Wed
Jan 28 2009 4:35pm

Convince Me!

Or, Book Marketing: A Reader’s Perspective

As our technology grows and mutates into millions of different forms, readers are getting bombarded by the many new and different marketing efforts of publishers. Some are better than others, some are more fun than others, and some seem to be a total waste of money. What I will attempt to do is give you my perspective on the various book marketing methods I have encountered. I encourage you to mention any I have missed, and to give your own perspective on the ones I didn’t. I am not a marketer or knowledgeable about marketing myself (except by proxy because I am a book reviewer and blogger). And there was that one brief stint at a tech firm that lasted just months. So what I say here will betray my ignorance of marketing, but I think the exercise of seeing the effect of marketing on a reader is a useful exercise nonetheless. Its effect on you is likely different, and I invite your commentary on the subject.

The Cover
This is one of the most obvious of marketing methods. Any book cover which is not appealing, whether it be in design or content, is a near immediate turnoff. As a book buyer, I am more likely to buy a book whose cover is visible than one for which only the spine is visible, except in the cases of books in a series or by authors I am looking for. Books whose covers are appealing and visible get the most attention from me at the bookstore, rating at least some handling before I return it to the shelf.

If an anthology, a list of the big name authors on the front is an especially huge draw for me. If I don’t know the names, I might give it a pass. John Joseph Adams’ cover for Wastelands is a good example of this, and the cover for Eclipse Two is a bad one, even though both anthologies are worth the read.

This is truly an eye of the beholder sort of marketing, as anything creepy or horrifying is going to be put down by me, whereas other readers will be drawn to it. But as long as the cover image and the contents mesh, and the artist has drawn an appealing image and the cover designer has laid it out well, then the book still attracts. For instance, Stephen Hunt’s The Court of the Air has a very minimalistic cover, but it is informative and appealing. On the other hand, books by Stephen King, with their very minimal covers and overdone skulls, etc.  will have no appeal for me. But I do acknowledge that it is appropriate for the genre.

The effect of a book cover on a person is super subjective, but any reader should acknowledge that a cover is one of the best ways to convince them to read it. As a part of marketing, the book cover is essential.

The Cover Blurb
This can be rather a hit and miss method. Some book cover blurbs try to give nothing away about the book, and some give too much. Some relate information that does not really grasp the scope of the book (for instance, the blurb on Trudi Canavan’s The Magician’s Apprentice comes nowhere close. It focus on one character when the story is actually a multi-perspective tale) and others give away the story. As a reader, I find that a book blurb that gives a sufficient lead-in to the story, identifies the primary characters and setting, and closes with a cliffhanger. If the book blurb can get me into the first chapter of the novel, I will most likely walk out of the story with a copy in hand. If the blurb is vague, having only a few sentences or errs on the side of information overload, then the novel is returned to the shelf. However, this does work in conjunction with the cover to increase the appeal, and when the two mesh well, then novel gets more than a cursory glance.

Author Quotations
Unless the author is one I have previously read, any quote is virtually meaningless. I think that is why readers so often see quotes from authors who make the NYT bestseller list, or are authors who are at the top of that particular subgenre. On the flip side lack of meaning is given to any quote from an author who gives them out like candy. A promotion from certain authors is given out so often any reasonably prolific reader knows the quote giver cannot have read the book, and yet still managed to do their own writing. At that point, you know the publisher asked for a quote and got it, even if the book was only skimmed or partially read.

The Press Release
This is useful. I prefer that such things be released only electronically in order to save trees, but press releases are quite informative. They contain author information, a synopsis of the book (usually even better than the cover blurb) and more quotes from authors. However, such things are often hard to find, being buried on a company website, or only released in print form with copies of the Advance Reader Copy. So while this is a good promotional tool, it finds too little use, especially on the internet, where it would do the most good.

The Book Review
Probably the best and most interesting place to find out about a book is the book review. (And I’m not just saying that because I am a reviewer.) Whether it is Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, book blogger, or review on a social media site, book reviews are the single most convincing method of marketing I have experienced. When a reviewer takes time and effort to write a review, I get a deep-seated need to read that book for myself, even when the review is bad, because I absolutely must know if my own reactions are different. And if he or she is an amateur reviewer, the review is even more important, as the established reviewers tend to be too analytic, esoteric, or showy. Amateurs suffer less from vanity, and so their reviews have an honest feeling to them, no matter their conclusions. And often, they are. If the review is good, the reviewer’s excitement about a novel becomes infectious. Yes, even Amazon reviews can be helpful, especially since they are easy to access.

Book reviews have the added advantage of being easily accessible through internet capable cell-phones, but are less time intensive to download, since they are primarily text. I have on more than one occasion used my Blackberry to find a review of a book as I was looking at it in the bookstore.

The book review is essentially the new form of word-of-mouth, and as someone who used to move in circles where fiction I enjoyed was rarely read by others, book reviews functioned as my friend’s recommendation. I don’t know these people personally, as in face to face, but who they are comes through their reviews, and provides the needed word-of-mouth when your physical community is uninterested.

The Book Trailer
When it comes to book trailers, the effectiveness of their marketing depends a lot on the presentation. Obviously, the trailer for popular author Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is going to be of a higher quality than say, one that a small press puts out. This is simply the effect of money. Readers, who are also TV viewers, have high expectations of visual media, and for SF and Fantasy readers who are often technophiles too, this expectation is exponentially increased. Taking all this into account, I still find that while book trailers are entertaining, their effectiveness as a marketing tool is limited. Their reach is smaller than text, for one, and on a personal level, even the live action trailers that I prefer tend to not have enough information about the work. Yes, they are visually and auditory treats, but they are not informative. And even though with the iPhone such videos are more easily accessible, when standing in the library or at the bookstore, I am first going to look for text, not video, to help me decide on a book.

The TV Spot
The TV spot is completely and utterly a waste of publisher money. Though closely affiliated with the book trailer, these tend to be much shorter and only appear randomly on TV. Besides which, because of the prohibitive cost, only a very few authors get them, usually ones that are already successful.

The Billboard
I’m afraid that this only works in big cities with large transit systems. Of course, most billboards are only going to be for books that will hit the NYT Bestseller list without trying. You that live in big cities like New York, Los Angeles or even downtown Atlanta might find these to be effective methods, but for me, who has lived mostly in suburbia, billboards with books on them get a glance but not much else.

An interesting anecdote that relates to this is a story about a recent drive I had from Atlanta to Orlando. Along the way, on I-75, I happened to glance over and see a billboard for a novel that was obviously self-published. The billboard showed the cover (on which the title was hard to see) and mentioned the book was available on Amazon. That’s it. It wasn’t very helpful. And while I remember the book looked to be a Da Vinci Code sort of book, but for the life of me I can’t remember the title. Effective in getting my attention it was, but its placement in rural America and lack of information made it forgettable except for its strangeness.

Internet Ads
Internet ads are a very convincing marketing method. When I see an ad for a book at a blog or website, more often than not I click it, especially if it flashes. My eye is drawn to bright lights and pretty colors, I have to say. Since I spend so much time on the internet, I will often see the same ad twice, and even if I didn’t click it before, I will likely click it the next time I see it, especially if it is on a site related to books I like to read.

The Author Website
Sorry, but unless I am already familiar with an author, it is unlikely I will be using the website as a launch pad for reading. The author’s site is good for fan retention, not for creating new ones, except in cases where free fiction is being offered, especially full novels. Everyone appreciates something for free, even in good times, so the offering of free books is an excellent promotional tool. I cite the success of Tor.com’s own “Watch the Skies” promotional just a short time ago, before this site went live. By giving away books and art, I think this site gathered many more potential readers than it otherwise would have. The same holds true for the author sites.

The Author Interview
Knowing who the author is as a person, what kind of writing they do, what their authorial intent is in a book is a method of marketing that I actually seek out. I want to know who these authors are as people, how they think and what makes them tick. Knowing these things helps me make judgments about their work. I simply cannot, as a reader, let a work stand apart from the author, no matter how well written. So when I can, I try to read interviews with an author of a book I am interested in, but not too sure about buying.

Author Reading/Signing
If I already own a copy, I love going to these. However, these are often poorly announced or marketed, and simply end up being a way for writers to keep fans, much like their websites, rather than gain new ones. If the reading/signing is in a genre I enjoy however, I will make the trip for the same reason I read the author interview, to get to know the author as a person, and to get an opportunity to hear them read their own work. Their enthusiasm for their book will generally excite me enough to buy it. John Scalzi (with Mary Robinette Kowal in this case) is the best example I know of how to do this well.

Conventions
Booths at book conventions are great. I love to stop by and talk with the person running the booth, even if they are just an employee. Oftentimes, they are just as excited about their books as I am, in a truly heartfelt way, and getting to talk books with them is fun. My own trip to Dragon*Con last year was so much fun because I had opportunity to meet people in and around the booths. Add to that the opportunity for a face to face with an author and conventions and publisher booths is the most enjoyable from of marketing. Sadly, conventions are limited in number, and authors and publishers time is limited. The two timelines rarely coincide. This results in only some conventions having the types of booths that make marketing effective. Conventions have a limited effectiveness due to geography and quantity, though I find them to be one of the best places to learn about books.

Twitter/Forums
This is an obvious extension of the author interview, but even better. This lets the reader into the daily life of the author, and although it is not quite as informative as the interview, the send of intimacy it promulgates is helpful. In fact, several authors I would not have read if I found it in the bookstore are now on my to-be-read list because of Twitter. I would like to see someone create a way to have an interview of authors through use of Twitter. I think it would be really fun to see, and it would allow the interview to cover a lot of ground, if more than one person was allowed to join the conversation. I would tune into it, at least to read, even if I did not participate.

Author participation in forums has similar results, though I would also hope that this did not detract from writing time.

And of course Twitter can be used creatively for promotion too, as in the case of Jeff Somers, who is twittering his short story, “The Black Boxes.”

Various Internet Promotions
One example of this would be the way that Orbit put together Orc mail for the promotion of Stan Nicholl’s Orcs. The widget could be placed on any website, and users could send emails that would be “read” aloud by the Orc. Though this was a fun thing, it certainly did not convince me to buy the work. Even the widget for the new Star Trek only kept me occupied for a short time. Interesting and fun, yes, but good marketing? Not so much considering the time involved in coding.

On a related note, creating a free internet game based on a book is more effective in my mind, as I would certainly play it, and it would keep the idea of the book at the forefront of my mind for as long as I played it, most likely long enough to make me want to read the book on which it is based. This is a relatively unexplored area of marketing, probably because of its cost prohibitive nature.

The Giveaway
This gets me just about every time. If I fail to win a book in a giveaway, I am highly likely to buy it later. The excitement and anticipation makes of being a possible winner makes it nigh on impossible for me not to buy the book when I lose.

Marketing is…
I think ultimately the conclusion has to be that all of these things together work on the mind of me as a reader to influence my book buying decisions. You see, some methods peak my interest, others are useful in the bookstore, and some others make me think highly of the author, and so I want to seek out books by them. No one method is most convincing (though book reviews come close) but each and every one has some effect. It is the cumulative nature of that effect that results in a book purchase. I think that likely this is the same for you, but I would bet money that the marketing method which has the most effect is different. Care to share?

18 comments
rick gregory
1. rickg
For me it's primarily the cover and related things. I don't read book reviews, watch TV shows about books etc. In fact I'd bet that most non-point of sale marketing is wasted except to let me know that same uber popular author has a new book out. Heck I was walking through my local store and saw John Le Carre had a new novel out - in mass market format. I had no idea he even had a new one out, period.

It's not that I don't consume media, but rather that I don't care about the Stephen Kings of the world who are going to get large ad budgets. For me, I'll walk though a bookstore's SF section, peruse the shelves, see something interesting, pick it up and read the back... maybe read the first page or two...

Oh and you missed one very good way to market to the technologically savvy reader - free ebooks. Ideally the whole thing and definitely DRM free, but if you give me a chance to read an author at zero cost I'll almost always take it. Some of the Tor books have led me to buy others by that author (Sanderson, Schroeder) some haven't... but I'm aware of the author now. I can see online short fiction doing the same thing, though those sites are much harder to find.
John Joseph Adams
2. johnjosephadams
John, you're confusing some terminology there. A "cover blurb" is actually what, in publishing, we would call the "author quotation" you describe. What you describe as the cover blurb is actually called the cover copy (or sometimes flap copy if you're talking about hardcover books).

Otherwise, nice article!
Peter Hollo
3. raven
I can only assume if you don't recognize the names on Eclipse 2 then you're not in the target market - although maybe you're not saying you don't recognize them...? But an anthology with Alastair Reynolds, Ted Chiang, Margo Lanagan and indeed the others listed is a shoe-in for me. Although there are plenty of other excellent authors inside, I think this is as good a list as any to advertise the contents, and a nice painting too.

I have to say that the cover is probably one of the last considerations I'd have for buying a book. I'm primarily interested in the contents - so if it's a cold purchase then sure, the cover might draw me in but the cover copy and a quick browse of the contents is more likely to do it.
Generally though, it'll be reading reviews, hearing about it on the blogosphere, via the author's website/blog/twitter account, via another author's website/blog/twitter account, Locus's new release list, and occasionally even advertising, that will make me want to get a book.
joelfinkle
4. joelfinkle
I don't set foot in bookstores to actually buy books all that often. Prices too high. So I usually don't see the cover or read or believe the blurbs.

Sources for book info:

#1: Recommendations from other authors, including this site, and especially John Scalzi's "The Big Idea" posts on scalzi.com/whatever.

#2: Publishers' Weekly. Got on the free subscription list some time ago, the reviews in there are pretty good

#3: Locus' forthcoming book lists. Mostly I scan for my favorite authors, which tends to lead to reading ruts, if it weren't for #1 and #4

#4: Hugo & Nebula award nominees. Usually a good recommendation (although RJ Sawyer and RC Wilson are more popular there than on my bookshelves)
Dot Lin
5. fangirl
how illuminating to see things from the other side!

I'm currently fascinated with book video trailers and as someone with film interest, I must say one thing on behalf of them: I don't think many in the book industry realize how much money it takes to produce a good/quality book video trailer!

with the visual aspect (camera, crew, lighting, directing, etc.) and the average viewer's relatively high expectations on quality (re: comparing it to actual movie trailers), a 3 - 5 minute book video could easily cost over $10,000 (as quoted by a filmmaker friend).

as with anything, huge amounts of creativity or ingenuity can make a video out of $1,000 and string animation, but we're talking in general here ;)
joelfinkle
6. MonkeyT
The best marketing efforts I've seen have been for genres and markets, not individual books. They've come from publishers and particularly editors, not authors: People with a broader perspective than individual authors, who can talk trends within a genre without shilling their own work.

Book trailers, commercials and video dramatizations are cheesey. Really. Stop them all. Not kidding. Imagination trumps a budget, easily. And Flash is painful even when applied with some skill.

Want to catch my attention? Put together a podcast of well-produced short readings from a few new releases. Get some folks who produce audio dramas to work on some subtle background atmosphere, not just an author reading dry. I know a couple of local radio drama groups that would probably help produce such a thing for a good collaboration credit. A couple of readings and possibly a brief author interview (to push authors who may not have a new work to promote). No more than 10 minutes per element/segment so that it splits well for a commute, not requiring a dedicated chunk of my life. Give me a good scene to whet my appetite in a medium that lends itself to the imagination almost as well as reading does. Once, possibly twice a month, not necessarily confined to a single genre. Then keep it online for posterity.
seth johnson
7. seth
I'm probably not as well-read as most people visiting this website. But I make my purchasing decisions fueled mainly by amateur reviews on Amazon.

But, I shop exclusively in used book stores and thrift stores. I'll home in on books based on Author and / or Cover and then check the reader reviews on Amazon via my iPhone. If the title checks out favorably with those reviewers, I'll buy it.

To extend your article, John, I'd point out that the bigger role of marketing also controls pricing and features. Marketing develops products based on researching consumer trends and interests. I think that Tor and Baen have done some really smart things in the internet age by offering eBooks for free and developing lively websites (epecially Tor.com) to keep readers thinking about their books. That is GREAT marketing.

On the topic of eBooks, I don't own an eReading device only because it locks me into content that is more expensive than used paperbacks. The marketing department @ Tor and other SF publishers should eventually realize that most of their back catalog is purchased daily on the used market for prices hovering around $1.50. Thus, not putting any money in the publisher or authors' pockets from all these sales. eBooks are the opportunity for publishers to take advantage of their back catalogs and compete with the used paperback market by selling out-of-print titles for cheap.

Here's an eBook marketing blunder-- look at Asimov's Foundation series. Foundation is $6.39 on Kindle, $7.99 on eReader, and $0.50 at the used book store. That pricing is based off what NEW eBook titles are selling for. It doesn't take into account that at this point, most people who would considering buying the Foundation eBook probably already have read it and may own it in hardcopy. The incentive to drop $6-$8 on a single title is low, especially when considering to get the whole series will run in the neighborhood of $45+.

A smarter marketing play would be to price those at $2 each. Instead of only selling a few hundred Foundation eBooks to the small minority hardcore Asimov fans, you'll get tens of thousands of sales to the whole spectrum of eBook SF readers-- people who never read Foundation, people who might want to re-read it, people who didn't get through the whole series who want to finish the series, and most importantly, the people who want to replace their hardcopy bookcase with their eBook collection.

Seth
seth johnson
8. seth
Just wanted to extend my Foundation example.

Part of the Marketing Executive's job description is looking at a product and determining what pricing will yield the greatest revenue. This is usually tempered with production and distribution costs, which don't really affect eBooks.

In the case of Foundation (and most other back catalog SF books), Marketing Execs haven't recognized that at current pricing there will be a few opportunities where $45 was generated by a reader who bought the whole Foundation series. That's a pretty significant piece of coin to drop by a single person. If they priced them at $2.00, they would only need to get 4 people to buy the entire series to generate that $45. Though I'm not a Marketing Executive, I predict that they'd make a lot more bundles of $45 bills with the latter pricing scenario over the former.

Seth
John Ottinger III
9. graspingforthewind
JJA - thanks for the clarification of terminology. Not being in the business professionally, I simply didn't know the correct words. I won't confuse them again.

raven - I did in fact recognize the names, but waht I didn't make clear is that inside the cover there are even more recognizable names, like Peter Beagle. The fact that he is not on the cover seems a strange choice.

rickg - I did mention free books under the author website, i just didn't give it its own line item. But everything you say is very true.

joelfinkle - thanks for mentioning the awards, I completely forgot about them. Although awards are actually a turn off for me, they are not for everyone I'm sure.

MonkeyT - love the podcasting idea!

Seth - pricing is important, but I never really considered it as a factor myself. I like print only, really, though the occasional ebook creeps in. So I just buy what I want, and if I'm broke, I don't buy. And I feel guilty buying used, because I want more books in genre, and the only way to do that is to support the publisher by buying new. Purchasing ebooks does that as well.
Chris Meadows
10. Robotech_Master
You forgot one: the book radio spot.

My Dad, a staunch conservative, has subjected me to Rush Limbaugh a time or eleven while I stayed with the parents recovering from my broken leg.

One of the commercials frequently played during the show was this one (downloadable MP3 file). If you listen to it, you'll notice that the reading and the music behind it are all very suspenseful, pitching it as this amazing action-adventure story…

…but if you check out the book in question, A Long Way from Chicago, it's actually an award-winning children's book. (My Mom, a school librarian, brought it home from her library for us to read. It was actually pretty good.)

And they advertised it during Rush Limbaugh.

Huh?
Marissa Lingen
11. Mris
One of those "funny how different people are" things, I guess: internet ads for books have exactly the opposite effect on me. My brain auto-files them under "ads" and therefore not of interest. You could put a long-lost book by a favorite author on an internet ad on a website I read daily, and I would be genuinely surprised to later hear that it was coming out, because anything that registers as advertising gets filed in "not my problem; do not compute."

I have said elsewhere but I think not around here: this has become a problem for me when Scientific American changed some of its design stuff. There have been several articles whose image-heavy front page I flipped past because it registered in my brain as an ad, only to turn the page and get the text in midstream and have to turn back again to see what I missed because my brain processed it as an ad.

On the other hand, it's been extremely convenient not to have to look at all the ads in magazines and newspapers.
CE Petit
12. Jaws
Some general snark about book marketing:

* Never forget that you're actually selling the content, not the package. That means that you (the industry) must do a much better job of matching the content to the package. As a particular example, compare first-day sales of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Brisingr to second-month sales... and you'll find out that only existing fans bought those books, in a rush; the exhorbitant prices and shoddy production of the casebound originals drove off potential impulse buyers. That may be all well and good for late books in established, bestselling series, but it is worse than stupid for other works. Bluntly, serious bookbuyers — and even many impulse bookbuyers — no longer believe the "if it's casebound, it must be New and Improved(tm)" meme, and haven't for at least a decade. They were driven away by Deepak Chopra et al.... or, at least, that's got some (albeit uncontrolled and nonblind) statistical evidence.

* Category publishers need to completely rethink their cover design memes. Demographics are changing, both inside and outside of their target markets, and what seemed cool in the 1970s isn't thirty years later. In particular, cover designs that superimpose necessary lettering over quasiphotographic background detail — there's a series being "reread" right now on this site that suffices as Exhibit A — are not just irritating in general, but virtually impossible to actually read under the lighting and display conditions in contemporary bookstores and outlets. Further, there are many aspects of these designs that scream "mindless dreck" — almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And the less said about "metal-foil embossing impresses buyers," the better.

Of course, a large part of this particular problem is that the covers really are not aimed at the ultimate buyer; they are aimed at distributor and chain-store management buyers. These are distinct audiences at financial war with one another, but (again) that's an argument for another time.

* Finally, a sarcastic comment on the nature of flap copy. One of the critical memes that anyone who has ever paid attention in either a college-level literature course or a creative-writing course has at least been exposed to is that the critical difference between a novel (or other work of fiction) and a parable is that the novel revolves around character. That seems to have completely escaped the industry, probably because most of the people who write flap copy these days are from sales and marketing backgrounds and never paid attention in any literature classes required for graduation... because, instead, what we get is something looking much more like a sixth-grade book report (with slightly better grasp of punctuation and verb construction) that focusses almost exclusively on plot, with the occasional nod to setting.

This is not mere puffery, to use the technical term; it is misleading. However, the FTC long ago washed its hands of the arts, so there hasn't been any oversight. The closest that anyone has come is the Beardstown Ladies brouhaha... in which state courts at opposite ends of the country came to opposite conclusions on identical facts and pleadings. (Remember, too, that wasn't just about the "23%" emblazoned as a blurb -- it considered the entire flap copy.)

Bluntly, those writing flap copy need to read the {insert favorite string of expletives here} manuscript before they even begin, and need to keep in mind that they are selling individually unique products — not, as a business school might have taught, New and Improved(tm) widgets.

* * *

I won't belabor things further. I don't say that "everything the industry knows about marketing is wrong" — just the vast majority of it. And the biggest hint is that there are no double-blind, let alone controlled, studies of which I am aware backing up any of the major trade-publishing marketing memes that are both statistically significant and relevant to current market conditions... and it's not for lack of looking for those studies, either.
René Walling
13. cybernetic_nomad
I can't believe you didn't mention the one marketing method that works so well everyone tries to get it going for them: word of mouth.

I am much more likely to buy an author a friend recommended even if the book is not the one I they told me about.
John Ottinger III
14. graspingforthewind
cybernetic - Thanks. I did hint at it when I talked about reviews, but you are right, it should have been more fully developed. Though primarily I was looking at things that the publisher intentionally creates, rather than something as organic as word-of-mouth. That is an unpredictable and unquantifiable factor.
joelfinkle
15. bookwench
I read a lot. Seriously a lot - hundreds of books a year, every year for most of my life. And I'm getting more and more critical as I age (or the books are getting worse, but I prefer to think it's me becoming discerning.)

When I look for new books, I check the cover to see if the art is good - no one theme "hooks" me or puts me off, but awful artwork is a minus. Plain is better than fancy, mostly because plain is harder to screw up. Pictures of people are a plus if they're well done and fit with my mental image of the characters. Fabio, for example, made me avoid a book like the plague - not just because he wasn't my idea of a romantic lead, but because his face was his face and it took away from the experience of reading the book to have him superimposed over my own imagery.

I look at the description - generally I'm trying to taste some subtle flavor of honesty in the blurb. Is it a standard blurb because it's a standard sci-fi? Excellent if I'm in the mood for a sci-fi, but if I'm being sold a sci fi as a fantasy or mystery or romantic comedy (although it's usually a romantic comedy being sold as a sci-fi, not the other way around) then I'm going to get fed up and stop buying books by that author/publisher. I want to read what I selected, not what they needed to sell more of. I hate being tricked.

I hardly look at the publisher except to note than certain publishers tend to be more prevalent in the areas I'm browsing. The publisher is completely irrelevant unless they piss me off by being consistently dishonest in their marketing.

I do sometimes look at the author, if I'm looking for a specific book in their series or if they make a hefty impression (good or bad). I actively stalk books by Lois McMaster Bujold and Neil Gaiman; a new Charlie Stross is a guaranteed sell, and anything by Sherylin Kenon gets sprayed with lysol, tripple-bagged and thrown out straight away. (I'm impressed with her incredible ability to write so much, but I hate her particular style. Fortunately she has enough fans not to need me too.)

I don't watch TV, I don't read magazines and I don't notice adds on my computer unless they've pissed me off by getting in my way. I do love to attend writer's signings and personal appearances, and am more likely to buy a book if the person is sitting in my local store. I do read flyers in the local bookstores.

I don't care about professional reviews, I don't care about press releases, I only go to an author's website if I've already read and liked them. I like amazon reviews - I judge the author by the quality of their followers. I do follow a couple authors on twitter because I want to show solidarity, but if they come across as inane I'll quit following them. I utterly love conventions and always spend more money on books there than I ought to.

:)
Liza .
16. aedifica
One form of book advertising that I didn't notice you mention is the practice of including the first chapter of an upcoming book at the end of a previous one. That's counterproductive as far as getting me to buy the new book--when I flip through it to see if I've read it before, I see that familiar-looking first chapter and think I have indeed read it, so I don't buy it.

(Also, I object to the practice because having all those extra pages at the end of the book confuses my sense of how much story is left. "Narrative proprioception," I think someone dubbed it at 4th Street last summer.)
Blue Tyson
17. BlueTyson
If you are publishing a collection, anthology or omnibus, INCLUDE THE CONTENTS, STUPID. At least on the internet, anyway. Those tubes won't run out of space with another page or two.
joelfinkle
18. OR Melling
I would think Harry Potter and His Dark Materials prove that you can be a bestseller despite dreadful covers. Re your point about spine or cover out in bookstores. Are you aware that publishers now pay not only for window space but also table space, shelf space, poster placing, so called "staff pick" and "store recommended" labels and magazines, and anything else you can think of that helps to promote a book? It never ceases to amaze me, as you point out yourself, that publishers invest vast sums of promotion money in books that are already guaranteed to be bestsellers because of their already established audience. Most authors are aware of this simple fact: the book industry is utterly mismanaged and hence constantly in danger of collapsing!

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