Publicity as Primary

As we move into a new year, with many exciting book launches planned, I’ve been thinking more and more about marketing and publicity.

You see, the hardest part of being a new, niche publisher that specializes in printing not-overly-commercial fiction by first-time authors is that, well, you’re up against a pair of obstacles: You, the publisher, have to build a reputation; and they, the authors, have to build a reputation. You don’t have a long-cherished readership to build on. You don’t have brand recognition. You’re clawing for every review, every sale.

It’s a challenge.

You can put out the best, most wonderfully written, well-designed, astonishingly beautifully-covered book in the world, and it does you no good if people don’t hear about it and pounce on it. Getting that book in front of people, in front of readers, is key – and that’s tough, when you’ve got one book on your list and you’re not a print publisher (yes, people are still very much discriminating against digital publishers).

So publicity and marketing are key.

I recently reread this article on O/R Books, where they state their philosophy on publicity – namely, that it should be primary. They spend virtually their entire budget on advertising.

I’d love to do that. I mean, the Strunk & White Impropers and I already work for free, basically, and the cover designers we work with are very generous with their time and talent. But there’s still costs associated with producing a top-quality book, and there’s still budgetary concerns. Candlemark & Gleam can’t sink $100k into publicizing a book, as much as I wish that were possible.

So it’s down to balancing affordability and effectiveness, and trying to come up with marketing and publicity campaigns that work, without costing an arm and a leg (we’ve gotta save up some money to move into print,y’know). O/R Books got onto TV, and into magazines. We don’t have the budget for that. We send out review copies to bloggers, and send authors out on blog tours and do giveaways. Beyond that, it’s wide open. Time to start making lists of magazines to advertise in, and places to get our name out…

So what do you think, cats and kittens? What would catch your eye in terms of advertising for a book? Where might be an unusual place for a book ad to turn up? Where might you pay attention? With a small budget, you’ve gotta be creative – fighting for top Google keywords is a losing battle, so where do you go?

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  • http://twitter.com/glindaharrison Glinda Harrison

    O/R Books was also putting out a book by Sarah Palin, so the name recognition alone would help it sell, no matter how well written the book is.

    Besides doing blogging and writing, I work in the music industry where we have the concept of street teams. Think of them as fans that help you promote your work. People love to connect with authors. They love to feel like they are helping an author they like by promoting their books. Often, authors just need to ask – and to acknowledge people for what they’ve done.

    So where do you go? Take it to the readers….

  • http://twitter.com/FictionChick Rima

    Websites that target readers, such as Goodreads, LibraryThing,Shelfari, etc. are good places to advertise. Writing blogs like BubbleCow offer free ad space for authors. As you said, the author MUST play a huge role in advertising his/her book; starting a Facebook fan page, commenting on relevant blogs… Whew! I’ve been at it for a while, and it takes a whole lot of effort before you start to notice results!

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Candlemark & Gleam

    You’ve done a fabulous job in building that “platform” for yourself as an author – and that can do nothing but good things for you in the future.

    The challenge as a publisher is to be able to support an author in doing all of this – it’s important for the writer to WRITE, not just spend all their time on marketing. And it’s especially important to be able to help support that author when they’re maybe not as outgoing, and don’t have the time or capacity to get out there and build themselves up. Which brings another challenge for the publisher…representing the author, while also representing the book and the company.

    There’s an awful lot of social media sites out there, even just for books, and it takes time away from editing (and writing!) to be active on them all!

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Candlemark & Gleam

    I think their book was ON Sarah Palin, not by her – I believe they culled quotes and did a compilation, rather than having something she actually wrote. Clever, sort of like the I Can Haz Cheeseburger blog-book idea, with a political bent.

    Street teams for authors would be a fabulous thing. I can see that really working if you’ve got a very commercial title and some dedicated fans in metropolitan areas.

    I need to work on developing a network of virtual street-teamers, blanketing the world with news of C&G releases and goodness. :-D

  • Draven Ames

    I agree. The more personal and accessible you make yourself, the more you will sell. If you can get readers to care, then you win. If I had 5,000$ to do PR, I would make a contest that gave $5000 to someone. The contest would be simple: put your name in the drawing, no fee or anything. One name is drawn, the person is asked a few questions about the book. If they answer them right, they get the cash. The contest would be over in 6 months, to give people time to read the book and spread the word. They get to submit their name twice if they wrote a review about the book.

    If I didn’t do that, I’d do magazines. If the book is geared towards boys, I go to a video game magazine. I try to make sure my ad is by a game that is similar and big selling. Like putting a superhero book by an X-Men game. Good luck. Great post.

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Candlemark & Gleam

    With a good budget, you can do a lot of creative things with cross-media advertising – I’d love to put something on Broken up on IO9, or on a video game site or magazine, for instance. But that’s prohibitive at this point.

    The cash giveaway is a great idea, for someone with the money to do so. If nothing else, it would raise a huge amount of awareness for the book.

    I wonder if something with a smaller prize would work similarly. Hm. The idea of doing open entries, but having to answer 5 questions about the book correctly is GENIUS.