Sheila O'Reilly: a bookseller's perspective
"Yes is the short answer. Now for the slightly longer answer: Why do I think that only the best publishers’ marketing campaigns are relevant to what we do in bookshops?
"Many people think that marketing is an easy job: you have a super product and all you have to do is tell people about it. How hard can that be? You love the book, you’ve read it, told all your friends about it and now you’re telling the world.
"And yet, when you’ve done everything you can, but the Nielsen data arrive at the monthly management meeting and your book, your favourite book of the year, registers only 249 sales, the focus turns to you, and the question comes: Why, why only 249 sales when we’d budgeted 800?
"Why? Because marketing, good marketing, is very hard to get right. Take The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, for example. This is a historical fiction title by an unknown author, a genre that’s recognisably hard to market and very hard to deliver to the wide book-buying public. Yet Pan Macmillan put together a brilliant and effective campaign for Jessie, which included bookshop visits, Twitter campaigns, magazine interviews, radio slots and embracing bloggers.
"Camilla Elsworthy, also from Pan Macmillan, was superb when given the challenge of marketing a memoir from a debut author about her brother being left in a vegetative state after a road accident. OK, the author might have been Cathy Rentzenbrink, a star in the book trade, but totally unknown outside the industry. Yet through an amazing campaign Camilla had Cathy everywhere: BBC, chat shows, Woman’s Hour. This meant that bookshops throughout the UK took the book into stock, it was put face out, catching buyers’ eyes, backing up the appearances and features that Camilla had organised. As a result, The Last Act of Love went into the Sunday Times bestseller list in the first week of publication.
"Bookshops need well-run, coordinated marketing campaigns that they can support, work with, ride on the back of, so that they can build their own marketing campaigns around the book and in turn tell their customers about how great the book is. We are more likely to order a book (or books) when we know that a certain marketing individual, one with a track record, is responsible for the campaigns; then we’ll put the title face out in the bookshop and hand sell the heck out of it."
The Publishing Training Centre has a range of marketing courses to help you get those extra skills so you too can break the next Jessie Burton or Paula Hawkins.