Somebody in the advertising business must have bought a mailing list with my name on it because this morning I got an email titled "Print Exposure Sells Books!" Being a bright boy, I cottoned immediately to the fact that they were talking about print media, as opposed to say, photography exposures. I pretty much always delete junk mail without looking at it, but I have a soft spot for book marketing related stuff, might even go as far as to call it a professional interest. So, I opened the puppy up, HTML formatting at all, to see what I'd learn.
The headline (big font) was:
"Using Print Exposure to Sell Books..."
I didn't get the three little dots after books until I read the next line:
"...Can Be the Difference Between a Best-Seller and a Bargain Bin Dweller"
Obviously the author of this ad copy hasn't been reading my blog. In my book, chasing bestseller status is for big egos and deep pockets, and thanks to a short-discount, my titles won't end up in bargain bins. Still, anybody can get a headline wrong, so I read on to the first paragraph. To paraphrase, "There are so many new books getting published that you have to do something to stand out."
I've been known to make similar statements myself, mainly related to carefully choosing your market, establishing an online presence, writing a good book and making sure you aren't living in the vacuum of your own counsel. Is that what these people are pitching?
"That's why most experienced authors and publicists will tell you 'Print is King.'"
Oddly enough, that couldn't run more counter to the book marketing advice I give. I've always figured that spending money on print advertising is the last stop on the line for a publisher or publicist who's run flat out of ideas. But maybe I'm judging them too harshly. Reading a little further, I learned that they aren't pitching paid advertising at all. Their approach is that you pay them to assist you in getting editorial mentions, press releases, and if they're clever, helping you become a resource to reporters who would rather turn to a branded database for "experts" than simply Googling them up.
So, as much as the first couple paragraphs of copy were a complete turn-off to me, I think I understand where they are coming from. Here's my take on print media publicity, whether editorial, obvious PR, expert attribution or even authoring articles. It fun to have a clipping to send your Mom and it looks good on a resume if you want to work as a trade author, because they see all this stuff as a platform for selling books. If you're following my short-discount model with print-on-demand and no bookstore stocking, you might sell a book for every hundred thousand or so people who see the print exposure - it's that inefficient. One of the problems with the print media is they don't have any hyperlinks to Amazon or your website with the option to "Buy it Now!" Another problem is that nobody is reading whatever the print media is because they're looking for your book. If they were looking for your book (or a similar title) they'd be at the library, a bookstore, or searching online.
Print exposure can't hurt you unless you're hiding from the law, but in terms of places to invest your time and money, you'd better be careful. I may be very atypical, but I've never bought a book because I heard the author talking on the radio or saw the title or author mentioned in an editorial fashion. In fact, when I hear authors talking on the radio, I usually change the station. A lot of it has to do with the subject and whether or not the chance media encounter can leave the potential buyer passionate enough about the book to track it down and buy it. Nothing I've written or published falls into that category, but I tend not to make big promises in my titles. If I was publishing books like "The Insomnia Cure", "The Worry Free Audit Guide" or "Understanding Women in 999,999 Easy Lessons" then I might value print exposure more. Maybe I'm just jealous:-)