Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Marketing stuff...and a NEW TITLE REVEAL! by Cathy Ace

Business: This year has thrown us plenty of curveballs. Have you (and your publisher) adapted new ways to market your books?

Given that my background is in strategic marketing planning, brand building, and marketing communications planning and implementation (oo, er, missus…I know!) I’m going to be pedantic here and note that “marketing” refers to the entire “marketing mix”, which means the product, price, place and promotion of the product. Now, I’m guessing that this week’s questioner expected we responders to focus purely on the promotional elements of the marketing mix, but I shall go further and look at all “Four P’s of the Marketing Mix” as they are known (trust me on this…I’d written nine postgrad and management texts on this stuff, before I “turned to crime” LOL!).

Some of the books I wrote before my "life of crime"

The pandemic has meant huge change: the initial lockdown of bookstores and libraries, followed by some re-openings, but with social distancing; a kink in every link in the book production and distribution chain; people’s needs, wants, and desires in terms of their choice of entertainment has shifted because their life-patterns and levels of disposable income have been altered (as well as them just plain losing the opportunity to participate in some forms of entertainment); the mushrooming access to online forms of connectivity, and increased levels of readiness of many (not all) sectors of society to access such online culture/performance/interaction .

So, yes, big changes, all of which can impact an author such as myself.

Product: When it comes to book marketing, most authors want to write what they want to write, with little thought to meeting the needs of a specific market sector – in other words, as authors most of us begin as supplier-driven rather than market-driven forces…publishers are the ones who aim to sculpt our books to be what they believe “the market” wants (that topic is an entirely different blog post). I’m not one of the authors rushing to publish a set-during-a-pandemic novel, (though I am one of the ones working out how to deal with the “new reality” – whatever that turns out to be! – in my next book) so the product itself – my backlist of books, and the book published this past June – were not changed, and cannot change, to accommodate the pandemic.

All three other “P’s” have changed, however, for me.

Price: I have run a couple more discounts on selected titles than would be the norm for me; I don’t usually run price discounts, because the books over which I have price control (my Indie-published titles…authors have no price control of their titles published by traditional publishing houses) are all set at the right low-market price, so there’s not much leeway.

Place: sales (by both Indie and traditional publishers) to libraries are in the tank for obvious reasons, and might never recover. There are HUNDREDS of books by “big names” being published around the world on September 3rd this year – many held back from summer launches, plus those that were due to be out in time for the “Holiday Season”; I reckon they’ll soak up library budgets…at least they’ll soak up whatever money is remaining in the budgets that have been shredded by libraries having to reallocate funds to make themselves safe to reopen and stay open. I don’t see book-buying budgets in libraries ever being what they once were, sadly. Bookstore sales are in the tank for obvious reasons (see above) and face the added problems that some bookstores have closed forever/have laid off staff, and many book-buyers might not feel they can safely return to browsing for some time. (NOTE: the massive book wholesaler Bertram, in the UK, has gone bust, leaving only Gardners there, like the loss of Baker & Taylor in the USA left only Ingram remaining  – this will have a huge impact on book wholesaling around the world: That said, online sales are strong – not much of a surprise there, I suppose; some traditional publishers have spotted this and have published titles ONLY online, with print publication being delayed (possibly indefinitely). This shift, will, I believe, have a long-lasting effect on the publishing world, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more titles becoming digital-only, as publishers and their accountants spot the advantages of non-print publishing.

Promotion: no libraries or bookstores in which to do readings or signings to promote my new book, or support my backlist; no conventions at which to meet readers (and fellow authors!). Other than that, nothing much has changed…except, sort of everything has changed. What do I mean? Well, I used to do most of my promotion work online, and that hasn’t changed, but the online communication landscape itself has changed. Firstly, there are more online interviews, podcasts, events, virtual conventions, get-togethers etc. etc. which is great in one way (because readers LOVE that content is available to enjoy on their own schedule, and they’re able to gain access to events they might never have been  able to attend in person) BUT it means that the online communication landscape is now getting a bit full – there are SO MANY bits and bites of insights, interviews, and talking heads online that it’s becoming a bit confusing. I, like everyone else, am navigating this new landscape.

Anyhoo…those are the business problems.

I’m trying to focus on the next Cait Morgan Mystery which will be titled...drum roll, please...

The Corpse with the Iron Will 

It will be published in…nope, you’ll have to sign up for my newsletters to be the first to know that, sorry! 

CLICK HERE to be able to do that, and to access my website.


Paul D. Marks said...

You bring up a lot of sobering things to think about, Cathy. It was never easy standing out from the crowd and it only seems to be more difficult with all the interruptions at the various levels of the book supply chain. I hope we can figure out what to to help ourselves and booksellers in the future.

Brenda Chapman said...

Marketing is tough even though people are spending a lot of time online. The reality is we need readers to buy books ... lots of books.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Paul - yes, I realize how down-beat this piece reads...but it's my way of doing a bit of a reality check. Authors who receive royalty payments from their traditional publishers (via their agents, or direct) won't see their mid-2020 sales figures for some time yet, and - with the way royalty payments are delayed - are "benefitting" from the cushion provided by sales in early 2020. But for those of us who are hybrid authors, or totally Indie, we can see exactly how sales either into the distribution chain for print books, or online for ebooks, have fluctuated and either plummeted or shot up (down for print sales, up for ebook/audio-sales). As you say, it's the figuring out that will take time, whatever the new landscape looks like!

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Brenda, with so many changes in the supply chain I don't think that buying print books will ever be what it once was, especially if you're not already a big name :-(

Jennifer J. Chow said...

Thanks for posting about this, Cathy! I think everyone is trying to figure out how to navigate marketing during this time--both authors and publishers!

James W. Ziskin said...

Very informative. Lots to think about.Thanks, Cathy.