Notes from a Small Book Fair: Part 1

Posted on May 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

This seminar was given by Gareth Howard, Director of Authoright PR (

While I have no doubt that the target audience for this seminar was freelance authors, (and perhaps even mainly first-time authors), the information that was given out is probably just as useful to someone looking to set up their own publishing house, or even to those who already work in the industry and are looking to pick up tips about modern marketing trends.  

1. Commercial viability of book’s subject matter the first decision that needs to be made when publishing a title is whether or not the work is commercially viable, i.e. is it marketable? If the work isn’t commercially viable then regardless of how engrossed you are in the subject matter, it is unlikely that there will be many (if any) financial gains from its publication.

2. Author website – an author’s website is obviously very important, but be sure to give your web designer strict instructions about what kind of thing you want, because a web designer might not necessarily be looking at the project from a marketing point of view, and you may need to give them a detailed briefing on what exactly you want them to do.

3. PR campaigns – Howard stressed the importance of PR work for the book and the author. One example he gave was if the author had to overcome a challenge (perhaps a serious illness when writing), then this can be a good way to publicise a book, because stories like this quickly grab the public’s attention. Also, in his experience, authors aren’t particularly keen to do interviews with the Press, as they’re worried that the journalist will ‘trip them up’. However, Howard says that journalists aren’t actually trying to do that at all, they genuinely want to know the author’s story. Many authors use PR stunts to publicise their book, and Howard said that these can take place in advance of and during, as well as after, the publication of the book.

4. Tweeting  there was a question from the audience about who should be the target of your marketing campaign – the general public or the distributor/stockist? The speaker answered by telling us that Authoright always aim their campaigns at the general public.  Now, bearing this in mind, how many of us would be able to market a book to the general public via Twitter? Well, presumably you all know at least know the basics of how to use Twitter you type your message/thoughts/link into the ‘What’s happening?’ box using a maximum of 140 characters and click on the ‘Tweet’ button, right? Well, according to Howard, when you’re tweeting to the general public, it’s actually not quite that simple. Although he didn’t go into specifics what he did emphasise was that if you’re using Twitter for marketing purposes, there’s actually both a right and a wrong way to use it, because what you’re actually aiming to do is ‘twitter a whole brand’.

5. Other marketing options  Howard talked about the difference between marketing a book that has been self-published and that which has been published by a traditional publisher – a traditional publisher has the money to buy advertising space, because it’s more cost-effective to buy advertising space when buying in bulk. He also said that an author can promote their book by sending it to reviewers and the national newspapers. Also, literary festivals are a good way to promote your book.

6. Use of pseudonyms  there was also a question from the floor about using pseudonyms. The answer to this was that the use of a suitable pseudonym in the right scenario can be a good thing.