sneak peek at new books! See below for our NetGalley BEA Buzz Schedule (taking place all day Wed and Thurs). We’ll demo a new title on NetGalley, show you how to get it on your favorite e-reader, and “pitch” the book itself so you can see where all the buzz begins. Check out which titles publicists have selected as potential breakout releases!

The best part is if you watch our demo, you’ll be among the first to view the galley on NetGalley after the show — with an invite from the publisher to download the galley and read it in full. Plus, select titles are available to request on NetGalley NOW if you’d like to get a jump-start on your reading!

So check out (and request) the NetGalley BEA Buzz titles here, mark your calendars, and we’ll see you at the show!

NetGalley BEA Buzz Schedule

WEDNESDAY MAY 26 @ NetGalley booth #3905

  • 10:00 AM: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

A Novel
By Michele Young-Stone
The Crown Publishing Group @CrownPublishing
Pub Date: April 2010

  • 10:30 AM: Truly, Madly, Deadly

The Unofficial True Blood Companion
By Becca Wilcott
ECW Press @ecwpress
Pub Date: June 2010

  • 11:00 AM: THE BELLY FAT CURE™ FAST TRACK

By Jorge Cruise
Hay House, Inc
Pub Date: December 29, 2010

  • 11:30 AM: Harvest to Heat

Cooking with America’s Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans
By Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer
The Taunton Press @tauntonmktg
Pub Date: October 2010

  • 12:00 PM: Around My French Table

More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
By Dorie Greenspan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt @hmhbooks
Pub Date: October 2010

  • 1:00 PM: Outside the Ordinary World

By Dori Ostermiller
Harlequin @HarlequinBooks
Pub Date: August 2010

  • 1:30 PM: Billie Girl

By Vickie Weaver
Leapfrog Press
Pub Date: September 2010

  • 2:00 PM: The Women’s Small Business Start-Up Kit

A Step-by-Step Legal Guide
By Peri Pakroo, J.D.
NOLO @NoloLibrary
Pub Date: May 2010

  • 4:00 PM: Safe From the Sea

By Peter Geye
Unbridled Books @unbridledbooks
Pub Date: September 2010

THURSDAY MAY 27 @ NetGalley booth #3905

  • 10:00 AM: Taking Charge of Adult ADHD

By Russell A. Barkley, PhD
Guilford Press @GuilfordPsych
Pub Date: August 2010

  • 11:00 AM: Vestments

By John Reimringer
Milkweed Editions @Milkweed_Books
Pub Date: September 2010

  • 11:30 AM: Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married

By Gary Chapman
Moody Publishers @moodybooks
Pub Date: September 2010

  • 12:00 PM: Simple Secrets

The Harmony Series, Book One
By Nancy Mehl
Barbour Publishing @BarbourBuzz
Pub Date: June 2010

  • 2:00 PM: Desserts 4 Today

By Abigail Johnson Dodge
The Taunton Press @tauntonmktg
Pub Date: September 2010

  • 2:30 PM: Deadline Man

By Jon Talton
Poisoned Pen Press
Pub Date: May 2010

NetGalley BEA Buzz Schedule (grid)

WEDNESDAY MAY 26 @ NetGalley booth #3905
10:00 AM The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors Crown Publishing Group Pub Date: April 2010
10:30 AM Truly, Madly, Deadly ECW Press Pub Date: June 2010
11:00 AM THE BELLY FAT CURE™ FAST TRACK Hay House, Inc Pub Date: December 29, 2010
11:30 AM Harvest to Heat The Taunton Press Pub Date: October 2010
12:00 PM Around My French Table Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Pub Date: October 2010
1:00 PM Outside the Ordinary World Harlequin Pub Date: July 2010
1:30 PM Billie Girl Leapfrog Press Pub Date: September 2010
2:00 PM The Women’s Small Business Start-Up Kit NOLO Pub Date: May 2010
4:00 PM Safe From the Sea Unbridled Books Pub Date: September 2010
THURSDAY MAY 27 @ NetGalley booth #3905
10:00 AM Taking Charge of Adult ADHD Guilford Press Pub Date: August 2010
11:00 AM Vestments Milkweed Editions Pub Date: September 2010
11:30 AM Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married Moody Publishers Pub Date: September 2010
12:00 PM Simple Secrets Barbour Publishing Pub Date: June 2010
2:00 PM Desserts 4 Today The Taunton Press Pub Date: September 2010
2:30 PM Deadline Man Poisoned Pen Press Pub Date: May 2010

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When it comes to building online communities around books, authors and publishing imprints, what are the top social media platforms and analytical tools? To what extent can the results of these online efforts be tied to increased book sales? And which independent publishers are ahead of the game, and what obstacles do they face?

These are some of the questions we explore in the second part of my conversation about building online communities with social media consultant Jesse McDougall, which picks up where we left off in Tuesday’s interview

Q&A with Jesse McDougall

What are the top two or three technologies have you found most valuable in engaging audiences online?

Twitter for daily conversation. A blog as a conduit for book, author, and community content. Blip.tv for serving up high-resolution video with no size or time restrictions.

For tracking your success and progress, ChartBeat, HootSuite, and Google Analytics are essential.

What concrete results have you achieved so far?

In the first year after Chelsea Green implemented the new social strategy, the company roughly doubled their web traffic. Eighteen months after launch, traffic regularly spiked to 150% over the starting point. In that time, Chelsea Green added several thousand people to the e-newsletter mailing list, grew to become the second-most-followed book publisher on Twitter, and established weekly content delivery relationships with top blogs in the niche (Huffington Post, PlanetGreen, Alternet, etc.). Also. many of Chelsea Green’s authors were invited to become regular contributors on many of these same blogs—increasing the exposure to new and major audiences.

To what extent can you tie your results to increased book sales?

At the present time, the effect social media promotions on book sales can be difficult to track. The only time a publisher can directly track sales from online promotion is if a person learns of a book “out in the digital wild” and then follows the accompanying link back to the publisher’s online bookstore where he or she purchases the book. If the person decides instead to purchase the book from their favorite local bookseller, or from a different online retailer, that sale is difficult (or impossible) to track directly back to online promotional efforts.

The best a publisher can do—if they would like to prove that their social media strategy improves sales—is to boost their own site traffic through social media outreach, and then focus on boosting their own site’s sales conversion rate to do a better job of converting the new traffic to sales.

Which publishers do you see as most effectively marketing their books this way?

Chelsea Green, obviously, is still doing a great job. O’Reilly is another great example. Greywolf Press in Minneapolis is doing a great job on Twitter. The keys to being effective are consistency, personality, and community involvement. These are not one-way media channels, they require that participants speak AND listen. The presses above do a great job of that.

What are the biggest obstacles for independent presses in building and maintaining these online audiences?

Time and staff. Some of these campaigns require significant upkeep. It can be difficult to find the time and people to maintain a consistent presence on any of these social media platforms. The key is to do something every (week) day—whether you can afford five people for five hours, or one person for ten minutes. People who reach out and contact you in any fashion on Twitter or Facebook or your blog will need a response, or they’ll disappear.

Do you see any downside to giving away books or content online?

Books should be owned and content should be free. Content is stolen when publishers make it easier to steal than to buy. By locking up digital content with DRM or asking readers to sign unholy licenses or making content exclusive to one vendor, publishers are making it more attractive to snub the law and steal (and distribute) the digital content than to buy it. Publishers should offer digital books and chapters for sale for a slightly reduced price straight from their web sites in an open-source (or universal) format. Currently, a DRM-free PDF gets my vote, but I see room for something better.

What technological tools or developments are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

I’m looking forward to the development of mobile media. I think that high-quality digital content delivery through mobile devices with screens big enough for reading long-format books will revolutionize book reading and book content. Paper books will continue to have their place and incredible value. Lifelong readers recognize that and will continue to buy paper books for their unique virtues. Electronic devices will never be as good as paper books for quiet, powerless, peaceful reading.

However, once high-quality digital mobile content delivery is done well, book content can grow beyond paper and e-ink devices. Books will slowly evolve to look more like web pages, with links, supplemental videos, audio clips, and the book publisher’s intended formatting and design. Of course, plain text should still be an option for readers who don’t want to be bothered with the flash and bother of videos, etc., but the option for all the bells and whistles we’re already used to on the web should be available as well. The ability to include such ancillary content will provide publishers with an entirely new product that offers more than the bound book can or should. This new product could be a powerful new revenue stream.

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As the digital landscape evolves into subject areas with their own distinctive topographies and constituencies, some publishers have begun developing their own online “reader communities,” as a part of their long term marketing strategy for their books, authors and imprints.

One trailblazer in this area is social media consultant and web programmer Jesse McDougall, who I first met at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference in 2009, where he was clearly more evolved in his thinking on this topic than the other independent publishers in attendance that year.

Read on for the first installment in my two- part interview with Jesse – about the art and science of building reader communities.

Jesse McDougall in a nutshell: 

  • Current position: consulting under his own shingle at Catalyst Webworks—a web development and social media consulting firm in White River Junction, VT. Check out his blog here.
  • Biggest client to date: Chelsea Green Publishing, for whom he developed a web site redesign and online marketing strategies (for more details, see my Publishers Weekly article on how publishers use Twitter).
  • Recent star turns: at Tools of Change 2010, ran a social media workshop; at Digital Book World, appeared on my panel about Building Publisher Communities; and was a guest on our weekly #followreader chat on Twitter (recapped here)
  • Credits: author of Expand Your Business Using eBay and Start Your Own Blogging Business.

Questions for Jesse

What does online outreach to reader communities have in common with traditional book marketing, and how does it differ?

Books are social creations. They are borrowed, shared, recommended, and discussed in the physical world every day. Publishers send authors out to book signings, interviews, and speaking engagements in the hopes of bringing together like-minded book fans to ignite discussion and spark a hopefully-lively word-of-mouth campaign. The goal of marketing books online is no different. Social media platforms and new content recommendation tools not only make these digital communities possible, but they also increase the speed and range of the word-of-mouth campaigns ten-thousand times over. That means a person attending a digital webinar by an author has the ability to tell and invite 300+ friends with the click of a mouse, where a person attending a real-world seminar only tells his friends in town, and maybe only an out-of-work cousin can make it.

One of Chelsea Green’s most successful campaigns was to run a weekly contest on Twitter. This brief and easy 10-minute contest drew 40-50 people every week, and through them we were able to contact a total of 15,000+ people with links to our website. That exponential potential isn’t possible in traditional marketing.

In your work with Chelsea Green and other clients, what steps have you taken to build focused audiences within specific subject categories on the Web?

The internet is organizing itself into crowds. People are seeking out and aligning themselves with like-minded people. Home gardeners are finding other home gardeners, motorcyclists are finding other motorcyclists, and so on. These groups of people are taking part in conversations that can span all the major (and some niche) social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

The first step is to examine the niches in which you publish. Once you’ve got a clear idea of the audience (or audiences) you’d like to reach, you must seek them out online. For example, there may be thousands of stay-at-home mothers talking on Twitter for the quick interactions it allows, but very few of them visit YouTube because they don’t have time for a 4-minute video.

Find your audience—wherever they are—and listen to them. Join their groups, or feed, or page, and listen to them. Join the conversation only once you’ve got a clear idea of the conversation and etiquette. Add value to the conversation by offering friendly expertise from your books—when and where appropriate—with a link to find more. Do not offer sales pitches. The content should sell itself.

Over time, your participation in the discussion should come to be seen as valuable, and therefore folks will pass along the content you provide.

How do you evaluate whether or not your efforts are paying off?

One of the most exciting aspects of online marketing—and something that I think spoils us for untrackable offline campaigns—is the ability to gather information about the audience. Most social media networks and blog software has the ability to display demographic and location information about the people choosing to participate in your online efforts.

For example, if, after reviewing your audience statistics, you find that your Facebook page is trafficked by women in their 40 without kids at 4PM, you can tailor your Facebook efforts to suit that audience. Perhaps you’ll post more information from books designed for that audience. Or, you might run a contest on the page at 4PM.

The data a publisher can collect about the people engaging with their book content is one of the main benefits to participating in social media—second only to the exposure to new potential customers. The social strategy should be, after all, focused on meeting and learning about your ideal audience.

Part Two of this interview is here.

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Graphic Novels Need Marketing Lurve Too!

Oh time, you do have some major frequent flier miles, do you not?

Seems like only yesterday I was at ABA’S Winter Institute, but in fact, it was last month. In the whirlwind of activity that is the publishing conference circuit of late, I have fallen behind on posting my posties. And, that’s a shame – because I have some good stuff for you guys.

To go back a bit – last month I was privileged to take part in Wi5 in San Jose. It was awesome. A really grand group of indie booksellers gathered together to tackle the challenges and opportunities of book selling in the 21st century. I have a few overall reflections on the event that I will share posthaste (no, I will – I will), but first  I wanted to share something that came out of Wi5, but is not necessarily related to Wi5. It’s about graphic novels.

Graphic novels have been consistently increasing in popularity for years. Break out successes such as Persepolis, Watchmen, and Stitches have continued to put the graphic novel in front of mainstream audiences (in other words, they’re not just for comic stores anymore).  But, publishers don’t seem to have caught on to this. And, that’s what this post is about. Yes, this post originated due to a panel on the subject of Graphic Novels at Wi5, but the subject itself goes beyond Wi5 to a bigger issue of the need for publishers to work with their valued intermediaries (such as indie book sellers, librarians, etc) to help get the right books to the right readers.

At this point, I will shut my pie-hole and let some indie book sellers take it from here. Enjoy:

Dan Kusunoki (on left) from Skylight Books

Dan Kusunoki from Skylight Books: My name is Dan Kusunoki. I am the assistant manager and Graphic novel/ Manga monger at Skylight Books.  I was part of the Graphic Novel panel moderated by John Shableski of Diamond Comics.

The Winter Institute was an eye opening experience for me because of one main thing:

The realization that publishers carry graphic novels but don’t market them.

The need for them is clear. The panel had a full house with booksellers coming to me and Gina from Malaprops afterward asking a myriad of questions that just one panel could not cover.  I was even giving side meetings with booksellers during the author reception and couldn’t get a copy of The Passage (Darn it!) but I was happy to see so many wanting to sell graphic novels.

However, during the rep “speed dating” session, It dawned on me that none of the reps were pushing any graphic novels. So as an experiment, I asked a simple question: ” Does your Publisher carry any graphic novels?”

Have you read the graphic novel version of the book of the movie, yet?

One actually said that there is a graphic novel adaptation of a book called “SHUTTER ISLAND” ?!?
Here is a potential crossover sale with the novel when the movie comes out, AND NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT!

Oh sure, they’ll mention Stephanie Meyer’s manga in passing, but what about already existing titles that publishers either are sitting on  because they don’t know how to market them or, don’t realize they have them…

Graphic novels have been around for over 20 years and manga since World War II… And yet the courtship between graphic novels and booksellers is happening right now.

Graphic novel readers are a voracious and literary lot that are loyal to booksellers who curate and carry them.

Comics publishers still work on an ever changing collectors market and rarely backlist while Book publishers rely on backlist heavily.

This is a perfect opportunity for both publishers to reinvigorate not only the book seller market but also the ever shifting collectors comics market… These two parallel tracks  need to finally converge… A sort of symbiosis of sorts. Lets make it easier for booksellers to sell your graphic novels!!!

We need more panels for not only booksellers, but for reps as well as publishers so that we can be on the same page and make a helluva lotta money on these funny books. They will not go away. They are a fast growing market.

It’s time to really take graphic novels seriously–before the pulse ends.

If anyone has any questions on how to sell, market and curate graphic novels in their store, feel free to email me, or my partner in crime, Darren Clavadetscher, and we will be happy to help you out. The more we spread the word the better off Booksellers will be.

Thank you for your time.

Now can someone send me a galley of The Passage?

Emily Pullen from Skylight Books:

Emily Pullen from Skylight Books

Here is my 2cents (rather than Dan’s $2) worth:

Booksellers have clearly expressed an interest in Graphic Novels — every panel that the ABA has planned on the topic has been a huge success. And clearly booksellers are interested because they’ve recognized the ravenous consumer desire for graphic novels. My sense is that general trade publishers have also recognized this desire, but they aren’t putting their marketing dollars behind it and I can’t imagine why.

Maybe it has to do with the relatively recent invasion of graphic novels into general bookstores. Maybe publishers are limiting their perception of graphic novels as something that can “capture reluctant young readers” — something that is “for the kids.” Maybe it has to do with the fact that we as a culture are still learning how to talk about graphics — I sense that many publishers look at it as a format, and we really need to be looking at it as a medium unto itself.

Dan is a guru — I’m a relatively new convert. But, too, I can’t imagine why publishers wouldn’t be pushing these books more with the independent bookstore market.

-Emily Pullen
Ordering Manager
Skylight Books

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Ashleigh Gardner of The Dundurn Group

These days it’s a given that authors will be expected to take part in the marketing of their books. But, navigating the world of book marketing is no easy task for an author, and there are no hard and fast rules for them to follow.

Which is why it was such a pleasure to hear how one particular publisher’s marketing team has taken the lead in helping authors help them. In part three  (the last part) of our behind the scenes look into the world of book marketing, publicity and advertising,  I asked Ashleigh Gardner, Manager of Digital Development at The Dundurn Group, all about Dundurn’s innovative author marketing program, dubbed “The Author Countdown.”

KM: Can you sum up in a few sentences what your author countdown is?

AG: Starting on a bi-weekly basis — and increasing in frequency as the publication date nears — our authors are automatically sent a customized e-mail from us. Some of the messages are tutorials, some are informative to let the authors know what stage we’re at in-house, and some are just showing them some fun things that other authors are doing.

KM: What inspired you to create the author countdown program?

AG: Shortly after I started at Dundurn, close friends of mine found out they were expecting a baby. They signed up for those automated weekly e-mails that let them know what’s going on, and what they need to do based on their due date.

I loved hearing their updates each week and it was an easy jump to see the possibilities to inform authors. So many people refer to their books as their children, and there is so much worry and insecurity about the process and misdirected energy. When an author first signs, especially first-time authors, they want to do everything all at once. Our Countdown helps break down the process into manageable chunks so that both our team and the author get the information that they need when they need it.

KM: What kinds of info do you send to the author’s each week?

AG: Some weeks it’s just useful information, like a staff roster that lets you know who to contact with what questions. Other weeks it’s tutorials on popular social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook. We have some that give them direct tasks to aid our efforts. We’ve recently added some that are targeted to a smaller group, so only authors within a certain subject get a message that’s relevant to them.

KM: How have Dundurn’s authors responded to the countdown – are they all enthusiastic, do some object to being tasked with marketing responsibilities?

AG: Almost everyone is enthusiastic and it’s definitely helped communication. While some authors in the past have had the belief that their only job is to write the book, I think that’s definitely changing and not something I’ve experienced much of in my position. Almost everyone is going online for information these days — authors included. And with the attention the mainstream media is paying to author promotion online, it’s easier to get them on board.

As publisher we can (and do!) as much as we can for our books — but readers trust the author more than the publisher. They’re the authority, they’re the creators, and they’re the ones that the fans want to interact with.

KM: Have you made any changes to the countdown program based on author feedback?

AG: Definitely! Some of our authors have come back with more questions and, where the answers can be general, they often become their own message to everybody. We also have some authors who have been inspired to do really creative promotion from the letters and then we add their examples in for everyone to see.

It’s also been changed by outside influences. A good blog post or a new site launch can inspire a new countdown message. Meghan at Booknet Canada has recently posted some fantastic Social Media How To’s on their website. After reading those I incorporated some of their tips and added the links to our suggested reading.

KM: Can you give an example of a Dundurn author who done a really good of promoting their book? Did they need a lot of coaching? Did they just jump in and start promoting?

AG: The authors who are the best at social media are the best self-promoters, period. It’s only new tools for the same jobs. One of our savviest authors online, Jill Edmondson, is also the most creative with promotion offline.

I find most authors need help with the technical issues, and have a few questions about the culture of certain sites and how they work. Once they see a few examples and get comfortable, they’re often able to jump in and make it their own.

KM: Can you give an example where social media marketing just didn’t seem to work for the title or author?

AG: There have been some places where I didn’t think we’d have a big response online and I was proven wrong!

I think that as far as specific books go, you can find a place online for any title. The internet has made it so easy for communities to gather, it’s easier to find groups that are interested in our content. And, with good search engine optimization, it’s never been easier for them to find you!

Where social media marketing doesn’t work is where the author is resistant. It’s hard to create enthusiasm online for a book when the author is impersonal and hesitant to interact with their audience. A lot of older authors have fears of losing their privacy when it comes to online networking and I think it’s important to remember that you’re in control of what you put out there. You don’t have to be personal, but be personable.

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to get their authors to promote their books via social media?

AG: For the most part, work in baby steps. I think a lot of authors are overwhelmed thinking that they need to be on every site with a million followers and it paralyzes them into doing nothing. It’s so much better to strategically choose a few projects and do them well than to have an out-of-date profile on every site you can find. I usually have authors start with a Facebook Fan Page because these days almost everyone they know will be on Facebook and that instant growth and feedback is great for momentum.

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to authors about taking on the social media marketing of their books?

AG: Watch first, then act. Start reading the blog of an author you admire. Become a fan of lots of Facebook pages so you can decide what’s working and what isn’t. Sign up for every eNewsletter to see what the competition is doing.

And, most of all, have an idea of who you’re doing it for. Know who your reader is, where they are online, and what they’re interested in.

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In this second of three posts all about book marketing, publicity and advertising, Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Advertising were kind enough to offer some really great advice to authors and publishing professionals alike on how to make the most of the many advertising and marketing options available — and yes, they even have advice for authors with no budget!

[Verso recently published an incredibly insightful survey of book-buying behavior which is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the book industry. Check it out here. And for more info about Verso, check out Charlotte Abbott's interview with Tom and Denise from late last year.]

KM:What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to figure out online marketing?

DB: Know your book’s audience: everything you do flows from that—where you go, what you say, and how you say it. In terms of social media, this is obvious. But it’s also true of other, more traditional forms of marketing such as advertising, direct mail, and event marketing.

TT: Believe it or not, social media didn’t invent the idea of communities! It has only changed how many new ones tend to come together at the moment. While the mega-companies like Proctor and Gamble have had to reboot their entire marketing machine, book marketing has always been more about niche targeting than mass because we’ve never had the huge budgets that make major brand campaigns work.

DB: Looked at in this light, for example, the NYTBR is a highly important locus for the general book community: authors, agents, booksellers, publishers. While its ability to move massive sales has diminished, it has not disappeared – which is why we continue to find that ads there still work for the right book.

TT: It’s also important not to lose sight of scale in all the talk about community. To really have an impact, you need to reach a lot of people. This may seem obvious, but too often I see “marketing fibs” (e.g., $500 of Facebook ads, or a few Tweets) standing in for comprehensive marketing plans that will reach many hundreds of thousands of readers.

DB: In terms of social media, if you’re a publishing house that’s a full-fledged member of the relevant community, congratulations: you can now go to town with your Twitter account, Facebook fan page, blog, and comment fields far and wide. If you’re not the expert in your community—and let’s face it, most publishers aren’t at this point—then help your author develop his/her status in the community. If that author doesn’t have status, now’s the time to start building it.

KM: Self-publishing authors, and even traditionally published authors must be more involved than ever in the marketing efforts for their books. What one piece of advice would you give to authors who are trying to figure out online marketing?

TT: If you’re one of the vast majority of authors who don’t have a lot of money to spend, don’t worry about advertising, cut straight for social media. As an author you have an advantage over your publisher because you have the true passion, expertise in the field, and long-term brand commitment you need to make social media work. But if you try to do it all—Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.—you will quickly run out of gas. There are still only 24 hours in the day, and you also have new books to write, a day job to work, and chickens to tend.

So the big lesson here is: pick one or two things that you do well and (here’s the real secret) that you really enjoy. If you hate the idea of the blog commitment, try Twitter. If you find Twitter inane, get busy in the comment fields of relevant websites.  If that’s all too much, maybe just try starting locally with a group at your local bookstore, or library. Nathan Bransford wrote a great post on this: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/01/key-to-marketing-your-book-time-well.html

DB: And if your publisher is offering any ad support, make sure they’re fully aware of your efforts, and tie in the ad campaign to your own outreach by driving people to your blog, your fan page, or whatever it is you are doing.

TT: There are a few (very few) authors who have the resources to run an ad campaign of their own across media with all guns blazing. At the agency, we have seen a lot more business on this front in the last few years from authors  taking care of their brands themselves. We love working with authors. They always get the big picture.

KM: What are the major differences between print advertising and online advertising?

DB: What’s even more interesting to me than the differences are the similarities. The golden rule of advertising is to be where your market is. Of course everyone’s online now, but print’s not dead yet, a hell of a lot of people still watch TV, and radio, billboards and bus ads continue to have their place.

TT: Gary Vaynerchuck gets a lot of air time these days for being a new media king, but even he took out ads on billboards, taxi tops and newspapers for his most recent book. Why? Because that’s where people are looking. The smart thing he did was to make sure that the ads all tied in to his other efforts, including online. He looked at it as all one marketing push, with many means.

KM: In a nutshell, can you tell us what Verso does? Can you give us a few examples of campaigns you’ve put together and results?

TT: Verso Advertising is a full-service agency. That means we plan and buy media as well as handling creative for all kinds of advertising: online, print, broadcast, and outdoor. Some of the most fulfilling campaigns are those in which we can work in several media at once and have all the pieces working together to support the book.

DB: An example of this is a recent campaign for Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta. We started by teasing the new hardcover months before publication in ads for the author’s previous book. We amortized the budget for video production over broadcast, online and publicity channels by shooting and editing spots for a :15 TV spot, a behind-the-scenes video for the author’s site, a book trailer, as well as a promotional video that was easily customizable for use on morning shows, websites, and more. We also made sure that the print and outdoor ads we ran drove people to all the online efforts.  It was the ideal campaign in that each piece worked to amplify every other piece.

KM: Can you further define, and give some advice to publishers AND authors about “marketing fibs?”

DB: Too often a publisher will announce that they’re putting a major push behind an author, but the reality is empty. Maybe they tout a book’s “national advertising campaign” to the author, bookseller or the media, but the campaign is really $100 worth of ads on Facebook. Or maybe they declare “a major social media campaign,” when all they’re doing is sending out a few tweets from the publisher’s username. The problem for publishers is that these kinds of “fibs” devalue real work they do in other areas, and make it less likely that a legitimately strong social media campaign will be taken seriously. See under: All hat, no cattle.

KM: Do you think anything has been, or risks being, lost as discussions about, and around books migrate more and more to the online ecosystem? What do you see as the benefits of this shift to an online book community?

TT: The immediate losses are the book reviews that can reach enough people in one go to make a real difference in book sales. The other problem with the loss of these book reviews that I don’t hear spoken of much, is the reality that the old print book reviews paid enough to give many authors the supplemental income to make a writing life possible as a career.

DB: I see a lot of potential benefits to the online book community, but frankly I don’t think they’ve kicked in yet. At some point, soon I hope, there will be a real process for discovery of new titles that will involve citizen readers. Maybe this will come from a book community like Librarything or Goodreads (where some of the most influential members are not well-known authors but regular reviewers). Maybe a singular online resource will emerge, like the New York Times Book Review was in its heyday, that will be able to introduce readers to new authors and make careers with a single review. But I doubt it will be one answer. I think it’s more likely to be collaborative: a review aggregation tool or a field of communities.

TT: People keep waiting for the device that will be like an iPhone for books. But the revolutionary thing about the iPhone isn’t the device. It’s the wickedly broad and divergent community the device opened up through apps.

DB: As we move away from desktops and laptops toward mobile computing, we will see that the most successful campaigns will tie in the digital with the physical world, be it through QR codes, geo-location communities like Foursquare and Gowalla, or simply more sophisticated geo-targeting. That’s where everyone with a stake in the future of publishing needs to be looking right now. I think there’s good news there for readers, publishers, booksellers, and authors.

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Because my real job is more or less all about helping books find their ways to readers, I love talking with authors and industry professionals about marketing – and as a reader, I think it’s fascinating to hear how – out of all the zillions of books in the world – a relatively small amount of particular titles seem to get a lot more attention (and readership) than others.

What do marketers think about when they think about marketing? I asked some really talented book marketing type people, each of whom approaches the marketing of books from a slightly different perspective: Jeff VanderMeer, novelist and author of BookLife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st Century Writers; Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Advertising; and Ashleigh Gardner, Manager of Digital Development at The Dundurn Group.

Today’s Q+A is with Jeff VanderMeer, and I hope you find it as interesting as I did!

Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist who makes “part of his  living writing fiction and part of it doing book reviews, teaching writing workshops, and taking on individual manuscript critique assignments.” In other words, he has a day job. But what makes Jeff unique among authors is that a big part of his day job is helping other writers learn the art of sustainable creativity. In fact, his recent book, BookLife, is all about doing just that.

Jeff VanderMeer Q+A:

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to get their authors to promote their books via social media?

JVM: Go through a discovery process wherein you discover

  1. What your authors are passionate about
  2. What their core abilities outside of writing are
  3. How even-tempered they are
  4. How outgoing they are, and
  5. How involved in social media they already are.

Create a social media plan for each author based on the answers. DO NOT give each author a “one size fits all” solution.

KM: What one piece of advice would you give to authors about taking on the social media marketing of their books?

JVM: Know your limitations and have specific goals, but also have fun with it. If you don’t have fun, nothing else is going to matter much.

KM: Authors are pretty much expected to take on marketing of their books these days. And that generally means being available online in some way shape or form to the public. What aspects of the new media/social media landscape do NOT appeal to you as an author, and as a private citizen?

JVM: I’m not fond of the way the new media landscape tends to level out experience, which is to say that one negative aspect of the overall positive effect of the internet leveling out hierarchies and creating alternatives to traditional power structures is that it also seems to make a lot of new creators not see the value in listening to those in their field who have been around the block a few times.

I also don’t like feeling addicted to social media platforms like Facebook, and the lack of personal distance from readers. This just means you have to be continually evaluating your relationship to social media, and adjusting accordingly.

KM: Do you think anything has been, or risks being, lost as the book publishing paradigm shifts from a one way channel: author – publisher – reader – to one of any number of possible variations on that? Do you worry about the creative process being hindered, eroded or changed by instant and constant cycles of audience feedback?

JVM: Creators need the time and peace of mind to create, and the fragmentation that the internet brings with it is a definite threat to the act of creation. Writers need to take whatever measures necessary to get off of the internet entirely for large blocks of time. Otherwise, one’s powers of intense concentration tend to become eroded. One good test is:  are you still able to read a serious, difficult book? If you can’t, something’s wrong.

The same thing goes for audience feedback: don’t solicit it while working on something, and depending on how thick your skin is and how suggestible, insulate yourself from too much feedback once a book is out. There are tons of great opportunities on the internet, but many dangers as well.

As for what we’re losing—we’re losing those eccentric or introverted creators who don’t like interacting on the internet and who just want to write. I worry about this a lot, since I feel like we may be losing a certain *type* of writer as a result, unless that person has a strong advocate working on their behalf.

KM: As an author, what do you love most about social media?

JVM: I love the sense of community and the ways in which it creates opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas. It also is an ally to collaboration, and it makes big projects that require input from creators across several continents to be viable and relatively inexpensive. It also often does allow for interacting with readers while still keeping some distance. An email in my Facebook account doesn’t seem as invasive as one in my personal email account, for example.

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Check back Wednesday for Q+A with: Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Marketing

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