How Editors Can Help Publishers Sell More Books
What if editors possess a hidden ability to help publishers sell more books? Editors and selling may seem like an oxymoron. In most publishing houses, the editorial team is associated with guarding the grammar, managing the manuscript, and guiding the author’s voice. In contrast, the marketing department is charged with creating a book’s promotional plan, securing advertising and publicity, and generating audience interest.
However, the work flow in most publishing houses causes a problem in the book promotion process. Marketers are so busy launching new books that they rarely have time to fully read the books they promote. I’ve consulted with numerous publishers, and most marketers tell me they’re lucky if they can skim through a few titles each catalog season. Yet, without intimate knowledge of a manuscript, it becomes difficult for marketers to create effective marketing hooks, identify the most interesting content to create word of mouth, and explain the specific results that each book offers to readers.
This problem partially explains why so many books lack effective back cover copy, get boring press releases, and suffer from a shortage of word of mouth tools. The marketing department doesn’t know the inner workings of each book’s best marketing elements. Worse, they don’t have the time to read the manuscript and identify those elements. In our current publishing system, most marketing staff and their budgets have been slashed to the bone. So, this problem doesn’t seem likely to go away any time soon.
Yet, there is an easy solution. Editors to the rescue! Editors know more about each book than anyone else in the company. They know the best pieces of content. They know if the book has a strong hook. But, most publishing houses do not ask editors to identify and transfer this knowledge to the marketing department. All it would take is listing where the marketing elements reside in a manuscript and providing that list to the marketers. If editors find this request outside of their expertise, a little training could easily get them up to speed.
The process doesn’t need to add labor to an editor’s workload. While editing a manuscript, they can identify the following three elements and pass them to the marketing team:
1. Book Hook
If editors are the guardians of content, then they know why the content will resonate with readers. Busy marketers with overloaded schedules don’t have the time to figure out this element. As editors read and revise a manuscript, they can identify the overall promotional hook that would ultimately attract readers to the book. If the editor cannot identify a strong hook, then the manuscript needs further revisions with the author to make the hook evident. Books without hooks rarely meet sales expectations. People don’t buy boring books.
2. Content for Free Resources
Part of a marketer’s job is to release free content as samples that attract readers. But, most sample chapters, which are usually Chapter 1, do not represent a book’s best material. The best parts are usually deeper within the manuscript. Why make marketer’s hunt for this material? Editors already know where it is. Editors can assist their comrades by making quick notes of recommended content that could work as attractive free resources. Effective examples can include quizzes, emotional stories, concise self-help articles, contrarian teaching points, bonus appendices, or the most suspenseful parts of a fiction novel.
3. Results for Readers
Consumers buy fiction and non-fiction based on this question, “What’s in it for me?” In other words, how will the book specifically entertain, inform, or inspire the reader? Readers want results. But, if marketers don’t have time to fully read the books they promote, how will they identify the potential results? They’re left to guess what the results might be. Guessing usually doesn’t lead to effective marketing.
Editors know a manuscript forwards and backwards. They know if a book can offer specific results for readers. (Editors even know if a manuscript is weak and shouldn’t be published.) With this inside knowledge, they could assist the marketing team’s task to develop effective promotional language, such as back cover copy, online retailer sales page text, catalog copy, etc. If publishing is a team game, let’s enhance the teamwork.
Based on the current state of affairs in most publishing houses, marketers are going to be too busy to read most of the books they promote. Yet, editors know every little detail of the manuscripts they edit. I’m not suggesting that editors do the marketer’s job for them. I’m suggesting that editors could help their publishing houses sell more books by partnering with the marketing team a little more.
More books sold to more readers. Everyone wins. Plus, lending a helping hand would only make editors more valuable at what they already do for the industry.