Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
The other day I was talking with one of my clients who has been in the biz for decades. She was lamenting how her publisher expects her to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to publicizing her upcoming release. That conversation made me realize, once again, that authors haven’t grasped how publishers view each party’s role in announcing a new book.
The publisher’s job
The publisher sees its assignment as working the discoverability side of the equation. In other words, the publisher seeks ways to help readers discover you and your new book. This often is done in ways inaccessible to authors: developing shelf talkers and offering them to bookstores (these are the little cards or ads that appear below titles on a bookshelf, drawing attention to the book. Here are two generic shelf talkers Scholastic provides to bookstores and libraries to make recommendations for specific holidays. Publishers often create the shelf talker to be a mini ad for a title by using a tagline and art that match the book’s look.
Some publishers bring book chain buyers to the publishing house to present new releases.
Publishers also can place Facebook or Goodreads ads targeting readers most likely to enjoy your book.
Publishers can buy space at the front of a bookstore such as certain Barnes & Noble stores. Endcaps, which are displays that appear generally at the ends of aisles, also are produced by the publisher and the space is “rented” for the endcap. (These efforts generally are reserved for titles expected to sell extremely well.)
Buying a spot for your book in a book chains’ newsletter or creating a catalog of the publisher’s newest titles to showcase them to library buyers are additional ways in which a publisher can work on discoverability.
And, for those titles that are likely to be of particular interest to the media, the publisher might hire an outside publicist who specializes in approaching significant talk shows about having the author interviewed.
Sending books or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to bloggers who attract the author’s type of reader and asking for reviews (as well as submitting ARCs to significant publications such as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal) help with the discoverability challenge.
Offering copies of the book for the author to use in his/her publicity efforts is another role the publisher plays. And often the marketing team will offer bookmarks, flyers and posters for the author. One of my clients, who wrote a book with a knitting theme asked her publisher for and received hundreds of knitting needles with the book’s title on them. (She had several publicity ideas she planned to use the needles for.)
As you can see, the publisher is concentrating efforts on widening your sphere of readers and providing you with the materials you need to do your own publicizing.
The author’s job
The author is responsible for the care and feeding of his/her readers. In other words, once the publisher has convinced someone who has never read a book of yours to “discover” you, it becomes your job to make a personal connection with that reader. Seth Godin would talk about this in terms of building your tribe. Some authors think of it as tending their flock. And Wendy uses the phrase “building your congregation.” How ever you want to think about it, this is where you should concentrate your efforts. Welcome the readers to your website, maintain those relationships through social media, invite these readers to get to know you and open your world to them. Talk to them like they’re your new best friend in your newsletter. (Because they are.)
So there you have it. The marketing/publicity folks at your publishing house have certain areas they’re expected to take care of, and you, as the author, have yours. It really is a team effort. And if both do their jobs, that means sales will multiply.
Do these two marketing job descriptions make sense to you? How does this perspective change your view of how the system works? What do you want to do differently as you take these roles into consideration?