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Publishing 101 #1 – What is Book Marketing?

**Disclaimer: I am not an industry professional. I do, however, major in publishing marketing and publicity and have taken some classes on the subject matter enough that I feel I can make generalized statements for better understanding**

So, what is book marketing?
The other day I was perusing the Twitterverse when a post caught my eye that said something along the lines of “Is it just me or are publishers doing a really bad job at publicity? I feel like I have no idea what’s coming out.” Followed by a poll to which I answer that I felt publishers were doing a fine job. Apparently, I am in the minority. I proceeded to read through the comments of people claiming that they only hear about one or two books over and over again.

Essentially, the moral of this blog post is going to be publishers have to make money.
How many different forms of social media are there? Let’s do a head count. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (which is more on the individual and less the company), Goodreads, Amazon (to a degree). Then you have booksellers themselves like Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and a great deal many independent stores. Oh! Let’s not forget to mention the quite literally thousands of book newsletters. In one branch of a publishing company alone there might as well be 10 or more different kinds of newsletters that could be broken up by genre, imprint, and sometimes even a select author. Following this is places like Shelf Awareness and Bookriot. If it’s a book coming from an already known author, most have their own newsletter as well. And how could I forget the hard work of the bloggers out in the community? So let’s say the approx. total of places you could advertise a book is about 16 if I’m holding back.

Of course, this isn’t including the cost of promotional things like pre-order incentives and ARCs that are paid for by the publisher and given out for free specifically for publicity. That means the publisher makes ZERO MONEY on ARC distribution. Their only hope is that, by giving ARCs out, the bloggers and booksellers of the world will spread the word.

About 1 million books are published in the US every year. There is no exact number, so for the heck of it, let’s take away 200k. That’s 800k books in the US alone. Now, there’s also some no-name titles and genre differences and then independent titles that most won’t hear about, so let’s say about…200k books are published a year that you might be interested in. That’s 200,000 books. It isn’t an exact science, but I don’t want to hear about 200k books every year.

Publicity costs money. Weird right? Now, going back to one of those numbers above, there are approx. 16 social media outlets/bookstores/newsletters/websites that you can advertise from. But, really, unless people are actively searching the publisher or the author, there is a very small chance that a non-paid promotional ad will be seen. That would be like posting a picture on your Instagram with hashtags and hoping that 5 people will see and dig deeper. So, you go ahead and pay for Instagram to promote you and reach a bigger audience. And then you do that on the 15 other outlets. This is for one book. With our generous number of 200k books that people might care about in a year, it is literally impossible to give all books the same kind of recognition. Not to mention it clogs up feeds and could cause a bunch of angry readers wondering why they can’t find that one book they saw an ad for in the sea of book ads.

This is mainly me pointing a finger at the big 5 publishers that everyone hears from and I haven’t even touched the foundation of Amazon. Smaller publishers have no way to do this kind of publicity.

The point of this is that, if you want to find more books, you need to ask around, subscribe to everything about books that interest you, and read some ARC reviews. Heck, some publishers have catalogues for the books they will be publishing that season, so try flipping through one of those PDFs. You can’t wait for the books to come to you, because it is literally impossible to do so.

Feel free to argue with me down in the comments, shoot me a message, etc. If this interests some of you out in the void and you want to learn more about stuff like this or if you want me to do a “What is Book Marketing?” part 2, I have a bunch of content, this post is just getting long. Remember, respect industry professionals, look around (there is book stuff posted everywhere), and try not to complain about things you don’t have control over. It really isn’t worth your time.

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