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With Marketing Budgets Slashed, Co-op and Web Take Priority

By Chris Artis

old media

With the recent economic downturn, book advertising — in the traditional sense at least — is on the decline. The majority of US publishers have cut their marketing budgets by 50-70% over the last year. What’s more, while some ad prices have been depressed, prices have not dropped far enough to make them a viable way to advertise most books: a full-page color ad in a leading national publication still costs somewhere in the range of $100,000, while a single 30-second spot on a network television morning talk show goes for a cool $50,000 price tag — prices steep enough to blow even the most generous book marketing budget in a single shot.

“The relatively small size of consumer ad budgets has traditionally made it tough for advertising to stand alone as the lynch pin of book’s success,” says Betsy Hulsebosch, Managing Director of Launchpad LLC, a marketing and publishing consultancy company.

While few in the industry want to openly discuss the issue of declining marketing budgets, a survey by Publishing Perspectives among publishing and ad execs in the United States revealed that one stable area of the marketing spend is on “co-op,” or the cash paid to retailers for a premium in-store display, such as on tables, end caps or in windows.

The prevailing wisdom still holds that most people walk into a store with no idea what they want to read, so it remains crucial to catch the customer’s attention as soon as possible. Those eyeballs don’t come cheap, though. It can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars per week, per title, for premium placement within a single national retail chain. It’s money which most publishers still consider money well spent.

What money remains in marketing budgets is largely being directed toward online ads and campaigns, efforts that are becoming increasingly prevalent, even for high profile titles.

In particular, publishers are finding online campaigns are especially effective at generating pre-pub publicity for titles. One example, offered by Carolyn Schwartz, VP director of advertising and promotion for the Random House Publishing Group, is Random House’s pre-publication advertising campaign for the forthcoming January hardcover, The Superstress Solution, which includes, among other things, multiple banner ads that ran in recent issues of PW Daily, a daily trade email newsletter.

Still, for many marketing execs raised on traditional print and television media, not to mention agents and authors who demand the prestige of the print ad, online marketing can still be perceived as a compromise, something done as an inexpensive alternative to more costly print and television campaigns — a perception that remains difficult to change.

“If done right, a new media campaign will achieve better reach and frequency at a lower price, with results that are more easily quantified,” argues Michael Kazan, managing director of Verso Advertising, a firm that serves several major publishing houses with online marketing services.

Kazan cites Verso’s 2008 pre-publication internet campaign for Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, as one such example. The campaign, which cost about $25,000, served up over five million ad impressions. The result was some 99,000 downloads of samples from the book and the harvesting of some 60,000 web users and 13,000 individual names and emails that were re-targeted on publication date. It’s hard to validate, but Kazan believes that this campaign is what helped propel the title directly to the top spot on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction list (a first for Friedman), where it remained for a month during the highly competitive fall 2008 season.

More recently, Verso partnered with Burst Media to create Verso Reader Channels, customizable networks designed to target a book’s specific market. Each channel is an aggregate of websites covering specific subjects — from Business and Finance to Women’s Romance — and are designed to optimize reach and frequency. A one million “impression” Reader Channel campaign starts at about $6,000.

Those who remain skeptical about the effectiveness of online advertising may do well to consider the results of study by Kelley Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing Services at RR Bowker, that he presented this May at the Book Industry Study Group’s Sixth Annual Making Information Pay conference. Gallagher’s research revealed that of 30,000 consumers who were asked in what medium they were first made aware of a new book, 54.1% cited online/internet advertising, while only 21.2% said TV, radio, and newspaper magazine advertising.

Indeed, this small sample goes a long way to prove that far from remaining an advertising backwater, new media placement may very well deliver the best bang for what’s left of the publishing ad bucks.

Tomorrow, we will look at some of the prices for advertising and who pays.

READ: More about online marketing firm Launchpad LLC

VISIT: Verso Advertising’s Reader Channels

VIEW: The slideshow from Kelley Gallagher’s BISG Presentation

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6 Comments

  1. Posted September 8, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    My problem with most of the online PR and advertising services is that the success stories they point to usually involve books that would sell well anyway. Thomas Friedman? Please. After paying an agency to do my first couple of Bangkok thrillers and being underwhelmed by the results, I handled it myself for the new one, BREATHING WATER. The problem with online is that it’s a swamp, and readers don’t know where to look. I discovered this time out that there are about five sites (among the eighty or so that I approached to review the book) where a strongly positive review will actually produce a sales bump on Amazon. The second part of the equation, and one that’s rarely mentioned, is merchandising exceptionally strong online reviews to booksellers and print reviewer, as well as other media.

  2. Posted September 8, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I can list many dozens books that I’ve advertised via Authorbuzz.com that were not “big” books and that exceeded expectations for the authors in terms of sales and would have had no other audience if we hadn’t gotten behind a book. WIllow by Julia Hoban was one of the most recent. More examples to those who write me at authorbuzzco@aol.com who are interested in working with us.

  3. Posted September 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    forgive the typos – hit send too fast.

  4. Posted September 8, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Also should weigh on pricing. We deliver more for less. Authorbuzz.com starts at only $985 for marketing to 3000 booksellers, 12,000 librarians and over 370,000 readers. For $675 more we add in readers and leaders of more than 18,000 bookclubs. And we can reach over 1 million impressions in ads for less that $3000. For $6000 we’re well above 7 million.

  5. Posted September 9, 2009 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Promoting books online to targeted readership bases levels the playing field. Some of our authors have had phenomenal success with their books using newer, more progressive strategies, targeting their exact reader base. And they are not well-known authors. Their books are good, however, and they are targeting their readers. What they do cannot be a shotgun approach, however. That doesn’t work. As in any good marketing, strategies should be planned. We don’t believe in throw-away (i.e., print and mailers) marketing. While there may be a place for that type of marketing for SOME authors (like those with a big following who are already known to the world), it isn’t appropriate for all. I know authors who have spent their hard-earned cash on disappointing throw-away marketing pieces and campaigns. I hear the stories all the time. They don’t have support from the publisher, and they need to promote their own books. Then they listen to someone counseling them on things that won’t work well in today’s marketplace. In these penny-pinching times, authors need to spend wisely. That said, while online marketing offers a better bang for the buck, this alone doesn’t promise success. It takes other mechanisms within that marketing to make it work well. I agree with M.J. Rose, who says that it is not only the “big” books that do well with SMART online marketing. It is the approach and the thought behind the campaigns. What doe the campaign entail? What tools are built into it that offer sustainable marketing that can be used to promote the author’s recent book and any future books to come? That is something newer marketing offers… SUSTAINABILITY in the marketplace. Bookstores showcase books for a few weeks; if publishers support an author at all, it is for the short haul. As an author, how does one continue to reach his/her buying base? Through sustainable online marketing efforts that target the right reader base. While we help authors promote their most recent and upcoming works, we’ve helped plenty of them promote their whole series of books with success. I don’t know about you, but if I find a book written by an author I like, whose writing style suits me, and learn that the author has written other books, I seek those books out and buy them. I don’t care if it is a new release. And I look for upcoming books by that author, too. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Visit me at Book Candy Studios ONLINE. Read our articles on MySpace.com/bookcandystudios, too. Enjoy!

  6. Steve
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    Something I wrote on another blog may be relevant here, at least in general terms.

    The blog owner, Nathan Bransford, had quoted a previous day’s commenter who had said:

    “It seems like we are auditioning for “America’s Next SuperWriter” and the fifteen minutes of fame required.”

    This hits at a point I’ve mentioned before. Record labels used to create superstars through massive publicity spending, just like publishers. Like publishers, they retreated from that. The retreat for the music industry began around 2003-2005. Arguably Avril Lavagine was one of the very last to benefit from the traditional “star-making machinery”. Now the A & R guys want acts to “build their story” (In publishing terms, build their “platform”) before they will give them a look. This process I would guess to be about 5 years more advanced in music than in literature.

    But look at the countertrend!

    The countertrend is American Idol. American Idol stod the star-making machinery on its head and turned it from a cost center to a profit center. American Idol monetized the drama, using all the traditional story hooks of the “fame” narrative, along with the newly expanded opportunities for direct audience participation. The Idol votes are the applause meters of the 21st Century.

    I’ve said and will keep saying that whoever first successfully pitches “America’s Next Best Seller” as reality TV will become rich and famous. Remember you heard it here first.

    -Steve

3 Trackbacks

  1. By online marketing v traditional outlets on September 8, 2009 at 8:19 am

    [...] changing? Are publishing spending less on advertising books through the traditional channels? Read PublishingPerspectives.com article on this subject. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or [...]

  2. By State of Book Promotions « SONYA CHUNG on September 9, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    [...] This article about the changing promotional strategies that publishers are adopting, in light of 50-70% marketing budget cuts, is enlightening. [...]

  3. [...] marketing budgets are down 50-70% this year. Efforts are moving toward web, cooperative advertising with retailers. For small [...]

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