Henry Holt Experiments With Online Marketing: A Q&A With Marketing Director Richard Rhorer
Extra: What traditional forms of publicity aren’t as effective today?
Rhorer: I wouldn’t say [that] there is anything that used to work well, and now it suddenly doesn’t. … Publishers have always looked to all forms of media to sell print. What has changed is that there is so much media. The long-range impact of a single hit has been watered down a bit. People have so much information coming at them all the time. Publishers absolutely can do all the things they used to do, like … sending out [review copies and] early copies to booksellers. There are still the front-line booksellers who are speaking to people who are coming into stores.
Extra: In what new ways can publishers connect with their core audiences? What online tools have seemed to work and what have not?
Rhorer: Nothing has really changed. There is just added dimensions to marketing, [including] the Web, that are really important. The top 50 reviewers on Amazon—we’ve reached out to them so that they have an early copy [of a new book]. You want those endorsements when [the book] lands. It’s not that anything has been less effective. The things that are in our bag of tricks have just expanded. In the past, it was enough to … send out review copies to all the reviewers. And now we spend large amounts of time here at Holt [working] very closely with 200 or 300 political bloggers who reach a large audience [to get guest blog posts]. … It’s a new option to have. It doesn’t replace book reviews and author interviews on [National Public Radio].
Extra: What types of online marketing have you tried?
Rhorer: We’ve been learning as we go. As with all different kinds of media, you have to develop content and market content that works for that medium. This week, we launched something that is pretty effective. We have a graphic novel-style version of “A People’s History of American Empire.” It’s a very left-leaning political point of view of history. What we did was, we had the author, Howard Zinn, write an essay for TomDispatch.com. [Then] we edited it down, and had the editor create a short video. We had actor Viggo Mortensen narrate it. It was picked up by 40 left-leaning political blogs. A couple hundred Web sites have linked to it or mentioned the video. It helped propel the book into the Top 100 on Amazon. It was an effective promotion. We used a short essay, which is good for the Web. You don’t want long excerpts. We’ve created content that sold the book, but it wasn’t directly derived from the book. It was other content that sold the book. …We used to just post full chapter excerpts, and that was the big marketing push, to offer that to other sites. I don’t think that was the most effective thing to do. If you have a willing author to create content, create different content.