Lounge Books’ Sam Missingham highlights some recent strategies and campaigns for independents to learn from
Like a lot of others, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching independent publishers scoop so many book prizes over the last few years. A sharp focus on quality rather than quantity and hustling hard for individual books has certainly paid off, while at the other end of the scale, big publishers have pursued strategies of more books, more authors and more imprints. They spread the risk widely, and with every bestseller the coffers are refilled. It’s a model that works commercially, but it doesn’t seem to produce so many books that excite prize judges.
Independent publishers exploit their assets brilliantly. They use free platforms effectively, spend their energies on more granular marketing and stretch their budgets very well. Here are a few examples of independents that have excited me lately in seven different areas of publishing and marketing.
An effective website is a pretty easy and cost-effective way of showcasing publishers’ books and authors. Good examples include , and .
2 Social media
There are so many examples of independents using social media brilliantly—both free options and paid-for opportunities. Smaller publishers would do well to concentrate efforts on one or two social media platforms rather than spreading resources too thinly. uses Twitter and blog tours very well, held a Reddit AMA with the authors of its new horror imprint, and does some fun stuff on Instagram.
3 Databases and emails
Building a database of current and prospective book buyers is time well spent, and emailing them is a cheap, measurable and effective way to promote and sell books. currently has a giveaway of three free ebooks in return for email addresses, and used a giveaway to build a database in the run-up to Christmas. Like Phaidon, offers a brilliant example of interesting newsletters.
Independent publishers are fantastic at creating stories around their books and stimulating debate on topical issues. They are gifts in terms of publicity, giving journalists many hooks to hang their coats on. We have seen this with books including Reni Eddo-Lodge’s from Bloomsbury and from Stripes Publishing.
Unbounders is a shining example of a publisher whose marketing happens as a natural part of the crowdfunding model. It has worked brilliantly for the likes of Nikesh Shukla’s and Dan Dalton’s , which was funded in two days. Dead Ink and 404 Ink meanwhile used Kickstarter to fund and respectively, and during the process created a huge amount of buzz.
6 Bloggers and influencers
We are blessed with amazing book bloggers sharing the love of our books. Many independents work with bloggers to create a buzz for their books, and leads the way here: rarely a day goes by when I don’t see one of its books pop up on a blogger’s website. All indies should spend time building relationships with bloggers and influencers.
Independents are very good at exploiting all the opportunities Amazon offers to sell books. Responsive ebook pricing, category selection and timely paid-for promotions can all shift books at volume, especially in genre and commercial fiction. and are experts at this.
Other independents that hustle for their authors—pushing every door, seeking out every opportunity and developing every relationship—include , , , and . Having great books helps of course—'s double Man Booker winners, 's success with Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent and striking gold with Matt Haig all spring to mind—but we all know there is no magic bullet for successful marketing. All independents can do is give their books every chance of success.
I embrace the hustling-hard approach of independents at Lounge Books, and have a section dedicated to them. Each publisher has its own page on the site where they get to promote six to eight of their titles and provide blogs from their authors and editors, curated lists and other things that fit within our editorial scope. We also run on new books from independent publishers.
Lounge Books has sold more than 1,300 books so far—and while it’s not creating bestsellers just yet, it is certainly pushing a few new readers towards books. I would be delighted to hear from any independents that would like to get involved.