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Bookseller Marketing & Publicity Conference, June 2015

Cherry Potts of Arachne Press was the winner of our prize draw for a free place at the Bookseller's Marketing & Publicity Conference on 30th June, and she is kindly sharing her key take-aways from the event with us. Here's the first of three posts with her comments and observations on the day ...

So — a hot day on the South Bank with the Bookseller’s finest. I was doubtful how much benefit I would get from the conference as a one woman outfit and found myself laughing nostalgically at the oft mentioned ‟learning to work together across departments” from those working in the larger publishing houses. I was not alone in laughing at £4k being described as ‟a tiny budget for marketing a single book”. And this was where my doubts sprang from: my marketing budget per book is less than £100! But in fact this was one of those rare events where I didn’t feel at any point that my time was being wasted.

The phrase of the day was Cut through used as a noun. What the @**! Does that mean?

However there were some useful tips to be had for those of us with no money at all, and some useful reminders of things I knew already but had shelved in the ‘later’ bit of my brain, plus some reassurance that some of the more outré strategies I use, other people think might actually work!

So here is my take on what there was on offer for the likes of me.

There were broadly four official themes: The Reader; The Brand; The Reviewers; Stress! (which I am ignoring in my blogposts, you all know how that works).

And the unofficial ones, that time replaces money in marketing as a constant budgetary balancing act, (one event was said to have cost £150 – oh, and 8 people full time for 8 weeks, and then a full weekend — so that’s kind of nearer £30k, isn’t it?). And that everyone from literary festivals to reviewers (including the readers??) is more interested in the author than the book.

Unsurprisingly with so many speakers there were a lot of points that were repeated, and many that were contradicted.

The Reader:
There was a lot on paying attention to the ultimate consumer (the human being behind the number) who actually reads the book: understanding your audience and what they want (and then surprising them), and taking your marketing to where that audience will see it, and earning their attention, by inviting collaboration and feedback, and sharing both content and covers with either focus groups (‘members’) or anyone who is sufficiently interested. When feedback is negative get your fans to champion for you; and use the negatives, (‘your great aunt would hate this book’ kind of thing).

The key message was not to spread yourself too thin: choose a couple of routes that will reach the people you want to reach, and get on with it, both in terms of direct marketing and creating communities around genres through events. 90% of social media users ‘lurk’ and don’t interact. (I am a self-confessed social media lurker, and actually, I suspect readers may skew this percentage even further by their very nature.)

The ‘who’ of reaching out to your potential audience was neatly identified by Ciaran Brennan, who has a niche product and a (large) niche market of mainly male 14-35 year-old football nerds (his words), where more communication isn’t going to bring in more people, but can get those already engaged advocating for you.

Reader experience (of the actual book). Marginal gain: small things that make a big difference – answer the questions people have – what does the author look like (a photo) – who are they (an entertaining bio). Share information about why is the cover as it is, what decisions were made about design etc.. Endpapers/ flaps etc, make them work for the reader with additional snippets of useful info … and making sure all the extras make it into the ebook.

In Part 2 of this round-up, on Friday, Cherry will be summarising what was said about Brands.