What does book marketing in the 2020s pandemic, election season look like? Many authors and publishers, big and small, are struggling right now and every time we think we have beaten whac-a-mole, another critter pops up after the buzzer rings. In the CMPR newsletter this month I promised a blog article on ways to make progress in book marketing this very different kind of season. I am going to present these suggestions based on my disaster experience and marketing in the industry first. Then, if you read on you can find out where these ideas are coming from. In essence, I am saving the publishing lesson for last. If it is of interest read on, or just collect the to-do list. It is totally up to you.
How to Market Your Book in a Pandemic, Election Season
I have been sharing my thoughts and opinions on this season since the spring. We all knew it was coming, and we all know that livelihoods depend on the strength of fall sales. I can not speak to how the big five will handle these challenges as they have access to resources most indies do not. Also, by virtue of their size, these businesses do not have the same flexibility to pivot and adjust. The good news is, if you are an indie, publisher or author, as of right now September 14, 2020, these are my suggestions based on my experience with disasters and knowledge of marketing in the industry.
- Do not “launch” your book. You can launch a boat, but you really can not launch a book, especially in this market. It is important to take the long view and implement publicity and marketing strategies over a period of six months from the time your book is available for sale. It is nice to have the fanfare associated with a big pub date party and a list of interviews a page long, but that is not the reality today.
- Do not try to market your book like you think you are supposed to. This is a tough one, but it is important. Every book may have a category it falls into, but it is also one-of-a-kind, based on the writer. When you think about how to get the word out, think about ten people you know who would love to read it. Then find out where they are in the digital landscape, what they do, how they consume, media, etc. Then go and get ’em.
- Make your book available on different platforms individually. You need to have the book listed with Ingram in order to have credibility and availability for bookstores and libraries. In addition, upload your title directly on KDP (Amazon). The upload, if executed after your set up your Ingram title should supersede it. This will provide larger royalties to you if you use standard discount amounts (55% on Ingram/40% on Amazon). Also check out Lulu.com which offers sales direct to consumers in POD form as well as Book Baby, both good quality, reputable resources.
- Use a pdf of your book for reviewers and media, but also have some printed copies available. So many people are not working in their offices, but that does not always mean they prefer to read pdfs versus print books. Have a few hard copies on hand. I recommend 25 – 35 just in case.
- Research all online media opportunities that cover your topics. The mainstream media is saturated for many topics, especially fiction, but if you spend the time researching and curating a contact list across social media, blogs, and podcasts, you will find ways to spread the word. The more searchable your book is, the better off you are for selling as well as additional media interest.
- Call your local bookstores for a virtual event. Check-in with the booksellers in your area to see if they would like to have a virtual visit with you where they sell autographed copies or some other promotional goodie.
- When possible tie-in your subject to today’s news stories. If you have a book that can be tied to any of the major news topics today or something niche-oriented that has it’s own dedicated media outlets, pitch it. Some publications have actually said they are only covering fun stories or CoVid–paradox or not.
Fall 2020s Perfect Storm for Book Publishing
The publishing industry is an old one filled with artistic souls, attention seekers, and regular business people who are always looking at the bottom line. Add to the mix the world of digital and ebooks and the next thing you know publishers are certain that print books will be long gone by the year 20 something. Guess what? Readers got tired of their devices, or they decided some books were better in person than on a screen. So in recent years, print book sales have hit an upswing, while the ebook revolution has calmed down. During the pandemic, election season, print book sales have increased even more.
Paper and Printing
But who could have predicted a supply chain catastrophe like the one we are having? Not only is paper in short supply, but there are only two major printers in the U.S. Reduced staff and other factors are slowing down the printing process, so there is no option to get your books expedited. If you are lucky you will get them in a couple of weeks. Stores are getting 1/2 orders instead of wholes while the printers try to satisfy demand in some egalitarian way.
Now enter book marketing in the 2020s pandemic, election season. We know that elections take over the news cycle which makes it hard to get a word in edgewise. This fall we have a pandemic election which means the airwaves have CoVid 19 and politics to cover. AND there are the protests, certainly bringing attention to an important issue, but not great for media coverage for books. It’s the trifecta of media relations challenges.
Traditional and Indie Collide
And so, traditional publishers have tried to pivot during these times by changing their publication schedules. So many big books planned for April, May, June, and July were postponed to Fall 2020. And to protect themselves, these companies worked out a plan with the POD guys, so that they could get books printed quickly in the event of a shortfall. As a result, the traditional book world has collided with the indie book world that has built its successes on POD technology.
Now the little guy is finding that Amazon has a two, three, or four-week delivery date for his title(s). Ordering a number of hardcovers or paperbacks can take up to a month or more. But do not think that traditional publishers are having an easy time of it either. When some titles were rescheduled for Fall 2020, others had to be pushed to 2021. Losing some of the big books will no doubt be a hit on the bottom line this year.