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Publishing Note: Three Ways to Create Book Marketing Fireworks


No matter the goal you have in mind when publishing your book, unless you put some sort of marketing effort behind it, you won’t achieve that goal. To succeed, your book needs to make an impact, which requires igniting book marketing fireworks. Whether you presume that your traditional publisher will market the book for you, or you decide to do it yourself, or you hire a high-power firm to enact their strategies, the course you choose will determine the tools at your disposal. Going in, you should know the marketing landscape is uneven, the options available to some are not available to all.

The Three Options

Rely on a Traditional Publisher

Contrary to popular belief, signing a deal with a traditional publisher may not be in your best interests, with respect to marketing. A traditional book deal with a publisher’s recognized brand will help sell books but, regardless of how well known a publishing house is, if they put minimal resources behind the publication of your book, the coattail marketing effect of being associated with that brand will be equally limited. The matter of marketing support (i.e., the size of the marketing budget for your book) is distinct from the array of marketing fireworks a publisher has to choose from, to which we shall return in a moment.

Do It Yourself

You may decide to take on the book marketing yourself, especially if you are self-publishing. Put on the war paint and dive into guerilla marketing, build a grassroots movement, go viral on social media, bring in a couple top influencers, and achieve all this through your own marketing sweat equity. That’s pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps energy at its best. Even when you have a great strategy, without the right combination of tools at your disposal, you may not be able to implement the strategy as conceived. Unfortunately, independent authors don’t have access to the same arsenal of marketing fireworks as traditional and hybrid publishers. Partly this is a function of individual authors simply not knowing what they don’t know—that is, some resources are available but they are unaware of them—and partly this is a function of certain marketing companies only working with publishers and not directly with authors. So the fireworks that you as an author can use to promote your book are not the same as those a publisher may have available.

Call on the “Experts”

Independent marketing firms could represent the best of both worlds, though here the individual author faces the daunting task of identifying, vetting, and selecting the right firm. A Google search for “book marketing companies” returns 1.67 billion results. Even the countless lists of top book marketing firms places the unwitting author in a noisy alley of indiscriminate barkers all clamoring for your attention, claiming they are the one for you. Personal recommendations would be nice; however, authors may not have personal contacts who’ve had experience with book marketing firms. Top tier book marketing firms have their own arsenals to offer authors. Their marketing fireworks may or may not match the goals and needs of your book. They may pull together an off-the-shelf, plain vanilla, cookie-cutter campaign to fit a modest budget. Or they may steer you toward a campaign that suits them better than will work for you, mainly because it relies on tools with which they are familiar or comfortable. Then again, your budget will dictate what they can offer you. Do you want a New Year’s Eve fireworks spectacular on par with New York City, or are you okay with sparklers in your backyard? Small budgets generally produce minimal marketing bang for the buck. Large budgets expand your choices and increase the odds of capturing the attention of your audience.

What Fireworks Do You Need?

To some extent, any marketing firm worth its salt knows what the tools are. Yet some companies may have access only to a limited set, while others offer greater access to the whole array, especially for their high-volume customers. Your platform as an author, the category of your book, your goals for the book, the target audience (reading preferences, purchasing habits, demographics, geographic location), and so on, will determine which tools are more appropriate to your marketing campaign. Print ads in the New York Times, New York Review of Books, and Wall Street Journal, will attract a certain kind of attention, whereas online ads run through Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, Google, and BookBub, will present your book in perhaps more diverse ways to different audiences. There are countless marketing options to consider, such as pay-to-play to place your book in airports and bus terminals through Hudson News and its related outlets. The lines between marketing and selling sometimes blur, as with this particular example. Regardless, you need a relationship with Hudson News to place books in their stores, and since they only deal with distributors and publishers, individual authors are left out in the cold. Therefore, it is imperative to establish which marketing fireworks you need for your book’s success.

Any author who has the creativity to imagine what to put in a book, the discipline to write a book, and the drive to publish that book, surely has the sense to know that marketing will be a key ingredient to how well their book performs. To make an impact for your book, you will without a doubt need to choose the marketing fireworks best suited to make it the talk of the town. Keep in mind that the three avenues above offer uneven access to these arsenals. You can level the playing field, or tilt it to favor your book, by working with the partner(s) most aligned with your goals.