Monday, March 9, 2009

Viral Marketing? Deliciously Dirty...

From the desk of Ms. Sally Spitfire

My dearest Suzy-kins,

I think that for once all of the warm wishes you and Auntie Mabel Sue Jean keep sending me have finally made it! Although the week began bitterly cold (below zero wind-chill after the sun went down!), by Friday the temperature took a turn for the better and began climbing all the way into the fifties. You should've seen how quickly and gladly we New Yorkers shed out Northface winter jackets and puffy eskimo gear. The first daffodils and t-shirts even began peeking up for a breath of fresh air. I know that it won't last, of course, but my, my is it delicious while it's here!

But enough about the weather. On to this week's publishing world tidbit...

One of the more immediate effects of economic crisis on my job (aside from no longer being provided with free bottled water in my office) has been the gradual disappearance of money in the budget for advertising. In the past, any truly healthy marketing plan had some sort of advertising--whether it was in the New York Times or in the School Library Journal e-newsletter. In fact, in my company we have a whole team that used to be known as the "ad-services" department whose main job it was to design and place ads in newspapers, magazines, journals, and online.

These days, however, the attitude towards advertising has changed considerably. First and foremost, in a world where publishers need to cut extraneous costs wherever possible, advertising is inevitably going to suffer. Ad placement in the more prestigous papers and magazines is incredibly expensive--tens of thousands of dollars for 1/4 or even 1/8 page ad.
Much of the time, authors are confused and unhappy with this change. However, the truth is that while advertising is out--online marketing is IN! and this change actually makes a good deal of sense.

Look at it this way: while publishers no longer seem to have the money to place as many ads in papers and magazines, a large number of Americans are gearing away from buying those same publications. It has escaped no one's notice that more and more people are spending their free time, doing their shopping, and even book browsing online. And so, where print and online advertising used to appear in marketing plans, now we are using phrases like "BLOG CAMPAIGN!", "PODCAST TOUR", "VIRAL MARKETING!!!"

Of course, internet marketing is by no means new. Any publishing company worth its salt has had a digital marketing team in place for a few years now. At different houses, there have been big pushes to major networks of websites for each house, imprint and book; to not get left behind in converting books to e-formats; to set up direct-to-consumer sales portals.

I apologize, Suzy dear, if some of these phrases I'm bantering around have confused you. Believe me--you are not the only one. A good deal of the publishing world is still confused by much of what is happening online and working hard to keep up to speed.

It seems to me that the publishing world is divided into three groups when it comes to understanding the new surge of internet trends: First there are the digital marketing teams and the young, tech-savvy employees who talk DRM (digital rights management) and HTML (a computer language) with the best of them. There are people like me who aren't experts, but have a pretty solid understanding of the important stuff, for example, the differences between blogs and podcasts and webinars and Skype and e-newsletters and list-servs and so on and so forth. And then--still wading through the mud--are those who are--intentionally or not--letting the digital wave pass them by--the ones who understand very little of what's going on in online and digital publishing, but have learned to nod very enthusiastically whenever the phrases "viral marketing" or "blog campaign" waft in their direction.

So, while the loss of advertising has certainly made some authors (and agents) unhappy, the smarter ones recognize that much of the action is now happening online and online is where the marketers need to be. Unfortunately, it's an ever-expanding universe and every month it seems that there is some whole new "incredibly, amazing thing" that needs to be understood, examined, and exploited in the name of selling books. Three years ago, it was blogs. Two years ago, it was podcasts. Last spring, it was facebook. And this week it is Twitter.

Oh Suzy! Have you yet learned about Twitter? I bemoan it's existance, but at the same time, I am starting to build it into my marketing plans... More on this next time, perhaps? I feel that I could manage a whole letter just about the new Twitter trend, the way that publishers are reacting, and who is "tweeting" these days...

I love and miss you and hope that all is well down in the sunny south. Ah!

Your lovin' cousin,

(Ms) Sally Spitfire

P.S. In honor of the warm weather, Antonio has brought some potted flowers into the office, saying that we need more flowers and beauty after all the drabness of winter. I couldn't agree more, but you never I've never had anything like a green thumb. Antonio, apparently, is fantastic with green things. You should see him singing Italian operettas while he waters those plants...


laughingwolf said...

hi ms sally

good stuff, thx

i read a piece of advice by an agent: fancy ads for sales of books by unknown authors don't work; 'word of mouth' is the only thing that does... do you agree?

Chris Eldin said...

Morning all! Hi there, LW!

If the fancy ad includes our own Antonio, the books would be flying off the shelves...

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm finally just beginning to undestand blogging, and now there's twitter. Stop the tech revolution for a while and let me catch up.

Miss Susanna said...

Morning Sally!

So glad to hear ya'll are warmin' up some.

How on earth do you stay on top of all that technology? My lawd, twitter? Who thinks of these names, Sally? Twitter? I haven't the foggiest notion of what twitter is, so why is it that I can't get the image of a cute little yellow bird with a speech impediment out of my head every time I hear twitter?

Gotta runm dear. Or walk. Walking is better.



Barbara Martin said...

Is it necessary for an author to have a twitter and facebook as well as a blog and website to promote themselves? Facebook has horror connotations for me as many employers would frown upon such a membership. I have known colleagues fired for having a web presence on it.

As for advertising for new authors I had read they had to help, if not launch, their own marketing campaigns to get their book off the ground.

Anonymous said...


I wish I could be out walking too but I seem to have come down with a terrible sore throat so it's all I can manage to do to walk to and from the stove for a pot of soup. :-( Pity poor me.

As for ads and authors...
In most cases--correct--ads don't do much for an unknown author. Ads are much more successful if they're for an already established author. With unknown authors, you really need people to somehow get ahold of excerpts or reviews and read read read!

And then facebook and authors...
Yes--in this day and age we're seeing that many of the "successful" authors are those who actively help promote themselves. There are many things an author can do to self promote: be on facebook or visit book clubs or set up speaking events or simply give their local booksellers copies of the book... I think it really depends on the type of book and can only be decided on a case by case basis.
That being said--I don't think you should be afraid of facebook--as with anything else--there's a right and wrong way to go about it. As a professional author, it's more than accepted to have a "fan page" for your book (or if you're hugely famous, for yourself). If you're a little more comfortable with facebook, it's also appropriate to have a author profile for yourself--you just want to keep all of the information and interactions on facebook professional and focused on alerting people to news about your book(s) and talking about your book(s).

As always, I suggest that if you're confused, you talk to your own marketing person OR join an online community of writers who are knowledgeable and can help you navigate self-promotion!

laughingwolf said...

thx for the info, ms sally :)

Barbara Martin said...

Thank you for clarifying the need for marketing.

Unknown said...

This book sounds wonderful!!

Barrie said...

Yes, yes, do a post about twitter!