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.