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Essentials for a Book’s Success: PubU 2015 Takeaways

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By Marika Flatt

(This piece originally ran at www.sanfranciscobookreview.com.)

Last month, the Independent Book Publishers Association held their Publishing University conference in the great city of Austin (where PR by the Book is based). We had the opportunity to hear Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex Group talk about book data and how consumers discover books. Not a fan of numbers myself (what book publicist really is?), I didn’t think this would be a good fit for me, but was I wrong!

We were highly inspired by the interesting information that Hildick-Smith shared with us about how a book’s sales depend on three essential factors for success. I wanted to share some of the highlights from the presentation in hopes that these insights will also inspire your journey as an author, publicist, or even publisher big or small.

Essential pieces of the book puzzle:
— Discovery (awareness): Knowing that the book exists
— Conversion (interest): Being interested in the topic of the book
— Availability (sales): Finding and purchasing the book

As book publicists, we are responsible for the first one, Discovery, but the second and third pieces are completely out of our control. Therefore, if a potential client asks us about publicity turning into sales, that’s actually not our responsibility—nor can you honestly say that publicity always results in sales. We can schedule the exposure (i.e. a review in USA Today), but it’s out of hands in terms of how many consumers will find the book interesting or be able to find it (distribution).

It’s estimated there are 235 million adults and 43 million book buyers. So, publishers are looking to tap into those 43 million who will actually purchase the book. Sure, it sounds like a lot of people, but every book is competing for a piece of that audience.

In early April, there were approximately 51.9 million book codes on Amazon and that number increases every day. What that means is there’s a lot of competition for buyers, their money, their time, and even their attention. It’s the reality for publicists and publishers alike. Therefore, we must be creative, targeted, and diligent.

Codex Group says there are 38 discovery strategies of how consumers find books.

Not surprising, digital strategies primarily reach 18 to 35 year-olds and traditional PR (print, radio, TV) primarily reaches more of the 55 and above crowd.

Lastly, a book’s cover really plays into its sales. When a consumer picks up a book in a store or views it in a digital catalogue, they make their decision in two seconds! If that isn’t a testament to having a great book cover, I don’t know what is. Hildick-Smith said that when a publisher puts a face on a book cover, it’s very polarizing and risky. In fiction, the more prescriptive the cover, the more you lose readers. Ideally, you want to leave it up to the reader’s imagination to create the picture of the characters they see in their mind’s eye.

Ultimately, publicists want authors to treat publicity and promotion as a business and with the pages of data that are available to all of us in this digital age, it makes it easier to do just that. Let’s be strategic in order to help readers discover great books, find them interesting and, ultimately, purchase the book.

(This piece originally ran at www.sanfranciscobookreview.com.)

About the Author:

Marika FlattMarika Flatt is the founder of Austin-based publicity firm PR by the Book. A nationally-known book publicity firm since 2002, PR by the Book assists authors and publishers from coast-to-coast with their book launches, blog tours, social media campaigns and other promotional needs.

Follow @PRbytheBook on Twitter and “like” them on Facebook.

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