Nine things we learned at the BMS Marketing Masterclass

img_5084 by James Spackman

At the recent BMS breakfast masterclass I interviewed the key marketers behind three very different marketing campaigns. It opened up a fascinating discussion about some of the challenges book comms people are facing (in general), and provoked a host of suggestions and ideas about how publishers are (and could be) making more of new (and sometimes old school) methods for reaching readers.

Here are some things we learned:

1. There’s no model for a big book campaign any more

Everything should be bespoke, said Sara Lloyd (Pan Macmillan): “if there’s a template, we may as well all go home”.

2. If in doubt, go back to the text

When you’re stuck, creatively, (said Jessica Killingley, ex-Hodder & Stoughton), remember that “we’re all muppets, compared with the author” so find a way to go back to the source and use their work …

3. Focus groups help you pick the right words…

… to talk to your audience in language that works for them. Julia Pidduck (Orion) explained how the verbal branding of Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia was centred around three words – secret, scandal and intrigue –  because they had been found to resonate with the audience. And because they were targeting a TV audience as well as book buyers, they learned to refer to it as a “series”.

4. An author’s social audience gives you “feel”, not just data

Sara Lloyd told us that the PanMac team learned the tone and character of Joe Wicks’ followers simply by studying their interactions, which was just as important as their demographics.

5. A good designer is your campaign’s best friend

If they get what you’re trying to do and are on-board from the start, explained Jessica Killingley, while describing her campaign for Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven, they will bring distinctiveness and consistency to the work.

6. You need boots on the ground

An author’s social media platform is all very well, but the ones who meet lots of booksellers, face to face, really make a difference. And, as with that other old-school campaign element, proofs – new-school ‘social media’ – only amplifies the effect.

7. A big app launch is like a startup….

… meaning long hours of constant vigilance, real-time results and quick adjustments … and also lots of excitement, as Julia Pidduck explained (for the Belgravia campaign). It also means you need to act like a retailer (and sharpen your customer service skills for the public).

8. ‘Behind the scenes moments’ is a key new trend (AKA Joe Wicks’s Tears)

The authentic emotion of an author opening their first box of books is a big deal to their fans. Readers ARE curious about how the publishing process works. “In a world of beta testing and user-generation”, said Sara Lloyd, “consumers are interested and expect to be let in”. And this can apply to fiction too …

9. Marketers are educators

As Julia Pidduck put it, “our colleagues don’t know what they don’t know”, so if new technologies creates an opportunity, it’s up to you to demonstrate within your publishing team how it can be used to reach readers.

James Spackman is a freelance publisher and consultant leading on a series of marketing masterclasses hosted by the Book Marketing Society. The next breakfast, focused on promoting “backlist” campaigns, will take place on Thursday 26 January 2017


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