7 Book Marketing Services to Question

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book marketing and book promotion packages are a common offering from author service companies as well as publishing service providers—and for good reason. There’s demand for them and first-time authors, whether indie or traditional, need guidance.

The challenge with such services, however, is that they can take a cookie-cutter approach to book marketing. In order to make such services affordable to the average author, they often have to be somewhat templated and repeatable across many titles. But to reach the most likely audience who will buy your book, a template approach may not work. Consider this before you invest in a packaged service, and ask plenty of questions to see how well your book marketing or publicity campaign will be customized before you invest.

Here are areas you may be most likely to invest in from an author service company’s offerings.

Book Marketing Copy Assistance

One of the best marketing investments an author can make is ensuring they have effective and professional copy for their book’s back cover and Amazon page. This copy gets used again and again, whether for the author website, in online promotions, on social media sites, and so on. Look for an experienced book marketer to help you with this task if at all possible, particularly one who understands your genre or category.

Book Metadata Assistance

In the world of online retail, the metadata associated with your book may be critical in its discoverability. Book metadata includes things such as your book’s category or genre, keywords associated with your book, your book description, and other data points. If it’s an area you’re unfamiliar with, it can be useful to retain guidance.

Press Release Distribution

A press release is rarely effective unless you also have also hired a publicist or PR person who is sending that press release selectively to warm prospects, then following up with those prospects. Press releases that get blasted out to hundreds or thousands are usually unwelcome, and fill the inboxes of journalists who are uninterested and delete them as soon as they arrive. Don’t expect them to result in media attention; you’re better off personally approaching outlets that may have an interest in your work based on local, regional, or thematic reasons.

Book Reviews

If you’re interested in securing professional or industry reviews that require payment, pursue them independently; avoid using a service provider to administrate the process, since they usually institute a markup on the price.

Book Discoverability Programs and Tools

Author services providers may have partnerships with book- or industry-related sites you’ve heard of (and some you haven’t), making it sound like your book will be visible, advertised, and/or marketed to millions of people. Sometimes the promotion value offered by these programs or tools won’t make a meaningful difference to your sales. Remember that the larger the numbers cited for any promotional channel, the less likely your book will be shown and targeted to the most likely audience to buy your work. Especially for authors without a brand name, look for targeted opportunities most appropriate for your book, rather than broad, mass-market approaches.

Media or Publicity Campaigns

The hard truth is that most mainstream media outlets will not offer coverage to self-published books. This is why many professional publicists will not accept self-publishing authors as clients: they know that they can’t provide a service that would ever be worth the money they charge. Thus, be wary of any package offering that includes a media or publicity campaign. Research what media outlets they’ve gained coverage in; are these outlets that they own and control? Are they outlets that reach your book’s target audience? Be critical.

Video Book Trailers

It is very difficult to create a book trailer that persuades someone—previously unaware of you or your book—to make a purchase. Even if you did have an excellent book trailer, think through how difficult it will be to get attention and drive traffic to it, especially if you don’t have an online following. Unless you have TV, film, or professional experience with producing effective video, investing in a trailer should be near the bottom of your priority list.

The long list of all the things a marketing service may do to market and promote your book may look essential, important, and impressive (and make you feel fearful of not engaging in such marketing and promotion activities), but can do little in practical terms to reach the target market for your book. Be extremely cautious in purchasing any book marketing and promotion package, no matter who is offering it.

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Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential publishing industry newsletter for authors, and the former publisher of Writer’s Digest. A frequent speaker at writing conferences, she has delivered keynotes on the future of authorship at the San Francisco Writers Conference, The Muse & The Marketplace, and HippoCamp, among others. She has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017).