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Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Marketing Pyramid Is Needed

The Federal Government recently re-launched a revised food pyramid.  Remember that graphic that shows which food groups are necessary for living a healthy and balanced life? I’m beginning to think that authors and publishers need a book marketing pyramid as well.

The book marketing pyramid, if it had existed two decades ago, would look radically different from today.  Twenty years ago the formula was a long road tour, where authors visited a dozen or more cities, did book signings in bookstores, and were interviewed by local news media.  Now, the formula to sell a book would consist of a lot of things, each one just a piece of the puzzle. No one piece dominates, though some things are more important than others.

There are few sure-fire paths to success today when selling a book. Gone are the Oprahs of the media who can make a book an overnight sensation.  No longer does a major book review bring a big buy-in from stores.  Fewer authors are touring – it’s too expensive and made less necessary by shrinking local media outlets and the increased use of the Internet for promotions.  But there’s plenty one can do to get their book sold.

Traditional media, though it’s harder to obtain, and the size of listeners-readers-viewers has decreased over the years, is still influential.  Traditional media helps get a buzz for books because its coverage legitimizes the book and inspires social media outlets to go viral.

Social media, such as author-generated tweeting, blogging and Facebooking, is another part of the equation, and it is fast approaching being the largest piece but not necessarily the most important one.

What’s truly needed is for authors and publishers to market books intelligently. They must sell directly to the book’s market.  If a book is about raising healthy dogs, contact organizations, non-profits, companies, and government agencies that are connected to this topic.  Or take it a step further.  Contact groups that deal with animal welfare and highlight the dog aspect. Or go another step further and contact those who are involved with encouraging humans to live a healthy lifestyle.  Certainly a significant percentage of such people will also buy into the concept of raising a healthy dog.

But you can’t depend on doing bookstore signings if you can’t even find a bookstore that can schedule you. You need to go beyond what one would normally perceive as the book market.

Think of your book not as a book, but as a product. See it as a DVD, CD, computer program, a gadget, a movie – as something that doesn’t just compete with books, but with everything.  Because it does.  When you ask someone to buy something, they must decide how to allocate their funds.  They can spend on anything, from a necessity to a desire, from entertainment to something vital.  How will they compare your book to all other options?  How will they come to discover your book and what will move them to buy it?

We need a book marketing pyramid and no doubt, its look will change again over the next five to 10 years.  We already know that to live a healthy and balanced life we need to adhere to the principles of the food pyramid.  Now it’s time to nourish ourselves with a book marketing pyramid that consists of a variety of moving parts.

So what would the book marketing pyramid look like? It would consist of author-generated social media (posting blogs, tweets and videos, and Facebooking); online media coverage (book reviews, guest-blogging, features in major media dot-coms, and interviews with bloggers); traditional media exposure (national and local television, radio and print interviews/reviews/feature stories and bylined articles), some, but not many book signings; targeted marketing to non-bookstore groups, businesses, non-profits, stores, etc; some affiliate marketing; some keyword ad placement; speaking gigs; and lots of email-list recommendations of your book from friends and associates to their people.

The final piece of the pyramid would be luck and timing, but of course, the better the book and the more active you are in marketing it in a smart way, the better chance for you to get lucky.

Follow the food pyramid – and the book marketing pyramid: Eat your veggies (market and promote like crazy) and watch the junk food (don’t do things that look sweet but offer little ROI).


Interview With Florrie Kichler, President, Independent Book Publishers Association


The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) is a non-profit trade association serving the independent publishing community for well over 25 years. Book Marketing Buzz Blog recently e-interviewed IBPA President, Florrie Kichler. For more information, consult www.ibpa-online.org.

1.      What does the IBPA do? IBPA is the partner every small and independent publisher wishes they had. As a nonprofit trade association, IBPA supports its members through printed, online and in-person education on all aspects of publishing and cooperative and cost-effective marketing programs. IBPA advocates for the members on everything from vendor disputes to industry issues, and provides a community of publishers as a support group, network and source for advice and counsel.

2.      Florrie, when are you writing a book of your own? Writing is way too hard--I leave that to the trained professionals! Seriously, conventional wisdom says that everyone has a book inside them but all that's inside me is the desire to do the very best job I can for IBPA and the independent publishing community.

3.      What do you see for the near future for self-publishing? There's a big difference between printing and publishing.  The barrier to entry for getting a book printed or produced as an e-book is very low--where the challenge lies is insuring that book meets professional standards in both content and design so it can stand out from the other three million books that hit the streets in 2010. Self-publishing does not mean bad publishing--it simply means that the author and the publisher are one and the same. At IBPA our goal is to help all new and existing publishers meet publishing standards of excellence so that their titles can compete in a very crowded marketplace. If we do our job, the quality of all independent publishing, including self-publishing, is the beneficiary.

4.      What are you hearing from authors and small publishers these days? Not surprisingly, the main topic of conversation is e-books--how to produce, distribute, market, sell them--and keep them from being pirated. 

5.      What is your take on the tablet wars for books -- Kindle, Nook, etc? Economic theory and evolution say that only the strong will survive. Certainly from the consumer's standpoint, a universal device on which one can read any file format and purchase e-books from any source is optimal. On the other hand, that day may be further away than we wish. I would predict that Amazon, Apple, Google and Barnes and Noble certainly will not cede the war for e-book device dominance without a good fight.

6.      Do authors try to rely too heavily on social media and not enough on traditional media to get exposure for their books? As the traditional media for books continues to shrink, I think authors are being forced to rely on social media for exposure--especially those who are not household names with a publicity machine behind them. The advantage of social media is it enables authors to easily set up a dialogue directly with their readers
--something traditional media does not provide.

7.      With Borders vanishing, how healthy is the book market? With Bowker reporting three million books published in 2010, the book PRODUCTION market is beyond healthy! In terms of the book-BUYING market, I hope that the proliferation and ease of e-reading will encourage more reading and hence more book purchases. How many of those books will be print vs. electronic is the question all publishers wish they had the answer to.

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer of Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com) but the views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and are personal and do not reflect the official viewpoints of PTA. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com

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