Spreading some Christmas cheer

It’s the time of year when every company pushes out all the stops in terms of marketing to help maximise sales or to get their message across to the masses. This year, there are bookish giveaways and gift guides galore. It’s well worth having a look around on Twitter to keep up to date with everything festive, but here are a few of my favourites to get you started

Headline launched an online advent calendar on Monday 1st December, with a different giveaway going up each day. So far, there have been signed copies of novels by Martina Cole and Victoria Hislop, as well as a Downton Abbey TV tie-in book bundle.

An interactive Christmas gift guide has been designed by Hodder and Stoughton, which lets users answer questions with details about the person they’re buying for. The guide then recommends books from both Hodder’s frontlist and its backlist as gifts. I tried it for a couple of different people – one worked really well and I actually got some good recommendations, but the other one not so much! A good idea though and a bit of fun!

Elsewhere, Curtis Brown Literary Agency is running a Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway every working day until the 16th December. This kicked off on 1st December with a giveaway of ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ and will see different authors pick their Christmas giveaway choices throughout the promotion. To be in with a change to win, visit the @CBBookGroup Twitter page.

On a more charitable festive note, the English PEN and the Howard League for Penal Reform are hoping to raise awareness of and support for the Books for Prisoners campaign, which calls on the government to overturn the ban on sending books and other essentials into prisons. A digital advent calendar has been launched, which features authors such as Monica Ali, and supporters are asked to recommend the books they would send to prisoners using the hashtag #booksforprisoners.

If you’ve noticed any other good promotions in the run up to Christmas, let me know!

Music, books and lyrics

Browsing Twitter earlier today, I stumbled across a recent promo campaign from a top UK band that’s using classic ghost stories to get people excited about their new music.

Coldplay are going all out to promote their upcoming album, the aptly named ‘Ghost Stories’, and their new songs are being unveiled in a way that should excite all the readers out there! Chris Martin’s handwritten lyric sheets for each song on the album are being hidden within the pages of books in libraries all over the globe. One lucky lyric hunter will also find two tickets and a free trip to London to see Coldplay perform at the Royal Albert Hall.

So far, five envelopes have been found – in copies of ‘Hounds of the Baskervilles’ in Barcelona, ‘Mister B. Gone’ in Helsinki, ‘Ghost Stories’ in Singapore, ‘A Christmas Carol’ in Mexico City and, most recently, in Dartford Library, Kent. If you fancy combining a trip to your local library with the chance of seeing the band perform live, keep checking the Coldplay twitter feed for clues to the next book.

Even if you don’t find anything, it’s a great way to get people visiting public libraries, especially at a time when so many of them are facing closure from lack of funding.

The power of social media

Nowadays, the success of a novel largely depends on the publicity it gets. It depends on whether it’s featured in newspapers and magazines, where it’s placed a bookshop or if it makes the Waterstones top picks or the Richard and Judy book club list. It depends on whether publishers invest in posters and advertising or on the competitions they run on their websites.

But it also depends on social factors – on who’s talking about it online, on the number of people reading it on the train, on casual conversations around the office. And it’s this social platform that offers the greatest scope for authors to promote their books directly to their readers.

One of the best recent examples of authors that have really made the most of the tools at their disposal is John Green, the bestselling author of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, ‘Looking for Alaska’ and ‘An Abundance of Katherines’. Most people will have heard of his books. But what you might not know is the role that social media played in his commercial success. Continue reading

High street vs. online book selling

Last week, I wrote about the perceived threat to the publishing industry from self-publishing (here). This week, I wanted to look at another issue facing the sector – the decline of the high street bookstore in favour of online super-sellers such as Amazon.

One of the main issues facing high street bookshops is that the simply can’t afford to compete with Amazon on prices. There are a number of measures and initiatives being put in place to combat this (see here for more info on something Waterstones is trialling), but the fact is that books are generally cheaper online thanks to low overheads and running costs of e-sellers.

There are notable exceptions to the rule, and impulse buyers, author signings and loyal booklovers with a preference for seeing and feeling a book before buying have and will continue to ensure that bookshops remain a feature on our high streets. However, these shops are increasingly facing even more competition. Major supermarket chains in particular are starting to encroach on their territory and are also able to offer popular books at cut prices.

One fear associated with the decline of bookstores is that readers won’t have the same capacity to discover new books, resulting in falling sales and a shrinking market. While I’m a proud supporter of high street book stores, I’m feel that this is an area where social media can really come into its own. For a while now, Twitter has been a great source of information and a major platform for conversation. Bloggers and professional reviewers are constantly pouring out a stream of opinion about new books and trends, which should help to drum up enthusiasm for a book prior to its publication and beyond.

Author John Green, for example, showed just how effective social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube can be in driving sales in the run up to the launch of The Fault in Our Stars. Extensive vlogging, tweeting and audience engagement activity led to massive pre-orders, and the novel topped the Amazon best sellers list before Green had even finished writing it.

Hopefully, moving forward the industry will find a happy medium that works for everyone and every business model – and that continues to do so for the foreseeable future.