Sunday, June 15, 2008

BEA ARCs: A Marketing Study

One of fascinating things about attending BEA is seeing which books publishers are promoting. ARC giveaways are a huge component of this, and one of the fun bennies of attending: bags-full of free books!

But here’s a tip: Not only are those ARCs fabulous reading material months ahead of anyone else getting their hot little hands on them, but they tell a lot about what sort of Big Marketing Support publishers dole out.

It’s interesting to read the marketing plans listed on backs of these books because it’s clear when you do that publishers are trying to show booksellers what they’ll do to drive up demand for the title and drive book buyers into their stores.

Let’s decode a few, shall we? The first two are books where the publishers have clearly pulled out the big guns, but they are different in that one is a debut author and the second is a book from a well-known, highly beloved and respected author.

The first one I picked up is GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson, published by Doubleday. It’s a debut author and right away you can tell they are behind this guy in a big way: even his arc has a step back cover with a die cut cutout. Very classy package, especially for an arc. He also has some great author quotes on the back. In fact, a little Googling reveals that his agent initially turned down a $1 million dollar offer for the book, and that it's being published concurrently in the US and Canada. So. Big deal, big buzz, right from the get go.

Doubleday's marketing plan, as taken from the back of the ARC:

Major National Print Advertising Campaign
Major Online Adv and Promotion Campaign
Major Viral Marketing Campaign
Video Book Trailer
POS for Supporting Accounts
Targeted Mailings
Promotion to Academic and Library markets

Now really, when you look at each of these things individually, they are a little bit vague, so we’re left to guess what sort of physical and financial support they will actually translate into. Here’s my best guess, based on both my years as an author and my years as a managing editor at a small, non-fiction publisher.

Major National Print Advertising Campaign [This is pretty clear: They’re going to spend hard dollars on print advertising in magazines and newspapers. Definitely a marketing plum.]

Major Online Adv and Promotion Campaign [Ditto this—it means they will be running banner ads and paying for promotional features on various high traffic internet sites. I'm guessing a myspace account, last night's googling revealed he has a profile set up on, basically he'll probably be everyone one can be on the inernet.]

Major Viral Marketing Campaign [Not exactly sure what this translates into except they’re trying to generate lots of buzz. They’ve started this by generating a ton of great author quotes and doing a major BEA promotion, but how they continue that I’m not certain …definitely having him set up on the interactive social networking sites will help this, but if anyone has any other ideas of how a publisher starts a viral marketing campaign, feel free to talk about it in the comments.]

Video Book Trailer [This is a professionally produced book trailer, which we’ve discussed before and will hopefully be widely viewed on YouTube as well as featured on blogs.]

POS for Supporting Accounts [POS is Point of Sale, so that means there is going to be some sort of book dump or paid placement for accounts who buy the book in sufficient quantities.]

Targeted Mailings [In addition to all the above they’re going to do mailings featuring the book because they know it takes multiple impressions for name recognition to sink in.]

Promotion to Academic and Library markets [This one can mean a variety of things. In it’s simplest form, it can mean a listing in the seasonal newsletter that goes out to schools and libraries, or it could mean a full feature article in the same newsletter. It could also mean advertising in periodicals targeted to academia and libraries.]

Now the truth is, a committed energetic author could duplicate a number of these efforts on the behalf of their own book. A major viral marketing campaign, for example. Viral means small efforts that ripple out, and catch on in unexpected ways. However there is no way to actually predict how well that will catch on. We've talked before about doing one's own book trailers, so that's also something to put in our bag of tricks. Targeted mailings, too, although they would no doubt be slightly smaller in scope than what a publisher did. And lastly, online promotion is very open to us authors...

Now for his publicity plans.

National Author Promotion [They're going to promote the hell out of the author, but whether or not the media will bite is anyone's guess.]

National Media Attention [The author will be actively pitched to National media, but again, whether he's actually featured is out of their control.]

National Review Attention [Really, this is true of most books--most major publishers send the books out to national review publications. I tend to wonder if this means that they'll be sending review copies to more consumer based newspapers and magazines than they normally would.]

Meet the Author at BEA [They're behind him enough to fly him out and put him up in LA so the booksellers and other industry professionals attending can meet him. Definitely a big sign of support.]

I want to compare that to the marketing plan listed on the back of the ARC of Toni Morrison's new novel, A MERCY, published by Alfred A. Knopf and scheduled for November of 2008.

First Printing 300,000 copies
National Media Appearances
National Print Features
4 city author tour
National Print Advertising Campaign – including the NYT and NYT Book Review
Online Promotional Campaign
12 copy floor display
reading group guide
jacket blowups available

Clearly this is an established, important author and the publisher knows it will be a literary event and is confident that the book will be featured in a major, major way.

In fact, it’s very interesting to see what different tools are used for an established author versus a debut author, even a big dollar, big buzz debut author.

Contrast the National Media Appearances with National Media Attention in the first example. Because of her literary gravitas, it’s a surety that Morrison will be featured in the media, whereas the debut author’s publisher uses the word “attention” because they simply can't know if the media will act on their pitches.

Also, a name like Morrison will support an author tour. People will leave their homes and come out to hear her read and speak. No matter how excited a publisher is about a new book, it is very, very rare for people to come out in large numbers for a debut author.

As for bookstore support, they are providing a major book dump (book display) as well as jacket blow-ups for the walls. Again, a Toni Morrison book is a literary event and with the right tools, bookstores can really pull buyers into their stores which will then translate into sales.

Thursday we'll look at two more books, YA books, one a series the publisher is very excited about and the other the first YA by a very successful paranormal romance/urban fantasy author.

* * *

And to further whet your appetites, stay tuned for some fabulous interviews we have coming up, including Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jacqueline Woodson, and a Real Life Publishing House Publicist!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that analysis of Doubleday's marketing plan. When I Googled him, I saw that quite a few online-only book reviewers (not affiliated with a newspaper, bookstore, and so on) had already reviewed Davidson's book. One even mentioned receiving an ARC from the publisher -- perhaps this is part of the online viral effort?

Mary Hershey said...

Wow, wouldn't you have LOVED to been a bug on the wall during the Editoria/Marketing meetings for The Gargoyle? What about this title made them go so ape-bleep? Now I've got to read it. Oh, wait, I'll get in the library so I don't feel so "marketed!" ;-)

Powerfully good post, missy.

Anonymous said...

This was a very informative post! Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post! It's so interesting seeing everything spelled out so clearly!

I think what's so amazing is that just 5 years ago, so many of the avenues they're talking about using for marketing the debut book didn't exist. I've certainly been trying to use them - and the internet - myself.

It takes a bit of time, but they've certainly made it easier for an author to push his/her own work!

R.L. LaFevers said...


Or you could, you know, borrow my arc once I'm done.

Speaking of which, I started it last night and I have to say, it was a very strong opening. I found myself totally pulled in, in spite of my initial resistance due to it being so hyped.

Alex, you make an excellent point: the internet has been a great equalizer in terms of book promotion. Especially handy for us introverts!

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Okay, I'll admit. I'm totally intrigued by the blurb amazon gives for GARGOYLE. Even without the $1mil+ advance it's intriguing . . . but with it . . . hmmmmmm.

Great post! I'm wishing I'd been at BEA this year with my ARCs.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Thanks for the in-depth analysis!

And btw, I've discovered that the ALA exhibits hall is also a good place to score ARCs.

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating stuff -- really helpful. Wish I'd had you guys around when I was trying to decipher my own back-of-ARC details!

Has it occurred to you that you've got a great nonfiction book on your hands? There aren't many good books on how to navigate the marketing end of publishing. Know you're a bit busy, but please put me on your pre-pub order list!

Mary Hershey said...

Thanks, Katherine! You're on the LIST! ;-)


Jessica Burkhart said...

Wow, so interesting! :)