Monday, June 9, 2014

How The Book Industry Can Grow

Book Expo America is the nation’s largest annual gathering for the book publishing industry. Though this year’s event was probably attended by half as many people than when the show hit its peak a few years before The Great Recession and digital publishing took hold, this year’s exhibition in New York City turned in a solid performance. The highlight was the successful launch of BookCon, a one-day event where fans and readers showed up to meet authors, grab advance review copies of upcoming books and to see panels of experts talk about books. This is where the industry needs to go – directly to consumers.

I support bookstores 110% and readers should still gather in bookstores and create a sense of community there. Publishers can help this by directly reaching readers and encouraging them to go to stores. Publishers need to be more assertive in creating author signings and events to sell books.

The average person couldn’t name The Big Five nor could they name more than a handful of publishers, not even the ones that publish their favorite authors. Why? Publishers suck at branding. They don’t understand their label (imprint) could have value and that by promoting their name they can win over loyal customers.

The industry knows to promote FB, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It has links on author and publisher sites and social media that keep telling readers to check those sites out. What we need is for Harper Collins to have an online community that encourages people to buy directly or to go to the bookstores – not to Amazon. We need Penguin Random House to help its authors – even its c-level titles –to create events and participate in bookstore and library signings. We need Simon & Schuster to partner with gyms to promote fitness books, to collaborate with universities to have author speakers come in, and to work with PTAs to sell children’s books for fundraisers.

Some people in the industry do these things and are quite industrious and inventive when it comes to marketing. But too many fell short of even trying.

Here’s why more books are not sold:

·         Some authors are lazy; don’t know what to do and haven’t been taught; or think it’s the job of the publisher to hawk books; or feel shy or not right about self-promotion.

·         Publishers are understaffed in their PR departments but ego stands in the way of them awkwardly encouraging authors to hire a publicist. They don’t want to admit they can’t do it all. They only refer authors to a publicist when asked, but how does an author know to ask?

·         Publishers and authors either rush a book or delay it and in either case, fail to plan four to six months before a book is published. To schedule appearances, connect with organizations, and send out advance review copies, requires a certain amount of lead time. A late start hurts your chances of success.

·         Too much free content is out there – from blogs, libraries, to websites – but worst of all, too many books are given away in mass quantities. Readers only have so much time to read. Why buy what you can get for free?

However, the good news is that hundreds of millions of books are sold each year. They industry is influx but more stable now than in the past six-seven years. People love to read and still pay for the pleasure. But authors and publishers have a short window of time – perhaps the next three years – to get their act together and brand themselves directly to consumers. BookCon is just the beginning -- I hope.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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