22nd February, 2018
7 min read
Maximizing the Book Marketing Offered by Self-Publishing Companies
It's easy to assume that because you are paying a self-publishing services provider to assist you with the publication of your book, you can take more of a back seat than if you were self-publishing alone. However, regardless of how you publish, the more time and effort YOU put into a project, the more you get out. And nowhere is this more true than with the marketing of your book. Book marketing is an essential part of the process to ensure the discoverability of your book – and to help make those all-important sales. With no marketing at all you will not make sales – there are too many books being published across all platforms now for a book to be 'stumbled across'.
However, it can be expensive to hire book marketing professionals, and some of what is included in packages offered by a self-publishing service provider may not be suitable for your book. It is important, therefore, for you to understand:
- What book marketing, if any, is included with the publishing option selected?
- Is that marketing enough (or appropriate) for your book?
- What marketing are you comfortable with and confident in doing yourself (and you will need to do some yourself).
- What do you need help with and where can you access that help?
Understanding the Different Types of Book Marketing
The best marketing for your book will be bespoke and incorporate elements from each of the following categories. Make sure that any marketing services you pay for target the areas you don't feel you can do yourself:
- Marketing to bookshops and the book trade... through Advance Information (AI), catalogues, metadata feeds, adverts or offers in trade publications, conversations with bookshops, and highlighting your book at trade events. How is your marketing provider ensuring that your book is notified to key retailers?
- Marketing the book to the media... via Press Releases (PR), pitching you and your book through contacts with journalists, and sending review copies. This stage is all about seeking reviews and editorial coverage for the book, and for you as the author. Many national publications need a book a long time in advance of the official publication date to meet their publication schedule – don't leave it to the last minute. How does your marketing provider target the relevant media to get the best shot at coverage?
- Marketing to readers... via blogs, online reviews, social media, Goodreads, marketing materials, author videos, and social media. This is ongoing pre-and post-publication. Is this something that is handled by your marketing provider? If so, how? This is often the area of marketing that an author opts to manage themselves.
Many Self-Publishing Companies Offer No or Limited Book Marketing
Marketing is a specialist skill. It can be hard to get blanket coverage for all books and is therefore not something that is offered by every self-publishing company. It is common for firms to offer marketing 'advice' rather than to actively market a book (for example, giving you 1000 leaflets featuring your book as part of a package is not actually offering a marketing service – it's offering you a tool for you to market your book). If marketing to the trade and/or media is something you know you need, then pick a company that offers the style of marketing you require – and set aside a budget for this. Alternatively, you could source a marketing expert to help you (discussed later in this article).
The marketing undertaken by a self-publishing services provider can be scattergun – some firms, for example, send their PRs to the same contacts, regardless of whether or not the book is relevant.
Such relentless bombardment is unlikely to gain results. Make sure you have input, i.e. if they are writing a press release, do you get to approve it before it is sent out? What say do you have in the marketing that is carried out? Not all books are suitable for (or will get) a review in the national press, so when creating the PR and media marketing campaign, a specialist should be able to advise what coverage is likely and target media and contacts accordingly. Often starting with local or regional media and picking up any specialist contact related to the author's story or book themes is the best way to start.
Metadata (the unique information about your book; ISBN, title, author, description, etc.) is an essential part of book marketing for the book trade and needs to be disseminated to bookshops. More comprehensive metadata has been proven to lead to more sales. Is your chosen publisher submitting enhanced bibliographic data to retailers, or just the bare minimum?
Book Marketing is Not an Afterthought
To be effective, marketing must be done at the start of the publishing process, not tacked on as the book rolls off the printing press. Newspapers and magazines have deadlines that can fall in advance of your publication date – if they've not had advance notification of your title, the book is already old news, and won't be covered.
Mainstream publishers send out book information well in advance of the book being available; you need to make sure this is happening. If you have plans to sell your book via bookshops, then the book needs to be published to a timescale that suits the industry. For example, books for Christmas are selected by retailers at the end of the summer – so deciding to publish your Christmas book in late November not only means you've missed lots of selling opportunities, but you've also not left yourself enough time to do a good enough job. Does your marketing contact understand this?
Marketing in Itself Does Not Guarantee Sales
Books that are not marketed in any way will rarely sell more than to family and friends. Books that are marketed will usually sell more widely. Usually. Book marketing is not an activity in which you can carry out set tasks and guarantee that they will lead to sales, that's not how it works. For example, you can try to get people to review your book, but it is up to the reviewers to actually want to review it... they cannot be forced to do so. Similarly, you cannot make a bookshop sell your book; it's entirely up to the shop what they stock and what not.
Throwing both time and money at 'marketing' does not mean that you will get sales, just that you are more likely to get sales. However, having a professional approach to getting media coverage, providing a PR with a relevant media 'hook', and presenting yourself and your book professionally and respectfully when pitching to media and retailers will go a long way. Emailing journalists and demanding a review, chasing relentlessly for coverage, and pestering a bookshop to take copies will not do you any favours.
Understand What You Are Paying For
If book marketing is included in the price of your package, make sure you understand what is being offered. Ask to talk to former clients and for a list of recent publicity highlights and successes. Once you understand the different types of marketing discussed above, you can work out whether what is being offered is actually going to suit you and your book. Do you need banners if you are not going to be doing a bookshop signing? Will 500 'free' leaflets advertising your book be useful to you or not? Check time limits – does the marketing run for one week, four months, six weeks? When does it begin – the minute your book is published, or right at the start of the process? Ask how they will actually market your book – do they have personal contact with journalists? Do they subscribe to media databases? Will this be handled by a trained marketing professional in-house or a freelancer?
Marketing Can be Costly
Set a budget. To manage costs, make sure your marketing budget is spent where you need it. For example, if you are doing a print-on-demand book via Amazon (which is unlikely to be stocked by bookshops) is it worth having a campaign to market to the bookshop chain books stores? If there is no marketing included with the company you are publishing with, then consider what you can do yourself comfortably and well and what you need help with.
If you have not yet published and know you want trade and media marketing, then Troubador Publishing offers a range of marketing services to authors publishing with them and has a dedicated in-house marketing team working on trade and PR marketing.
If you have published already, or are part way through the publication process, have the budget, and are looking for a media marketing campaign, then firms such as Cameron Publicity and Marketing can help.
For some ideas of marketing, you can do yourself, why not read the series of three blogs by author J.D Pullen, who has successfully marketed her novel to the media, online, and bookshops (Using social media for authors, Selling your book to bookshops and Promoting direct to readers. All of these provide extremely useful ideas for self-publishing authors.
Without Distribution Your Marketing Could be Wasted
If your self-publishing company is not offering any distribution – or the distribution they offer is limited – then any marketing you have spent money on could be wasted. Good distribution ensures that your book is available for readers to buy from a wide range of places – after they have heard about the book from your marketing efforts. So before signing up, also discover HOW bookshops can buy your book.
There are many reputable companies that offer a comprehensive, fairly priced marketing service that is tailored to self-published authors, and Troubador Publishing (www.troubador.co.uk) is one of them. As with everything, do your research before choosing your expert, however. Hopefully, this article has helped you to collate a list of questions to ask a company before signing up.
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