The untapped potential of podcasts, and 13 other things we learned at the Debuts Masterclass

Our breakfast Masterclass with James Spackman last month on debut campaigns was a great success — many thanks to everyone who attended and made it such an interesting event. As always, James has compiled a list of his favourite takeaways, featuring secretive male readers, billboard pilgrimages and a digital arms race!

 

Preorder-driving Facebook ads are a great tool to try out copy lines; Bethan Ferguson, Marketing Director of Quercus, uses them as an inexpensive test-bed.

Podcasts could have untapped marketing potential, particularly for selling audio books. Some publishers are treating individual podcasters as influencers, just like booktubers; others are buying advertising and refining which pods work for which genres.

Word-of-mouth recommendation … do men even do it? Some insight work suggests that men prefer to talk about books which reflect better on their personality (a lot more than women), and – less surprising? – overall, still talk about books much less

Sometimes simple and obvious works best. Hannah O’Brien (Fiction Marketing Director, HarperCollins) described getting scant reaction to FB ads pushing the high concept of a thriller, but then gained great results once they switched to a more straight and traditional “thriller of the year”-type message.NetGalley is at its most effective when you already have some momentum behind your book. Bethan Ferguson described the effectiveness of their solus mailings once they knew The Girl Before was getting attention.

Rival publications can lead to a digital arms race! Facebook budgets for Behind Her Eyes and The Girl Before crept up as each team responded to the others’ successes

A campaign can be all about tone. The Trouble With Goats and Sheep conveyed a memorable motif (sheep) in a witty, warm tone, rather than attempting to explain the novel or brand the author.

Saying “thank you” to retailers and influencers is important, but it has to be genuine. For example, Joanna Cannon forged very real relationships with retailers in the campaign for Goats and Sheep hardback, so her thanking them for their support was a natural – and thus effective – part of the build up to paperback publication.

POS can work brilliantly, but you have to do the groundwork up front. Sending out hundreds of packs for a handful of windows is a bad return on investment.

When a book is being enthusiastically taken up by readers, sometimes the campaign’s primary job is to feed the conversation. Katie Hall’s work for Grief is the Thing with Feathersfocused on the emotional response of readers and gave them things (including video) to share.

Working with TFL involves strict presentation rules. Any poster artwork that looks defaced/graffitied (eg scrawled font) will get rejected, sometimes with as little as 24 hours notice before launch.

Hashtags aren’t always necessary, or even appropriate. The Grief billboard was a site of pilgrimage for fans; an artwork that celebrated the book and which people shared. A hashtag would have made it “marketing”.

A font can convey a subtle message. Using Albertus on Grief was a design cue that bracketed the book with Ted Hughes and other Faber poetry greats …

Booktubers can’t recommend everything … and certainly they won’t love everything they read. Invest time in knowing their tastes and be selective in what you send them, advised Katie Hall.

Our next Masterclass on brand marketing is now fully booked but do contact bms@nielsen.com to join our the waiting list.

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