DBW returns to New York City January 17-19 with a reimagined program packed with new content, more real-world solutions, and fresh faces—among them Rick Joyce. Joyvce was the chief marketing officer for the Perseus Books Group until its sale to Hachette and Ingram in 2016, and was involved since 2004 in the growth and digital strategies for the company.
We asked him about the state of book marketing today, and what attendees can expect from his upcoming DBW session, “Listen to Your Media: Social Listening for Books.”
Q: If social media is going to be effective, book marketers can expect to invest both time and money. Do you see a resistance to one investment more than the other among publishers, or are both equally daunting? What are the most common reasons for that resistance?
Both, alas. Social media has tended for publishers to be an investment primarily of time—that of publicists, marketing teams and editors—in creating social content, promoting it, promoting books, authors and events socially, amplifying relevant and valuable posts from the marketplace, which can feel like an endless Sisyphean task.
As no one has invented more hours in the day yet, these activities are constrained by everything else that needs to be done for a book. There are things a publisher can invest in to grow/amplify the impact of their social media, marketing and publicity, and I would group them into the following buckets: Hire social media staff (voila, more hours), invest in more digital advertising/promotion, invest in social listening tools, build authentic direct-to-consumer content channels, create powerful partnerships with third parties that have strong and relevant social followers for the kinds of books you publish, to name a few.
I would say most publishers are wary of making investments, and tend to take incremental approaches to these opportunities.
Q: Is Facebook still considered the workhorse when it comes to social media or do you see that changing among book marketers?
Facebook remains powerful for the broad consumer market, but different social media platforms have very different strengths and affinities for different kinds of publishing. For example, Pinterest for crafts, decorating and other visual publishing. Or Tumblr for humor content. Reddit AMAs for celebrity memoirs for male audiences. LinkedIn for business books, Snapchat for teens, Kickstarter for kooky ideas, Twitter for all sorts of functions—authors with strong followings, influencers with strong followings, books on topics in the news cycle, amplifying coverage that happens in traditional media, etc.
These are generalizations, but you get the idea. I think there will be an evolving constellation of social media platforms over time. Of course, organic search and email are still the most powerful selling tools.
Q: What categories struggle most with gaining traction on social media? Why?
I think it’s much harder for fiction to break through on social media (unless it’s a series author or an author with a passionate following). But, in general, I think there are ways to effectively use social media for almost any kind of book, by finding content and hooks to connect the book to its audience. If you can’t think of ways to do that with social media, then it might be a problem with the book.
Q: What was the last book you read that hooked you from its social campaign?
I think the hardest problem in book promotion ROI is the problem of attribution. I may see a tweet from someone I follow about the book, follow the link to a feature in the New York Times, then hear the author on NPR, and then see the book in the bookstore, and buy it. To which piece of that puzzle do I credit the sale? That said, the campaign recently that really caught my attention was the Kickstarter for Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. The most crowdfunded book in Kickstarter history, had a goal of raising $40K to print 1,000 copies. It raised $650K. Worth looking at for publishers.
Q: What were your biggest successes at Perseus? Any missed opportunities?
Personally, I had fun and learned a lot running the first Publishing Hackathon at BEA 2013. Speeding up the publishing process to 48 hours with our Book: The Sequel experiment at BEA 2009. As a company, publishing great books and working closely with hundreds of independent publisher clients was very rewarding. Creating the Constellation digital platform, which gave our publishers and clients the best in ebook conversion, ebook distribution, digital print, digital marketing, etc.
On missed opportunities, I would say that, in publishing, there are always missed opportunities. That’s how the business is.
Q: Who would benefit from your session at DBW? Why?
Strategists, marketers, digital folk, people interested in where the promotional and social tools and platforms are going and how publishers can take advantage of them. People who ask smart questions are always encouraged to attend. And prolific tweeters.
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