Last week we shared examples of how authors are approaching promoting their books during COVID-19. But publishers are facing many similar challenges, from navigating how to continue marketing while people are facing sickness and unemployment to keeping sales up as bookstores and libraries around the world are closing.
So today we want to share some examples of how publishers are approaching book marketing during this unprecedented time. While there’s no exact formula for marketing a book right now, we hope these ideas inspire publishers and authors alike to continue reaching readers and help you craft your own campaigns in this new reality.
1. They’re letting readers know what to expect from them
Several publishers sent out an email to their readers and subscribers to wish them well and let them know what sort of content to expect from them in the coming weeks. This email from Simon & Schuster promises book recommendations that will provide stress reduction, entertainment, distraction, and escapism.
And they’ve been delivering on that promise, such as with this email of book recommendations for reducing stress.
Delacorte Press also shared a heartfelt message to their Instagram followers, letting them know that the team was working remotely and would be looking for ways to provide distraction and comfort to their readers.
2. They’re creating ways for readers to connect with authors
Some publishers are providing readers with author engagement opportunities since in-person events have been canceled for the foreseeable future. Octopus Publishing, a division of Hachette UK, launched a series on Instagram called “Meet the Author” via their stories — on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, an author published with Octopus introduces themselves and answers five questions about their book. These are prerecorded videos uploaded to Instagram Stories rather than using Instagram Live.
Readers can find past Meet the Author Q&As in the highlights section of Octopus Publishing’s Instagram profile.
3. Some are shifting publication dates
We’re still seeing many books from publishers launching as planned. According to Publishers Weekly, ”A few of the major publishers have already sent communications to their authors, explaining that they continue to do business as usual, despite the unusual times. And, embedded in some of their messages, is that many authors’ books will continue to launch as scheduled, tricky as that may be.” However, we’ve also seen some publishers moving their publication dates.
Some publishers have actually moved up the publication dates of some of their titles. For example, Simon & Schuster moved the publication date of Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner up by two weeks, and made the announcement using a celebratory tone.
And other publishers are pushing the release dates of some of their titles back. According to The New York Times, “Publishers are pushing back the release of dozens of books to summer and fall, in hopes that by then the coronavirus outbreak will be waning, bookstores will reopen, and authors will be able to tour and promote their work.” Many publishers are leaving it up to their authors to announce the postponement, but sometimes will retweet or share the announcement to their own feeds, like this retweet from ABRAMS Books announcing the new publication date for Lindsey Tramuta’s upcoming title.
4. They’re hosting virtual book festivals
Some publishers are creating virtual book festivals to promote their books and to foster engagement between their authors and readers, giving readers something entertaining to do while at home. Wednesday Books, an imprint of Macmillan, announced on Twitter and Instagram that they’re hosting WB Reader Fest, a week-long virtual book festival in April where they’ll be holding sweepstakes, author chats, and more.
They also created a dedicated website where readers could learn more about the agenda and sweepstakes details.
Penguin Random House is also hosting a virtual con on Friday, April 24, and created a Facebook event so readers and authors could RSVP.
And PRH’s imprints, including Del Rey Books, have been promoting the virtual conference on their social media channels.
5. They’re reprinting books to meet new demands
Since many schools have shut their doors for the rest of the year, demand for childrens’ educational and activity books has exploded. So some publishers are reprinting books in these categories. According to The New York Times, “In the past two weeks, Workman has ordered reprints of about 3 million copies of [Brain Quest and Big Fat Notebook series] to fill large orders… Workman also recently ordered another 985,000 copies of its Paint By Sticker activity book series.” They’ve also been promoting their activity books heavily on their social media channels, and have been providing discount codes to make these titles more accessible.
6. They’re providing free content for students
Several publishers are also providing free content to help students continue their education remotely, and to enable parents, teachers, and librarians to easily get the tools they need to enable virtual learning. Lerner Publishing Group has added a section to their website to foster distance learning by providing free digital resources. According to this website, “To help enable librarians, teachers and educators helping students with remote access and online learning, a selection of our digital products are now available for free through June 30, 2020.”
Scholastic has created a “Scholastic Learn at Home” website to offer free online courses for students, as well as daily projects for children to do.
And many publishers are temporarily adapting their licensing and/or copyrighting terms to allow for more free, accessible digital sharing of their content. You can see the full list of updated guidelines at School Library Journal’s website.
7. They’re hosting virtual readings
In lieu of IRL book readings at bookstores, some publishers are creating virtual readings on their social media channels. Penguin Kids partnered with Parents magazine to create the initiative #ReadTogetherBeTogether to host virtual readings every weekday with celebrities and authors. They post each week’s agenda on their social media channels.
And each celebrity (reading one of Penguin Kids’s picture books) or author hosts the reading via Instagram Live or Facebook Live on their own profile.
8. They’re supporting independent bookstores
Several publishers have been encouraging readers to make their book purchases from independent bookstores who’ve had to shut their doors to browsing during the pandemic. Simon & Schuster even partnered with Bookshop.org in a campaign dedicated to supporting independent booksellers. According to their press release, “Starting today, buy buttons have been added to all Simon & Schuster websites, and the company is encouraging its authors to add the Bookshop.org links to their own websites and social media posts. In addition, Simon & Schuster will use its many consumer-facing platforms to celebrate and promote the independent bookselling community and encourage shopping at Bookshop.org, including email marketing, social media, websites, blogs, and reading community sponsorships such as LitHub.”
HarperCollins boosted an initiative by Libro.fm to support indie bookstores — for readers who start a membership, they’ll get two audiobooks for the price of one, and 100% of the payment will go to the indie bookstore of their choice.
Bloomsbury encouraged their Instagram followers to support indie bookstores, saying that many are now offering discounted shipping.
9. They’re offering steep discounts
Many publishers are also dropping the prices of their books and ebooks to make their titles more accessible to readers while they’re stuck at home, or to help parents with kids home from school. HarperCollins dropped the price of The Call of the Wild + Free, a nonfiction title on how to homeschool your kids.
Comic book publisher It’s Alive! is offering a pay-what-you-wish model for comics until the end of April, and is offering half of their earnings from sales to a local comic shop of each reader’s choice.
10. They’re encouraging readers to help flatten the curve
Publishers are also using their platforms on social media to encourage readers to stay home and help flatten the curve, helping hospitals and health care professionals get less overwhelmed. Tor.com tweeted encouraging readers to stay inside and read their TBRs.
Henry Holt tweeted acknowledging that these are stressful times, and urged readers to stay indoors.
How else are you seeing publishers approaching book promotion during the pandemic? Share what you’re seeing with us and fellow readers in the comments below.
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