We’ve all seen movie trailers, and most of us have seen promotional TV spots for books, particularly from high-profile authors (John Grisham comes to mind, as does James Patterson). But a new marketing technique in the literary world takes the ideas and combines them, in hopes of reaching audiences traditional spots might not.
For the launch of its latest thriller from author Christopher Reich, Doubleday has created a series of video trailers, not unlike trailers for feature films. Viewable here, they feature a dramatic voice-over describing key plot points with sound effects over a series of striking images. Directed exclusively at blogs and other online sources and featuring a promotional giveaway, Doubleday hopes to cash in on the growing online and social media audience.
“We can’t create a television spot for less than $75,000, let alone buy the media,” says John Pitts, Vice President/Director of Marketing for Doubleday. The trailers act as a solution to that problem–they have the ability to reach the audience without the expense of television advertising. The trailers are well made and would definitely grab the interest of the author’s fans, but what interested me was the reasoning behind the move. I had a chance to speak with Pitts about this campaign (our interview is available for download below), and the direction of online marketing in the publishing world.
Pitts points out that similar videos have been around for a few years, he certainly doesn’t claim to have invented the concept. With this new campaign, however, they wanted to improve on the standard web exposure for new title marketing; increase viewership and make the experience more interactive. He refers to the videos as “plot-driven entertainments,” and hopes that the sweepstakes angle will compel readers to keep watching. There’s a quiz about the trailer you must take in order to enter, and you must answer the questions right to win. “We wanted people to earn it!” Pitts chuckles.
Indeed, the idea of advertising as content is a big part of social media marketing. If you can entertain your audience as well as inform, they’ll be more likely to participate, and that much more likely to open their pocketbooks.
Pitts credits Amazon.com as being a “powerful force” in pushing publishing in this direction. “In the beginning,” he pointed out, new title promotion involved “a media tour, local television interviews, and reviews.” Authors would have websites, but they weren’t compelling or interactive, and the numbers were generally low. In the past few years, however, marketers have come to rely increasingly on the web for word of mouth, particularly considering the power of online booksellers. With Amazon and other sites driving book consumers online, “more of our resources are going in this direction,” Pitts claims.
I question whether or not the Internet and the rise of “digital natives,” children raised on online content growing into an increasing tech-savvy adult population, has contributed to this surge, and if the audience for books is shrinking. Pitts points out that the book industry is actually thriving, and isn’t threatened by online technologies in the ways the recording industry has struggled with. He thinks that even those like himself and his children, who spend plenty of time reading content online, will continue to return to books. “We haven’t seen a drop-off in reading books; it’s a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else.”
Sony is giving away an electronic book reader as part of the promotion of the Reich book (though you can only enter to win one by watching the trailers), and I ask Pitts his thoughts on electronic readers, as I have been quite a vocal opponent. “If someone is going to fork over $399 for a reader, they have to be pretty committed to reading books,” he says. “There are a lot of purists who will really lament these new models; I like them both. They fit into my reading habits in different ways.”
While the book industry is still safe, many are questioning the future of print media, as newspaper circulations continue to drop. This is not necessarily the reason for the shift in marketing techniques, however. Pitts points out that the chances of getting reviewed in some papers are actually slimmer because some have excised book reviews from their content entirely, which Pitts attributes to a lack of demand from readers. Major papers’ book reviews, however, remain influential and can add momentum to a campaign.
“The New York Times is still hugely influential, we’re delighted to get coverage there, especially positive coverage,” he says. “However, we do find the audience is there on the web, and that’s where we’re trying to send out our messages.”