Monday, November 08, 2004

Marketing 101

Max Perkins, a pseudonymous blogger and alleged editor at a major publishing company, posts his thoughts on what midlist writers (authors with a first printing in the 7500-15,000 book range) can expect in terms of marketing behind their books. (Thanks to Sarah for the link.)

His answer, as you might expect, is basically, "not much." But one line in particular caught my eye:
"The truth is, ads don't help sell books, no matter what anyone says."

I wonder if that can possibly be true, especially considering that ads seem to help sell everything else. Granted, books aren't toothpaste, but they're still a commodity and presumably susceptible to the wicked powers of the marketing gurus.

Mr. Perkins would have us believe that the media blitz for The Da Vinci Code had no effect. So all those ad buys were what, just to make Dan Brown feel good about himself? The book just happened to sell over 12 million copies based on worth of mouth?

It sounds to me like Max is just parroting the line he tells his authors to make them feel better when the house doesn't pony up any ad money.

What usually happen is that publishers buy one four-inch ad in the Sunday book section of the New York Times, then shake their heads sadly when the book doesn't become a bestseller, protesting, "We did our best."

A successful ad campaign requires repeated, targeted messages in order to sell product. Ford doesn't just buy one ad when they're releasing a new truck, do they? A book requires the same persistence in order for the marketing to pay off.

Laying out the kind of money that a decent ad campaign would require might not be worth the investment for the typical book. But that's a helluva lot different from saying it wouldn't work anyway.