Advertising-Promotion-Marketing

Book Marketing Insanity

14 February 2019

From The Book Designer:

Authors often don’t want to hear what works to sell books.

John Kremer, marketing expert, often responds when an author asks, How long should I market my book? with How long do you want book sales?

If you want books sales, doing repeatedly what doesn’t work is book marketing insanity. Successful book sales need some type of book marketing campaign behind them.

. . . .

What holds authors back?

  1. Many don’t like marketing.
  2. Many would rather be writing … not marketing.
  3. Many didn’t realize that they must do marketing.
  4. Many tried marketing, but what was tried didn’t work; therefore, the belief that nothing will settles in.
  5. It takes time.
  6. It takes money.
  7. Or, if they had cost overruns in creating the book, they refuse to do anything to support/market their book once they have all those books sitting in the garage.

. . . .

  • What’s next is educating yourself—learning what other authors are doing that works …and doesn’t. Following the best-selling authors and top influencers in their blogs and social media and studying what they do and mimic where appropriate.
  • What’s next could be getting help. Virtual assistants have become the right hands, eyes and fingers of many authors. Get one.

. . . .

I’m tired… Welcome to the club. The creation of a book can lead to Book Fatigue Syndrome—you want a time out. Do it—take a week or two off … but then, it’s back to work.

I’ve already committed so much money, I can’t put another dime out… What were you thinking in the first place—that if you just held a copy of your finished book that the world would flock to the stores, the Internet, your website, your front door, you, to get a copy? That would be a rarity. You need help … starting right now. This is where “hanging out” with other authors helps—what worked for them (and didn’t)? Would it work with your book?

I just want to write… Get over that one, too. Yes, keep writing. You get better; and you need to have “new” books forward. In a recent podcast I did with agent Michael Larsen, he revealed that for fiction authors, it’s book #5 that opens the door.

. . . .

Wise authors work in projects, get help where they need it and get that it’s not an all or nothing basis. Effective marketing can be in nibbles. What needs to be consistent and a plan behind it.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Book Shopping on Amazon? Don’t Be Duped Into Buying a Summary

7 February 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Summaries of popular books have long been a staple in the publishing business. Now they are often hard to tell apart from the real thing.

Authors and publishers say they are concerned about a recent surge in summaries available on Amazon, some of which have covers that copy or mimic the original’s art and use the author’s name. Some consumers are mistakenly buying those summaries instead of the original works, they say, hurting their sales.

Summaries of top-selling self-help and business titles appear at or near the top of recent searches for the books on Amazon, a Wall Street Journal analysis found. In some cases, the covers of the summary and the original book were very similar—aside from a “summary” label at the top.

. . . .

After the Journal contacted Amazon.com Inc. last week, the company said it would remove the works from its store that violated its rules and subsequently pulled a number of summary titles highlighted by the Journal.

Amazon, much like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., has come under pressure to do a better job policing inappropriate activity on its platform. The company has struggled to entirely weed out makers of counterfeit products, as well as sellers who are finding new tricks to outsmart Amazon’s automated product-ranking system. Its sponsored-item advertisements have come under criticism for looking similar to regular listings and appearing in unexpected spots such as people’s baby registries. The book summaries, typically self-published using Amazon’s tools, are the latest challenge.

Publishers say the current offering of summaries—which retail for a fraction of the original’s price—differ from past ones such as CliffsNotes, which often had generic covers that looked nothing like the original, and ranked lower in search results.

The new breed of summary publishers have used Amazon’s powerful advertising platformto their advantage, buying up keywords that ensure their products appear above those of nonpaying sellers—albeit with a “sponsored” tag above the title. Sometimes, the summaries even carry a “best-seller” label.

. . . .

Amazon said in a securities filing last week that it may not be able to prevent sellers “from selling unlawful, counterfeit, pirated, or stolen goods, selling goods in an unlawful or unethical manner, violating the proprietary rights of others, or otherwise violating our policies.”

An Amazon spokesman said the company required that book summaries “be sufficiently differentiated to avoid customer confusion.”

. . . .

Among the titles removed by Amazon last week after the Journal inquired were several summaries of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

. . . .

Summaries that use the same covers or mimic the covers of the original books may constitute unfair competition under state and federal laws, Mr. Brown added. Distinctive covers have value, he said, and those rights holders are protected. “It is really about causing confusion in the marketplace,” said Mr. Brown.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG admits to being surprised that Amazon’s policing of this type of book has been so lax. Can it really be that difficult to build algorithms that highlight “books” that are designed to free-ride on bestsellers?

Welcome to the Bold and Blocky Instagram Era of Book Covers

2 February 2019


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From Vulture:

If you’re looking for the most anticipated books of 2019, chances are your search will start with Google and end at Amazon. Chances are even better that one book cover will consistently jump off the screen: Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf, its graphic white title entwining with a writhing, jewel-toned print of a shape-shifting beast. This first book in the Booker Prize–winning author’s Dark Star trilogy, a queer, Afrofuturist fantasy series, has already been called the “African Game of Thrones.” (Another tagline: the literary Black Panther.) It’s clearly being positioned by publishers and booksellers as a cultural icon, with a blazing cover to match.

Scroll on through the best-of lists and other titles will pop just as loudly: The title of Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s Bangkok Wakes to Rain gleams in gold letters over a drippy green abstraction of leaves. Helen Oyeyemi’s Ginger Bread shouts in bold yellow against a lightly ombré coral backdrop, its plane broken by a black crow grasping a gleaming tangerine. And Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things features a twisted, hand-drawn flamingo on a field of avocado green, with the title scrawled over it in what appears to be a fat white sharpie.

None of these titles is available yet, but anywhere you find them online will likely direct you to preorder on Amazon. [Ed.: Guilty.] In fact, their covers are designed to ensure that you will. At a time when half of all book purchases in the U.S. are made on Amazon — and many of those on mobile — the first job of a book cover, after gesturing at the content inside, is to look great in miniature. That means that where fine details once thrived, splashyprints have taken over, grounding text that’s sturdy enough to be deciphered on screens ranging from medium to miniscule.

If books have design eras, we’re in an age of statement wallpaper and fatty text. We have the internet to thank — and not just the interface but the economy that’s evolved around it. From the leather-bound volumes of old to lurid mass-market paperbacks, book covers were never designed in a vacuum. Their presentation had everything to do with the way books were made, where and how and to whom they were sold. And when you look at book covers right now, what you’ll see blaring back at you, bold and dazzling, is a highly competitive marketing landscape dominated by online retail, social media, and their curiously symbiotic rival, the resurgent independent bookstore.

Link to the rest at Vulture and thanks to DaveMich for the tip.

On-Trend Design

1 February 2019

This is a bit different than most of the topics TPV addresses, but one of the tasks of a successful indie author is to promote the author’s books.

Newsletters and social media are likely the most common tools for these promotions (although PG would be happy to hear about others). However, standing out in an inbox or on an Instagram feed is not simple.

Images are one means of standing out. Colors are another.

From Shutterstock (All images are from Shutterstock with additional information about each image in the OP):

Looking to refresh your work with the most popular new color combos? Revamp your designs for the new year with these three on-trend neons.

. . . .

With influencers and tastemakers looking to neon as the next big color trend in fashion, it makes complete sense that analysis of the Shutterstock search data revealed these three energetic hues as the colors that Shutterstock users are most excited about right now.

. . . .

This flouro green takes natural influences and exaggerates them, throwing them into a digital sphere. Think The Matrix, Flubber, and the iridescent scales of geckos and chameleons, and you’re on the right track.

UFO Green strikes the perfect balance between nature and technology, making it the perfect color to bridge the gap. Use it to create designs that are at once peaceful and reviving, as well as forward-thinking.

. . . .

UFO Green is the younger, more fun-loving sister of nature-inspired greens like sage and forest. Enhance the natural tropical tendencies of UFO Green by enhancing your photos with flouro green filters.

..
. . . .

Neon typography is an eye-catching way to evoke a nightlife mood, and works especially well on events flyers and posters. This neon font has a classic, vintage-inspired style that evokes Parisian absinthe bars.

Link to the rest at Shutterstock

PG understands that not all the ideas in the OP will suit a particular author’s taste, but climbing out of an appearance rut may improve visibility and engage readers and prospective readers better than only updating the written message in new promotions.

Book Tours Are More Than Just Showing Up

26 January 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

In the abstract, a book tour looks like it might be tremendous fun: packed houses of adoring fans, expense-account dinners in fancy far-flung restaurants. I’ve now promoted three books across a couple dozen states and 10 countries, and my experience has looked much more like bleary-eyed airport breakfasts at one end of the day and modest register tallies at the other, which begs the question, was this worth it?

But that depends on the answer to a different question: what’s the goal?

A dozen years ago, before I’d started writing books and was still publishing them, I asked my brilliant boss, Peter Workman: Why do we expend such a huge effort producing seasonal catalogues? Why do we run around like lunatics to finalize covers, on-sale dates, point-of-sale promotions, and everything else—such a frenetic outburst of redesigning, numbers crunching, consensus building, and decision making—all just to produce this printed marketing item? Who cares?

Peter put things into perspective. All that work, all those decisions—that was the real point; the catalogue was the impetus to get it all done.

I look at going out on the road through a similar lens. I do, of course, want to achieve the obvious immediate goal of selling units of the new title, just as we did, of course, need to get the catalogue to sales conference. But selling those hardcovers is just one component of my goal and my publisher’s too, and the booksellers’ too—we all have bigger long-term priorities: the next book, the one after, all the future books in all the years ahead, keeping the lights on.

For my part, I want to write better and better books, published better and better, making for a satisfying and successful career. And I think it’s the lessons learned, the experiences had, and the people met on the road that can make this achievable. On book tours, I go places I’d otherwise never have visited, I’m introduced to readers I’d never have met, and I make friends and fans and important contacts who’d otherwise be strangers.

I’ve learned about contemporary bookselling over dinners in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Austin, Tex.; about the evolving roles of libraries in Stamford, Conn., and Rockport, Mass.; about the terrific mystery conferences in Albany, N.Y., and Toronto; and about honing elevator pitches for radio in Amsterdam and Dublin.

. . . .

Touring has been my MFA plus my MBA, too—establishing a professional network, understanding the marketplace, polishing creative output, and even inspiring me to generate an entire book.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

As PG has mentioned before, with respect to the value of book tours by authors, he believes it’s no longer 1972.

Do book tours sell some books? Undoubtedly.

But what is the cost per book sold, particularly if an author values his/her time? Had the author not gone on a book tour, could he/she have spent the time and energy doing something that was ultimately more profitable with that time and energy (particularly considering that a great many authors are committed introverts)?

If publishers really believe that face-to-face contact between an interesting and persuasive salesperson and a reader who is willing to come to a bookstore to listen, why not hire a skilled salesperson to do the book tour?

Just like writing talent, the talent for selling products or services, particularly on a face-to-face basis, is not evenly distributed throughout humanity. If you have ever been in the presence of someone who is skilled in face-to-face sales, you will immediately notice the difference between a talented salesperson and a typical author squirming at a book signing.

PG has often thought that James Patterson’s success in selling a lot of books derives in significant part from his pre-writing experience of twenty-odd years as an executive working at the largest advertising agency in the world (where he ended up as CEO). Patterson knows far more about how to advertise and sell products than any employee at any publisher and has used his talent to sell far, far more books than he would have had he permitted his publishers to handle all his book promotion and advertising.

In response to the question, “Who better to sell a book than the person who wrote it?”, PG suggests the rational answer is, “Someone who earns his/her living by selling things.”

Spotify Is Testing Artist Blocking

22 January 2019

From PC Magazine:

Spotify aims to be the only music service you need for $10 a month by offering millions of songs with no adverts and unlimited skips. But one thing you can’t do right now is stop artists you never want to hear from popping up in a playlist or radio stream. That’s finally set to change, though, and your headphones will be free of their noise.

As Thurrott reports, the ability to block an artist is one of the most highly requested features on Spotify. There’s multiple reasons for wanting to do so, from simply not liking that artist’s music, to discovering they are not the type of personyou want to support in any way.

. . . .

The blocking feature will be introduced in an app update, with the result being an almost total block of any artist you wish. Their music will no longer appear in your personal library, but also in playlists, automatically curated playlists, charts, and any radio channels.

. . . .

For now, the blocking feature is limited to a select few on the Spotify beta program, with Thurrott confirming its presence on the iOS beta. To enable the block, simply navigate to an artist’s page, access the “…” menu, and select “Don’t play this artist.”

Link to the rest at PC Magazine

At the moment, PG is unaware of how an individual reader might be able to create such a blocking system for particular authors on Amazon.

When he thought about whether/how a blocking system might work on Amazon, censorship immediately came to mind. Apparently, Spotify doesn’t think blocking an artist’s performances just because of the identity of the artist is a bad idea. The OP doesn’t describe a system of censorship that Spotify is imposing on everybody (although it undoubtedly refuses to accept at least some racist, grossly misogynist, etc., performances as part of its content policy).

Of course, individual listeners/readers make choices to exclude a singer/song/book/author/category of books, etc., all the time as a matter of personal preference. Concerns about censorship only arise when a government or other monopolist or dominant entity makes a decision that access to the writings or speech of some persons or concerning a category of ideas will be banned from any sort of public exposure or availability.

So, would there be any sort of problem if Amazon permitted an individual reader to affirmatively preclude any mention of an author or an author’s works from that reader’s Amazon experience?

What if Amazon permitted an individual reader to upload a list of authors to be removed from the reader’s view? What if an organization or interest group provided a list of authors they found offensive that members of the organization could simply copy and upload to Amazon for blocking purposes?

If The Anti-Defamation League created and distributed a list of banned authors that adherents could use to block exposure to antisemitic authors on Amazon, would that be a problem? The ACLU? NAACP? The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee? The Republican or Democratic Party? Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump?

Or is PG making a mountain out of a molehill?

Amazon Knows What You Buy. and It’s Building a Big Ad Business from It.

21 January 2019

From The New York Times:

When a chain of physical therapy centers wanted new patients, it aimed online ads at people near its offices who had bought knee braces recently on Amazon.

When a financial services provider wanted to promote its retirement advisory business, it directed ads to people in their 40s and 50s who had recently ordered a personal finance book from Amazon.

And when a major credit card company wanted new customers, it targeted people who used cards from other banks on the retail site.

The advertisers found those people by using Amazon’s advertising services, which leverage what the company knows better than anyone: consumers’ online buying habits.

“Amazon has really straightforward database — they know what I buy,” said Daniel Knijnik, co-founder of Quartile Digital, an Amazon-focused ad agency that oversaw the ads for the clinics and retirement services. “For an advertiser, that’s a dream.”

Ads sold by Amazon, once a limited offering at the company, can now be considered a third major pillar of its business, along with e-commerce and cloud computing. Amazon’s advertising business is worth about $125 billion, more than Nike or IBM, Morgan Stanley estimates. At its core are ads placed on Amazon.com by makers of toilet paper or soap that want to appear near product search results on the site.

. . . .

But many ad agencies are particularly excited by another area of advertising that is less obvious to many consumers. The company has been steadily expanding its business of selling video or display ads — the square and rectangular ads on sites across the web — and gaining ground on the industry leaders, Google and Facebook.

In addition to knowing what people buy, Amazon also knows where people live, because they provide delivery addresses, and which credit cards they use. It knows how old their children are from their baby registries, and who has a cold, right now, from cough syrup ordered for two-hour delivery. And the company has been expanding a self-service option for ad agencies and brands to take advantage of its data on shoppers.

. . . .

Many of Amazon’s features are similar to those of Google or Facebook, like offering ways to target users based on their interests, searches and demographics. But Amazon’s ad system can also remove a lot of the guesswork by showing ads to people who have bought the shirts on Amazon.com.

Advertisers have long run some targeted campaigns through Amazon’s ad network. Many have done that by working directly with Amazon’s staff, who would place their orders on their behalf. That option has historically been focused on larger brands because it requires a minimum advertising commitment. Over time, Amazon has given more advertisers and their agencies access to the self-service system to run their own targeting campaigns on and off Amazon’s websites, and at a variety of spending levels.

Users of the self-service system can choose from hundreds of automated audience segments. Some of Amazon’s targeting capabilities are dependent on shopping behaviors, such as “International Market Grocery Shopper” and people who have bought “Acne Treatments” in the past month, or household demographics, such as “Presence of children aged 4-6.” Others are based on the media people consume on Amazon, such as “Denzel Washington Fans” or people who have recently streamed fitness and exercise videos on Amazon. The company declined to comment.

Just the Cheese, a company in Reeseville, Wis., makes crunchy dried cheese bars that have taken off as a low-carb snack. By using algorithms to analyze how Just the Cheese’s search ads performed on Amazon’s site, the ad agency Quartile Digital noticed that people who searched for keto snacks and cauliflower pizza crust, both low-carb diet trends, also bought a lot of cheese bars. So Quartile ran display ads across the web targeting Amazon customers who had bought those two specific product categories. Over three months, Amazon showed the ads on websites more than six million times, which resulted in almost 22,000 clicks and more than 4,000 orders.

That 20 percent conversion rate — a sale to one out of five people who clicked on the ads — was “amazing,” Mr. Knijnik said. “That is the kind of powerful granularity for building the target audiences that just Amazon can give you.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Why “Self-Promotion” Is B*******

16 January 2019

From The Millions:

The first time I ever heard the hyphenated word “self-promotion” uttered as something writers do, I was an MFA student. Seemingly every editor, author, or agent who spoke on a panel about “the publishing industry” came to tell us amateurs we had to build a platform and learn self-promotion. The work doesn’t stop when you sign your book contract, they said. The book isn’t going to sell itself; you have to.

As a debut author with an essay collection published through a small independent press, I understand how important it is for writers to participate in promoting their book. What made me wince 10 years ago, when the writing world was new to me, and what bothers me now, as a rookie author, is the continued proliferation of the word self-promotionand its associated misconceptions.

Book-tour angst is real. Maybe you saw the recent essay former Congressman Steve Israel penned for The New York Times, “Why a Book Tour Is More Brutal Than a Political Campaign,” where he wonders why “rejection in politics rolled off my back while even one person’s rejection of my book sticks in my craw?” He says, “sitting behind a pile of books at an Authors Night, watching people pick up your book as if it’s a piece of spongy fruit at the market, is sheer torture.”

What if the years we spent laboring over a manuscript in private become a product the public never finds out about, or worse, discovers and ignores? It seems most authors have a self-effacing story to share about poorly attended readings, like the one Tom McAllister opens with in  “Who Will Buy Your Book?”

It’d be disingenuous of me to pretend that rejections to requests for readings and reviews don’t sting. Of course they do. But my beef with self-promotion’s existence in publishing is the word’s power to conflate the work and the person who wrote it. Writers are not politicians whose entire curriculum vitae are to be endorsed or condemned. We’re not campaigning to sell ourselves during an election of literary minded voters. We’re selling our work.

What writers do in the necessary stage of discussing their books online and at in-person events is not an ego-driven series of acts trying to draw attention to the self, but rather an extension of the private labor that has become public.

. . . .

Maybe self-promotion is such an uncomfortable phrase for many writers because of its associations to self-absorption, self-adulation, self-righteousness, self-aggrandizement, self-congratulations, self-interests, selfishness, and so on. Self-promotion is laden with the solipsistic ugliness of narcissism, of navel-gazing.

. . . .

I’m more comfortable with the word sharing. That’s what we’re doing. We share updates about our work and where we will be physically sharing it, as well as sharing ourselves in the way we read, answer questions, and talk to book buyers when we sign their copies.

Link to the rest at The Millions

PG suggests that it’s 2019, not 1959.

For 99.5% of authors, book tours are a waste of time, an exercise that publishers suggest because they haven’t had an original thought about marketing in hundreds of years.

For the other 0.5% of authors, the ones who are already famous and have lots of readers, book tours are still a waste of time. Ten cities in ten days, 500 books sold per city, 5,000 books sold overall, three days to prepare, ten days to recover. One viral Youtube video will sell far more than 5,000 books and you don’t have to lie down for a week afterwards.

PG did a quick Google search of hand selling.

Every single result on the first page related to selling books.

Why might that be?

Perhaps because the book business is the only business that still believes hand selling is a great idea for something less expensive than a Harley Davidson.

Non Omnia Possumus Omnes

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