How to setup and execute an effective campaign strategy
For independent publishers nursing sensible budgets, digital media has presented a super opportunity to reach larger audiences in a much more affordable way. With a myriad of different channels at their feet, indies can capitalise on unprecedented exposure for their titles, series, and authors.
At the same time, larger publishers can adopt niche routes to market, in tandem with their larger-scale advertising campaigns and social promotion. By nurturing online communities across different interest areas, these publishers can ensure their releases have immediate traction.
For authors, it can be a distraction to consider the route to market when they should be focused on completing an outstanding piece of work. But marketing, in reality, should be thought-out at the beginning of the writing process. It’s not a bad idea for authors to check out the competition so that they know what they’re up against, and it’s worth bearing in mind that the more ‘marketable’ a manuscript is, the more likely it is to be picked up by a publisher or an agent.
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Even though the responsibilities of marketing lie predominantly with publishers and book publicists, author involvement is essential to marketing and advertising books, and authors can benefit from considering ways in which to appeal to their audience as an individual. For many, living through necessity in their own world, the process of marketing doesn’t always come naturally. It presents unique challenges and difficulties that can detract from the real task.
The principles of book marketing remain the same whether you’re a marketer, publicist, or author. This article will look at some of the key ways in which you can maximise the success of book marketing campaigns, with a core focus on digital media and online marketing.
Know your audience
This is the most important aspect of marketing by far, in any industry and for any service or product. You need to have a comprehensive understanding about the people you’ll be selling to. Who are they, and what compels them?
For trade publishers, a typical romance reader is completely different to a typical horror fan, and it’s the same story with sci-fi and non-fiction, fantasy and poetry, or any other combination of genres that you’d like to look at. For educational and academic, the audience is niche by comparison, but highly-qualified prospects, and most certainly identifiable.
Draw up audience profiles, including demographics, interests, habits, concerns, barriers and objections. If possible, use existing data to inform persona creation – there are plenty of studies that offer information on the typical readers of different genres. Romance, for example, is the second most popular category of fiction, and its readers tend to be female, aged between 30-54, who are in a relationship and earning around $55,000 a year.
This useful post by HubSpot documents how to create a detailed buyer persona, and is worth a read.
Where possible, use qualitative and quantitative research to garner insights on audience, which will educate future marketing strategy and ensure campaigns are not based on hunches. This can be achieved through focus groups, sponsored surveys, or incentivised questionnaires to your existing audience base.
ALSO READ: How data influences the publishing industry
Think about age range, gender, and more. Consider more subtle information such as background and occupation. Investigate past purchases, and buyer habits. Find out what devices they read on, where they get recommendations from, what music they like and why they read in the first place. Do they read to relax or do they read to learn? Where do they read? And how often?
Your business systems should support this knowledge, and help you put your audience at the centre of your operations. Data integrity within a web-based CRM solution offers key information about past purchases, customer service history, and much more.
LEARN MORE: CRM for publishers: An introduction
Combined with marketing automation and highly-targeted email shots, the use of data helps you reach the right audience with the right content, at the right time, in the right place.
Balancing your channels
Of course, the balance of your campaign channels depends on the age demographics of your audience, among many other aspects. Senior citizens are certainly embracing digital technologies, but are likely to be less active online (in terms of numbers) when compared to the younger generation.
It might be more pertinent to advertise in a more traditional sense – billboards, newspapers, magazines, and direct mail – although these are expensive and involvement is limited to large publishers pushing mainstream titles. That said, digital marketing targeted to older groups is a valid strategy if executed well. It’s never this simple – which is why comprehensive research should be done before embarking on any campaigns.
As we know, the younger generation have been immersed in digital technology through their youth, and are most likely to be compelled to action via social media, Google advertising, online articles, video, and digital media in greater numbers. Careful analysis should be undertaken to identify which digital media platforms are most relevant to your audience.
For example, a professional development book might be most relevant for the users of LinkedIn, although this shouldn’t necessarily strip other channels of relevance – i.e. “professionals” also use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Budget and efforts should always be split according to the results of iterative testing of different approaches and tactics.
DOWNLOAD: How publishers can help their authors market a book
PR and media exposure
As all good book publicists will know, there are a multitude of ways to harness news and media outlets for the promotion of a book or author. This exposure, in addition to sustained marketing efforts, will give you a multi-channel approach that will help to build both sales and your reputation at the same time.
But it’s important to remember that there are more authors (and books!) than ever before, with over 300,000 books published every year in the US alone. If you want journalists to cover your releases, you’re going to have to give them a good story to go with it. Luckily, authors are good at coming up with those, and when publishers and authors are able to pool ideas and resources, PR and outreach campaigns have solid foundations.
The story that you’ll want to pitch will depend upon who you’re trying to reach. If you’re talking to local press, for example, then accentuate ties with the area. If you’re pushing a cookery book, reach out to cookery mags and lifestyle publications. Identify publications that your target audience is likely to read, then build relationships with their journalists over time. This is especially important if you’re an author who’s in it for the long-haul, or a publishing house that’s constantly releasing new titles.
Think about trade shows, book signings, lectures, and presentations. Meet press at groups, open mic nights, and other events.
Be creative – make your message stand out by including freebies, from bookmarks and business cards to personalised goodies based on the style of the book. Children’s author Julia Suzuki, for example, sends out a bag of gemstones along with copies of her book – which has magical stones as a plot device – when she pitches it to journalists and the media.
Take a look at your favourite authors and read up on the stories behind them. 50 Shades of Grey started out as a piece of Twilight fan-fiction. J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter while struggling to make ends meet as a single mum and came up with the idea on a train journey. George R. R. Martin writes on an old MS-DOS computer to avoid distractions. There’s always a story behind the creation of a book or ebook – you just need to figure out what it is and who to tell it to.
Social media advertising
According to Belfast-based Leanne Ross, Twitter Chats and Facebook Advertising were the two most impactful channels for her book launch. As a digital marketer herself, she was well-used to dealing with these platforms.
“I ran a Facebook ad campaign targeting UK and Northern Ireland… People targeted included those studying or working in the main fields covered in the book as well as anyone whose job description was listed as MD, Founder or Owner. Over 4 days I spent £51 and reached 42,830 people, with 464 clicking through the Shop Now button.”
Although her article is geared towards self-published authors, there is some highly-relevant advice for publishers and their authors, especially those within smaller independent publishing houses.
Leanne advises against Twitter advertising, and insights from an author in this Publishers Weekly article also portrays zero sales through a campaign, whilst acknowledging the benefit of increased impressions.
As a monetisation device, all major social media channels offer advertising space. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and a whole host of others. The targeting options are phenomenal; demographics, interests, likes, behaviour, occupations, and much more. Think laterally about what pages your audience will have engaged with; brands, news sites, organisations. Furthermore, these platforms enable you to target competitors. It’s likely that your target audience will have bought similar titles from other publishers.
Social media advertising can take the form of content promotion or more direct awareness or sales-led advertising. For publishers producing digital products, many platforms offer a direct app download CTA (call to action), which is customisable based on the user’s device.
Sponsored content (posts, tweets, photos, etc.) extends the reach of blog articles and product excerpts, and so is a valuable tool for amplifying the message and harnessing more interest.
Plan a rolling programme of events and media initiatives in order to get a book out and known to the people influencing your prospective readership. A book launch is always a good idea; it generates interest among like-minded and influential people, who will then be able to help with promotion at grassroots level.
There’s also the possibility of going after your potential readership directly. Research events they attend and be ready to offer speeches and book signings. Again, think laterally – go for events that attract a similar audience, and provide a unique angle to organisers. Whilst not reaching millions of people, the goal is to achieve critical mass, which will then publicise your book through word-of-mouth. In the midst of all the modern marketing channels, there’s still no substitute for a strong reference. Word-of-mouth is king.
Some authors and publishers organise online events, which can be useful if their readership is spread across multiple locations and time zones. Facebook events are popular, typically involving live Q&A sessions, author takeovers and competitions, and so are live streams, online readings and even virtual blog tours, where an author stops off at a different site every day over a period of time, contributing guest posts, interviews and other exclusive information.
Also consider Periscope, Google Hangouts, and GoToWebinar.
Once a fan base is established, you can ask them to contribute reviews. Reviews are effective because the provide third-party content to share, which is essential when it comes to book marketing. Every publisher under the sun thinks that their author’s books are the best – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have committed the resources to publish them. As we’ve already mentioned about word-of-mouth, when other people are singing praises, it boosts reputation in an unrivalled way.
Consider working with book bloggers and BookTubers (it’s a real word, that’s what they call themselves!) – there are thousands of them out there, often specialising in certain niches, and many of them will be happy to review books in exchange for a free electronic or physical copy.
Of course, not all reviewers will love it, but that’s okay. In fact, studies show that bad reviews actually boost sales, with the Harvard Business Review reporting on an average of a 45% increase in sales after indie books receive a bad review. Bad reviews, then, have their upside – they contain valuable feedback for the writer, and a signal to possible readers that all of those other, positive reviews are actually genuine.
The influencer marketing philosophy impacts many different areas of digital strategy. The key with influencer marketing is to leverage an individual that has an established following. As we’ll see some of these principles apply to guest blogging, reviews, and social media, too.
Influencer marketing often refers to the payment of influencers to promote a product. There’s no shame in this approach, if undertaken with care. Influencers must truly believe in what they’re talking about, and it must genuinely relate to their followership. For example, a bodybuilder will have an aspirational Instagram followership. A publisher of health and fitness books will do well to build a network of these influencers, whilst combining their promotion with an exclusive deal or offer code. This will help to quantify return on investment, and gives the influencer another angle to work with.
But what should you be prepared to invest? It’s tricky to quantify in general terms, but this article highlights some considerations to make when calculating your offers.
Supposing that a book is ready for launch, a Twitter chat will increase following and to help to build the hype. A Twitter chat, also known as a Twitter party, occurs when a group of people converse about the same topic using a specific hashtag. These chats often have moderators and follow a Q&A format.
Make use of a dedicated hashtag every time information about the book is posted. Assign moderators, pick a time and date for the Twitter Q&A with the book author, and promote it on social media. Engage with influencers significant to your target audience. Use platforms, such as Tweetchat, to organise the event.
Feature chapters, previews, and themes from the book throughout this activity.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to boost your marketing campaign is through contests, giveaways, and freebies. Everybody wants to be a winner, and contests help increase your popularity and reach. Like most promotions in other brands, contests are usually organised before a product launch or shortly after.
Gifts can be as simple as a voucher, framed book cover poster, a signed copy of the book, or even a tablet containing a digital copy of the book (budget-permitting, of course!). By combining giveaways with sponsored social promotion, you can ensure a healthy response.
Around two to three weeks before a book release, launch a campaign on Thunderclap. Just like crowdfunding, Thunderclap is a ‘crowdspeaking’ tool that encourages individuals and companies to join together and spread a message on social media at the same time. Instead of money, backers donate tweets and social media posts.
This can take your marketing campaign to a whole new level, as a book launch has much more chance of trending on social media.
Over the past few years, email marketing has been known as a highly affordable and effective medium to engage with customers about products and services. In fact, it’s proven to have the highest ROI of any online marketing channel.
Aside from product announcements, email marketing should be used for customer relationship management and to cultivate brand loyalty. The key to a successful email marketing campaign is to personalise content.
You can do this by integrating your CRM tools with your email marketing software. Alternatively, you could implement a rich newsletter signup form, which includes information on preferences, hobbies, and tastes. However, consider the potential for reduced numbers of form completions as a result.
Personalising content based on your subscribers’ interests ensures that you aren’t wasting your communication efforts. Use core data to distribute discount coupons on birthdays, reward for referrals, and incentivise their engagement.
DOWNLOAD: EMAIL MARKETING TIPS FOR PUBLISHERS
Another way to develop relationships with your potential and current readers is guest blogging. Guest blogging is when you blog as a guest writer on a website or blog that isn’t yours. Start by creating a list of relevant blogs that accept guests posts, and make note of their followership on social media.
Typically, guest blogging is a softer way to demonstrate a writer’s ability, insights, and expertise on a particular topic or theme. The hard-sell isn’t advised in this arena. By offering content for free to influential websites, an author can reach larger audiences. As a side-benefit, an attributed link to the publisher’s website will improve the technical performance of it, passing authority from one trusted website to another – thus enhancing its position in the search rankings.
Remember to consider quality over quantity. Google’s remit includes punishing websites that engage in spammy link-building and bad quality guest blogging.
Book marketing pitfalls and mistakes
Much about successful book marketing is derived from a simple understanding of your product, and the audience you wish to reach. But even so, there are some easy own-goals to avoid. This section will look at some common mistakes.
Not marketing at all
The biggest marketing mistake is, of course, not doing it at all. It’s often said that all publicity is good publicity, and as long as there aren’t any outrageous controversies associated with you, this is largely true. As we’ve mentioned, bad reviews aren’t always bad. They offer legitimacy to the good reviews, and ensure that there’s a conversation around your product.
The involvement of an outside party in digital marketing is often beneficial, offering an objectivity that’s difficult to achieve by any other means. Whether it’s for execution, strategy, or measurement of success, an external specialist will offer new angles.
Ignoring strategic requirements
Without a strategy to provide context, digital marketing activities fall into the ether. Proper strategic planning is a critical element of any marketing campaign. You need to have an idea of what you’re aiming to achieve, and focus accordingly. A strategy must be documents, including processes, resources, and timescales.
Take a consistent approach and avoid communicating contradictory information. This integrated identity will help to shape your audience’s expectations, and help them become familiar with the product and its author as a brand. Establish distinct messages, and remember that books, ebooks, and interactive digital products can never be all things to all people.
Decide on key measurements for marketing success. Of course, number of sales is typically the most important metric. But there are other statistics to track, including number of reviews, public reach, followership counts, Google/Amazon rankings, and much else besides. Measure the elements that contribute to the goals that have been established in strategic planning.
Failure to embrace digital
In the modern publishing world, this is a golden rule. A full commitment to the power of digital will ensure positive return on investment. By simply paying lip service to the presence of the internet, little impact will be made.
As we know, publishers are grappling with changing user habits, and physical books have taken a significant hit as a result of the public’s move to tablets, e-readers, video, audio, and interactive devices. Whether a publisher is focused on a digital product or not, the benefits of digital marketing still apply.
Indeed, there’s more opportunity for digital publishers to achieve an immediate sale or download. But for publishers of physical books, the online world represents a significant marketplace, and a zone for building an audience.
Treating social media like a fad
The social media phenomenon is here to stay, yet it’s continually adapting and evolving. Some still believe that this temporary fascination with online social communities will die out, but with ever-increasing numbers of people across the globe active, this seems unlikely.
It’s not just an arena in which people post photos of their cat. Indeed, social media is becoming a sales engine. It’s becoming a customer service portal. Communities of friends, colleagues, and peers gather to converse, support, and entertain one another. Publishers and authors can use these social channels to get feedback on ideas, build conversations with readers, and develop insights on characters.
Using social media in isolation
Despite its importance, the web is about more than just social media. A grave error would be to assume that this is the magic bullet, and stands in isolation from everything else. To be effective, it’s always part of a broader map – the consistent brand identity and the digital strategy.
Social media needs collateral. Content marketing activities should support this social distribution. Storytelling should be rife, thus feeding the social media machine and building followership through targeted content topics; in written, visual, and audio formats.
Furthermore, for any business looking to make an impact online, SEO is a worthy consideration. Search engine optimisation involves a number of core techniques, from ensuring the technical best practices of a website go-live, to the ongoing pursuit of high-impact links to improve keyword rankings.
An increase in overall web traffic, driven by SEO activities, will ensure a steady stream of visitors – a small percentage of which will be ready to buy, download, or read more about a product. This conversion rate depends on which keywords are targeted and how optimised the landing page is – among other key aspects.
All content should be written for the reader rather than the search engines. Keyword stuffing is bad practice, and will result in penalties if discovered by Google’s webspam team. Luckily, authors and publishing industry marketers have a wealth of creativity, and are able to craft audience-specific stories at a whim.
ALSO READ: HOW TO DO MARKETING BETTER
Living in an echo chamber
It can be tempting to keep speaking to your loyal followers to hear the things you want to hear, but this should never be at the expense of pursuing new readers. Engage with new markets, pursue uncertain audiences, and build for growth and ambition. This boldness will reap rewards.
John Donne famously said “no man is an island”. The same is true for an author’s readers – after all, they’re readers, which makes it unlikely that they only read books by a single author. When two authors who work in a similar genre start to work together, both of them will reap the benefits.
To summarise, don’t rush into digital marketing activities without a solid strategy, and always keep clear goals in mind. Planning is imperative, with execution and measurement following thereafter. Setting clear goals and identifying timeline-based action plans will most certainly help you launch successful book marketing campaigns.
Another important takeaway is that you need to know your audience. The better you achieve this, the more effectively the activities will be executed, and the less guesswork is required. Understanding this will help you choose the right message and communication channels to reach your audience. This, in combination with regular iterative testing and measurement, will enable the selection of optimal social media channels and the most efficient concoction of digital marketing activities.
Furthermore, it’s important to not bombard your audience with sales messages. Nurturing customer relationships is essential to develop unwavering support for what you release as a publishing house. Loyal customers are the best salespeople on the planet, and word-of-mouth retains its value as one of the key channels.
Lastly, the author needs to have an active involvement in book marketing, from as early as the writing process, to publication date and beyond. The author plays a critical role in the book’s success, acting as an ambassador and the ideal mouthpiece to spread awareness and generate interest.
The task of planning and executing a book marketing campaign may be challenging, but by establishing a strategy, adhering to best practices, and embracing creative lateral thinking, you can carve a niche and build a loyal followership.
From Twitter: Golden nuggets of advice
— Leanne Ross (@aCupOfLee) November 7, 2016
@RibbonfishTeam Create opinion articles on issues which relate to the story and pitch these to the press. Also share the author’s own story
— Zoe Hiljemark (@sixthsense_pr) November 9, 2016
- Publishing Focus – An interview with Cubus Games
- Essential publishing industry stats – An infographic
- What should title management offer to publishers?