Publicist Rebecca T. Crowley on e-books

- by Patricia Rosemoor

E-book Promotion in 2011:

No Fooling Around Anymore

by Rebecca Crowley

“The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity…”—A. Edward Newton (e-book or not!)

I am an industry insider, the e-book era came and I stayed calm. Imagine that! Have you heard of such a thing or have you been surrounded by panic and chaos?

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times: The printed book will not die! I don’t want to cause alarm but I’ve read it so much I have come to believe it to be false. No, this will NOT happen overnight, maybe not even in our lifetime—nothing does—but the digital era is here and generations younger than many of us will come to know the e-book as their “go-to.” I feel this statement has been made out of fear: “Oh how I love the smell of a printed book, the crisp pages becoming dog eared, the capsule of thoughts on universal emotion I can hand off to friends, the spines lined up on my bookshelf. No-Dammit the book cannot die—I love it too much.” Fear and panic have been ruling the traditional publishing world for way too long now. It’s time we stop panicking and embrace what is inherent opportunity: a new medium in which to get people reading!

In the interest of full disclosure, it won’t surprise you given my career and status as a book worm; I love the printed book myself. I line my shelves with the accomplishment of many books devoured. However, I have also found a faithful companion in my Sony E-reader Pocket Edition.

And I also love technology – finding it useful in various ways to communicate and connect! As a publicist, I made a vow, perhaps a proclamation, sometime back in 2010 that I would blaze the trail on e-book promotion – made sense given my interests, no? I had watched the various stages unfold and felt this was big. I was witnessing history. I told a few supporters of my company, RTC Publicity (often just referred to as “RTC”) and some authors that I’d be the one to define what e-book promotion was in the new digital era. The time has come and my faithful clients and confidants held me to it. So here I am: sharing with you my thoughts.

I have watched too many authors get eaten up and spit out by the traditional publishing machine. That’s two-fold. Simply put, it’s the big six being understaffed and not able to serve the promotion needs of as many authors they are asked to support. At the same time they aren’t advising them to go elsewhere—they aren’t letting them know there are people like me out there to help. Beyond the big six there are many a small house putting out work equal to, or better than, the work being done by the industry leaders and standard bearers. These small publishers, houses, collectives and contractors are trying innovative things and making their mark. Many authors are making their name at these small houses or even self-publishing (bet you didn’t think that would happen either!). Of course, it’s true that the small houses do not have the financial resources to bring to bear for promotion. Often times they are backed by investors-or looking for investors to fund their dreams of publishing the next great American novel. They may not have much money, but they have heart and I am a big believer that heart and passion can take you a long way.

So here I am in June 2011, with 3 clients on board for e-book campaigns and I’ve helped a few authors with some online marketing here and there for their e-books. Early in 2011, I shared with fellow entrepreneurs that I was giving the industry about 6 months until e-book promotion came in demand and sure enough the requests are trickling in. I’ve dabbled for a while now so I could learn and find the most effective measures. I’d like to give a mention to Libby Fischer Hellmann, client, colleague and confidant, who upon my proclamation made a special effort to keep the dialogue open with me and share with me her vast knowledge and research.

E-books are sold online therefore you cannot deny the power of social marketing. It is time to translate your fans “impressions” into clicks that equal an e-book sale. I have blogged on this site about social marketing and I encourage you to go back in the archives and read that blog post. Linked-in will keep you up to date on the publishing business and there are many e-book groups that will keep you up to speed on what is happening with the e-book. Take part in discussions—you will find an informed response. Twitter is great for contests and give-aways. It is also a great way to meet bloggers who might interview you, allow you to guest blog or review your work. Facebook, tried and true, is many an author’s best friend. Facebook truly gives you the opportunity to interact with your fans. It is not about forcing promotion but engaging fans in a conversation. No one wants the hard sell so listen and respond appropriately. And don’t underestimate the power of a good well-targeted Facebook ad. You can cap the price as low as you want and it is a fantastic way to grow your following on a small budget. The cataloging sites also keep readers engaged (Shelfari, Library Thing, Good Reads). Done right, readers will click on their favorite retailer site and download your latest e-book, whether it is from your backlist or brand new.

Traditionally, publicists send out review copies to book reviewers nationwide first with a galley mailing and later with finished copies of the book. These reviewers are from both major metro dailies nationwide and bloggers that are having an increasingly important role in creating buzz. We know The New York Times has added an e-book bestseller list. Question is: are reviewers reviewing e-books? I asked the same question—not just to myself, but I asked my database of my top 207 reviewers. Response? Amazing. They were so happy to be asked the question. Instead of getting an onslaught of e-books for review, they were happy to share exactly where they stood in the e-book era. The results of my survey and interviews were that about 10% are currently reviewing e-books and prefer books in the PDF format. About 25% have plans to review e-books over the next 6 months and 65% are a long way away from reviewing e-books. They don’t have e-readers and many don’t have the staff to add on an extra category of reviews. So good news for e-book promotion—we have a loyal 10-30% of reviewers’ attention to capture. Furthermore, I am sure you are happy to hear, this survey proves that my bold statement going against everyone who is saying “The printed book will not die,” is a long way off.

So beyond social marketing and traditional PR what are some other ways to promote the e-book? First and foremost, we must recognize that Amazon is ranked the #8 website in the WORLD. Now keep in mind that’s not only for books, but among all websites. Yes, essentially we are dealing with a monopoly—therefore it simply can’t be ignored. I have an “Amazon Marketing To-Do list” 2 pages long. That’s JUST for Amazon. So pay attention.

There are many sites online that are dedicated to e-book reviews. Some you must pay for and some you don’t need to. Keep in mind, if you have control of your e-book price point many of these sites will only review books under $5.00 such as DailyCheapReads and Frugal eReader. They are worth it though. Sites like Kindle Nation Daily and Kindle Boards (see the Amazon trend here) have promotions that run from about $40 and up and have a direct effect on sales.

This brings me to the e-book promotion quandary. Lead Time. I am working on a 5-book e-book campaign with author Kent Harrington. We have a multi-faceted approach but since e-books can be released so fast there is a bit of the chicken and the egg theory going on. For some sites you need a specific number to book the promotions (ASIN). You don’t get that number until the book drops on Amazon and these sites are becoming rapidly popular; therefore require advance notice to run a promo. Everyone is hurrying up to publish their latest e-book and this is good. However, the book is on sale and it’s a race to the finish line to get promotion in line with the faster pub dates.

The bottom-line is this and I have blogged about this before. The e-book is nothing to fear – it’s simply another way to get an author’s words into a readers hands. And two, there are many avenues to promotion And no matter whether e-book or print the same is true: 1) Proper lead time for planning is essential. 2) Have the right people on your team—collaborators who will fill as many roles as possible.

The e-book era is here. Stay calm and embrace it!

Rebecca Crowley started her career at Penguin Group, USA, specifically in the Berkley/NAL imprints. In July 2004, Rebecca founded RTC Publicity, a boutique PR and marketing firm located in the heart of NYC. Energetic and ambitious, Rebecca does not believe any idea is too far off from execution. With a decade of experience in Public Relations with a specialization in books, Rebecca has had an eclectic client base, allowing her to pull from many different areas of her vast history in the industry. She believes passion for the story and “the business” keeps her ideas fresh. Often, Rebecca is called upon to manage traditional marketing and social marketing campaigns.

Ms. Crowley graduated from Trinity College, Hartford, in 1999 with a degree in Spanish and Italian, thus proving that communication is a fundamental part of her life. Rebecca has a fascination with technology, a strong love of baseball and spends time with her 4 nieces and nephews in her hometown of Chicago every chance she gets.

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