Interview by Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief
M.J. Rose is the bestselling author of numerous novels including, most recently, The Witch of Painted Sorrows (Atria Books). A former advertising executive, she is also the founder of Authorbuzz.com — a marketing services company that promotes directly to those who matter most: readers. She spoke with Publishing Perspectives about her best practices book marketing, pitfalls to avoid, and other challenges of reaching readers.
Can you offer some of your best tips / best practices for author and book marketing?
- Don’t stop marketing — 2-3 weeks is not enough. 2-3 weeks of marketing was then. That was based on how long a new book got co-op at a physical store and how long it took to get word of mouth started. Now a plethora of free books and cheap books people don’t get around to reading what they buy for a while and so it takes longer than ever to build word of mouth. It can take 5, 6 weeks or even several months for someone to get to a book they bought. So you want to keep the buzz going while the book is being read so that when someone does hear word of mouth there’s still marketing to back it up.
- Rethink free giveaways once a title is on sale. It’s okay to do a couple of on sale giveaways if you get the email addresses of the entrants so you can form a relationship with the readers…. or you are giving a title to a book club — whose word of mouth is invaluable. But we need to stop the number of post pub free giveaways on blogs and Goodreads. Give away something else. Readers have become so used to free giveaways when we did a recent study of over 5,000 readers asking them why they had not bought one of their favorite authors titles the answer was they had entered to win one and were waiting to get it free!
- Get as much advance praise and reader buzz going as possible – at least 4 weeks prior to release
- Don’t always do it yourself. We live in a world of DIY publishing. But its not always the best way. If there was a self serve dental service would you let the machine pull out your wisdom tooth? Excerpts are experts for a reason. We study the marketplace, have insight, get better deals. Someone who markets 100 books a year knows stuff that you don’t. For instance a smart marketer will have the kind of relationship with Facebook where they have trained with their marketing department for a least a month. A self-serve author can’t even get to someone at Facebook through email.
What do you see as a reasonable starting off budget for book marketing for an author, as perhaps, a percentage of their overall budget?
That’s actually impossible to answer. Every genre is different… every author is different. So is every book. Is it just on line or in stores as well? What’s the goal? To get on the New York Times list or just sell the first 1,000 copies?
One thing that is true no matter what — the more you spend the more attention you get and the more people who see a more the more people can buy it.
I always tell people never spend savings and always to spend what you would regret not spending.
I have authors who spend as much as high five or six figures and at the other end campaigns at $1,500 – $3,000.
Is there a point where an author should stop marketing their book?
No. Never. Every book stays alive forever because of the Internet.
And just as important, no one can buy a book they never heard of. And a book is new to everyone who has never heard of it before. The only time readers pay attention to pub dates is when a favorite author publishes a new book.
There’s no reason to ever stop marketing any title that you have that is for sale. Publishers stop because of dollar constraints, but there’s no reason for authors to stop.
We did a study on this and out of 150,000 readers only 5% said they paid attention to whether or not a book was newly published. Ironically when we probed the 5% — over 85% of them who thought the book they were reading was new, were not in fact reading new books at all. The book was simply new to them.
Are there obvious or common mistakes that marketers are making?
Yes. The biggest is using social media and free giveaway as a substitute for paid marketing.
Of course it is important for an author to have a Facebook page and /or Twitter/ Instagram etc.. accounts and do a Goodreads or blog giveaway before the book comes out.
But the real value there is most for existing fans.
In a recent study we did we asked how readers had bought the last book by an author who was “new to them.” Less than 2% said via the author’s social media presence. Whereas 14% said they found out about a new book by a “favorite author” via the authors social media presence.
So use social media to keep fans informed. But don’t confuse that with marketing.
It’s the same with a blog. It’s not a be all /end all answer. To get a blog started and make it meaningful you have to post 3 times a week and grow the audience and then hope readers make the leap to “love the blog will love the book.”
Have a blog and have fun but don’t mistake it as marketing tool.
Are there obvious or common things that marketers are overlooking?
- Make sure to have “buy” buttons on the home page of author’s website. It should take no longer than 2 seconds to see the Amazon/BN/iBooks/IndieBound etc buttons.
- Library marketing. Libraries remain one of the most effective ways to introduce readers to authors who are new to them.
- The value of newsletters. We’ve been saying this since 2000. The #1 most important thing you have is the email address of a reader who loves you. Over the years people claimed newsletters were outdated but what everyone though would replace them never happened. MySpace anyone? Facebook is great but it only shows your posts to 10% of your followers.
Have you seen any innovation or overall change in book marketing since Author Buzz began?
- For a myriad of reasons marketing budgets at publishing houses have shrunk. And the mistake that follows is that people spend less and then say the things they are spending on are not working. But they are asking unreasonable expiations out of fewer efforts. If someone once spent $5,000 per book and are now spending $1,000 you can’t then say the $1000 wasn’t working.
- The reliance on free social media that doesn’t work in lieu of paid marketing is a crisis. I see so many marketing plans for big books with high five and six figure advances that have almost no real marketing.
- Do it yourself plans that don’t do it for the book.
As the market becomes more and more saturated with titles and authors, what do you see as the keys to differentiating oneself?
Writing kick-ass books. Seriously. The biggest problem is the amount of books that aren’t kick ass. And this is from publishers as well as self published authors. All the marketing in the world won’t work if the people who read the book don’t love it enough to spread the word. Word of mouth is still the #1 goal of marketing. We can never spend enough to sell all the books we want to sell. We need to market to get the core readers who then shout about the book from the rooftops.