Marketing: How to Break Through the Noise

By Elisabeth N Wilkes, on 18 May 2016

In 2014, the UK officially published more books per capita than any other country in the world, with over 184,000 books published in just one year (Flood). This is great because who doesn’t want a world full of books? It also, however, poses a big challenge to making a book stand out. This isn’t just little fish in a big pond. This is little fish in an ocean, making it seem as hopeless as Marlin’s quest at the beginning of Finding Nemo.

This challenge has been met with a slow shift in publishing to put a lot of focus on discoverability, which has made Marketing become a much bigger player in the process than ever before. It is a field that requires as much creativity as the books they are selling, and where some of the most exciting advancement in the industry are coming from.

In last month’s blog we talked about how Publicity works to bring this book to the readers, but Marketing does this in a way that requires slightly different skills. Here are just a few:

1. Know how to budget– You will have more money to work with than Publicity, but not much more. Unless you are a big publishing house working with a brand name author, you will be expected to do a lot for a book with very little funding. So if you have expensive taste and wild expectations, you might want to learn how to tone them down a touch.

2. Be a good researcher– Because you will be given money, you will have to be able to justify your plans to many people along the way. You might have a wonderful plan that looks great on paper, but you have to be reasonably sure it will reach the right people and will encourage them to act. So be ready to back up everything you suggest to the finance team.

3. Understand the reader– It used to be that the main selling relationship was between the publisher and the bookseller, who in turn would know how to sell to their customer. Now that more direct publisher to reader interaction is viable, due mainly to the introduction of the Internet, it is much more important to understand the readers directly. Your marketing plan will have to reflect reader’s behaviour and likes and dislikes, so knowing them is crucial.

4. Have a good head for planning– Like many sections of the industry, you will not be working on one title at a time. Perhaps a big name will force you to put a lot on the back burner, but most of the time you will be juggling many campaigns at once. Not only will you have to keep all of your projects straight, but you will have to be able to give them each their due amount of energy. So be ready to have multiple checklists and find some helpful apps to keep everything straight.

5. Be creative and innovative– You cannot do what everyone else is doing or even what has always done. First, each book has its own purpose, audience, and voice, which would make any cookie cutter marketing plans forced. Second, we are bombarded by advertisements and other marketing ploys everyday, and it’s not just books competing for our attention. If you are bland or safe, your book will just become part of the background. Finding different angles that fits what your title is and how to inform the people who would care about it is key to discoverability.

For those who also have the skills above, you really should consider this segment of the industry. If not, check out what will be the final blog in this series, International Publishing and Licensing!

Thought of the Week: “Information is not knowledge”

By Alice Hughes, on 20 October 2014

Not only was Albert Einstein the most famous scientist of the 20th century, he also said something crucial to the publishing industry.

These words of wisdom were “Information is not knowledge”. Today, not only are more books being published, they are also being produced across copious physical and digital formats. When travelling through such an unpredictable, variable sea of literature, discoverability veers further and further from an unperturbed serendipitous browse, towards a tear-your-hair-out stressful experience.

This week, in Marketing and Sales, James MacFarlane from BookGenie451.com is coming to speak to us. On their website you’ll find the all-too-familiar fact that ‘university students often spend up to 70% of their time searching for the right reading material’.

Fortunately, students can now turn to BookGenie451 for assistance; this ingenious software uses multiple advanced, patent-pending algorithms to connect readers to what they need to read. So curation is a vital key for unlocking discoverability and reaching not only the right market, but also new audiences. After all, if it wasn’t for the way Faber and Faber packaged Eimear McBride’s Baileys Women’s Prize and Goldsmiths Prize-winning novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing through its major advertising campaign including bus-side advertising; her experimental and truth-spilling work may not have stirred so many hearts.

Let’s hope our Marketing and Sales session on Tuesday will give us the encouragement and think-out-of-the-box creativity we need, so we can curate our content in bold, astute and resourceful ways!

When you play the game of thrones you either win or you die…

By Laura A Lacey, on 11 April 2013

By Stacey Riley

As a die hard fan with unshakeable love, I’ve been aware of the series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ for a few years now. However, the rest of the world has only just caught up. I’m no longer met with blank faces when I drop my coffee and complain, “Oh Seven hells!” or when I answer the phone to my friend Matthew with the greeting, “Morning, Blood of my Blood”.

The series’ new publicity is partly down to the fact that HBO acquired television rights to the books and is now shamelessly plugging the third series, Mondays, Sky Atlantic. 9pm. Sham


elessly plugging. However, the television series has been a huge success. With a fantastic cast (particularly great performances by Peter Dinklage [Tyrion Lannister], earning him the Emmy and the Golden Globe Award for Supporting Actor), stunning backdrops and a great script (obviously – great books) it wasn’t ever going to be any other way.

The publisher of A Game of Thrones in the UK is HarperCollins Voyager.

Although I did give my Grandad the first book to read the other day,
Me: “Read this Grandad, you might like it. It’s really good.”
80-year old Grandad: “Yeah? What’s it like?”
Me: “It’s like.. Lord of the Rings meets -”
80-year old Grandad: “-what’s Lord of the Rings?”
Me: Facepalm.

Seven hells. Apparently not everyone in the world has caught up.

Read all the books you wish you’d read…

By Laura A Lacey, on 29 March 2013

Oyster last year announced they had raised $3million to create a service for eBooks that works along similar lines to Spotify. They seek to oystercollectively license eBooks from publishers: including fiction and non-fiction, and everything from bestsellers to classics.

Oyster have partnered with media and technology companies, as well as publishers. This mirrors the growing trend across the creative industries as owners of intellectual property seek to exploit their copyright in all possible formats, and sellers try to provide services above and beyond simple content delivery.

The trendy-looking New York-based team (pictured) are focusing on Access, Discovery and Mobile:

ACCESS: By adopting a subscription model they believe readers will be able to enjoy books more freely, dipping in and out of new authors without investing money: ‘This leads to a more fulfilling experience built exclusively on taste and relaxed reading’.

DISCOVERY: They realise that discoverability comes down to many factors and a lot of chance. They believe by combining ‘discovery with consumption’ they are removing frustration that comes from receiving recommendations in many locations.Readers will enjoy the process of discovery by sharing the same library with their friends, with no need to hunt for links.

MOBILE: Their claims as far as mobile goes are perhaps less easy to agree with: they claim their market research has shown that all readers (from avid to casual) ‘love reading on smartphones’. This has certainly has not been my experience. Perhaps it will be in future – as mobile devices become larger and more comfortable to read on it is thought ‘phablets’ will be one of the most prolific devices for sale.

Only time will tell if their venture will be successful and how many publishers will be willing to give up their content for a limited fee. Currently it is in testing mode with just a few. Their aspirational aims certainly sound idyllic:

“We are building Oyster for an audience that aspires to read more. Read all the books you wish you’d read. We hope to bring books to the center of people’s lives through a beautiful product and the feeling that the world is your oyster.”


By Laura A Lacey, on 6 March 2013

50 shades of greyNow that I’ve got your attention you might be interested in this…

Thankfully, E.L. James and Random House did not favour this in-your-face approach to marketing Fifty Shades. This week, as part of a triple whammy of brilliant guests from marketing professionals, we were treated to a case study of the rise and rise of this unavoidable phenomenon. Sarah Page of Random House gave us an inside look at their massively ambitious marketing campaign and explained why they didn’t need to big up the content.

Traditional techniques were used in a big way: with posters on the underground, at railway stations, airports, and in the print media. The recurring message was ‘Discover the book everybody’s talking about’, giving no clues as to the erotic nature of the book. Nor did the cover give anything away, instead appearing more innocently like a crime thriller. The press coverage, twitter storm, and word of mouth among women up and down the UK did all this for them. Random House just wanted to encourage readers to get involved in the conversation by reading the book, the media frenzy increasingly did the work for them.

Amazingly Random House acquired the UK rights to the self-published eBook and six weeks later had it printed and on shelves. Sarah stressed that speed was essential if they were to trade off the buzz already created amongst Australian and American women. The sales team worked hard to get the retailers on board quickly, using statistics of how well it was selling across the pond. Spaces in shops were already booked up so the publishers provided good, old-fashioned dumpbins, especially in supermarkets where prices were rock bottom but volume was high. The publishers decided to release all three at once; it was feared that if readers had to wait they would lose their enthusiasm and, from a commercial perspective, sales would be driven to internet sources. This certainly paid off and the books famously became the fastest selling book in UK history.

Perhaps the most surprising part of Sarah’s presentation came next, as she revealed how they started to broaden the appeal of the books from the ‘mummy porn’ audience it had already satisfied. They ran advertising aimed at men who wanted to find out what their partners were reading, opening up the gift market with the cheeky line ‘Give her what she really wants this Christmas’, and women over 40… Yep, that’s right, they targeted the granny market with a full page ad in Saga magazine – who knew?

So what next for a woman who has saved hundreds of marriages, inspired the conception of a generation of babies, single-handedly kept Ann Summers in business, and generally upped the country’s libidos? Well, she’s keeping that a secret, but you can be sure it will be another publishing phenomenon.

By Laura Lacey, working towards a career in trade fiction.