Don’t Be Too Smart or Clever in Your Book Descriptions

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Photo credit: Judy ** on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

One of the most compelling panels I attended at BookExpo 2018 was “Preorder Sales Secrets from the Publishing Pros.” It included book marketers from HarperCollins, Kensington, Macmillan, and Penguin Random House. An overarching point of the panel was that running preorder campaigns helps publishers gauge what marketing appeals succeed with the target readership. Preorder campaigns act like the canary in the coal mine: bad results indicate that the marketing direction or metadata could be wrong.

For one example, a marketer admitted that her department didn’t want to call an upcoming vampire book, well, a vampire book. Because the department was coy in the marketing and advertising copy, and avoided using that label, reader response was poor. The publisher received the message loud and clear: if you have a vampire book, say it’s a vampire book. Subtlety is not your friend.

In my latest column for Publishers Weekly, I explore how thinking your reader can help you write better book marketing copy. Read the column.

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Posted in Marketing & Promotion.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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