What Kind of Marketing Does a Publisher Do?

The other day I was indirectly asked by an author what kind of promotion does Blooming Tree do vs. what was expected from the author. Now, I am not in charge of the marketing and promotional work over at Blooming Tree and never have been. I can only answer with 100% confidence for CBAY Books. However, what I do at CBAY is similar to what is done at Blooming Tree which is similar to what is done at most other presses (big or small) for a mid-list book.

(The marketing done for a blockbuster or potential blockbuster book is radically different. Most authors never see the kind of marketing dollars that books like the later Harry Potters, Brisingr, Twilight sequels, or even Audrey, Wait! get. So, we're going to discuss the marketing done for normal books with normal authors.)

What the Publisher does:
  • Pitch the books to chains, independent bookstores, and libraries.
    This doesn't guarantee sales to the end consumer, but availability always helps. (In the case of CBAY and Blooming Tree, this will soon be done by our new distributor, National Book Network. However, I can't say with absolute certainty when this transition will take place since the whole process is taking 6-9 times longer than I expected. I will freely admit to feeling frustration over it all.)
  • Produce advance readers for most hardcover books and some paperbacks.
    These readers can then be given to the sales force to be given to potential buyers, sent to reviewers, handed out at trade shows and generally create buzz over a book.
  • Send books to reviewers and award programs.
  • Produce marketing material.
    This can include, but isn't limited to: posters, bookmarks, TIP sheets for the sales force, stickers, postcards, websites, dumps, storytime kits, and any other random promo type item you can think of (pens, tshirts, etc.) I personally think that pretty much all of these items except for TIP sheets and websites are a waste of money, mostly because most promotional items end up in the trash.
  • Have or hire a publicist.
    Most of the large houses have staff publicist. How much time or effort they'll spend on your book depends on the book's budget, the publicist, and your relationship with him/her. Most small presses have to hire a publicist by the project. At CBAY, I will (and have) subsidize a publicist on a book by book basis.
  • Physical book tours for your book.
    First off, these are rare for first time authors unless its a book the publisher is really standing behind. Even then, the tour is going to consist more of trade show dinners and talks rather than bookstore signings. I have never subsidized a book tour, partly because I have never been given a proposal for one, and partly because I know how depressing a poorly attended book event can be. However, I would consider helping an author do one that was geared more around school visits and places where the author possessed truly masterful mailing lists.
These are some of the main highlights of what a publisher plans to do with its marketing dollars. Tomorrow, I'll discuss what the publisher expects the author to be doing.


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