Book Marketing Basics

BLAD - a basic book marketing sales tool
A BLAD combines examples of a book's layout with marketing and publicity information. Storey / Workman

Book marketing is critical to getting your book out into the bookstores and into the hands of consumers.

While there are many advanced book promotional strategies and campaign tactics, the first marketing goal is to make book wholesalers, booksellers, libraries, etc. aware of the forthcoming / existing books so they carry it on their lists and on their shelves (physical or virtual). Self-publishing companies charge a fee for what amounts to listing books with wholesalers and online retailers.

Traditional publishers have sales and marketing departments and more proactively get new book information into the hands of their customers.   

Here's the basic level of marketing support any book gets from a traditional publisher:

Representation on Book Publisher's Website

As the online world is critically important for sales and marketing purposes, publishers give all of their books a presence on the company website.


Publishers generally provide good quality digital images of the book's jacket or specific pages for author promotions, website, alumni newsletter, etc. Also, if an author is paying for advertising space (print or online), publishers will generally pony up the advertising design.  

Basic Book Marketing Tools

The publisher's marketing department works with editors to develop promotional messaging and materials, such as:

Seasonal book catalogs. Each new book is given a presence in the seasonal publisher's catalog.

In trade publishing, the seasonal catalog is the marketing tool by which publisher's sales reps present new book to the booksellers. These can be physical catalogs or distributed online — and book publicists use these also when they pitch the publisher's list to the media.

Vertical market catalogs and materials. The Big Five publishers produce collateral materials specific to certain markets, such as a cookbook catalog for the gourmet or gift market to be sold through the Special Markets department, or a library catalog from which librarians and library systems buy their books.

BLADs are often created for full-color books, to give a full, visual representation of the intended "book layout and design."

Galleys or ARCs / AREs (physical or virtual) are often developed for novels. They are distributed months prior to publication to get bookseller or reviewer reads in order to create buzz. 

Basic Book Marketing "Presence"

Your publisher would make sure your book has a presence at applicable trade shows and conventions. Here are some that most major publishers support. 

  • Bookseller Expo America (BEA) - this major show focuses more on upcoming publications than backlist, so a title may be represented when new (via catalog, lightbox, galleys, giveaways or author appearance), but not necessarily at subsequent shows.
  • Regional independent bookseller trade shows, like the New England Booksellers Association , and the American Library Association promote new books, much like BEA does.
  • Vertical market trade shows. Publisher with specific lists sometimes rent booths at appropriate, vertical market conventions. For example, publishers with robust cookbook lists might have a presence at the Gourmet Show. In these cases, new books are often displayed while backlist is represented in some form of catalog or brochure.

Next-level book marketing is generally reserved for blockbuster books whose budgets allow, which is a small percentage of the books that are published.

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