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About Book Marketing

The functions of a publisher's book marketing department


For trade books, the role of marketing is to support the book sales departments in getting the books into distribution channels (like bookstores) and, ultimately, in front of the consumer. Book marketing generally encompasses book advertising (again, which gets the book in front of the consumer). Book marketing is distinct from book publicity, whose function is to get the book in front of the media and, through the media, in front of the consumer.

If you are self-publishing your book, some or all of the traditional book marketing functions may be made available from your self-publishing service (at a cost). But however you're coming around to being an author, understanding the traditional functions of book marketing will help you navigate the publication of your book.

What Is Book Marketing?
In general, function of the book marketing department is to help the sales department get your book in front of bookstore buyers and book distributors, in order to make sure your book is available (and, hopefully, displayed) to the consumer public. Besides bookstores, other "channels" through which this happens include libraries, specialty accounts and gift shops.
In traditional a publishing house, each book is assigned a "marketing manager" or "marketing director." This marketer is generally working on dozens of titles at any one time. The functions of a book marketer can be broken down into four main areas:

1. Book marketing strategy — early in a publishing season (or, even as early as shortly after the author submits his or her author's questionnaire), the marketer gets involved to help determine the potential readers for an individual book, the size of the market for the book, and strategy for how best to reach the readers who might be interested in the book. Based on the strategy, the marketer creates a tactical marketing plan.

As many elements of the marketing plan——such as special advance sales materials, point-of-sale displays, advertising, etc.——cost money, the marketing plan is generally done in the context of the estimated marketing budget for the book.

For major book acquisitions that require large investments on the part of the publisher, the book marketing department is sometimes brought in to strategize even before the book is acquired—and, as a rule of thumb, the more the publisher has paid to acquire the book, the greater the marketing budget.

2. Book sales support — Before the book is published, the book marketing department works with the promotion department to develop the standard sales tools for each book, such as their description within the seasonal catalog of the publisher's list. The sales departments use these to present the book to booksellers, wholesale distributors, gift stores, libraries, etc. This support also extends to any book presence at industry trade shows, such as BookExpo America or the fall trade shows held by the regional independent bookseller organizations.

3. Point-of-sale material development — The book marketing department is generally responsible for managing the design and creation of in-store signage, bookmarks, and other materials that promote the books to the consumer at the store level. Note that, with the rise of the online book sales channels, these expensive-to-print point-of-sale items are less prevalent.

(Note that at national account bricks-and-mortar store chains, such as Barnes & Noble, the point of sale promotions--for example, a book's presence on a seasonal table display--are determined by the account, not the publisher's marketing department, and are paid for out of the account's cooperative advertising funds, usually referred to as "co-op.")

4. Advertising and (sometimes) blogger campaign development — While print advertising has waned, it still exists in vehicles like The New York Times Book Review; online ads are increasingly more common. The marketing department and a book's marketing budget determines if, where and when a book will be advertised. (Again, advertising that is done on behalf of book but tied to a specific account has likely been paid for out of co-op.)

In some publishing houses, outreach to bloggers falls to the marketing department; in other houses, bloggers are considered part of the media and sending them information about the books being published falls to the publicity department.

• Read more about book marketing from your publisher.

• Read about the other departments that support the book publishing process.

• Read an expert's tips on book marketing.

• Read about how to get book publicity.

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