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Do Book Bloggers have a role in Digital Marketing?

Book marketing has changed. Since 2008 and the rise of social media, book marketers have had to change how they promote upcoming titles. Traditional methods of marketing, such as print advertising and direct mail are slowly becoming obsolete with readers admitting that they haven’t picked up a newspaper in 12 months and are instead being replaced by social media and online campaigns instead. Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, recently announced a book club and the first book on the list sold out on Amazon within hours. It goes without saying that publishers will be trying their hardest to get one of their books on that list. This successful book club replicated the selling power of TV couple Richard and Judy’s own book club, which often causes previously unknown books to top the bestselling charts. This influential method of showcasing books shows that social media and online campaigns really are the next step in book marketing.

Involving Book Bloggers
At the start of 2014, Headline UK created a new online platform, BookBridgr, to handle the growing amount of book review and author interview requests from bloggers. With 65% of review copies sent out to bloggers ending up in a blog post, Ben Willis, Senior Publicity and Digital Campaigns Manager for Headline UK, is happy with this rate, as by October 2014 it has resulted in over 7,400 blog posts on Headline authors and titles. With the most reviewed categories being romance and young adult fiction, it is ensuring that readers are being shown titles they are more likely to purchase themselves. The Crown Publishing Group – a division of Penguin Random House – also has it’s own book blogger review platform called Blogging For Books. With over 11,200 bloggers on their review list, Blogging For Books has managed to create a great hub for all sorts of book bloggers, as it has 90 sub categories of books to choose from. With 30,000 reviews created by bloggers Crown Publishing Group have created a buzz for the books available.

Does it work?
With Headline’s BookBridgr platform resulting in ‘more reviews by more bloggers with, importantly, no related increase in work for Headline’s publicists’, it makes sense that book blogging is being taken seriously, as an important and vital route for marketing books due to its cheap and relatively effective marketing. Cindy Ratzlaff, marketer and social media strategist, states that ‘in marketing, the big advertising campaign in say, the New York Times Book Review, is now reserved for the rare book. Traditional marketing budgets just don’t include major advertising anymore.’ This is due to changes in consumerism. With readers wanting to know more about books before they buy them, it makes sense for publishers to focus their budgets on getting the word out on as many platforms as possible. By increasing the use of book bloggers, and especially book vloggers – video bloggers – in marketing, publishing companies are able to spend money on major advertising campaigns for books that definitely will fly off the shelves – Stephen King novels, or the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook. This allows publishers to push books that could do with some extra discoverability to the right blogger – one that has the right market for the book.

But what is the influence of bloggers?

Books Are My Bag logo

Books Are My Bag logo

The Booksellers Association campaign, Books Are My Bag, has been a huge hit with bloggers, vloggers and readers. The recent Books Are My Bag Secret Santa campaign managed to surpass over 100,000 views for some vloggers. Bee, who has been blogging about books at the Vivatramp blog for two years, and was recently included in the Books Are My Bag campaigns, told me that ‘the campaign is a particularly successful one, because it gets people to not only buy more books but to also think about their reading habits and where their books are coming from.’ This is of course the main goal for the Booksellers Association, to ensure that local bookshops stay open in a time of economic instability and that closure of many big high street names and local libraries does not affect readers and bookshops. It is vital for the Booksellers Association to spread their message as widely as possible and so blogger outreach is the perfect method for them. Sam Missingham, Head of Audience Development at HarperCollins UK, often utilises social media platforms to create engaging content for HarperCollins events – which have included a romance festival as well as a sci-fi festival, both virtual via the online platforms. Despite her own interest in social media and the ability to adapt marketing to this new age, Missingham thinks that ‘publishers aren’t using YouTube properly yet, and to say this is a missed opportunity is an understatement – some of the vloggers get 650 million views per year.’ By not utilising vloggers, publishing houses are losing out on a valuable promotional tool.

‘to say this is a missed opportunity is an understatement – some of the vloggers get 650 million views per year.’

Why are book bloggers important?
It is hard to ignore the growing popularity of bloggers. Beauty bloggers have began releasing make up ranges and lifestyle bloggers have released photo apps, so it is only natural to wonder what book bloggers could bring to the table in terms of profitable content for the big publishing houses. Bloggers have been growing their readership over a number of years, and have gradually become a trusted source for honest, reliable book reviews and recommendations. Holly, blogger from Lost in a Library, has been posting since 2012 and told me that she believes ‘blogging is like a little grapevine, we hear from each other honest things about books that they don’t tell you on the blurb.’ Holly is well aware of her influence as a blogger, often stating which style of posts work best for her. On occasion, she posts in-depth discussion pieces which are based on a certain book or theme, and has stated that these ‘really works in selling a book to someone.’ By creating interesting content, it keeps readers invested in a blog, and makes them return. This creativity also stands out to blogger outreach programs, and can result in more book reviews or campaigns.

Vlogger Zoella, real name Zoe Sugg, recently became the fastest-selling debut novelist since records began in 1998 by shifting 78,109 copies of her novel Girl Online in one week. With Zoella’s pre-existing fan base of six million people, it was no wonder that CEO of Penguin Random House, Tom Weldon snapped up the youtube star. The book needed next to no marketing campaign as Zoella already had a huge fan base who were keen to support the youtube star. Weldon predicted that her book would be a huge success and stated that Penguin Random House would be her publisher for ‘for many, many years to come’. Quickly following on the heels of this record-breaking release Sphere Publishing, an imprint of Little Brown signed a contract with book vlogger Carrie Hope Fletcher. The part memoir, part advice guide will feature topics that the youtube is frequently asked to talk about on her channel. This trend will continue to grow, as more publishers realise the potential vloggers and book bloggers have.

One influential book vlogger to watch out for is Sanne, who has been vlogging about books and publishing on her youtube channel booksandquills for three years. She works as Digital Coordinator for Hot Key Books and Piccadilly Press, and uses this to bridge the gap between her fellow book vloggers and publishers. Whilst mostly posting book reviews, her channel also features posts on the publishing industry, book events and topical issues such as feminism. Another blogger to note is Jennie, who blogs over at The Book Journal. Although she first started writing a beauty blog, Jennie created a new site to dedicate to her reviews, which had steadily grown in popularity and views. Her background in creative writing really helps her to create enticing reviews and keep her audience captivated.

So what is next for book bloggers? For me, the next step would be to incorporate bloggers within publishing houses, either contributing to their social media platforms or blogs, or to create some sort of blogger book awards – with bloggers choosing their top books within genres. The book blogging community is continuing to go from strength to strength, and I firmly believe that viewing numbers and followers will keep rising, enticing more marketing campaigns out of the traditional revenues and into the hands of bloggers.

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