by Beth Kallman Werner
There are a number of stars that need to line up for a book to see commercial success, to be valuable vs. just a minimal risk – and yet the idea of ‘critical success’ has taken on new meaning.
With industry filters (publishers) and gateways (agents) melting, and the limitless opportunity in DTR (direct to reader) marketing, who are the critics? Professionals? Consumers? Both, it seems, which is fair enough; and sometimes the weight of professional reviews is different for fiction vs. nonfiction. Do Amazon general population readers qualify to judge what is a good book? Chances are in many cases the answer is yes, but in some cases no. Is it only about numbers, algorithms, and ranking? Isn’t this a business of words?
When it comes to book marketing, finding readers isn’t enough. It’s reaching the right readers at the right time with the right message for the title at hand. Lots of people read, but where do they turn for book discovery/literary selection advice? This is why sites like Goodreads and Kobo have grown so fast, and it’s why authors and publishers need to carefully consider the big picture of each book before drilling down to (and investing in) specific marketing efforts.
Social media and SEO are essential to today’s book promotion mix, but using these methods effectively takes solid research that many authors and publishers don’t bother with. Beyond SM and SEO, which books should have trailers, podcasts, or apps, and which authors should blog, or avoid blogging? How can an author make sure their blog will actually help to sell more books? Is it worth investing in print ads and/or direct mail? Is advertising as effective and important as readings and speaking engagements? How many elements does a book campaign need to achieve breaking even and turning a profit? These are just a few considerations of many, proving that book marketing is not as simple as many like to make it seem, and the answers to these questions vary for every title and author. There is no panacea.
Another issue affecting today’s industry, or one that should be, is if sales are healthy anyway, does quality still matter? I find this question to be a real dilemma with overwhelming commercial successes like Twilight and Shades of Grey. Isn’t literacy supposed to foster intelligent thought and a sharing of the best in our culture?
Big houses are turning out books loaded with errors, sometimes to the point where I wonder how some editors sleep at night. On the flipside, indie authors are learning that if they focus on and invest in quality, they can turn out books as good as, if not better than, titles coming from traditional imprints. The playing field is leveling just as it’s turning upside down.
As for quality standards and the meaning of success, money and fame are popular goals, but what has happened to also demanding respect and appreciation for real talent and skill? I have turned down projects (and fees) because I couldn’t bring myself to work on books that lacked any quality or authenticity, and yet those books might end up selling and making good money. With standards slipping at every turn, where do authors who want and deserve to rise above the chaos turn?
I often find myself flooded with thoughts about the many factors influencing what ‘best practices’ truly are. I do know that every book needs a marketing plan, a multi-faceted promotion road-map researched and designed specifically for that title, something comprehensive and integrated that focuses on minimal spending for max ROI. It is the only way to still minimize losses while investing in new content. For any authors and/or publishers looking to have a Custom Book Marketing Plan (CBMP) prepared, contact me with a sample of your book. There has never been a better time to be an experienced multimedia marketer in publishing, and I have the gift of loving what I wake up to do each day.
Beth Kallman Werner is Founder and President of Author Connections, LLC Beth Werner has been a professional editor and marketer for more than 20 years. As former Director of Marketing and Sales at KIRKUS, Beth worked on book marketing and special media projects with clients such as Random House, Penguin, Hachette, MacMillan, Disney Hyperion, Chronicle, Scholastic, FSG, Wiley, and many others. She has also counseled countless indie authors on how to successfully bring new titles to market. www.authorconnections.com