Saturday, June 7, 2014

As the Publishing Industry Changes, So Does the Way We Promote Books

As a PR professional who’s been working in the book publicity business for a number of years, I’ve watched the industry go through some major changes. And as the industry has changed, so has the way we market books.

But what's different now? Well, for one thing, authors who self-publish their work must hire professionals, particularly cover designers, editors, and formatting specialists, to help ensure that what they put out is a quality product. Some authors choose to perform these tasks themselves, but doing so is risky. Unless they’re experts in all these arenas (which is rare), the end product may be viewed by readers as low quality, and sales may suffer.

Even our concept of platform has changed. Where in the past, platform was dictated by the size of the audience an author could bring to his work based on celebrity status, experience, or expertise, now it is heavily influenced by the number of books an author has published and the size of his online presence.

Authors are finding that certain genres, including erotica and fantasy, seem to have an easier time finding an audience, while others, like traditional and literary fiction, sometimes struggle. Manipulating pricing is crucial, as authors lower and raise price points to help move online sales rankings, and new methods of packaging books, including bundling and box sets, have become commonplace. Authors are learning that they must continue to write new books in order to be known, and consumer familiarity with technology is opening the door to concepts like interactive books, apps, and online access for readers.

As the industry has changed, so have the channels for distribution. Brick and mortar stores have been replaced by online brokers, making the Internet the primary book sales and event channel. Authors are replacing book signings with blog tours and partnering with other authors online to bundle their work and cross-promote.

Finding readers has become one of the biggest challenges, as the sheer numbers of authors, along with the noise that readers face, makes it difficult for authors to create an audience. Many authors have found themselves relying less on traditional media and more on social media and word-of-mouth promotion, as access to readers becomes more relationship-oriented.

If the industry is changing, does that mean that the way we promote books has changed, as well? Absolutely. As authors create more books, they realize that being able to build their own brand, connect with readers, and get the word out about their work is all-important, and sometimes more difficult, than ever.

And what are publicists doing now for their authors given the industry changes? Well, in my own practice, I’m seeing changes in the services I offer authors. In addition to writing press releases and getting them on the newswires, I’m helping my clients find bloggers who are willing to feature their books in the form of interviews or reviews on their blog sites. I’m doing a lot of work with online media outlets to create buzz and helping with branding and identity by pinpointing what is unique about an author’s work. I’m also helping my clients to reach their target audiences by identifying niche markets and working to create exposure opportunities, including submitting written articles to targeted print and online publications, booking presentations, and setting up appearances at select venues and events.

For some of my clients, especially those who feel that exposure via traditional media is less important, I’m working to help them to reach out to readers via review sites, blog sites, social media, and online reader sites. Even so, I still feel it’s important for authors to connect with their readers in as many ways as possible, and that includes face-to-face meetings at book signings, launch events, private readings, presentations, and other author appearances.

The bottom line is that even though the publishing environment has changed, there are now more promotional options than ever for authors who wish to connect with readers. And the more of these options that authors are willing to explore, the more likely it is that they will be successful in finding an audience for their work.

What are you doing to get the word out about your book?