Publishing and Book Marketing

A stack of textbooks on a table
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Book marketing creates awareness for a specific book among booksellers and consumers. The goal of marketing, of course, is to generate book sales.

What Is Book Marketing?

In general, the function of a book marketing department in a traditional publishing house is to help the various sales departments get your book in front of bookstore buyers, book distributors and other channels, to make sure your book is available and (ideally) displayed and promoted through them to the consumer public. Book marketers also generally oversee online consumer promotion (in some houses this falls to the publicity department).

In a traditional publishing house, each book is assigned a "marketing manager" or "marketing director." This marketer is working on dozens of titles at any one time. For self-published books, some or all of the traditional book marketing functions may be made available from a self-publishing service or from other book publishing consultants (at a cost).

But however you're coming around to being an author, understanding the traditional functions of book marketing will help you navigate the publication of your book:

Book Marketing Strategy

Early in a publishing season (or, even as early as shortly after the author submits his or her author's questionnaire), the marketer gets involved to help determine the potential readers for an individual book, the size of the market for the book, and strategy for how best to reach the readers who might be interested in the book. Based on the strategy, the marketer creates a tactical marketing plan (which includes some or all of items 2 - 6 below).

As many elements of the marketing plan – such as special advance sales materials, point-of-sale displays, advertising, etc. – cost money, the marketing plan is done in the context of the estimated marketing budget for the book.

For major book acquisitions that require large investments on the part of the publisher, the book marketing department is sometimes brought in to strategize even before the book is acquired –and, as a rule of thumb, the more the publisher has paid to acquire the book, the greater the marketing budget.

Book Sales Materials Development and Book Sales Support

Before the book is published, the book marketing department works with the promotion department to develop the standard sales tools for each book, such as their description within the seasonal catalog of the publisher's list. The sales departments use these to present the book to booksellers, wholesale distributors, gift stores, libraries, etc. This support also extends to any book presence at industry trade shows, such as BookExpo America or the fall trade shows held by the regional independent bookseller organizations.

Point-of-Sale Promotional Material Development

The book marketing department is responsible for managing the design and creation of in-store signage, bookmarks, and other materials that promote the books to the consumer at the store level. Note that, with the rise of the online book sales channels, these expensive-to-print point-of-sale items are less prevalent.
(Note that at national account bricks-and-mortar store chains, such as Barnes & Noble, the point of sale promotions--for example, a book's presence on a seasonal table display--are determined by the account, not the publisher's marketing department, and are paid for out of the account's cooperative advertising funds, usually referred to as "co-op.")

Social Media & Blogger Campaign Development

In some publishing houses, outreach to book bloggers and other related bloggers falls to the marketing department; in other houses, bloggers are considered part of the media and sending them information about the books being published falls to the publicity department.

While some social media campaigns might be developed in-house (for big-budget books), social media often falls to the author as part of platform development. 


While print advertising has waned, it still exists in vehicles like The New York Times Book Review; online ads are more common. The marketing department and a book's marketing budget determine if, where and when a book will be advertised. (Again, advertising that is done on behalf of the book but tied to a specific account has likely been paid for out of co-op.)

Sponsorships and Cross Promotion

Companies whose products dovetail with the audience for books are sometimes tapped to help cross-promote books. For example, a food company might cross-promote a cookbook prize or giveaway on their website. Sponsorships and cross-promotional efforts also involve other departments (special sales, publicity if a book tour is involved).