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How Book Publishers Can Brand Themselves With the Help of Their Authors

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PUBLISHED JULY/AUGUST 2019

by Brian Feinblum, CMO and Senior Vice President, Media Connect —


publisher branding

Brian Feinblum

Book publishers of all genres and sizes need a lot of help with branding-and it can come from working more productively with their authors.

So, what is branding for a publisher?

I had the opportunity to speak at IBPA’s annual conference in Chicago on this very topic. Here is what I shared: A brand is your name, image, and voice. It’s how others discover and perceive you. It shows in all that you do, say, and publish.

It is also your:

  • Look and feel of your books
  • Company website content and appearance
  • Social media profiles and level of activity and engagement
  • Business cards
  • Letterhead (digital and print)
  • Press releases
  • Advertising
  • Email signature

It appears:

  • In your news media coverage
  • When you speak to groups
  • Interact with industry professionals

Most publishers stink at branding. Many consumers couldn’t distinguish the brand of one publisher from another. But some publishers do it right.

Wiley puts its name on the front cover of all of its books. There’s a uniform look to their books, and a certain caliber of author and content is provided.

Morgan James, a leading hybrid publisher, distinguishes its books with its charitable ways. On the back of every book cover is a reference to Habitat for Humanity, to which it donates a certain percentage of proceeds.

Some authors and book series are also good at branding-and have a recognizable image.

Publishers must define their brand first by knowing their why. Why do you publish books? What’s your mission? What standards do you employ for the books that you publish? In what voice do you speak in?Publishers need to ask of themselves: What’s unique, fresh, different, better, or first about the books I publish? You need to identify what your books promise to do for readers. What ties your books together? A good publishing brand sells more books, earns you media coverage, helps recruit quality authors to publish with you, and gets you noticed in the book industry.

Rule No. 1: Brand your books!

  • Develop a consistent look for your books.
  • Put in an introductory message into every book.
  • Place an ad in each book to highlight your website.
  • Publish a certain caliber of author.

Next, develop a tagline for your company. What do you promise to offer readers? What makes your book distinguishable? Post the tagline everywhere. It becomes your mantra.


Branding on Social Media

To brand via social media makes a lot of sense, but choose your platforms wisely. You can’t be everywhere all the time, so don’t try to be.

Professionally, a publisher’s president/owner should be on LinkedIn. The publishing company should have a Facebook page, Twitter handle, and YouTube channel. If you or your books are visual and attractive, consider using Instagram or Pinterest.

Have a posting schedule. It can’t be random, haphazard, or infrequent. Consistency is key. Frequency should follow industry norms and what benefits you, but don’t obsess and live online 24/7.

Authors must do the same with social media. You, as the publisher, should be connected online with all of your authors. Repost each other’s stuff. Don’t be too salesy in your posts. Use visuals, like graphs, photos, or drawings, to get attention.

When it comes to blogs, publishers should:

  • Have one
  • Let authors contribute to your blog
  • Interview people for your blog
  • Set an editorial calendar of one to two posts per week
  • Use it on your social media

What can a publisher blog about?

  • What’s new or coming out soon
  • Authors in the news
  • Comments on book industry
  • Spotting trends on books
  • Celebrating backlist milestones or anniversaries

Publisher websites

  • They should be easy to read and navigate
  • Updated regularly
  • Have author websites link to your site

What should a publisher’s site include?

  • Catalog of books
  • Book covers
  • Descriptions of books
  • Book reviews
  • Media coverage about books
  • Testimonials for each title
  • Chapter examples
  • Price/order info/buy button
  • Logo
  • Blog
  • About the company
  • Contact page with social media links
  • Highlight successes
  • Share vision and philosophy
  • News about you
  • Your bio
  • Q&A with you
  • List of upcoming events for company/authors
  • Link to a charity if you support one
  • A page outlining your manuscript submission guidelines and policies

Don’t just use words. Focus on fonts, colors, images, audio, and video.

Author websites should be created six months prior to a publication date and have:

  • About the book
  • About the author
  • Summary of past books
  • Short excerpts for upcoming book
  • Free downloadable chapter and table of contents
  • Testimonials
  • Media scheduled or links to past media
  • Scheduled or list of past speaker appearances
  • Press releases
  • Author Q&A
  • Blog or newsletter
  • Something free people can sign up for
  • Charity connection page
  • Facts/stats related to the book
  • Buy button/preorders
  • Contact page and social media links

How can authors market and promote themselves?

  • Schedule speaking appearances and bookstore signings
  • Social media activity
  • Book giveaways
  • Paid reviews
  • Getting traditional media exposure
  • Securing digital media coverage
  • Advertising
  • Setting up affiliate sales

Authors must put together a press kit for the media, which should include a press release, author bio, suggested interview questions, excerpts, testimonials, and several story-ready pieces that touch on themes from your book.


Contact Targeted Media

Authors will need to send out advance review copies of their book to book reviewers and long-lead media four months prior to publication date.

Two months prior to pub date, and continuing for three to four months post-publication date, authors must contact off-the-book-page media (people who will do something other than a book review).

Contact:

  • Local and national TV shows
  • Bloggers
  • Podcasts
  • Local and national radio shows
  • Magazines
  • Daily and weekly newspapers
  • Trade publications
  • Newsletter
  • Major media websites
  • Online book reviews

You should seek out:

  • Interviews
  • Feature stories
  • Quotes in a story
  • Guest posts
  • Byline articles
  • Book excerpts

Publishers need media coverage. They should contact writer magazines, book industry trades, and digital media that covers books and publishing. Contact media that covers an industry, too. For instance, contact parenting publications if you publish children’s books, or contact business media if you publish business books-not just book reviewers or those who cover books.

Publishers can seek out stories that:

  • Center on controversial books or topics
  • Discuss free speech, literacy, or reading trends
  • Cover the business of book publishing
  • Tackle a specific genre

Find your biggest allies. An author’s list of contacts has a few whales-those who have large social media followings, big email lists, and influencer status. These people are your gold. Call them, send them an email, woo them. Beg for a favor or trade something of value-or even pay them-to help you.

Ask them for:

  • A bulk buy of your book (they can give as gifts or resell)
  • Their help in sharing a sales letter to their lists
  • An introduction to a handful of key people
  • A free gift to provide your readers

Publishers, ask all of your authors to help one another and to send sales letter offers to each other’s lists.

Additional steps publishers should take:

  • Provide authors with resources and helpful information about marketing and publicity.
  • Set expectations for each of them of what you want them to do.
  • Follow up with them regularly and ask then to email a weekly update of outreach and results (create a template for them).
  • Introduce your authors to each other-maybe have backlist authors mentor the new ones.

Book sales require crafting ideas, planning to execute, knowledge of how to market, skills training to market books, awareness of what could be done, and connections to media, bookstores, libraries, and organizations. But, mostly, it demands time and money. Authors must invest in themselves and really work at getting sales. Encourage your authors to hire a PR consultant or, even better, a book publicist. They should team up to make sure everything that’s needed gets addressed.

There should be time to brainstorm, dream, and plan-but then it’s time to focus on execution.


Working With Authors

Consider what and who you publish:

  • Recruit authors who support your brand and mission.
  • Take on promotable books.
  • Work with authors who are committed to help and be active.
  • Find authors willing to invest funds into a PR campaign.
  • Seek out marketing-minded authors.
  • Look for writers with a decent platform.
  • They must be qualified to write on the topic of their book.
  • They need to have a relevant book that is well written.
  • They should have a built-in way to tie the book into a holiday, season, anniversary, honorary day, upcoming event, the news cycle, or something popular.

Your brand grows when you publish:

  • Books people want or need
  • Established authors
  • Books by promotable authors

Push your authors. Formulate materials that will help your authors, including:

  • Checklists of dos and dont’s
  • Timeline of activity
  • Media coaching
  • Website models
  • Set deadlines and monitor activities
  • Address their challenges, fears, needs
  • Schedule brainstorming calls
  • Lists of resources
  • Play to their strengths and passions-but encourage them to do what’s needed even if they aren’t interested
  • Set goals and define metrics for success
  • Craft training videos and tutorials on speaking, social media, getting reviews, and other key areas

What you do as a publisher is important. Books matter. You got into book publishing, most likely, not for the money, but because you want to follow your passions, call upon your skills, and support books and the many voices that need to be shared. You treasure reading, writing, and publishing. You believe in free speech and literacy for all. You believe books can shape and/or inform, inspire, educate, enlighten, or comfort us. You may even think we can change the world, one book at a time.


Brian Feinblum has been promoting leading experts, bestselling authors, motivational speakers, major businesses, leading nonprofits, and influential trade associations since 1989. He currently serves as the chief marketing officer and senior vice president for Media Connect and the founder of bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com.


To learn more about the different types of branding check out our IBPA Independent Article,The Language of Branding

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