“Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together.”
For publishers and their creative partners (authors, writers, composers, artists, etc.) these are certainly problematic times. But, Redford’s optimism about pulling together “the right people,” whether via conference call, email or your favorite teleconferencing tool inspires me.
Many publishers rely largely on the big retailers to sell their books. But as Amazon has been focusing on shipments of “essential” items (not including books) and Barnes & Noble has closed 400+ of their 627 retail stores, publishers must pivot not only to stay afloat financially, but to connect and support their readers. Much of this means focusing on partnering with independent stores who are creatively offering curbside pickup of purchases to their local customers and reaching out for more direct to readers sales by offering specials and utilizing creative marketing techniques.
Here are some ideas I have gleaned from listening to and monitoring the actions of publishers over these past few weeks. While this post is geared to publishers, authors who self-publish or who simply want to partner creatively with their publisher to promote their works might find some useful ideas here, too. Here are the ideas I’ve observed or thought of. What is working for you?
- Offer limited time discounts on direct purchases on the publishers’ website, but with an extra incentive (10% more discount? A free eBook?) when someone purchases 5 or more copies.
- Consider offering free (or flat fee, low cost) shipping via your website.
- Communicate regularly with your friends & fans via email & social media. Remind them that you are still shipping books (assuming that you are) or provide links with places where they can purchase your books. Share reviews, author interviews, excerpts….anything that will engage them.
- Author readings (especially good with children’s books, a big-name author, poetry) or concerts by composers/arrangers for music publishers.
- Have you tried creating a podcast featuring your authors and/or editors? Or, do any of your authors already have podcasts on which you can piggyback promotions? Or, perhaps there are podcasts tied to the genre(s) and subjects in which you publish that would welcome an interview with one or more of your authors or editors?
- Develop mini-classes via Zoom, YouTube, Instagram, webinars, etc. with how-to’s that tie to one or more books
- Offer a free eBook or other helpful content in exchange for email addresses from prospective customers (maybe from previously published content that is pertinent to this time or teaser excerpts from future pubs)
- Consider publishing (perhaps just in eBook formats for now) something new in genres that are selling the best as people are sheltering in place: children’s resources, self-help, puzzles, cooking, etc.
- Offer a special discount code or special bonus offer code for your customers to share with friends. (use this code to get a free ______)
- Develop care-packages for people to order with related books for adults or kids (think grandparents wanting to send something to grandkids or vice versa)
- Experiment with flash sales….24-hour deep discount promos via social media and email marketing…to boost sales and gather email addresses of people with an interest in your publications.
- Promote virtual book clubs and help by crafting free, downloadable discussion questions and other tools to help readers read together.
- Craft a clever hashtag that ties to your publications or a subset of them and invite customers and fans to post photos of themselves via social media with your resources and/or this hashtag. Maybe offer a prize for the best posts.
- Holidays are always a good time for people to purchase published material. Mother’s Day is just around the corner on May 10. Father’s Day will be following six weeks later on June 21. And, in-between those two are graduations for high school, college and other educational institutions. We just learned today that our granddaughter, who was to graduate from high school on May 21, will not be walking across a stage in the Phoenix, AZ area, but will be having a streaming graduation ceremony on the same date. She loves to read, so we’ll try to make her graduation special for her whether we are there in person or not. I’d love it if a publisher sent me a suggestion for one or more items to go into a customized gift box to ship to her! I’ll be there are more grandmas and aunts like me! Even if there isn’t a specific holiday to celebrate, how about offering “self-isolating gift boxes” with various themes built from your backlist just to brighten someone’s day?
Promote your authors’ websites and social media sites and invite them to reciprocate.
Encourage authors to update their websites and social media presence (FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube…whichever platforms where their audience(s) are most likely to be found). This may mean helping authors leverage their own platforms with a “how to” guide, either a PDF that you can email to them or a webinar (that you also post on YouTube and/or your website/social media pages).
- Promote your authors’ websites and social media sites and invite them to reciprocate.
Publishers aren’t the only organizations challenged by the ripple effect of COVID-19. Bookstore and library buyers are struggling, too. Can you offer “we’re in this together” special discounts or modify your payment terms for a period of time to assist these partners?
Insert promos in any standard mailings you are still sending out such as invoices or royalty check mailings.
Ad Age magazine recently published an interesting article, “History Shows Marketers Who Keep Spending During Downturns Fare Much Better.” While you may need to trim your planned advertising spending, if you have the ability to place some ads in the most important online journals, magazines, newspapers or other media during these challenging times, it may pay dividends in sales now and after this crisis ends.
In the UK, BookBound 2020 advertises itself as an “online ‘antiviral’ literary festival bringing authors and readers together for 7 days in April/May 2020.” Who could you partner with to create a virtual book festival?
If you have a natural constituency of readers, consider crafting ready-to-share articles/author interviews for others who serve them to publish on their blogs, websites, eNewsletters, etc. For example, if you publish resources for runners, provide an interesting article/author interview to the editors of running club or runners’ supply stores’ newsletters to share.
Explore co-marketing with companies/organizations with similar, but non-competing, interests. For example, if you publish cookbooks, would a company promoting food items or kitchenware, offer a free excerpt from one of your books to their customers? Or, if there is a magazine/journal/newsletter in a field related to one or more of your books, would they consider including a free excerpt from one of your books? In both cases, offer a “friends & family” discount code for purchasing the book.
No matter to whom you are marketing…consumers, bookstore or library buyers…the key is to be authentic. Get personal. Who are your largest customers? Call or email them (yes, individually) to check in and make sure they are doing well during these difficult times. Don’t take much of their time, but when you demonstrate that you genuinely care about them, they will remember it and will genuinely care about (and support) you and your business. If they can’t purchase anything now, they won’t forget about your kindness later.
Be innovative. Try something new and measure the results. If it works, great! Do it again. If not, tweak it or drop it and try something else.
Whether you are a publisher, an author or a reader, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what is working regarding the marketing of books, curricula, music, subscription products; whatever it is you sell or read.
Beth A. Lewis
© Getting2Transformation 2020