In Support of Book Marketers

I have watched a handful of “professionals” share insights about how authors should take their marketing into their own hands, all the while slamming what is being done at the publishing house.  In this post, I hope to help authors see the work from the publishing side and calm fears that some “fresh-out-of-college, overloaded idiot” is the person charged with promoting your books.  *Note: I’ll be saying “Marketing” often in this post–in this case the term covers everything touching promotion of your book-from the folks who book advertising to the publicists who talk to media outlets.

Yep, marketing teams are busy.  Often, we’re slammed.  The whole world of publishing is cyclical, and there is never a time when we have just one book to work on.  But there’s a big gap between being busy and being ineffective. 

Here’s what you should know:

  1. We marketers love our jobs, or we wouldn’t be doing them–Your dreams of becoming a bestseller are put before our own dreams.  We work far more than 40 hours each week making sure you shine.   Managing relationships and egos is one thing, but knowing we are usually the first people asked “what happened?” if a book doesn’t work is pressure we don’t take lightly.
  2. We do not regurgitate ideas–Sure, there are certain things that can and should be done on most books that are added into marketing plans, but each book is given it’s own set of objectives and goals, and we form a plan around things like the hooks of the story, topical interest in the media, and partnership opportunity potential.
  3. We employ outside vendors when needed-We spend a huge portion of yearly budgets on outside companies to manage online campaigns, street teams, and pr campaigns.  Why? So that we can focus on the execution, strategy, and end result.  But sometimes the best focus we can give your book is to keep things in-house.  Let’s face it-even at an outside pr firm you are not someone’s only project, and the expertise of in-house members is exceptional. 
  4.  We are educated, experienced, and professional– Almost all of the people in marketing have a degree tied to it (though I admit that I did not have any prior marketing experience when I joined our team, I had been at Nelson for seven years and knew a lot about publishing).  And while we do have interns and jr. teammembers, those are not the people charged with creating strategies, building relationships with media, or working with sales reps and accounts to get your titles promoted at retail.
  5. We look at projects with an end goal in mind, not just a budget that must be managed-Every marketer I know has gone over budget on projects.  Yes, we are accountable to bottom line numbers, but we go into each project knowing that sometimes the dollars must come second to the strategy. 

The points above speak to the marketers at the publishing house, but You, the author, must take an active role in promoting your books.  While we know that your first priority is to write the books, there are things you can do that don’t take up a ton of time that will pay off for your brand in the long run.  And without you, all we have is a book.  Here’s how you can help make the partnership better:

  • Build a relationship with us– We need to know more about you than the bio on your book jacket.  Let’s chat.
  • Share ideas–We don’t presume to have all the answers.  You know the book better than anyone.  I’ve created a worksheet of questions for our authors to help get to the core questions.  If your team doesn’t have one, start the discussion.
  • Get engaged-You can’t write a book and just return to your cave.  Your competitors will take your spot on the shelf  by creating connections with people online, blogging, and plugging their projects at stores, events, etc.
  • Step up when needed-The publishing house is not a checkbook.  It’s hard for us to respect authors who are never willing to invest in themselves.  We know we’ll be handling the bulk of the expenses, but when you aren’t willing to pay for a night of hotel or extra bookmarks, you are sending the wrong message.

I can’t speak for how other houses run, though I’ve made some assumptions here.  But I can say that my team works this way at Nelson Fiction, and we have a track record to back up the discipline and forward thinking needed to make us the #1 Christian Fiction publisher.  

Publishers have a purpose. And it’s only when you win that we win.

24 thoughts on “In Support of Book Marketers

  1. Not everyone is as fortunate to have such a great marketing team like that led by one Jen Deshler. T-Nel is simply the best. I feel very blessed that my books (our books) are in your capable and creative hands, girl.

  2. Thanks, Jen. I just felt like I had to give a voice to what we do after seeing a blog post today. You give us magical stories and you make the work fun–couldn’t ask for more!

  3. Generally saying: The best-known book is not that one which is the best regarding its contents but that one which is best promoted (although it sounds a little bit unfair…). In the era of Web 1.0 and then Web 2.0 the promotion is getting cheaper and easier. One should just know it.

    Magdalena Szarafin.

    1. Hi Magdalena,

      Good marketing only makes a bad book fail faster (ala Michael Hyatt). But you’re right that there are so many things marketers and authors can do these days to get the word out.

  4. Michael Hyatt posted this on FB and I’m so glad he did. Thanks for the behind the scenes peek into the marketing department. I’m working on self-publishing my book and this info is just as pertinent. I love your ambition too….your authors have a gift in you!

  5. Good points. I’m sure you know that the questions get asked when a publisher knows that an author is going to bring in money and spends the budget on them. The author, at best, can reach a few thousand individuals (if they’re not a bestseller yet).

    It sometimes amazes me that there are still quite a few decent publishing houses out there that just don’t get online marketing (which is FREE).

  6. I’m glad to know the Thomas Nelson folks love their jobs so much. That’s not the experience I’ve had with other publishers, however. I won’t name names, but some of the critiques you mention are more than justified.

  7. Terrific post! I couldn’t agree more. As VP of Marketing and Publicity a LOT of our books’ success rests on me and I appreciate someone sharing our side. Authors are great, authors who pitch in ROCK. It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make! Marketers are nice people who want to make authors famous. I’m not afraid to say that I work harder for authors who help out and make the effort to be friends as well as clients. Keep up the good fight!

  8. If I ever get to the point of having something worth publishing, I would be so grateful for your expertise! As much as it would be more comfortable to return to my cave, I would be an obedient puppy. 🙂 Thanks for all your great advice.


  9. Thank you for your insight. I am learning the marketing end of the publishing business…not to be a marketer but to assist self-publishers in planning their marketing strategies. It’s been a blessing following Mr. Hyatt on twitter and facebook. Someone like myself would not have access to this wealth of publishing knowledge. Again, thank you.

  10. I think much of the confusion comes because of the varying amounts of publicity any given publisher can offer. Not all have huge departments, and not all books get equal treatment. Some publishers offer a lot, others not as much for a variety of reasons.

    For example, logically, if a book takes off, or it is believed to be the strongest contender to do so, that one should get more of a push to tip it over the edge. Also, as you mentioned, if one author is more helpful and energetic than another, it would also make sense they’d get more attention by comparison. However, sometimes the reasoning isn’t as clear and that’s where many authors get frustrated.

    You are right in that some others in the industry often state that traditional publishers don’t help much in the way of promotion. I also agree it isn’t fair to blanket every one with that much of a generalization. I believe a big key to the situation is communication all the way around and for authors to be as educated as possible going into the process.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  11. Hi Cheryl,

    I think the confusion also comes from an assumption that pr folks can magically get a tone of coverage for a book. There’s timing, content, hooks, and reception at media that factor in whether done by an in-house publicist or an outside firm.
    And yes, it’s true that different books often receive different levels of time spent on them. No different than going to the Dr. Every book brings it’s own opportunities and challenges. And the writers who spend time thinking about pr hooks as they are writing stand a better chance of a strong campaign.

  12. Proud everyday to work alongside you. We tirelessly labor for worthy causes–it’s about passion and partnership with our teams and our authors. Thanks for calling out those who dismissively presume to have us all figured out.

  13. Jennifer, have you seen this YouTube video?

    It shows why so many authors these days are frustrated with publishers. It seems that in the age of new media, authors are expected to do their own publicity and marketing with little or no help from the publisher. While that is not true at Thomas Nelson, it is true at other publishing houses. I am however delighted to know there are exceptions. Keep up the good work.

  14. This is the kind of help I’m getting from my publicist:

    When we stp defending R own sinful ways & humbly acknowledge..God’s ways R rt, tru gladness will spring forth~Julie Link1:43 PM Sep 11th from TweetDeck

    Do you think I have reason for concern?

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