Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Aren't Publishing Companies Doing This??

The vast majority of people in this country and around the industrialized world watch at least one hour of television a day.  And some people watch a lot more than that.  This may upset people in the writing industry because we wish everyone would spend their time reading more books, but let's be honest with ourselves.  People prefer the mindless entertainment TV has to offer.  Reading may not be a dead form of entertainment, but I'm pretty sure it's growing old.  It will always be there as the quaint little old grandpa we love to visit from time to time at the nursing home, but it's failing to keep up with all the other modes of entertainment available.  More and more people admit to not reading at all.*

And why is that?

I'll tell you why.  Publishing companies are not advertising to the masses the way every other industry in America has realized they need to advertise: commercials.  And I'd like to know why.

I have seen perhaps two commercials for books during my entire life, and those books were already mega-sellers.  And sadly, the commercials were bland.  They said nothing about the content within the books themselves.  Instead, they only mentioned that such and such was available at B&N.  You would have to already know what the book was about to get excited, and chances are you would have already known the book was available.

I had never even heard of Twilight before the movie came out and that book was a big seller.  It wasn't until I'd seen the movie advertised on television that I knew the book existed at all.  Yes, perhaps that is sad on my part, but how are people who don't normally read supposed to hear about the new releases?  How are books supposed to generate sales if the only advertising being done are in book stores or on blogs (and author websites)?  How are teenage boys going to be persuaded to buy YA with a male MC if they don't know it's out there?

Book trailers are gaining in popularity.  Yes, the vast the majority of them are cheesy, but I think there's a lot of potential there.  Books aren't visual, but people are.  We all know that it's the cover that gets a person to pick up a book in the first place.  Why can't it be a commercial?  Imagine how many new readers a publishing company could generate if they advertised a book just once or twice a day on a major station.  How about advertising a new sci-fi on a video game?

Commercials are expensive.  Very expensive.  But they're worth it, otherwise companies would have stopped using them.

Publishers already seemed to have gotten the hint that most people like surrounding themselves with electronics, hence ebooks.  So why not go another step further and start advertising on television?  We can't ever reach new readers if we aren't willing to meet them where they are.  And yes, people who watch television also like to read.  People haven't stopped reading because they don't like doing it.  They've stopped because they don't know anything new is out there.

So why do you think publishing companies don't do this?  Do you think they haven't even thought of it?  If you were self-publishing, would you consider buying some air time on a local station to advertise your book?

*Non-fiction and manuals not included.


  1. I agree 100% but I'm not sure where they'll find the money. Maybe e-books will change this?

  2. Good question. I think one of the reasons is because publishing has such low profit margins. Small presses especially just can't afford to do this kind of hugely expensive advertising. Word of mouth is a more effective *and cheap* way of promotion, which is why authors are encouraged to get involved in social media-- another effective and cheap form of advertising.

  3. Love this blog, Emily. I, too, wish books were advertised through some sort of visual venue. Right now, I mostly find books either through browsing the shelves or word-of-mouth.

  4. Usually, when I hear about a book using "word of mouth" it's followed by "want to borrow it?" which is kind of counter-productive for an industry that relies on word of mouth.

  5. Just discovered your blog, and what a great question. There's a tone of amazing books I would've never discovered if I hadn't started following blogs and reading reviews and raves. TV adverstising - especially these days when there are so many cable stations that cater to different tastes - makes so much sense.

  6. This is an excellent question! I agree with only ever seeing 2 commercials for books. Book trailers are coming more on the scene, but how many people go to youtube to look at a book trailer? You'll reach at least 20 people more but not the masses you want. I am interested to see what happens when self-pubbed authors really take off because they will want to earn a name for themselves.

  7. emily! great post! i totally agree (and never heard of twilight until the movie came out either.)
    i wonder (please no one get mad at me!) if snobbery is a factor? it seems like a lot of people in the publishing industry think they are better than the unwashed masses of tv viewers because they read. so a part of them wants to keep good books a bit of a secret, like a club you have to belong to. shoot, most libraries have "book clubs"- i don't know. i think sales would jump if good commercials were available.

  8. I definitely think it's about budget. Television commercials are expensive. To run a commercial would cost more than the advance an author gets for their first book. I've seen commercials for Dean Koontz, but lets face it, he is at the point where he doesn't NEED commercials to sell his books. I think the best idea is for Amazon to have a 'book trailer' section where people who read can browse.

  9. What I've heard of recently are book trailers before movies. Some showings of Eclipse had a trailer for the newest Vampire Academy novel. Maybe that will become a trend. I don't know the cost of adding a trailer in front of the movie. Perhaps it's cheaper...

  10. Elana--I love that idea! I haven't heard anything about it. I certainly hope that something new is done because I just wonder how much longer the standard way of advertising books can work.

    Thanks for your comment! :D


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