Want Your Book Marketing to be More Effective? Unify Your Team
This post isn’t about an exciting innovation like a cool app that distributes content or an intelligence tool that tells you your marketing actually worked. Instead, this is about a much simpler approach that I believe any publisher can and should implement. This approach also costs next to nothing (depending on your current structure), and will make your marketing more effective. Bonus? It will also make your authors and agents happy too.
Publishers who jettison the idea of independent approaches to publicity, sales promotion, and advertising can benefit by integrating all of the players to make the team more cohesive and effective. Publishers with small marketing groups that wear multiple hats can benefit as well.
Most publishers don’t recognize what I’m talking about as an issue. Even the biggest bestsellers can suffer from a less than unified approach to copy, message, and positioning and still be major bestsellers. It’s just that the suffering is hidden by the volume of sales.
Some publishers have evolved of course, and practice a unified approach to marketing that sets a goal, clarifies strategy, and chooses tactics that support the strategy and the goal. But many of our colleagues still practice independent publicity approaches, separate advertising creative, disconnected flap copy, and a “connection” to the author that asks the author to be a marketer, but does not connect them to the internal team, or at best, links them to only one department.
At many publishers, marketing tends to be defined as the group that handles social media, promotion, and advertising, and perhaps sales support. This definition omits the participation of crucial players such as authors, designers, and editors, and leave publicity as an independent operator. Marketing in a more textbook definition is a unified approach to product, place, price, and promotion. Yup, that old chestnut -- the four P’s. Ironically, this old definition fits the new reality well. Ask yourself: “Who at my company is responsible for the social media presence? Who connects with the appropriate blogger?” If your answer is strictly defined as an individual or department that does not fully communicate, your marketing approach is not fully integrated.
It's easy to understand where this disjointed structure originated. The expense of advertising and promotion had a far less effective impact than that achieved by exciting packaging or a key publicity event. And key publicity events usually cost very little. So publicity departments grew into specialists, and worked independently of their sister ad/promo or sales departments.
The legacy of this evolution is complicated, but for the sake of brevity, let's say that publishers would be better served if all of the interested parties in this marketing effort worked together to implement not only a common goal, but a common strategic and tactical approach to the operation.
This requires a reporting structure that values contributions from design, editorial, promotion, sales, publicity, and even the business office (on issue of price). When appropriate (and increasingly, it is always appropriate), the author and agent must be included in the process from the beginning. What we want to get away from are situations where publicist and author cook up a promotion for Facebook that never gets communicated to sales; where the advertising carries copy that has no resemblance to the flap copy; where jacket image is adored by design, but loathed by the author.
I’m not as naïve as this sounds. Never will a team with as much creative power as an author, a publicist, a social media director, a designer, and an advertising copywriter agree 100% on all choices. But what the progressive and effective publisher can strive towards is a scenario where all members of the team communicate fully, and have evaluated and agreed upon the best strategic and tactical approach to accomplishing the set goal. This kind of comprehensive teamwork results in a unified approach and clear positioning in all dimensions of the market, and it is not too difficult to effect. It requires a firm and experienced guiding hand, and enough human resources to serve the publishers’ list. And managing list size -- you may have guessed -- would be a crucial topic for another post.
Matt Baldacci has held senior publishing and marketing positions at St. Martin's Press and Scholastic, and he has previously worked at DK Publishing and Simon & Schuster. Baldacci holds an MBA from the Stern School of Business and thinks the future of publishing is bright, as long as we continue to challenge the way things are done.