Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Marketing Key Word Whinefest

A marketer’s dream, in theory, is the phenomenon pervading the online experience:  key words.  But I must admit I hate them from the perspective of a writer. 

I should be thinking about saying insightful stuff rather than acting like a worker who wants to figure out how to scheme to doctor his/her timesheet.  But that’s what key word obsession does to us. Instead of being focused on writing interesting, convincing and useful sentences, I am consumed by keywords. 

Did I say my key words yet:  book marketing, book publicity, book publishing blog?  Did I say them too many times?  Did I miss alternate versions of them – singular, plural, past tense?  Did I forget to state appropriate synonyms for them?  Is it time to mention my Web site (I don’t’ have one. Really.)?

Good writing uses an economy of words to convey an idea, make a resonant point, evoke a feeling, provoke an action or generate a debate.  But now, thanks to a computer-run world, we need to write with key words in mind.  It’s one thing to make web site copy search engine optimized but when we purposely craft our blogs, press releases, and soon our love letters (do people even write them anymore?), we lose a little something, as writers and as readers.

What’s the alternative? If computer searches and rankings and the cataloging of information depend on computers and not humans to compile data, we will have to play the key word game.  For some, it can come naturally.  For many, it’s a chore to do and a good number of people don’t practice the art of key words at all.

Key words bug me.  They’ve crossed a line like, product placement on a TV show.  Or the way advertiser influence has crossed the boundaries and entered into the editorial side at a publication.  Key words interfere with the natural flow, word selection or very subject matter that you write on.  They make me feel cheap.  Right now I am thinking I need to say something witty or memorable that pertains to book marketing, book publicity or a book publishing blog, but all that I need to do is pepper my blog with those terms and I’ll be good to go.

Of course key words are usually relevant to what we write.  Imagine if in a quirk of online algorithms we had to use the key words of another industry to write our blogs, press releases and Web sites.  What if you had to use key words for cat food or toilet bowl cleaners in order to write about business, health, or whatever you write on?

Key words are a necessary evil for your book marketing efforts.  It’s the price we pay as writers looking to build a following, looking to cash in on our books.

Many writers use their skills to make a buck, not just idealistic journalists or selfless book authors.  Advertising copy writers, publicists and marketers all whore themselves.  And thanks to the Web and social networking, everyone is now a marketer, each of us a little compromised for it.  Our words are treated like a software code and not as beautiful, naturally selected reflections of pure, genuine ideas.

We already write with a readership in mind – the demographics, their needs  and wants, their buying patterns.  But when we let key words consume us, we lose sight of which words really are key.

Maybe key words are just like other tricks we already use.  For instance, our Web site names, our logos, our book titles, and our book covers are all carefully created with a marketplace in mind.  If we were starting a business and wanted a good listing in the phone book (does anyone use that anymore?), we’d add three A’s before our name. 

When we get dressed, we wear what matches, what fits where we’re going, and what draws attention, right?  We do a lot of things with marketing in mind so I will not ask for the recall of key words but if there was a key word phrase that is needed to conclude my book publishing blog for today it is this message to the inventor of key words:  “byte me!”

Interview With Hachette’s Director of Promotion Martha Stillman Otis

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Martha Stillman Otis, who has been with Hachette Book Group for 17 years and is now their senior vice president and director of advertising and promotion. She has been in book publishing for 29years. Prior to joining Hachette, she was the vice president of Warner Books, and director of their advertising and promotions.  Here is what she had to say in an email Q & A with BookMarketingBuzzBlog:

1. Martha, what trends do you see in advertising and promoting books? The advent of social media; and online and mobile marketing/advertising allow for a more direct connection with the reader. We can target readers who are fans of similar types of books and authors can build relationships with them. A great example of that is James Patterson who has over 1.9 million likes on his Facebook page and has over 49,000 members on his site with his discussion community. He has a direct line to his fans with whom he is fully engaged. The ability to widely distribute videos and book trailers is an effective tool to have in our arsenal. We went all out on a book trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and created a great buzz and it got a lot of coverage including Variety  (it currently has 670,101 hits on You Tube). It was reported that the movie trailer directly resulted in the movie being acquired by 20th Century Fox. This will breathe a whole new life into the paperback when the movie comes out next year.

2.      What do you love most about being in book publishing? Books.  What a privilege it is spend our days working on, thinking about, and promoting books. One of the great thrills is being a part of the process of publishing an unknown author and making them known. Whether it’s their first (i.e Baldacci’s Absolute Power, Sparks’ The Notebook) or we’re hoping to get a published author to a whole new level (i.e. Emma Donoghue’s Room, Jeff Abbott’s Adrenaline), it’s a thrill when it clicks and we can get booksellers and consumers as excited about the book as we are, which ideally results in them becoming bestsellers. And then there are those smaller books that just keep growing like The Reading Promise which librarians, teachers, booksellers and book-lovers have embraced and continue to spread the word about every day.

3.      How does book publishing differ from other industries in terms of your approach to advertising/promoting? Well, the budgets are on an entirely different scale but aside from that, instead of marketing one product and being able to spend a year working on the campaign for it, we’re working on campaigns for hundreds of books.  We’re somewhat similar to the movie industry in terms of getting people excited about the entertainment and benefitting from their good word of mouth and that’s never been more critical given how rapidly that can spread.

4.      What was the key to your most recent success story? Adrenaline: a book that delivers just that. Our goal was to make it the breakout summer thriller and I think we succeeded. It all started with a big-mouth mailing and doing an extra printing of advance review copies for Book Expo of America to fan the fire. We had major national publicity (Harlan Coben picked it as a Great Summer Read on the Today Show calling Jeff Abbott the next Robert Bourne, GMA selected it as a sizzling summer read), glowing reviews, and early quotes were all powerful ammo. We created an exciting TV spot along with print and major online advertising using the TV spot. It will debut at #23 on the 7/24 NYT bestseller list and we're confident that with the terrific word-of-mouth it will move up the list.

5.      What advice do you have for authors looking to promote or advertise their books? It all starts with a great book that delivers...they should build relationships with their local booksellers, their readers (see Patterson example above), bloggers, and big mouths (influencers).
Brian Feinblum can be found on Twitter @theprexpert. If you need assistance promoting or marketing your book, please consult and email

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