Friday, September 23, 2011

Personalization Is Key To Marketing But Rarely Practiced

Marketing a book takes a lot of time, effort, brainpower, luck,  and help. But it’s not rocket science.  You reach out to those whom you believe would buy your book if only they knew about it.  The problem is that many authors fail to properly identify their likely buyer – they either vastly overstate or understate what their prospective buyer pool is.

But once you know who to reach out to, and you find those people, you need to contact them. Assuming you have all of the relevant contact information, you could call people, e-mail them, snail mail them, fax them, meet them in person, or hope to reach them indirectly via advertising, social media or a news media campaign. Once you determine your methodology of outreach – and I strongly suggest you use several methods to reach people – you then have to make a big decision:

Will you customize and personalize your outreach or will you take a mass outreach approach that’s less personalized?

I believe both have their payoff, depending on the cost and time put into these efforts, but when it comes to taking a personalized approach it can get very time-consuming and research-intensive. But nothing beats that type of contact – the recipients definitely notice it and usually respond favorably.  They feel like you speak directly to them, like they are special like they are understood.  But let’s face it – all marketing is geared towards making a sale no matter how personalized something sounds. I never believe that any marketer really knows me or cares about me when contacting me, so why do we care about a “personal” touch?

Because we like to be fooled.  We enjoy believing someone understands or knows us. 

Start by using their first name in the body of the email – spelled correctly.  Then use language that suggests friendliness and openness. Keep the pitch relatively short but highlight why you contacted them.  You can’t just say how great your book is. You should explain how you can help them, that you understand their needs or goals.

One thing I will say about your marketing approach:  Express passion.  People buy from those they like, those who have a great reputation, those who offer a good value/price, and those who sound passionate about what they do.

Let them hear it in your voice – or at least see it in your letter – that you love what you do, that you know your stuff, that you’re on a mission, that you hold strong principles or convictions for the topic your book covers.  You’re not selling a widget or a commoditized product – you sell ideas, emotions, information, maybe even life-changing ideals.  Your words can be worth much more than the cover price of your book.

No question, personalization is important, and making it personal is likely to position you best for a sale.  Nothing is wrong with playing the numbers game, where you contact a lot of people generally hoping for at least a few, low-effort sales.  But the breakthrough sales will come when you speak directly to your intended consumer on a level that makes that person feel they are the only ones you’re talking to.

Interview With Heather Moore, Senior Publicity Manager For SourceBooks
  1. Heather, as the senior publicity manager for Sourcebooks, what is your plan of attack to get your books media exposure? At Sourcebooks it starts with the structure of the department.  Over the past couple of years we have worked to better align the publicity department with Sourcebooks key verticals – children’s & YA, romance/women’s fiction, non-fiction (parenting, humor, memoir) and college guides/study aids.  So each person on the team becomes expert in their area of focus.  We’ve really seen the positive effects of this in romance, where we’ve built a successful and well-regarded imprint (Casablanca) very quickly.  A big part of that is our PR relationships with the romance community – bloggers & reviewers. 

Our general approach to the media is really pretty simple.  Because each publicist has a lot of books to work on, we really try to focus on quality over quantity.  We target the outlets that will drive sales and awareness for each book and go after those hard.  We meet with the people we’re pitching – face to face meetings go a long way have led to some really great exposure for our books.

  1. What do you suggest authors do to help promote their books? We actually created an online author toolkit for our authors several years ago in an effort to give authors tools to help promote their book.  This includes a “30 Things You Can Do…” which has tips on everything from blog tours (comment, comment, comment – the more you interact the more you’ll drive word-of-mouth) to soliciting reviews for Amazon and GoodReads, creating talking points and key messaging around your book, signing stock at bookstores within driving distance, scouring headlines for (applicable) PR hooks, and much more.  When we introduce authors to their publicist we make it clear then that this is a partnership – that we expect just as much hard work from the author.  This is not a time when authors can sit back and expect the media inquiries to just roll in.  Most get this, but some need a little help and that’s usually because they just don’t know what they can do. 

  1. Why do you love being a part of the book publishing world? I’ve been in the business for nine years and for me there’s no better job than getting to talk about books every day.  And not just books we publish.  I get just as excited as the next person to talk about a new author I just discovered.  And I love that we all have that in common – we all love books.  I love working on the PR side of the business because we get to work with authors and the media.  We all know that rush of adrenaline you get when you finally nail a big booking that you’ve been working on for months.  After telling your boss, the next best thing is telling the author.

  1. Where do you see the industry trending towards? At Sourcebooks we are working really hard to be a leader in the transformation that the industry is going through.  We recognized early on that there would be tremendous opportunity and we’ve been moving very quickly ever since.  For publicity, that’s going to require getting really efficient when it comes to promoting existing products (books) and also really smart and comfortable when it comes to promoting digital initiatives.  This past February we launched the Fiske Interactive iPad App ( – a digital, interactive version of our bestselling Fiske Guide to Colleges.  This was an entirely new territory for us, and we quickly found that pitching tech media is not the same as pitching book media.  We have a lot of really cool things coming up the rest of this year and into 2012, so becoming experts at launching digital products is definitely a focus of ours.  I imagine other publicity departments are going through a similar transition.

  1. What do you believe most often influences the media on whether to interview an author or review a book? I think any number of things can lead to a booking – a great pitch, a good hook, a media-worthy author, a relationship with that media person.  At the end of the day I do think it’s about the book.  I know, I know –PR 101 says “don’t pitch the book, pitch the hook.”  But a hook only gets you so far, and often the interview ends up not being about the book and you don’t actually see that media appearance sell books.  A good book and a publicist who can be creative and get a media person’s attention is a winning combination.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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