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Guest Column : Unite Marketing and Publicity

Five ways these key departments can collaborate to maximize a book’s success

By Lissa Warren

In most publishing houses, marketing and publicity are separate departments. And they should be. Even though each is tasked with book promotion, their methods and responsibilities are actually quite different: Publicity reaches the consumer through the media, and marketing reaches the consumer directly. But just because they’re different, it doesn’t mean the two departments can’t — or shouldn’t — work closely together. In fact, in this ever-changing marketplace, they need to work together like never before. 

Social Media

One area where there’s obvious need for close collaboration is social media. At Da Capo Press, where I work, the marketing department handles Facebook and Twitter. However, every time one of our books gets a great review in a major newspaper, or one of our authors is the subject of a major profile in a national magazine, the publicist sends the link to the marketing manager so that he or she can post and tweet it. And the same goes for links to audio interviews (NPR stations are particularly good about posting them) and video interviews (national network morning shows and most of the national cable shows post them pretty regularly, and most local affiliates are on board now, too). 

Our marketing team also likes to use social media to alert people in advance so that they can tune in to a particular show to see or hear our authors. And they promote online video chats our authors do via platforms such as Shindig, Livestream and Google Hangout, and text chats via Facebook and Twitter that are hosted by women’s magazines and other media outlets with strong online communities. 

Events

Collaboration between marketing and publicity is also a natural when it comes to bookstore events — specifically, getting the word out about them. Our marketing department tweets invites to all of the talks and readings we set up for our authors, be they at bookstores, libraries, museums or festivals. And they post the event details on our Facebook page as well. They also create book cover blow-ups for the stores to use in window displays prior to the events. When they help in these ways, it frees the publicist up to focus on lining up local media interviews for the author while they’re in town — preferably in advance of the event so that the author can plug the event on the air. 

Publicity Collateral

We make a point of sending our marketing department every canned Q&A — a list of 10 or so questions that our authors answer to give a sense of what their book covers — to use as part of their press material. Our marketing department offers the Q&As to grassroots websites of organizations with like interests, along with a brief, free excerpt from the book (usually no more than 1,000 words). 

Advertising Strategy

We do our best to keep our marketing department informed about forthcoming media appearances, so that they can make better decisions about where and when to place ads. No sense advertising a book in a publication that’s already reviewing it, but great to do some newspaper, magazine or website ads timed to a big national radio or national TV hit like NPR’s “Fresh Air,” or C-SPAN’s “Book TV” or Katie Couric ’s show. And of course the more the marketing department knows what media is in the works, the better the chance they can time in-store co-op appropriately. We also work hard to maintain an up-to-date list of review quotes for every book, so that any time our marketing department needs a choice quote for an ad, we can shoot them a two- or three-page Word doc with plenty of excellent options. 

Marketing Collateral

Things also work in the opposite direction. For example, when our marketing department creates a video book trailer, they send us a link so that we can forward it to producers at television shows to give them a sense of what the author would be like on camera, or how they could make the segment visual. When they produce BLADs (basic layout and design) or chapbooks, they order an additional quantity for publicity so that we can forward them to long lead-time magazines in an effort to convince them to save space for coverage. And when our marketing department takes out an ad, it sometimes leads to review copy requests. 

Of course, none of this works without communication. Because of the speed at which so many of these things occur, I’ve found that forced communication at regular intervals — a.k.a. meetings or conference calls — isn’t as effective as daily email correspondence as things happen. I know, we’re in publishing — the last thing we need is more email. But the correspondence I get from our marketing department takes priority, and I like to think the correspondence they get from us takes the same. 

Since our marketing department works closely with our sales department to determine initial print runs as well as reprint quantities, we do our best to keep them current on the media commitments we’ve received for each book — through book-specific email updates that also go to our sales reps, who forward them to the buyers at their accounts in an effort to solicit additional orders. The updates aren’t fancy — cover art, a catchy headline, and a list — but they seem to do the trick. 

So many departments in a publishing house need to work closely together — editorial and production, production and design, marketing and sales, etc. But I think you’d be hard pressed to find any two that are as interdependent and that, together, can make as much of an impact on a book’s success.

6 Tips for Designing Author Websites in 2012

In 1996, we launched our first ever website. It was for the NY Times bestselling author Sue Grafton. Not only was it an honor to design our first site for such an important author, but at the time it was such a big deal that the New York Timeseven wrote about it.

Today websites are common place and every author has a site. However, looking towards 2013 when forecasts predict that there will be 1.7 billion mobile internet users, authors need to make sure their sites are attracting the mobile and social readers.

Here are 6 tips for designing author websites in 2012
  1. All in the Name – Your website should be under your name. Even if you publish multiple books with multiple publishers, all of which have their own websites, you need a site in your name. You can link to all the other sites or better yet bring all the information under one umbrella site and redirect the other URLs to the new site. This is essential for a strong brand strategy.
  2. What the Heck is SEO – I know SEO (search engine optimization) is important but so is sounding like yourself. We live in a time where people expect authentic communication not marketing copy. I have seen sites that were so optimized for search engines, that they hardly read well. As an author, you need to make sure the text on your site reads well, represents your work, and sounds like you.
  3. To Blog or Not to Blog – I know most authors hate to be told that they need to blog. I even hate it. Who ever has the time? So my advice, don’t blog if you hate it. There I said it. You’re free, but… Yep there is a but. New blogs will bring traffic to your site from searches. If you don’t need or want unqualified search traffic, you can skip blogging. However, if you think people searching for vampires would be interested in your book, then you will have to write a few blogs about vampires to attract that traffic. Regardless of whether you blog or not, you should consider a site in WordPress as it makes it easy to update the site yourself.
  4. Mobile Friendly – More and more people are accessing sites on mobile devices so there are a few things to remember. If your site has Flash make sure you test it on different tablets and smart phones to make sure it is working well (Flash does not work on iPhones & iPads). It’s important to make navigation easy as people may be using fingers rather than their mouse to move around. Large graphics and dark colors are not ideal for mobile reading. On a positive note, most WordPress sites will display perfectly fine on mobile devices, making a mobile version unnecessary.
  5. Social Links – It’s important to have links to your social networks (which should also be in your name) and ways to share your site on social networks. Adding the Facebook and Twitter widgets to your home page might be a good idea as well because they display your recent posts. It’s an easy way to keep your site updated.
  6. Photos and Graphics – With sites like Pinterest gaining traction, try to add photos and graphics to your site. You can buy stock photos or better yet take them yourself.

Websites are a crucial link between you and your readers. It is the one place, the hub, of all your activities. Feel free to add extra content, reviews, maps, drawings, family tree, anything to connect with your readers in a personal way. Just remember you are dealing with a social and mobile reader, so plan accordingly.

If you are looking for ideas, check out ourportfolio.