Although many corporate book publishing imprints uphold a separation of church and state when it comes to publicity and online marketing, insiders admit that the distinction between the two is getting more blurry all the time.
So who’s taking the initiative to reach out to bloggers and build a new model for marketing and publicity? Here are a few encouraging examples.
Thomas Nelson: Keeping it Simple
Last October, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson became one of the first large houses to create a specialized outreach program for bloggers. The initiative was spurred by CEO Mike Hyatt, an active blogger, who solicited other bloggers’ reviews in a post about the company’s fall releases. When more than 250 people signed up to write reviews of each book he mentioned, the house decided to put up a site catering to bloggers, offering five to ten key fiction and nonfiction titles, says PR spokeswoman Lindsay Nobles.
Nelson offers finished books to bloggers on three terms:
- Bloggers must post a review of any book received from Nelson on their own blog and on a consumer website
- Bloggers must also post a link to their reviews on Thomas Nelson’s site
- Bloggers who do not post a link to their review will not receive another book
“Bloggers help fill the gap.”
As traditional print outlets wane, “bloggers are helping to fill the gap,” Nobles said, adding that Nelson has encountered very few derelict reviewers. Since the site launch, the main enhancement has been to allow visitors to sort reviews by blogger, in addition to showing all blogger reviews for each title. The house is also trying out a new strategy — asking reviewers of Andy Andrew’s The Noticer to post reviews on the same day — to see how a unified approach affects the impact of the reviews.
“We treat everyone the same.”
Asked if the Nelson prioritizes bloggers with high traffic over others, Nobles says, “we haven’t done a lot of analysis on the elite bloggers. So far, we’re treating everyone the same.” Although she pointed out that bloggers who are just getting started are valuable, because “people coming to their sites are clearly loyal and trust them,” she also acknowledges that the house is looking into ways to analyze blogger traffic stats.
Bloggers return the favor
Bloggers rated 38 of the 45 books on the Nelson site with four to five stars. Only 3 books received three stars, which was the lowest rating given to any book. Many titles have accumulated more than 50 reviews, suggesting that the house will likely break the 1000 book giveaway mark for the program fairly soon.
Penguin Group Goes One to One with Bloggers
This week, Penguin is launching a blogger outreach initiative, catalyzed in part by the raw frustration expressed by bloggers last month at the New Thinking for Old Publishers panel at the South by Southwest convention. That’s where two Penguin execs along with Bloomsbury publicity director Pete Miller were doused in humiliation, according to Miller’s account of the event.
A change in approach
Penguin first invited bloggers to a series of online forums several weeks ago, but the effort was recast at the end of last week in an e-mail from publishing manager Molly Barton, who explained that instead of holding forums, the house had decided to put each blogger in touch with an individual publicist at Penguin “who will gather information about your blog so we can better serve you in the future, and respond to the questions you’ve posed,” according to her e-mail.
Though this new framework is less transparent than the open forums that were originally proposed, it could also make for closer relationships between bloggers and publicists. We’ll be checking back with Penguin to see how the initiative evolves, but in the meantime…
What Would You Like to See?
Book bloggers and book publicists: what are your thoughts on these efforts, and what you like to see publishers do?
Some questions to consider as you respond:
- What blogger outreach programs do you think are the most promising?
- How can publishers make bloggers’ lives easier?
- Would you like to see digital galleys become part of these projects?
Please share your thoughts!