Industry Insider Interview:Marketing Up (and Through) a Storm
With my next release, Beneath Bone Lake, on the horizon, I’ve been wondering how the current economic climate might affect efforts to promote new books. To find out, I contacted Erin Galloway, Manager of Marketing for Dorchester Publishing and asked if she’d be willing to share her answers to a few questions on the blog.
CT: Thanks so much for stopping by Boxing the Octopus, Erin. We appreciate your willingness to share your considerable knowledge of the book biz. First of all, could you tell us just a little about what is it you do for Dorchester?
EG: Colleen, thank you very much for having me at Boxing the Octopus. I am the Manager of Marketing for Dorchester, so my main job is to promote our novels to readers. I do this through consumer advertising, email marketing, content on the Dorchester web site, in-person promotion at various conferences and conventions, and through publicity pitches to various online organizations and print publications.
CT: How would you say recent economic trends have impacted your efforts? Have you and the terrific team at Dorchester come up with any creative ways to generate buzz without straining the bottom line?
EG: The internet is a goldmine, especially in today’s economy. While we will certainly continue our print advertising, we are going to be very targeted in those efforts in the future. Print media tends to reach a more finite audience whereas the internet allows for endless possibilities. I have been carefully cultivating relationships with bloggers and web sites for some time and it is times like these that those relationships will prove invaluable.
CT: Most of us have been hearing stories about reduced print runs and weaker sell-through percentages. Are there any particular authors, books, lines, or subgenres that are defying that trend, and if so, why do you feel this type of product has been especially successful?
EG: The sad truth is our economy is indeed suffering and thus the book industry is suffering as well. The weaker sell thrus are a result of the tremendous slow down in the economy for the last half of the year through the holidays.
And, if the economy wasn’t causing enough of a problem in the marketplace, this difficult situation helped create a major disruption in the distribution channels for both books and magazines. In January, two major magazine wholesalers—Anderson News (ANCO) and Source Interlink (who, combined, represented roughly 50% of the magazine distribution market)—separately announced plans to charge publishers a 7-cents-per-copy distribution fee, effective February 2009. The magazine publishers announced they would not comply with the price increase and as a result, Anderson News, who also controlled a major portion of the wholesale mass market book distribution, did not survive and closed. This loss dramatically altered current print runs. You should know that all publishers are working daily to regain ANCO’s distributions to minimize the negative impact on the affected retailers. In some cases, the wholesalers have already worked out interim and long-term arrangements to ensure the continuation of product into those markets.
And yet, it is important to note that romance as a genre is bucking the downward trend. In a difficult time people need escapist literature even more to allow themselves time away from the stresses of everyday life. Romance provides that escape and relaxation. While I do think this year will be a difficult one for books, I have been heartened to hear from booksellers that romance is not only selling, it’s selling well.
CT: Finally, what advice can you offer authors in working with their house’s publicity/marketing department? What can we do to make your job easier? And is there anything you wouldn’t recommend, either because you’ve found it ineffective, overly expensive, or too time-consuming to be realistic?
EG: More than ever I think it’s really important to think about what audience you are targeting and marketing properly to that audience. If you are an established author with a solid reader base, is there any way you can expand? As a matter of fact, you are a great example, Colleen. We know you have a very established reader base and that romantic suspense readers are loyal to you. In order to introduce you to a new audience, we sent a special promotional mailing “introducing you” to the top bookstores of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. We wanted to seek out new readers that enjoy a good mystery (and some suspense) but perhaps were not yet familiar with your work.
I think it’s very important to communicate with your in-house publicist what audience you want to target and what your goals are. Once you have established that you have a framework for a plan. There may be specific blogs or web sites you can pitch to be featured on. Some places may offer you the opportunity to write a guest blog. Have you received any emails from reviewers saying how much they enjoyed your book? Write back and say thanks and feel free to politely ask if there is a way to be included in their site newsletter or in a guest blog. As long as you do so in a nice respectful way, it’s okay to be a little shameless when it comes to self promotion!
Think long and hard about where you are going to spend your money this year and do not spend it on any marketing and promo items if you don’t have specific targets in mind for them. If you want to print a thousand bookmarks or excerpt booklets, carefully consider who you will distribute those items to and how. Confirm with booksellers, librarians or conference organizers that they will be willing to distribute your materials or ask your in-house publicist or marketing team if they could use these items. It’s okay to order some extra items for unexpected opportunities that come up along the way, but ensure you have definite distribution channels before investing your money.
CT: This is all excellent information. Thanks again for taking time to tell us a little about your work and what authors can do to work with, rather than against, the publishing/marketing/sales team!
EG: Thank you so much for letting me join you and I wish all of you out there promoting yourselves and your books the best!
Note to BtO readers: Ms. Galloway will be popping in as time permits to respond to questions and comments left here, so please feel free to leave a note. And please feel free to share a link with anyone you know who might be interested in the discussion.