I read (and listen to) a lot about what's happening in marketing and media these days, and while the desire for clicks and the illusion of engagement generates a lot of useless noise, there are still some good, actionable insights being put out there that can be easily missed. I share the good stuff on Twitter and LinkedIn when I find it, but "Marketing Memos" is a weekly selection of 3-5 of the most interesting and insightful articles and podcast episodes—curated after I've had a chance to process them and identify the best.
With few exceptions, publishers don't really know what drives most book sales, so the industry's focus on chasing bestsellers and trends lends itself to an unscientific combination of last-click attribution, confirmation bias, and way too often, scapegoats. Publishers have relied on booksellers and libraries to connect with readers for decades, but—despite the continued decline of physical bookstores, the intersectional challenge of "book deserts," and a lack of consistent and verifiable data on ebook sales—libraries seem to have become an easy scapegoat. Again.
In 2019, I remain astounded (but not totally surprised) by how many authors' platforms lack the basics—if they have one at all—but far more egregiously, too many publishers are way behind the curve with their own platforms, doing a disservice to the authors they've committed to support and help succeed. If you're querying a publisher—big or small, traditional or hybrid—you (or your agent) should be able to satisfactorily address these three planks of their own platform before they inquire about yours. Each one is potentially more important than the size of your advance, and definitely more important than the size of your own Twitter following or email list.
To be honest, my experience with consultants over the years has been mostly negative. Overpriced pundits promising more than they've ever actually delivered for anyone, who often knew less than the staff they were brought in to advise, offering templated solutions to complex problems, inevitably leaving behind incomplete work and unsatisfied clients. But I've also worked with a few amazing ones who not only delivered effective, customized solutions, they also left the staff they engaged with smarter and better equipped to implement and iterate on those solutions without them.
In reality, markets consist of human beings and the conversations they have with each other, and those conversations can be messy and involve multiple points of influence. For authors trying to develop an effective and sustainable digital strategy, that means you’re not just competing with similar authors and books for readers’ attention—hello, myopic comp titles!—you’re competing with readers themselves and the various channels they use to connect with each other. With the right strategy, though, you're not competing with anyone—you're authentically engaging with and contributing to a dynamic community.