Must-Read Interview: Insights on blog marketing for book publishers, social networking, e-newsletters and more
When it comes to incorporating multimedia—such as blogs, webcasts, e-newsletters, social networking, video, among others—into the business model, Christian publisher Baker Publishing Group is well ahead of the curve. Book Business Extra spoke with two executives from Baker’s different divisions: Jim Hart, the Internet marketing manager at Baker’s Bethany House Publishers, and Twila Bennett, the senior director of marketing at its Revell, Baker Books and Chosen divisions. In this exclusive interview, Hart and Bennett share their insights behind the company’s innovative marketing tactics.
EXTRA: From a marketing and sales perspective, describe some of the innovative ways you are using blogs to increase your ad revenue while offering more content for your readers.
HART: Bethany House Publishers is seeking to establish its profile within the blog community through a number of different means. Acquisitions Editor Dave Long runs a well-read blog, “Faith In Fiction,” which also assists marketing by promoting Bethany House as a quality fiction producer, and one that is open to dialog with readers. We have continued that by approaching bloggers as an offshoot of our traditional media efforts and sending them review copies. Most recently, we have used blogs to publicize a survey about a book cover, and encourage bloggers to post about the survey. We will follow this up with continued interaction with bloggers about the book that the survey covered, and will provide many of the survey respondents with review copies of the book.
I have also worked with groups of bloggers who have organized to support Christian publishing. For example, the Christian Fiction Blog Tour group selects a book and has their affiliated blogs (30-50 blogs for any given book) post about the book for a period of 3-5 days. I frequently work with this group to promote new novels to their members, and they have currently selected six of our novels for their schedule.
For contemporary-issues books, such as “Fighting for Dear Life,” we have sought to get the book in the hands of influential conservative and Christian bloggers. We have also used advertising on individual blogs. We did so with “Fighting for Dear Life,” running ads on 40+ individual blogs that are of an evangelical/conservative bent. We have also run ads on niche blogs for our recent fiction release, “Summer of Light,” which dealt with stay-at-home dads.
In other targeted advertising, we have taken advantage of Google and Yahoo’s search advertising to key in on niche markets for our books.
We regularly send review copies to bloggers, who tend to post reviews on their own blogs, as well as Amazon.com, and other book review sites. I select a portion of the 50+ blog list that I have contact with for any individual book, and I am regularly expanding that list.
EXTRA: What are you working on in the areas of social networking, e-newsletters and video?
HART: I have recently begun exploring social networking sites, and currently have a Bethany House profile on ShoutLife.com, which is a large Christian-oriented site that is similar to MySpace. On this site I post announcements of new releases and build a network or “friends” whom I hope to use as potential reviewers as the site grows. We have also begun to explore having company blogs to promote our fiction and nonfiction, but one that will have a distinct voice rather than be a site to post our publicity materials.
We make newsletters a priority in our online marketing efforts and regularly seek to increase our newsletter subscription rate. We promote the newsletters through back-of-book ads, feature them prominently on the Bethany House Web site, and use some online advertising to direct people to a newsletter sign-up option. These newsletters feature special content, new release notifications and giveaways.
We are also exploring what we can do with audio and video. Currently, we post videos that are available, as well as excerpts from our audio books, on the site.
EXTRA: What is the biggest challenge you are facing on the marketing and sales side in religious publishing today? How can publishers combat this challenge?
BENNETT: Getting attention for our product. It seems obvious to say, but the challenge that any company has faced since the beginning of time is still the biggest challenge. Today’s society is busy and has thousands more ways to get distracted than even one generation back. We have to fight to let people see books as an experience—an escape from the madness, if you will.
Also, in the face of such information-overload, many people are increasingly paying attention to things that specifically interest them, so it’s becoming more and more important to reach a book’s specific audience well. I think the best way that publishers can combat this challenge is simply by always staying on track with what’s the newest way to reach people. Not every way will work, but over time, you’ll find the ones that reach your niche most effectively.
EXTRA: Describe how you utilized some principles from the popular business book, “The Long Tail,” and how they are playing out in your business model.
HART: We frequently promote our backlist on our Web site to try to capture the “long tail” effect. We put seasonal pages online to tie our books into holidays/events, and to promote our releases each season. Typically, these pages include backlist titles as well as current releases. Newsletters occasionally include backlist titles from the author of a current release. Press Releases include information about backlists titles from an author as well as the release being promoted.
EXTRA: You recently did a webinar with Book Business Magazine discussing how Revell and Baker Publishing Group are utilizing webcasts not only for added content, but also as an added value to the sales force to help promote sales to book stores. What is the importance of a publisher using innovative techniques such as this?
BENNETT: These new techniques have helped in many ways. One way is in author retention and development. These new techniques that Revell has used over the past year impressed one of its top authors so much that it became one of the reasons for signing an exclusive multi-book contract with the division. He saw innovation in a company that’s been around for decades and was excited by the growth and potential.
Editor’s note: For more information on Baker Publishing Group, read the cover story, “Publishing to a Higher Power,” in the April issue of Book Business magazine. The story offers an inside look at Baker Publishing Group’s success in Christian publishing, including its current New York Times Best Seller, and how it remains cutting-edge after 68 years in business.