In the run up to The Bookseller Marketing and Publicity Conference, we’ll be running a series of interviews with some prominent and interesting figures in the book publishing industry. Asking them about their experiences and expert opinions on book marketing and what we can learn from campaigns they’ve seen so far.
Thirdly, is Felice Howden. Coming from a background in website building and educational publishing, Felice is Digital Marketing Manager at Little, Brown UK. She also works on the science fiction and fantasy imprint, Orbit, and is a published author of short stories. She can be found on Twitter talking nonsense at @FeliceTherese (a name which, contrary to appearances, does not in fact rhyme).
1. What do you need to consider when marketing a big release?
I can only talk from my own experience on this one, and I don’t really work on huge brand author campaigns that often, so am probably not best placed to actually discuss what (huge amount of ) work goes into that. The number one thing I think I would consider when marketing a big release is how to best communicate my own love for the book consistently throughout the campaign. I still think that personal passion makes a massive difference in the way books can be perceived in the trade and then by consumers, which is a testament to the kind of people who work in publishing (ones who care about what they’re doing).
Having said that, you have to consider everything, really. Cover, copy, marketing lines, target audience. If you want to break a book, every single part of the campaign has to work together I think, to give an immediate impression of ‘this is a big book you should be reading and here’s why in 10 words or less’.
2. How big a part does social media play in your marketing strategy?
Social media is a huge part of what any marketer does nowadays, I reckon. Whether it’s reaching an existing audience for an established author, or launching a new title by getting people to buy into an engaging book, it’s something we plan into every campaign. You can see this right across the industry, and I think it’s why publishers are putting a lot of effort into establishing effective social media channels themselves, to help support their authors. It obviously works better for some books than others, as some have a genuine ‘I want to talk about this’ book – I think a good social media plan looks at how to maximise these sorts of books by directing and facilitating the conversation, rather than trying to start one from nothing, as we all know readers aren’t massively into talking directly to publishers. They want to talk to other readers and authors first, I think.
3. How involved do you get in editorial decisions about which books to publish?
I imagine the answer to this question will differ a lot depending on which publisher you ask. Within Little, Brown, acquisitions are the responsibility of the entire company, and everyone gets a say, which includes me personally within the marketing department. It’s really our own choice as to how much initiative we take and how many submissions we read, but we’re always encouraged to get involved as early as possible, which is a really positive attitude to have, as I think this means there are projects that we as marketers are passionate about, well in advance of publication.
4. Finally, what is the best book marketing strategy you’ve seen? What can be learnt from it?
So I know it’s not a strategy the best campaign I’ve seen this year is The Goldfinch. The thing I’d say about that campaign, and in fact a lot of other campaigns I would really rate, is that there’s a single thread right through from acquisition to publication that generates the swell of interest, and the campaign is basically that last push that makes the wave of consumer excitement and energy really break. It might be because I’m pretty close to it and I’ve seen it evolve, but I think what that marketing has done is achieve blanket awareness with perfect timing (and of course stunning creative).
In terms of strategy, I couldn’t nail down one publisher as doing a fantastic job (aside from us, duh) because so much of marketing is done quietly behind the scenes with consumers, so a lot of our day-to-day work is invisible (as it should be) to other people within the industry. In general, I would say a good ‘strategy’ for marketing is to combine creative flair with well-defined targeting and rigorous ROI measures. It’s not rocket surgery, but it’s usually the basics that are the hardest to get right.
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