Derek Dahlsad is a technical wizard and sharp designer. Self taught in most respects, he pulls a formal theatrical design education and part-time computer science courses into a skill-set that is neither purely artistic nor limited by technicality.

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In A World, Where Books Are Read...
18 Jul 2006, 2:56:40 pm

HarperCollins Canada has started a program where books are given movie-trailer-like advertisements; the movies, however, aren't released on the big screen, but are available through HC's website. As expected, some are suspicious of success, while authors are happy to see promotion done in any form.

This brings us to marketing, something my company is trying to get a handle on almost a year into the business. Not that we've ignored it; we've sent out review copies, updated our Amazon page, gotten B&N brick-and-mortar stores to carry the books, bought advertising in magazines...but we aren't sure yet what beings people to buy our books.

ParaPublishing has a nice bunch of statistics on bookbuyers. The most interesting ones from our point of view were:

  • The jacket has between 14 and 23 seconds of "eyeball time",
  • Women buy 68% of books,
  • 59% of bookbuyers go to the bookshop with a book in mind; 41% are browsing
What this tells me is that book covers, while a valuable marketing tool (41% of people buy based primarily on that), 59% of bookbuyers -- who are mostly women -- are getting their information from someplace else.

But -- where do they get it from? Advertisers have, no doubt, gotten this down to a science, but as a small book publisher that's not my forte. It's hard to convince myself that buying an ad in a magazine (which, depending on the mag, could be tens of thousands of dollars) will result in enough sales to cover the ad, let alone increase profit. I've got a mailing list of bookstores around the country, but will a couple hundred dollars on postcards and stamps pay off? It's a gamble, almost moreso than the signing of an author to publish their book. The author gets paid their royalties out of our profit; that profit needs to be big enough to make it worthwhile. After the actual printing, marketing is probably the biggest expense -- but could prove to be the most influential force in keeping those profits up.

So it's no wonder that publishers are trying creative new ways to get the word out. Who goes to the movies without knowing what they're going to see? The trailers have to be worth something, then, right? Making trailers for books seems wise. If the big boys are getting creative with their advertising, is means the little guy has to look outside the box, too.

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