Book Marketing Trends

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

I’ve been visiting a number of publishing houses lately, often accompanied by one of my clients. Brainstorming content, strategic career planning, and marketing plans took center stage in most of our meetings.

These sessions prove endlessly insightful. I learn what’s working for a publisher, what genres they’re expanding into and which are contracting for them. But one book marketing trend stood out to me from everything else I learned in my recent travels.

Marketing Meeting Protocol

Invariably in these meetings, I saw a switch from how our marketing discussions used to go. In the past, my client would present his or her marketing plan for an upcoming release. It showcased the author’s marketing efforts and included specific requests of ways the publisher’s marketing team could support the plan. (The author and I would work on the plan together to maximize the author’s marketing process and social media connections.)

The marketing team would, at that point, make commitments.  Those included materials they could supply and which time-consuming aspects of marketing they would take off the author’s hands. Then the marketing staff would pull out their unique promotion plan for the author’s title.

But this year, I noted a change in how the meetings unfolded. After the author went over his promo plans, the marketing team handed out their plan, which was a boiler-plate template. They then committed to aggressive ways they would supplement the course the author had set.

Developing a Muscular Marketing Plan

At first I was dismayed to see all the standard social-media support but nothing new or a major financial commitment. All the currently tried-and-true promotion with no additional commitments was presented in the half-page long marketing plan. (My clients had put together documents that varied from 5 to 10 pages.)

But then I realized that the publishing team had come to the meeting anticipating that they would spend most of their budgeted time and money on magnifying the author’s efforts. The publishing house wasn’t choosing to take the lead in marketing. Instead they viewed themselves as part of the author’s marketing team. So they asked themselves how they could use their strengths to, in essence, be a megaphone for the author. Everyone looked to the author’s marketing plan as the real template for how the book would be promoted. That’s the opposite of how marketing has worked in the past.

Several years ago, authors hadn’t developed much marketing muscle. They looked to the publishing house to bring its muscular marketing prowess to bear. If the marketing staff didn’t have much of a budget to work with, or if the determination had been made that the book needed to find its own way into readers’ hands. The project was pretty much sunk from the get-go. But today, publishers expect authors to have a finely-toned, muscular ability to reach potential readers.

A Doomsday Marketing Concept?

You might at this point conclude that the proponents of self-publishing have been right all along. If the author has to do all the marketing, he just as well become his own publisher. But the publishing house isn’t making less of an investment; instead, it’s being targeted to coordinate with the author’s efforts.

The publisher’s marketing budget might include author media training in preparation for an all-out effort to garner major interviews. Or the budget might have room to create an arty calendar for those who sign up for the author’s newsletter. A retractable, exhibit-sized banner that promotes the book could be part of the publisher’s investment because the author speaks at major events. The publisher might have a significant list of ministries that the author’s book would be of interest to. Using list, which the publisher worked hard to collect, to sell the book is to the author’s benefit. Or the publisher’s special sales rep might work with the author to sell the book into hospital gift stores.

The author and the publisher are pooling resources in ways that haven’t been as carefully coordinated previously. Our world increasingly lives online, and we’re seeing the depletion of bookstores. That translates to publishers and authors both needing to be ready to lift heavier marketing weights to get in shape for the challenges of successfully promoting that next book release.

In what ways do you think this approach is good news? In what ways is it bad news?


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