An American Editor

March 27, 2013

Marketing in an eBook World

I was asked some time ago whether I thought traditional marketing techniques are still relevant in our Internet world. The question was from an author and was directed at marketing ebooks, but the question really has broader implications, including for editors seeking work.

I recognize the limits of my view. Those who know me personally, know that I am not of the youth generation. In my youth, the addition and subtraction calculators were the computers of the day, and they had just barely advanced from the abacus. Pinball machines at the local store were the “advanced” game entertainment, and a trip to the library was a weekly event. Twitting was not on the horizon and email was a term in science fiction literature, if it even existed. Consequently, I look at marketing from a different perspective.

Many years ago, in my long-past early work years, I worked in marketing. I began with marketing of advertising trinkets. When I entered the world of publishing, one of my responsibilities was to devise marketing strategies for specific titles. Again, all this was in the dinosaur age, long before the open Internet of today.

In those days, there were certain principles, certain inviolate rules, that pertained to marketing — no matter the product or service. Those same basic rules, albeit perhaps considered old-fashioned, still apply. Today’s successfully marketed products and services are marketed following the same principles we used in the dinosaur era. The reason is that basic human reactions haven’t changed.

Consider, for example, email versus snail mail. Think about your own lives. How much quicker are you to discard without reading an email than a piece of snail mail? Most people will at least open the snail mail envelope and start to read the pitch; the same people will look at the subject line of an email and delete it without opening/reading the email. We’ve become so attuned to email scamming that we make very quick decisions about hitting delete.

Although marketing today is more complex, the rules haven’t changed. One can neither ignore snail mail and email nor embrace one to the exclusion of the other. Both have to be part of the campaign.

And that holds true for marketing of ebooks (or editorial services). It is not enough to market an ebook using modern-day Internet-based tools to the exclusion of the more traditional methods of marketing. Not everyone reacts to Internet-based marketing positively.

However, this argument is somewhat moot until you have identified who your market is and how best to reach that particular market. For example, if your market is fans of military science fiction, I suspect the balance has to tilt more toward the Internet-based marketing than toward traditional marketing. Science fiction aficionados are usually more receptive to “futuristic” methods of marketing. On the other hand, if your market is steampunk fantasy fans, then perhaps the balance tilts more toward traditional marketing methods as these readers are looking backward in time. (I’ve often wondered why, for example, promotional pieces for mysteries aren’t mysterious themselves; why aren’t they written in such a manner as to draw the reader into the mystery that can only be explored by buying the ebook being promoted?)

Regardless of what you write, knowing your audience is key — it is key to the story you write and to the marketing you do to sell the story you write. All that changes is the tilt of the balance, not that there has to be both Internet-based and traditional marketing.

Years ago I taught a marketing class for editors. It was an interesting experience. There were two camps then, just as there are two today. One camp avoided Internet-based marketing, the other embraced it. The transition was underway to online editing and so “logic” would dictate that online marketing should follow. But if an editor looked at the editor’s target audience, the editor would have realized that although editing was transitioning, the target audience was still primarily involved with the traditional pbook. Online editing was but a small piece of the whole process.

With ebooks the transition from paper to bytes has been made — but only for a small portion of the marketplace. Although ebooks are now approximately 25% of sales, 75% of sales are not ebooks. Of that 25% that is ebooks, more than 60% seem to be made to middle-aged and older readers. The challenge for indie authors is to determine where their readers fall in the age categories and how many get their information from online or traditional sources.

I’ll use myself as an example. Much of the information I get about books comes from print sources, not online sources. I already spend too much time at my computer and online, and do not want to spend even more trying to find something to read. I prefer to look at ads and reviews in my print magazines.

Of course, there is also the question of trust. The New York Review of Books, for example, has earned my trust over the years. I find their reviews reliable and accurate. But anonymous online reviewers are a different story. I find it hard to give credence to bubba345’s opinion. I know that the reviewer in the NYRB has read the book; has bubba345? Consequently, a more traditional marketing approach is more likely to grab my attention.

Having said that, I recognize that many readers prefer to do their searching online. To reach them, Internet-based marketing is the primary way to go.

Someday, online marketing will be the only viable method, but that day has not yet arrived. Authors need to do a mix of marketing — traditional and online — shifting only the tilt of the balance based on the audience they are trying to reach.

For those of you who are authors, do you agree or disagree? For editors, although we are discussing marketing ebooks, the same principles apply to marketing your editing services. The mediums have changed but not the fundamental principles of marketing. Are you relying solely on Internet-based marketing?

3 Comments »

  1. […] ainda muito mais ideias e reflexões no texto completo de Rich Adin, que você pode conferir aqui. Leitura mais do que […]

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    Pingback by Marketing no mundo dos ebooks - tradicional vs. online | Revolucaoebook.com.br - notícias e opiniões sobre ebooks, livrarias e o mercado do ebook - Revolucaoebook.com.br — March 27, 2013 @ 11:12 am | Reply

  2. It all comes down to creating awareness. With traditional publishing, the publisher spent money marketing the book by advertisements, contacting book stores, getting medial exposure, book reviews. Ah, but for indie publishers or for those doing self publishing, the story is much different. All the services provided by publishers is not left up to authors and/or their indie publisher to do it . . . and this costs money . . lots of money — as much or more than getting the book published. So, inorder to create awareness, it means buying space in book review magazines (NYT and NY Review of Book, Washington Post, LA Times, etc.) That the author, the author’s family and friends, may know of the book but that does not consist of what a marketing program consists of.

    As to getting a book reviewed. Unforturnetly, with almost 1 million books being published a year, (maybe even more if a book is done in both print and digital) reviewers are not very open to reading them much less write a review.

    Because there are so many ways to get published if a major imprint will not publish one’s book, only tells one part of the task. The hidden task that few promoting indie and self publishing do not talk about is the marketing aspect.

    The article hit home with me. As one who has written a book by an indie publisher, I am well aware, now, of the shortcoming of getting my book into readers’ hands. I had asked about this before we went to press but the marketing aspect was not a major part of our discussions.

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    Comment by Alan J. Zell — March 27, 2013 @ 6:41 pm | Reply

  3. Like everything else, ebook marketing is ever evolving. What worked as a little as a year ago no longer does. As Alan said, it all comes down to creating awareness. Something that is becoming more difficult with the exponential growth in self-published books. Every man and his dog has a book in him it seems.

    I do a little paid advertising, but mainly rely on word-of-mouth for visibility.

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    Comment by Vicki — April 1, 2013 @ 11:41 pm | Reply


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