Which Social Media and Marketing Tools Are Publishers Actually Using Successfully

“It used tro be that you have to be everywhere, but now you just want to be everywhere that matters to you and your audience because the tools take so much bandwidth,” said Penny Sansevieri, founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., an online book marketing and publicity firm, speaking at Digital Book World 2014 on a panel about which social media and marketing tools publishers actually use.

The panel moderator, Murray Izenwasser, co-managing partner/strategy practice lead at Biztegra, led a group of four book marketing executives in indicating whether they used a laundry list of social media and marketing tools. The executives then gave commentary on each.

First, the executives, then the results:

— Kristin Fassler, director of marketing, Penguin Random House
— Rachel Chou, chief marketing officer, Open Road Integrated Media
— Brad Parsons, director of culinary marketing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
— Penny Sansevieri, founder and CEO, Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

Key: 1/4 means that one of the executives uses the platform for book marketing


1. Amazon Author pages: 4/4

“It’s part of our checklist for launch.” — Chou (Open Road)


2. Author tools from other online retailers: 2/4

“We have seen the majority of sales for our authors from amazon” — Sansevieri (Author Marketing Experts)

“Apple is doing a really good job with our books that have movie tie-ins.” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)


3. Tumblr: 2/4

“Tumblr is great when you have a very specific piece of content, particularly visual content, and you want to reach a specific audience.” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)


4. Facebook: 4/4

“When we sign up authors, we always do an online audit and a social media audit. One of the big plusses of having a Facebook fan page is being able to co-manage it along with the author. The community aspect is enormous. It is frustrating that the organic reach of it has decreased over the past year.” — Parsons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


5. Twitter 4/4

“It’s the top driver for us for getting to video content. The click-throughs to view and play photos and videos for us is tremendous.” — Chou (Open Road)

“We found that it can be one of the platforms that authors who are new to it are threatened by it.” — Parsons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


6. Pinterest: 3.5/4

“I’ve lost a lot of time on Pinterest. Anyone who’s been on Pinterest knows it’s a little bit of a black hole, but it’s a fantastic site. One thing Pinterest has taught us is how important visual content is.” — Sansevieri (Author Marketing Experts)


7. Email newsletters: 3/4

“We have some newsletters for some of our authors, but we’re sort of in a reboot phase with some of our newsletters right now. I’ve just found that from an author side, that they spend so much time in social media that it’s a ‘nice to have’ but not a ‘must have’ for us.” — Parsons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“We find it very useful from an author and publisher perspective. We have some newsletters for authors that have better than a 50% open rate. We have invested a lot in trying to build our in-house and author newsletter capacity. Direct communication from the author is what readers crave.” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)


8. Author websites and blogs: 4/4

“I was tweeted saying I don’t believe in author websites. This is my chance to redeem myself. I don’t believe in publishers owning the author’s website and the reason I don’t is because after the launch of the book it goes dormant and stale and doesn’t get used until the next book — and the same publisher doesn’t always publish the next book. Should an author own his or her presence on the Web? Yes.” — Chou (Open Road)


9. Videos/YouTube: 4/4

“YouTube is the second-largest search engine, so video is very important. If the author is good on screen, they should be recording talks. Video book trailers are great — if they’re under a minute and very compelling. Please don’t create them yourself. In my years in the business I’ve seen five good ones” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)

“We post things on YouTube but it’s not the only place we post things.” — Chou (Open Road)


10. Google+: 4/4

“Google+ is sneaky. Google+ is mandatory for search. If you want to rank in Google, you have to be on Google+. The click-through rate and sharing rate is very high on Google+.” — Sansevieri (Author Marketing Experts)


11. Google Hangouts: 3/4

“We’ve had success with Google Hangouts. They’re good for authors who have a fan base but can’t always get out onto the road.” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)


12. Paid search: 2/4

“We want to be found. The key with anything dealing with keywords is to hone in on the niches and not bid up against the word ebook or get into the large mystery or thriller or science fiction or fantasy search terms. This is one of the things we’re actively working on: What are the search terms you want to own.” — Chou (Open Road)

Both executives who use paid search are using both Google and Bing


13. Mobile-specific advertising: 2/4

“We’re on Twitter, which is mobile. We’re doing a lot of Pandora mobile targetting. It keeps changing every two minutes — your choices are changing. Facebook is huge on mobile. You have to figure out which platforms are investing in mobile.” — Chou (Open Road)


14. Facebook promoted posts and stories: 4/4

“Yes yes yes yes, except in a week they’re taking it away. Even if you’re doing a $10-a-day budget, you’ll see the number of impressions and engagement go up.” — Chou (Open Road)

“One disadvantage is that Facebook changes things all the time” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)

Promoted posts will no longer be an option after April 9


15. Twitter advertising: 2/2

“I am a big fan of Twitter advertising. We’ve seen great success with it.” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)

“It’s hugely effective and hugely expensive.” — Chou (Open Road)


16. Pinterest promoted pins: 0/4

“I like pinterest, but we haven’t used it.” — Parsons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“Right now, Pinterest is getting so much natural, organic traffic, the ads don’t make sense.” — Sansevieri (Author Marketing Experts)


17. YouTube advertising: 2/4

“You can target a specific audience; you can re-market to that audience; and you get great demographic information back about your audience.” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)


18. Vine: 2/4

“We’ve used Instagram videos more than Vine. It’s not the duration but when Instagram videos came out, it took away some of the buzz for it.” — Parsons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


19. Snapchat: 0/4


20. Instagram: 4/4

“It’s a slam dunk for culinary, it’s very visual. It’s my personal favorite.” — Parsons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“People love the behind-the-scenes stuff. Plus, you can use the short videos for customer blurbs.” — Sansevieri (Author Marketing Experts)

“For us, it’s an HR [human resources] tool. It’s great for people to see what company culture is like.” — Chou (Open Road)


21. Flipboard: 1/4

“We’ve had a lot of success with it. We’re just testing the waters. We’ve stareted launching Flipboard magazines for our authors and it’s a great tool when you have a lot of content. We’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of clicks through it. I could see it replacing author websites down the road.” — Fassler (Penguin Random House)


22. Goodreads: 4/4

“We’re a huge fan of Goodreads. We were actually using LibraryThing but the algorithms got kinda funky. We’ve also done Goodreads ads and have had really good success with it. I’m a big fan of building that community there. It is something that does require some pretty heavy engagement.” — Sansevieri (Author Marketing Experts)

“They have a really interesting piece that works well. If you’re doing something for pre-orders, people will mark it ‘to be read.'” — Chou (Open Road)

At the end of the panel, the moderator, Biztegra’s Izenwasser, asked the panelists “if you can take only one marketing technique or platform with you on to a desert island, which would it be, in one word?”

Parsons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Facebook

Sansevieri (Author Marketing Experts): Twitter

Chou (Open Road): Facebook

Fassler (Penguin Random House): Newsletters

14 thoughts on “Which Social Media and Marketing Tools Are Publishers Actually Using Successfully

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  5. Naina Sharma

    This article (and the panelists) have some misinformation about Facebook ads. Sponsored stories are being discontinued after April 9th. Sponsored posts, however, also known as promoted posts, are remaining. These are the sponsored Facebook posts you see in your newsfeed–they just don’t have related social activity in the way sponsored stories did.

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  9. Dean DeLisle

    Blogs – all day long connected to all the above. If your strategy is to pick up a wider audience, subscribers and achieve Google ranking then publishers all agree you need to keep publishing after the target publication. Then like Star Wars tell the before, during and after story to the followers in the authors social networks. This is the same as Hollywood – only they have talking pictures not books.

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