Tuesday, April 9, 2019

How Book Publishers Can Brand Themselves With The Help of Their Authors

Image result for branding images

Book publishers of all genres and sizes need a lot of help with branding – and it can come from working more productively with their authors.

So what is branding for a publisher?

I had the opportunity to speak at the annual conference in Chicago for The Independent Book Publishers Association on this very topic. By the way, they are worth joining if you are not familiar with them. Here’s what I told their members:

A brand is your name, image, and voice.  It’s how others discover and perceive you.  It shows in all that you do, say, and publish.

It is also your:
·         Look and feel of your books..
·         Company website content and appearance.
·         Social media profiles and level of activity and engagement.
·         Business cards.
·         Letterhead (digital and print)
·         Press Releases.
·         Advertising.
·         Email signature.

It appears:
·         In your news media coverage.
·         When you speak to groups.
·         Interact with industry professionals.

It is everywhere!

A brand is not just for:
·         Fortune 500 companies.
·         Pro sports teams.
·         Hollywood stars.
·         National politicians.

Most publishers stink at branding.

Many consumers couldn’t distinguish the brand of one publisher from another.

But some publishers do it right.

Wiley puts its name on the front cover of all of its books.  There’s a uniform look to their books and a certain caliber of author and content is provided.

Morgan James, a leading hybrid publisher, distinguishes its books with its charitable ways.  On the back of every book cover is a reference to Habitat for Humanity, to which it donates a certain percentage of proceeds to.

Some authors and book series, are also good at branding – and have a recognizable image.

Publishers must define their brand, first by knowing their why.  Why do you publish books?  What’s your mission?  What standards do you employ for the books that you publish?  In what voice do you speak in?

Publishers need to ask of themselves:

What’s unique, fresh, different, better, or first about the books I publish?

You need to identify what your books promise to do for readers.  What ties your books together?

A good publishing brand:
·         Sells more books.
·         Earns you media coverage.
·         Helps recruit quality authors to publish with you.
·         Gets you noticed in the book industry.

So, Rule #1 – Brand Your Books!

·         Develop a consistent look for your books.
·         Put in an introductory message into every book.
·         Place an ad in each book to highlight your website.
·         Publish a certain caliber of author.

Next, develop a tagline for your company.

·         What do you promise to offer readers?
·         What makes your book distinguishable?

Post the tagline everywhere.  It becomes your mantra.

Social Media 
To brand via social media makes a lot of sense – but choose your platforms wisely.  You can’t be everywhere, all the time, so don’t try to be.

Professionally, a publisher’s president/owner should be on Linked In.  The publishing company should have a Facebook page, Twitter handle, and You Tube channel.  If you or your books are visual and attractive, consider using Instagram or Pinterest.

Have a posting schedule.  It can’t be random, haphazard, or infrequent.  Consistency is key.  Frequency should follow industry norms and what benefits you – but don’t obsess and live online 24/7.

Authors must do the same with social media.  You, as the publisher, should be connected online with all of your authors.  Repost each other’s stuff.  Don’t be too salesy in your posts.  Use visuals, like graphs, photos, or drawings to get attention.

When it comes to blogs, publishers should:
·         Have one.
·         Set an editorial calendar of 1-2 posts per week.
·         Let authors contribute to your blog.
·         Interview people for your blog.
·         A blog post can be used for your social media.

What can a publisher blog about?
·         What’s new or coming out soon.
·         Authors in the news.
·         Comments on book industry.
·         Spotting trends on books.
·         Celebrating backlist milestones or anniversaries.

Publisher websites
·         They should be easy to read and navigate.
·         Updated it regularly.
·         Have author websites link to your site.

What should a publisher’s site include?
·         Catalog of books.
·         Book covers.
·         Descriptions of books.
·         Book reviews.
·         Media coverage about books.
·         Testimonials for each title.
·         Chapter examples.
·         Price/order info/buy button.

·         Logo
·         Blog.
·         Contact page with social media links.
·         About the company
·         Highlight successes
·         Share vision and philosophy.
·         About your company.
·         News about you.
·         Your bio.
·         Q&A with you.
  List of upcoming events for company/authors.
·         Link to a charity if you support one.
·         A page outlining your manuscript submission guidelines and policies.

Don’t just use words.
Focus on fonts, colors, images, audio, and video.

Author websites
Should be created six months prior to a publication date.

They should have:
·         About the book.
·         About the author.
·         Summary of past books.
·         Short excerpts for upcoming book.
·         Free downloadable chapter and table of contents.
·         Testimonials.
·         Media scheduled or links to past media.
·         Scheduled or list of past speaker appearances.
·         Press release.
·         Author Q&A.
·         Blog or newsletter.
·         Something free that people can sign up for.
·         Charity connection page.
·         Facts/stats related to the book.
·         Buy button/pre-orders.
·         Contact page and social media links.

Vary the content – photos, videos, and audio to complement the wordy text.

How can authors market and promote themselves?
·         Schedule speaking appearances and bookstore signings.
·         Social media activity.
·         Getting traditional media exposure.
·         Securing digital media coverage.
·         Book giveaways.
·         Advertising.
·         Paid reviews.
·         Setting up affiliate sales.

Authors must put together a press kit for the media, which should include: a press release, author bio, suggested interview questions, excerpts, testimonials, and several story-ready pieces that touch on themes from your book.

Contact Targeted Media
Authors will need to send out advance review copies of their book to book reviewers and long lead media four months prior to publication date.

Two months prior to pub date – and continuing for 3-4 months post-publication date, authors must contact off-the-book-page media (people who will do something other than a book review).  Contact:

·         Local and national TV shows.
·         Bloggers.
·         Podcasting.
·         Local and national radio shows.
·         Magazines.
·         Daily and weekly newspapers.
·         Trade publications.
·         Newsletter.
·         Major media websites.
·         Dot.coms of traditional media.
·         Online book reviews.

You should seek out.
·         Interviews.
·         Feature stories.
·         Quotes in a story.
·         Guest posts.
·         Byline articles.
·         Book excerpts.

Publishers need media coverage
They should contact writer magazines, book industry trades and digital media that covers books and publishing.  Contact media that covers an industry, too.  For instance, contact parenting publications if you publish children’s books or contact business media if you publish business books – not just book reviewers or those who cover books.

Publishers can seek out stories that:
·         Center on controversial books or topics.
·         Discuss free speech, literacy, or reading trends.
·         Cover the business of book publishing.
·         Tackle a specific genre.

See yourself as a thought leader and a voice in the world of book publishing.

What’s most effective?
·         Experiment -- see what works.
·         Diversify your approach like an investment portfolio.
·         Model after similar, successful books.
·         Try something new.

Teach authors a best-seller strategy
Authors need to create a marketing matrix – who they know that they should list -- and who those people know.

Help them start by listing:
·         Family
·         Friends.
·         Co-workers.
·         Neighbors.
·         Social media connections.
·         Past clients.
·         Temple/church members.
·         School alumni.
·         Sports league, hobby, or other groups.
·         Community – people you see at stores, restaurants, or Starbucks regularly.
·         Other authors.

The author needs to draft a letter that says:
·         A new book is coming out.
·         What it is about.
·         How it will help others.
·         Tell people they should buy the book on a specific date, such as pub date.
·         Offer free gifts that can be sent digitally after they email you to confirm they bought the book.

Send the letter out a week before pub date.
Then resend it two days prior to pub date.
Lastly, send one on your book’s pub date.

So how does one hit a best-seller list?  By generating, a concentration of sales from stores and websites that record sales and report them to various lists.

There are many best-seller lists:
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
USA Today
Publishers Weekly
Library Journal

There are other local and regional lists as well.  Hitting a best-seller list can generate more sales, gives the publisher and author momentum and provide branding prestige for the long term.

The freebies I mentioned should be something you can send via email once someone sends proof of purchase.  It should be something of perceived value and could come from other people.

For instance, perhaps you have a list of resources or content that’s not in your book.  Offer it up for free.  Then get similar stuff from 5, 10 or 20 other people.  It can be anything – discounts and coupons to non-book things, advice, resources, free access to various websites, etc.

Find your biggest allies
An author’s list of contacts has a few whales – those who have large social media followings, big email lists, and influencer status.  These people are your gold.

ID your key people
·         Call them.
·         See them in person.
·         Send a personal email.

Woo them.  Beg for a favor or trade something of value – or even pay them – to help you.  Ask them for:

·         A bulk buy of your book (they can give as gifts or re-sell).
·         Their help in sharing a sales letter to their lists.
·         An introduction to a handful of key people.
·         A free gift to provide your readers – it helps them, too.

Publishers, ask all of your authors to help one another, and to send sales letter offers to each other’s lists.

Additional steps publishers should take:
·         Provide authors with resources and helpful information about marketing and publicity.
·         Set expectations for each of them of what you want them to do.
·         Follow up with them regularly and ask then to email a weekly update of outreach and results (create a template for them).
·     -Introduce your authors to each other – maybe have backlist authors mentor the new ones.

Book Sales Require:
·         Crafting ideas.
·         Planning to execute.
·         Knowledge of how to market.
·         Skills training to market books.
·         Awareness of what could be done.
·         Connections to media, bookstores, libraries, and organizations.

But mostly, it demands time and money.  Authors must invest in themselves and really work at getting sales. Encourage your authors to hire a PR consultant, or even better, a book publicist.  They should team-up to make sure everything that’s needed gets addressed.

There should be time to brainstorm, dream, and plan – but then it’s time to focus on execution.

Reconsider what and who you publish:
·         Recruit authors who support your brand and mission.
·         Take on promotable books.
·         Work with authors who are committed to help and be active.
·         Find authors willing to invest funds into a PR campaign.
·         Seek out marketing-minded authors.
·         Look for writers with a decent platform.

Screen your writers:
·         They must be qualified to write on the topic of their book.
·         They need to have a relevant book that is well written.
·         They should have a built-in way to tie the book into a holiday, season, anniversary, honorary day, upcoming event, the news cycle, or something popular.

Your brand grows when you:
·         Publish books people want or need.
·         Publish established authors.
·         Publish books by promotable authors.

Push your authors:
Formulate materials that will help your authors, including:

·         Checklists of do’s and don’ts.
·         Lists of resources.
·         Timeline of activity.
·         Media coaching.
·         Website models.
·         Schedule brainstorming calls.
·         Set deadlines and monitor activities.
Address their challenges, fears, needs.
·         Play to their strengths and passions – but encourage them to do what’s needed even if they aren’t interested.
·         Set goals and define metrics for success.
·         Craft training videos and tutorials on speaking, social media, getting reviews, and other key areas.

What you do as a publisher, is important.  Books matter.  You got into book publishing, most likely, not for the money but because you want to follow your passions, call upon your skills, and support books and the many voices that need to be shared.  You treasure reading, writing, and publishing.  You believe in free speech and literacy for all.  You believe books can shape and/or inform, inspire, educate, enlighten or comfort us.  You may even think we can change the world, one book at a time.

Well, this is how you fulfill your promise, your mission.  Work with your authors – often and closely – to ensure a successful partnership that will yield fruit to you, your authors, your readers, and society at large.

Good luck on our journey.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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