If you’ve been in the business of selling content, odds are that life has been less than predictable for you. The advancement of mobile technology and the way information is shared has left publishers and printers scrambling for ways to think outside the box when it comes to marketing their services. The companies that are succeeding aren’t necessarily the largest or fashioned to promote a broad array of services. They are doing well because they have adapted. They are using guerrilla marketing tactics in emerging channels with customer bases held captive by their level of engagement with those channels. We’d like to share a unique success story from Colleen Dunn Bates of Prospect Park Books, a Los Angeles based publisher.
Marketing a Book Without Mainstream Media
Publishers may be finding that the quality of the audience means more to the bottom line than the quantity of that audience. Prospect Park Books publishes three main genres, fiction, cookbooks and humor. The type of promotion each title and genre receives depends largely on how established an author is. When putting together a promotion for a cookbook title, Colleen recalled another publisher who had gotten a book reviewed on a blog related to the niche that had a substantial following. That review on a niche blog with a devout following, she learned, provided a much larger bump in sales than a short spot on a highly rated morning talk channel (The Today Show). When it came time to promote a cookbook title Prospect was publishing, they reached out to a blogger in Paris who had previously written about a recipe for caramels that the author had produced. They asked the blogger if he would be interested in providing a review of the cookbook and posting it on his blog.
The result? Weekly orders for the title nearly doubled, and it shot into the top 5,000 on Amazon.com. Colleen mentions that there was no other press going on at the time for that particular title. On the surface, it would seem that publishers can experience far more success when the audience they are exposed to is large. Mainstream media is still an effective way to get a lot of eyeballs on your product or service, but the quality of the audience is playing a larger role. It is true that a large segment of the demographic tuning in to the Today Show are targets for the title Prospect was marketing, but are those people invested in the content they watch?
In contrast, followers of the blogger in Paris are heavily engaged. Bloggers with large followings are generally thought to be leaders in their niche. The content they produce is shared constantly, and their followers are very interested in what they have to say. People form much deeper connections with these folks and, as a result, are much more influenced by the content they produce. It also takes more commitment to subscribe to an RSS feed or to visit the blog on a regular basis for new content than it does to flip on your television. It takes more effort to read through a piece of writing than it does to passively listen to a TV show while doing the dishes or responding to email. Reaching one quality blog follower is far more powerful than reaching ten passive mainstream media viewers who may or may not care about what it is you’re selling.
Colleen was kind enough to elaborate on her success in marketing this particular title. She says that not all content lends itself well to this model, and it isn’t a replacement for tactics like book events, authors doing public speaking, and other traditional marketing. She says that increasingly, it is important for authors to take a hands-on approach in the relationship they have with publishers. Authors can experience much more success if they work on building buzz through their own networks and forming deep connections with readers.
Other independent publishers are embracing the rise of digital content marketing in the information age. According to data from the Pew Research Center, revenue from print advertising is now half of what it was in 2006. Stories like the one from Prospect Park Books highlight a growing trend among publishers and authors. Many are taking advantage of emerging media and the devout followers it produces.
We firmly believe that there will always be a place for print in the world of online content, just like there is a place for movie theaters in a world of streaming online video. We would like to thank Colleen and Prospect Park Books for sharing their insight and success on marketing titles. Hopefully others in the publishing industry can find their strategy helpful.
What less conventional tactics have you used to market a book? Were they successful? As a publisher, have you found more success promoting titles online than in traditional channels?