A New Era of Book Marketing
Much has changed in the way authors publish and promote their books. With the growth of online book sales, consumer adoption of digital books, and social media, even more channels are available for authors and publishers to connect to audiences. An author does not need to rely on the printed page alone to foster a connection with her audience, but can become a thought leader by blogging, tweeting, using Facebook and managing an overall online brand reputation and strategy.
The A Group, a full-service marketing agency and technology firm specializing in the Christian and non-profit sectors, recently launched a new brand development and consulting division to construct branding platforms for all types of content creators, with an initial focus on the publishing sector. Tami Heim, a veteran in book retailing and publishing—her previous positions include executive vice president and chief publishing officer at Christian publisher Thomas Nelson and president of Borders Inc.—is leading this initiative. She recently spoke with Book Business Extra about The A Group's new division and how it can benefit publishers and their authors.
Book Business Extra: What was the thinking behind The A Group's new brand development and consulting division?
Tami Heim: We are really looking at this interesting intersection in time right now between technology, marketing and message. What we believe that we can deliver is how to bring all those things together [to] help an author, a ministry or a client really think about how to develop this deliberate emotional and intellectual connection between themselves and the audience they are trying to reach. So when we talk about building the brand, what we're really talking about is what are all the things that need to happen to develop that connection. ... If you can get people connected to the message, they become your best advocates to share that message.
Extra: What are some strategies for authors to develop this message?
Heim: ... It's getting [an author] to articulate what their mission is, what their vision is and what their core values are. That's what governs the tone and the attitude [of the message] ... . ... [For example,] some people, in their writing, want to reflect joy in difficult circumstances, or maybe everything they do is about transformation from the inside out-those [become] the catch phrases. Then, the author needs to ask themselves, "Am I reflecting that in all of my touch points and in all of my expressions? Am I being true to what my core message is?"
Extra: What tools can authors or publishers use to monitor an author's online reputation?
Heim: There's a lot of applications out there that can give you feedback on your performance on various sites. Google Analytics and Google Alerts can immediately find what's being said out in the [online] world about you. If you are an author, and you are active on, let's say, a Twitter platform, you can go to a source like Klout.com, put the Twitter handle in, and it just shows you metric after metric of what's going on with your audience-how are they responding, how far is your reach, what's the content that you are putting out there that is most shared.
... All of these things, I would say, are more directional, not absolute. I think if you are an author or communicator in this space, it's about taking a look at all of these things so that you can see directionally the impact that you're making. ... You have to be holistic in the way that you see that information, make minor adjustments, and then go back and review the measurements again to see if you're making progress.
Extra: If an author has limited time, which of the leading social media platforms should they focus on?
Heim: From an author's perspective, the best way is to jump into the conversation on Twitter first, because it's such a wide net that you can cast, and, because it is open source, there are so many ways that you can instantly find people you may be interested in. If I had a client who was just starting out on Twitter, I would say, let's go to Listorious.com [to] find people who [might] ... share your heart for what you are doing. ... [For example,] if you go to Listorious.com ... [and] want to know about people in education, it will show you thought leaders in education. So it's a tool that I think helps people find people to share with.
Then, once you have the Twitter platform developed, if you want to launch a blog, you have a built-in audience ready to go. Otherwise, if you wake up one day and say, "I am going to start a blog today," you have no other way to communicate with like-minded people, and with all the other blogs out there, [those people] are never going to find you. Eventually, Facebook will find its place somewhere in between there, but the most fish are sitting in that Twitter space in terms of daily interaction and conversation.
Extra: What makes an author's Facebook page effective?
Heim: I think ... engagement ... where the author is engaged [with fans], talking about where they are or who they're meeting, and just observing life. I also think you have to have multimedia-show where you're speaking ..., when new books are coming out, and video. Video is great-it's easy, it's viral, you can post it on YouTube.com and spread it.
I would say usually videos should be under two minutes in length. You have to think about capturing the essence of the book, and if you can do that in a 60-second spot, that's how you have to think about it.
Extra: How does your approach help publishers in particular?
Heim: I know when I was in publishing, we always asked authors, "What's your platform? How are you connected? What are you going to be able to do to market this book? Do you speak? Do you blog? Are you on TV? What are your connections where people will find you?" The publisher was always about trying to maximize that. So we feel like we can ... help [publishers] help their authors develop those platforms.
When they release books, all of the sudden there's an immediate audience to go to and, if you are connected to that audience, that audience will write reviews, they will Facebook about it, ... tweet about it, ... do their own blogs about it. ... If you can get a group of people who are raving fans about the message, that they just want to tell somebody about it, then all of a sudden, that's the marketing of this century.