Sue CollierMarketing remains the toughest challenge for self published authors and publishers in a world where hundreds of thousands of books are published each year.   There are many channels and venues to consider and usually a  limited budget of time and money with which to address them.  We recently had the opportunity to talk again with book marketing expert Sue Collier and get her thoughts on how book marketing has evolved during the last 3 years and how authors and publishers can effectively promote their titles.

Complete Guide to Self Publishing book coverSue Collier is the president of Self-Publishing Resources, a firm that provides book writing, book production, and book promotion services for authors, entrepreneurs, professionals, and corporations. She is coauthor of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition (Writer’s Digest Books, 2010) and Jump Start Your Books Sales, 2nd Edition (Communication Creativity, 2011).  She is an active blogger and writes about self-publishing and the occasional off-topic rant at SelfPublishingResources.com.

FPP:  What are the most significant changes have you seen in book marketing over the past 3 years?

SC:  The use of social media, no question. Three years ago, I suspected social media would have its place in the future in terms of marketing, but I did not expect it to become so important in such a short amount of time. Writers, many of whom tend to be more introverted, have massive opportunities with this softer approach to promoting.

FPP:  What are the most effective ways for authors and / or publishers to use social media marketing?

SC:  They have to participate actively. It’s not enough to simply start a Facebook page or a Twitter account; you’ve got to reach out and build relationships. Set up Google alerts on your topic so you can participate in the conversation. Social media marketing is not about blatant promoting; it is about establishing connections with people.

FPP:  What time investment should authors should plan on for promoting their book via social media?

SC:  Losing track of time is one of the biggest challenges in using social media. You start chatting on Twitter about your new book, and the next thing you know an hour or more has slipped by and you are clicking on links that have nothing to do with promoting yourself. Some experts recommend spending twenty minutes or so in the morning and another twenty minutes in the late afternoon to respond to the day’s activities. I advise authors to make a decision on how much time they will spend–and stick with that.  Another problem is not defining your purpose for using social media and making a plan before you get started; this will serve as another way to help limit time.

FPP:  E-books have steadily increased in popularity.  Are there major differences in promoting / marketing an e-book vs. a print book?

SC:  There are the obvious differences between the two–and perhaps you will miss out on opportunities to promote to those who are still resistant to e-readers–but promoting is still promoting. I don’t think there are major differences in promoting one over the other.

FPP:  What do you think are the most essential elements for a book marketing plan today?

SC:  A good author platform. This many-sided book marketing mechanism is hands-down the best way for authors to reach their potential readers–and to sell books.

FPP:  If they go the traditional (vs. self publishing) route, what should an author expect the publisher to do from a marketing perspective and what should they plan on doing themselves?

SC:  They shouldn’t plan on the publisher doing much. In fact, publishers today will expect that any authors they sign on will already have a large network and strong author platform in place–well before the book deal. This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions today by authors seeking traditional publication. The fact is that the “trads” will spend the bulk of their marketing budgets on their biggest named authors; the midlist author is usually left languishing in a catalog and/or on a website. It’s up to the author to be proactive when it comes to marketing and promoting–whether they decide to self-publish or are picked up by a traditional publishing house.

FPP:  How do you see books being marketed three years from now?

SC:  Online communication between authors and readers will continue to grow. One’s online “influence,” including the use of social networks, will become more and more valuable both as a way to harness that influence–and to promote one’s self and one’s book.

You can reach Sue at sue@SelfPublishingResources.com.


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Successful authors – whether intentionally or not – usually develop a strong brand identity for their work and themselves.  In the past, this often entailed an expensive PR and marketing campaign.  Now, the advent of social media has made brand building  more accessible and affordable.  Social media marketing is still in its infancy and the playbook seems to be rewritten daily. To learn more about this evolving area of book marketing, I decided to consult a public relations expert, Patricia Vaccarino.

Patricia Vaccarino has over 20 years of experience working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures, non-profits, foundations, and individuals. She is especially well known for her talents in strategic planning and branding for individuals who are experts in their respective fields. She owns her own public relations firm Xanthus Communications.  Patricia has also published a book, PR for People, that provides people all of the pieces they need to create a solid brand identity that will help them to get hired, develop their careers and increase their business.  She currently represents over 150 individuals, many of whom can be viewed on http://www.prforpeople.com.

I recently asked Patricia about the impact social media marketing is having on book marketing.

FPP –  How has the emergence of social media affected book marketing and PR during the last two years, if at all?

PV – Social Media has evolved to be one of the most important components of book marketing and PR. Not to oversimplify the matter but book marketing and PR is like a stool with three legs: Press, Networking and Social Media. You can’t be effective unless all three “legs” are strong and balanced.

FPP – You’ve often spoken about the “slow-cooked” branding process. Could you explain what you mean by that term and how social media plays a role in that process?

PV – The man who wakes up and one day and finds himself suddenly famous was not an overnight success. It takes a minimum of five years to build a strong brand. Take Facebook, for example, this is a company that is now celebrating its sixth birthday. For the first three years of Facebook’s life, it gained momentum over time among twenty-somethings. It wasn’t until its fourth year that the company gained traction among all the rest of us. It took five full years for this brand and business to become firmly entrenched in our psyche and to get many of us to become users.

FPP – What are some of the essential things an author should do to leverage social media in the marketing of his / her books?

PV – Set up a Facebook page that defines your persona as an author and clearly distinguishes how you are different from other authors. Facebook should tell the story of who you are personally and how you live without being maudlin or stupid in what you reveal. Use Twitter in a way that strategically points followers to your book. Create a tweet platform composed of all the individual tweets that you will post over a sustained period of time. Your tweet platform should have a theme and not just be a rambling of disjointed tweets that are purely self-promotional. Be creative come up with tweets that are saying something powerful and important and yet are all connected thematically.

FPP – Is there a rule of thumb publishers should follow regarding the investment in traditional marketing versus social media marketing for their titles?

PV – Every book and every author needs to be assessed according to the target audiences that they are trying to reach. For some books it may make much more sense to rely more heavily on traditional media whereas in other instances heavy use of social media is the most effective tool. Always ask yourself who is your audience? What do they read? What do they watch? Are they using social media? Let the audience dictate the type of media that you will choose to use.

FPP–  There are so many different social media venues these days.   How should an author prioritize his or her use of social media?

PV – You need to be very discipline d about using social media. Before you sign on to any social media site, you need to first decide exactly what you will do. If you are not clear and focused, you will spend more time than you should and that can seriously damage your overall marketing strategy. Remember time is your most valuable asset.

FPP – Is there a minimum time investment in social media that an author should plan on each week to maintain an effective presence?

PV – When you are in the building phase i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take an hour or so a day. After your infrastructure or network has been established, you need to get your time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

FPP – Are there social media venues that are more effective for marketing or PR purposes in non-fiction, fiction, or certain genres?

PV – It is different for every genre and there are new social media sites popping up every day. You need to do your research and keep it current.

FPP = How can an author avoid mixing personal and professional messages when using social media to promote a book?

PV – We have entered a time when there is a tremendous blurring of the boundaries between what is personal and what is professional. Anything you post, or tweet must be subject to a test: The test is what do you stand for? What you stand for defines your professional brand. Your professional brand speaks to who you are both professionally and personally, and must connote integrity, value and strength. So before you post, always ask yourself what do you stand for?

FPP – Are there guidelines to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing in selling more books?

PV – The thing speaks for itself. Are you getting an increase in book sales?

FPP – What trends do you see for the use of social media in book marketing during the next few years?

PV – The good news is social media and book marketing will help good to great books achieve a success that lasts. There is no longer the six-week shelf life to promote books. Good to great books can be promoted indefinitely and achieve classic status. The concept of Slow-cooked brand will endure.

1.  How has the emergence of social media affected book marketing and PR during the last two years, if at all?  Social Media has evolved to be one of the most important components of book marketing and PR.  Not to oversimplify the matter but book marketing and PR is like a stool with three legs: Press, Networking and Social Media.  You can’t be effective unless all three “legs” are strong and balanced.

2.  You’ve spoken about the “slow-cooked” branding process.  Could you explain what you mean by that term and how social media plays a role in that process? The man who wakes up and one day and finds himself suddenly famous was not an overnight success.  It takes a minimum of five years to build a strong brand.  Take Facebook, for example, this is a company that is now celebrating its sixth birthday.  For the first three years of Facebook’s life, it gained momentum over time among twenty-somethings. It wasn’t until its fourth year that the company gained traction among all the rest of us. It took five full years for this brand and business to become firmly entrenched in our psyche and to get many of us to become users.

3.  What are some of the essential things an author should do to leverage social media in the marketing of his / her books? Set up a Facebook page that defines your persona as an author and clearly distinguishes how you are different from other authors. Facebook should tell the story of who you are personally and how you live without being maudlin or stupid in what you reveal. Use Twitter in a way that strategically points followers to your book.  Create a tweet platform composed of all the individual tweets that you will post over a sustained period of time.  Your tweet platform should have a theme and not just be a rambling of disjointed tweets that are purely self-promotional.  Be creative come up with tweets that are saying something powerful and important and yet are all connected thematically.

4.  Is there a rule of thumb publishers should follow regarding the investment in traditional marketing versus social media marketing for their titles?  Every book and every author needs to be assessed according to the target audiences that they are trying to reach.  For some books it may make much more sense to rely more heavily on traditional media whereas in other instances heavy use of social media is the most effective tool.  Always ask yourself who is your audience?  What do they read? What do they watch? Are they using social media?  Let the audience dictate the type of media that you will choose to use.

5.  There are so many different social media venues these days.  How should an author prioritize his or her use of social media? You need to be very discipline d about using social media. Before you sign on to any social media site, you need to first decide exactly what you will do.  If you are not clear and focused, you will spend more time than you should and that can seriously damage your overall marketing strategy. Remember time is your most valuable asset.

6.  Is there a minimum time investment in social media that an author should plan on each week to maintain an effective presence?  When you are in the building phase i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take an hour or so a day.  After your infrastructure or network has been established, you need to get your time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day.

7.  Are there social media venues that are more effective for marketing or PR purposes in non-fiction, fiction, or certain genres?  It is different for every genre and there are new social media sites popping up every day.  You need to do your research and keep it current.

8.  How can an author avoid mixing personal and professional messages when using social media to promote a book?  We have entered a time when there is a tremendous blurring of the boundaries between what is personal and what is professional.   Anything you post, or tweet must be subject to a test:  The test is what do you stand for?  What you stand for defines your professional brand. Your professional brand speaks to who you are both professionally and personally, and must connote integrity, value and strength.  So before you post, always ask yourself what do you stand for?

9.  Are there guidelines to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing in selling more books?  The thing speaks for itself. Are you getting an increase in book sales?

10.  What trends do you see for the use of social media in book marketing during the next few years? The Good news is social media and book marketing will help good to great books achieve a success that lasts.  There is no longer the six-week shelf life to promote books. Good to great books can be promoted indefinitely and achieve classic status. The concept of Slow-cooked brand will endure.


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book-a-minuteRecently, Penguin Books announced it would be bringing out more ultra short run teaser editions to better test the market for new titles and avoid the risk of longer book runs.  This cautious attitude is not surprising given the economic climate and mounting evidence of declining book sales.  Will this trend catch on and continue beyond the current recession (or mini-depression)?  Hard to say, but sometimes practices started during hard times become standard procedure even after the economy recovers.  For instance, the much hated (by publishers anyway) returns policy used by most bookstores today was begun during the Great Depression as a way for bookstores to survive.

Teaser editions may also be part of a longer term trend wherein every aspect of a book is tested to ensure a viable market or at least cut one’s losses before too many resources are expended.  This is a valuable discipline for publishers to follow even in good times.   A short run, however, has to be accompanied by a well targeted marketing  campaign since it is, in essence, a statistical sample that will be used to validate a larger production run.  

How could such test market testing work?  Here are some thoughts.

  • measure-manA brief pay-per click ad campaign to test book covers, title and pitch to see what works best and learn something about the motivation of potential purchasers.
  • Data from BookScan to identify sales trends for similar titles and provide a guide as to which channels offer the best results.
  • Blog tours and social media campaigns n lieu of book tours and other traditional book marketing to save money and get the buzz started with target groups of readers.
  • In some cases, the initial test runs could be with e-books rather than print books.  As the market for e0books broadens, this will no doubt become more commonplace.

In addition to being low cost and targeted, everything done during these teaser campaigns would have to be clearly measurable if the are to be of any use as barometers for consumer interest.  

Every industry adopts the technology of its age.  Mass production and mass marketing co-evolved.  In this century, the uber technology is the Internet.  Book publishing businesses may begin to look and act more like software development companies.

 


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