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Book Marketing: What Happens and When?

Marketing is much more important to publishers today than used to be the case.

Until about 15 years ago, the industry was editorially dominated; most of the early decisions about the manuscript were taken on the basis of content, with discussion of how to make the product sell starting much later.

Today, the vast majority of publishing houses are led by people from a marketing background. With books being sold through a much greater variety of locations (for example, supermarkets, garage forecourts, leisure centres and restaurants, as well as via the internet), the marketing of books has had to become more professional.

This is having a substantial impact on the kind of titles commissioned.

Rather than remaining a product-driven industry – where products are created before the search for markets begins – the industry is now increasingly market-driven. Publishers try to identify market segments with specific needs, and then to produce the products to match.

What happens and when?

Most publishing houses divide responsibility for different parts of the publishing process between different departments (editorial for content, marketing for spreading information and persuading people to buy, sales for achieving the orders, production for format, distribution for the mechanics of getting the books where they are needed).

It is usual for senior staff from each of these departments (or perhaps just the appropriate director) to get together at regular intervals to discuss, and then hopefully approve, the plan to publish new titles.

It is at these meetings that the idea for each potential new title will be discussed and the Marketing Director will present an outline plan for both the estimated size of the market, and how best to reach it; the Sales Director will be required to say how many they estimate are likely to be sold.

Sometimes there is a single Marketing and Sales Director handling both plan and sales estimate; sometimes there are two individuals with separate teams. Whatever the case it is essential that they cooperate to establish the planned title’s potential print run, and then see that plans are carried out and the sales estimate fulfilled.

Once a forthcoming title has been approved at this meeting, and money can be spent on it, the title’s marketing and selling will be broken down into a series of stages that will be carried out by more junior members of the department.

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