Marketing: The Power Of Blah Blah Blah, Or Mouthing Off About Books

September 11, 2018

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There is one question authors always ask me – how will you market my book effectively (closely followed by “What do you mean you’re not printing 10 000?”)?

It’s a very valid question, and unfortunately just staring off vacantly into space doesn’t really cut it as an answer. The pressure to create a marketing plan of such strategic brilliance it can write its own cheques is enormous, and in today’s whirlwind of social media platforms, influential bloggers and reviewers, and proactive reader communities, the publisher’s greatest challenge is not creating the best book possible but ensuring they don’t overlook a promotional opportunity.

If I hear the term “transmedia” one more time I may scream. With the continued decline of bricks and mortar sales channels, no guarantee of any shelf space, and therefore reduced opportunities for visibility, the marketing push becomes more vital than ever. It’s no good simply getting your Amazon data feed up and running and hoping for the best. You need customers to search for specific titles and authors otherwise there is every chance a book will become lost in the overwhelming deluge of new content.

So what are the options? Do you spend hours creating a fabulous facebook page, driving yourself to distraction with an obsession for “likes”? How about a tumult of twittering, barraging all and sundry with 140-character nuggets of priceless publicity? Perhaps a Pinterest site, promoting through imagery and association? E-mail campaign? Perhaps a sandwich board at a busy station?

Of course you need something to market first and foremost, and an idea, a concept, all created with your reader in mind. With Remember To Breathe, the goal has been to try and engage readers with a world outside the book to pull them into it. A collection of exciting and innovative content across a range of formats and platforms designed to both enhance the story, but also engage in the first place. Has it worked? Time will tell, but of course it’s all completely useless if no-one knows it exists. And there’s the rub. You can have the best book, a star-spangled smorgasbord of gorgeous content to support it, and access to every sales channel under the sun, but if no-one knows it’s there, they can’t buy it.

The solution? The answer to the original question about marketing effectively? Good old fashioned word of mouth. You can tweet, Facebook, review….it all helps….but it all helps in spreading the word. Chat. Recommendations. There was a rather wonderful launch for Remember To Breathe, but it could have just been a very expensive night out if no- one had told their friends/colleagues/enemies about it afterwards.

Take the example of Santa (yes, that’s a beautiful digression) – my five-year-old daughter knows everything there is to know about a fat beardy bloke who’s she’s never seen. She knows exactly when to send him a list of desirable goods and exactly where to send it. I asked her about this, and about where she got her info. “From my friends of course. We’ve been talking about Father Christmas for months”.

Even 50 Shades Of Grey (yes, I know, Santa to S&M, do keep up) owes a hell of a lot of its enormous success to the gossip tree (and hundreds of open-minded book groups).

There’s a wonderful story about the publisher Quercus which I really hope is true. Having secured the English rights for Girl With A Dragon Tattoo the damn book wasn’t shifting. Not a sausage. So the Quercus team left books on benches, on the underground, in coffee shops – and they were picked up … and read … and talked about … and recommended.

Well, the rest you know. I suppose a very topical equivalent is the kindle promotion and giving a mobi file away for free – but you still need discoverability and there’s no more effective way to create that than to place a book in someone’s hands and get them to talk about it.

So what am I actually wittering on about? Us. Me. You. Them. Everyone who picks up a book and reads. We’re the most effective marketing campaign there’ll ever be. You can tweet until you’re completely twitterpated, but ultimately the greatest way to promote your book is to talk about it and get others to talk.

So dear authors, you are always a key part of marketing every book because I want you to shout about it from the rooftops, tell your family, tell your friends, tell your colleagues – and pass it on. At heart we’re all trusting souls and we also like to listen, so a bit of blah blah blah really does go a wonderfully long way.


Matthew Smith is the founder of Urbane Publications:

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