It’s Business Monday and today I have a very special guest: New York Times bestseller, M.J. Rose is the author of sixteen novels, the founder of the first marketing firm for authors – Authorbuzz.com, and co-founder with Liz Berry of 1001 Dark Nights . Here, she shared her tips on marketing and publicity in the ever-changing publishing world.
No one can buy a book they’ve never heard of.
So, how do readers hear about books? Everyone likes to say it’s word of mouth, but it’s not possible to tell a friend about a book until you’ve heard of it yourself.
That’s where publicity and marketing come in. What’s the difference between the two? Marketing is paid placement on blogs, radio, TV, newspapers, etc. These show up as ads, advertorials, promotions, blog tours, and more. With marketing, if you pay for it, it shows up. You hire a marketing company and they buy the space. The attention is guaranteed to be there.
Publicity is the opposite. You pay a publicist to pitch your book to newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV, radio interviews, and reviews. You are paying for the publicist’s effort to get you some attention. A publicist’s rate of success is determined by the quality and quantity of her connections.
7 Marketing & Publicity Points
1. 85% of all books get less than $2,000 in marketing from the publisher. And more than 85% of all books sell less than 1,000 copies.
2. 95% of all branded bestsellers get more than $25,000 in marketing and PR, and often it’s upwards of $50,000. There are never more than two or three books a year that break out on a fluke with no marketing and PR.
When people say, “If advertising and PR worked every book would be a bestseller,” they are approaching it from the wrong direction. The real question is, “How many books have succeeded without any PR or marketing?” and the answer is: very few.
Advertising and PR can’t make every book a bestseller because not every book is good enough or appealing enough. It is much easier to write an exciting ad than to write a whole book. Not even the most brilliant PR and marketing can sell a book people don’t want to read.
3. Marketing and PR are both valuable, so I advise that if you have a big enough budget you should hire a publicist. Then for every dollar you spend with a publicist, spend two dollars with a marketing company. That way, even if the publicist can’t get reviews and publicity, you’ll still get exposure.
4. Exposure does work. If you take 100 books and look at the ones that had PR and marketing dollars spent on them and the ones that had none, you will absolutely see that the books that had PR/marketing outsold the others more than ten to one. The problem comes when you look at one book at a time.
For instance, I’ve done AuthorBuzz and blog ad campaigns where I have proof that over 10,000 people clicked through and looked deeper at the book, but ultimately the sales were less than stellar. What happened? We got attention for the book, but when potential readers looked more closely, they didn’t buy. I’ve also done campaigns where we did minimal marketing efforts and the book went back to press, which the publisher never expected, or the book ranked higher on a bestseller list than they expected or it simply sold through at a better rate than other books in the season/genre. What happened? It was a terrific book. It resonated with readers. PR and marketing can’t sell books. It’s worth repeating. PR and marketing can’t sell books.
PR and marketing can expose books to potential readers. The book—the words and the premise, the first few pages, the flap copy, the book cover—must entice, enchant, seduce. The book sells the book.
In advertising there is a saying: nothing kills a bad product better than great advertising. It’s true for books too.
5. What to spend? The advice I give everyone, and follow myself, is to keep your day job or a freelance job and spend as much as you can on selling your book. I’ve worked with authors who spend $985 and others who, between my services and other efforts, spend $250,000. One way to decide: if you are going to look back and regret spending the money, don’t do it. But if you are going to look back and say, “If only I had tried maybe the book would have succeeded,” then do it. Nora Roberts said you should spend 10% of your advance. For years, James Patterson spent all of his on advertising and kept his job.
6. If you are going to hire a publicist or marketing firm, don’t believe anyone who promises you specific sales numbers. No one knows how many copies of your book they can move and if they start out by lying, you’re going to get screwed. Make sure you look at their testimonials and recognize some of the authors/publishers.
Lastly, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not true. People will try to get you to pay money to attend teleseminars on how to become an Amazon No. 1 bestseller for ten minutes. All that achievement actually requires is that you manipulate the system and get 100 friends to buy the book within an hour. Don’t pay anyone anything for advice like that.
March 7th, 2016 at 9:26 am · Link
A huge THANK YOU to M.J. Rose for sharing these great tips with us, and to Liz Berry for making all the arrangements! Both of you are amazing!
March 7th, 2016 at 1:00 pm · Link
MJ, thank you soooo much for the definition/difference between marketing and publicity. I’d been lumping them together in my head, which is probably not a good thing. I suck at “marketing.” I’m slightly better at publicity. Food for thought here.
And congrats to you and Liz on your 1001 Dark Nights success!
March 7th, 2016 at 4:49 pm · Link
These posts are a real learning experience for me, thank you. It’s really interesting seeing how much more there is to getting your books out there. Thank you.
Have a great day ;)!