Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why is it so expensive to market a book?

With publishing on demand the act of publishing a book is very inexpensive but if a book is printed and no one knows about it so no one buys it … does it count? Selling books requires marketing and selling the book. Marketing is the act of making a potential reader aware of the book you are trying to sell. Marketing is expensive. The author, substituting time for some of the cost, can do most of these steps. When major publisher promotes a book they pay for everything, this is what they pay for:

  1. Well before publication: A review in Kirkus Review, the Library Journal, BookSense, Publishers Weekly, specialty reviews, regional reviews, etc. Most of these outlets require a fee of between $100 and $350 for a review with no guarantee that you’ll like what the review says. Of course every venue for your review needs a galley, which must be printed, prepared, mailed with followed up. Pre-publication marketing can easily top $3000.
  2. Press releases. During the commercial life of your book the publisher and the authors publicist will send out many press releases. The first one will announce that the book will be published with a very short synopsis. Every event in the life of the book should be announced. In general the first press release takes the most work. The public relations team needs to learn all about you, the author (what makes the YOU so newsworthy) and about the book (what makes it special: why, on earth, should I read this book instead of other book). A publicity campaign involving just 5 press releases can easily cost $2000.
  3. Web site. Press releases are pointless if they don’t direct the reader someplace. Today a website is a necessity. Creating a simple website can cost $500 - $1500. Remember there is a professional photograph to be taken, professional copy to be written and a designers time all of which cost money, plus hosting and domain name. Creating a unique website requires obtaining a domain, contracting for a web site, designing a simple web site that should contains the following information:
    1. The authors biography
    2. Photograph of the author and book cover
    3. The Authors list of other books (if any)
    4. A synopsis of the book you’re selling today
    5. The book tour – signings, sightings and readings
    6. Publication information for bookstores, libraries and teachers
    7. A way for the public to buy the book directly via
      i. POD printer
      ii. Amazon
      iii. Paypal button
      iv. Link to your publishers e-commerce site

A professional e-commerce enabled web site designed from scratch (with recycled copy from press releases) may cost, when all is said and done, $1500 or more.

  1. Post publication reviews & interviews. Targeting secondary reviewers in Newspapers, magazines, specialized book review venues including literary journals and radio and television. Find a select number of reviewers, contact them, ship books to them and follow up. Generating 5 reviews (again no guarantee they’ll like the book) requires contacting 20 – 30 potential reviewers. Cost: roughly $1500 plus books and shipping.
  2. Marketing Collateral is the stuff they give away in pursuit of product recognition: business cards, bookmarks, postcards, posters, fliers, brochures and everything else needed to get peoples attention. A small collection of business cards, bookmarks and postcards can cost $500. A full-blown direct mail campaign to 3000 bookstores could cost $15,000 to $20,000.
  3. Bookstore marketing. To sell books you can either sell directly to the end user (that’s what your web site is for) or you can sell through a middleman. A middleman can be a distributor, a bookstore, a grocery store, a drug store or any other organization that sells books. You’d be surprised who sells books, look around. In the long run you want your book to be in bookstores. Promoting your book to the chain stores is best accomplished by generating buzz and demand. If people ask for your book, they’ll carry it. The independent bookstores are different. You want to market to the independent bookstores because they will give you the widest opportunity for book signings and local publicity. For a book signing tour you’ll need to first contact all your local bookstores within some distance of a zip code by sending them a flier telling about your book, all about your planned marketing blitz in the area, and your book tour schedule (when you would like to schedule a book signing), a mail-back postcard and some bookmarks and a poster. The cost of contacting 100 independent book stores is roughly $2000. The costs of a bookstore marketing campaign could include:
    1. collateral design & packaging
    2. collateral printing
    3. mailing list rental
    4. fulfillment (labeling and mailing the kit)
    5. Follow up phone calls
  4. Book clubs, reading clubs, open mike venues, specialized distributors, or any specialized marketing. Every book is unique. Every book has a unique collection of possible sales and marketing venues. Exploring each venue takes time and money. The big-boys are both adept and efficient at this kind of marketing.

This is what a major publisher would do for a book in the middle of their list. They would spend a lot more on a Harry Potter book. If you self-publish or are published by a smaller publisher without a marketing budget you may still be able to reap sizable rewards simply by creating a website and issuing a press releases.

HINT: One of the missions of ISCSpress is to provide marketing services for self-published authors and smaller publishers. We can’t make it any less expensive but we do the work so you don’t have to. You just have to write.

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