Saturday, 2 July 2011

digital marketing - science fiction and fantasy

Over the last few weeks this blog has been focusing on what the four imprints I’m using as case studies for my dissertation do to digitally market their books. As promised, this is the exciting* summary of my findings, looking at which imprint out of the four – Tor, Orbit, Voyager and Gollancz – most effectively uses digital marketing to promote its authors and titles. Here are the results.


With no blog, a Facebook page I can’t find (although I’ve heard rumour of there being one) and an area on the Pan Macmillan website that is more shop than shoptalk, Twitter is Tor’s hub for digital marketing. Events will get mentioned, review links posted, pictures of tours and author ventures plugged. Editorial Director of Tor Julie Crisp is always present on Twitter, tweeting Tor’s latest campaigns, communicating with readers and providing relevant links, whilst not being overly pushy about the books she’s publishing. She helps to trend topics like #towelday – 25 May is Towel Day in memory of the late, great Douglas Adams - really taking advantage of what Twitter (and fans) can do. Tor UK is on there too, tweeting about subjects relating to its list with personality and a good degree of vim. Tor is also using Twitter to advertise its competition in cahoots with SFX magazine for cover designing – a unique way of promoting a title. Some stats: Tor’s Twitter stream has 1424 followers, Julie Crisp, clearly doing something right, has 1520. I recently heard that Tor has been allotted the budget for a new blog, so it’s obviously deemed an important tool in digital marketing – it will be great to see what Tor does with it.


Orbit UK has a larger team than most other dedicated science fiction and fantasy imprints, with various folk in charge of digital, publicity and general marketing, and Orbit USA and Aus/NZ banding together as well to digitally market as a global imprint, which is worth bearing in mind. Although it has a strong Twitter and Facebook presence, the most remarkable part of Orbit’s digital marketing strategy is its website. Orbit’s website is its hub for marketing, and what a hub. It streamlines the UK/USA/Aus/NZ imprints into one, accessible source of information. As well as containing its publishing schedules and author profiles (with links to websites and details about its titles), Orbit’s website is basically a very well-maintained blog. It contains, among other things, guest posts from authors (not always from Orbit’s own list), editors, editorial assistants and the very excellent, always enthusiastic, Art Director Lauren Panepinto. The site also contains a blog roll and links to SFF sites, and allows for comments on each post, maintaining a healthy online community. It really is a smorgasbord of information. Some stats: Facebook – 2292 likes. Orbit Twitter – 8727 followers. Orbit Editorial Assistant James Long Twitter account – 801 followers.


Bearing in mind Voyager’s small team, it doesn’t have a Facebook page and its page on HarperCollins’ website is a bit impersonal (in-keeping with the overall professional image), but it does have a Twitter and blog, maintained mainly by one dedicated Assistant Editor, and a few guest bloggers. There tends to be about one to two posts every fortnight, and they can consist of: reviews from HarperCollins’ staff members of Voyager’s books, an huge ongoing campaign for George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, countdown widgets for upcoming titles for blogs and websites, trailers, the occasional book of the month, cover launches, a heads-up for its new ventures, a post on its physical consumer marketing campaign for Peter V Brett and a few non-marketing related posts, which arguably is good digital marketing in itself. The blog/site also contains links to other sites and every post can be commented on. Its Twitter account contains links to its blog posts as well as plenty of perky communication with fellow tweeters and readers, particularly considering there is only one person behind the tweets. What I like about this (warning: personal preference) is that HarperCollins is a hugely commercial publisher but the Voyager feed feels personal. Some stats: Twitter – 2577 followers.


Gollancz does not have a strong blog presence although its website is good, and the team know how much time it can exhort updating it (hence its book and author of the month). Therefore Gollancz’s strengths lie in its Facebook and Twitter presence. Its main technique is to run competitions for readers to win its titles (admittedly, it hammered this more a few months back). It would be really interesting to find out how these competitions affect sales, if at all, as I think it’s a unique way of marketing, and great for smaller budgets (although the postage and packaging costs must be immense). Gollancz also: knows the beauty of a good hash tag, posts YouTube links to author interviews and trailers, flags up signings, reviews, posts pictures, links to other relevant information it feels its readers will find interesting (rather than making the rookie error of only talking about itself), news about its award nominations, and a whole host of other links and comments. Some stats: 1865 people ‘like’ its Facebook page, on average Gollancz posts 2-3 times per day, and it has one sister Facebook page, Gollancz Dark Fantasy, which has 3608 ‘likes’ (thank you, Charlaine Harris). Gollancz Twitter has 3144 followers, and Gollancz Dark Fantasy Twitter has 977. This might only be something I find fascinating, but this shows Dark Fantasy fans are more likely to follow its Facebook page than its Twitter stream, and vice versa for Gollancz main.

Conclusion of summary: Every imprint has its own way and knows how to digitally market its books into a reader’s heart. Unfortunately, man power, time and money are huge factors regarding what avenues you can take. Hence why Twitter and Facebook, being free, are great tools.

Active, healthy blogs look to be the way forward. Orbit’s just zings off the screen. Voyager’s is good, and would benefit from more time and posts (not always an option when one person is doing the posting), Tor’s is on its way. Gollancz could benefit from updating its blog more – but time factors probably get in the way so it picks and chooses when it utilizes this tool (eg, for its 50th anniversary).

Voyager and Tor (I may be wrong) both don’t have Facebook pages. Gollancz demonstrates why it’s important to reach fans both through Twitter and Facebook, through its discrepancies between Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter followers.

With Twitter it is worth the editors and other staff having personal accounts that tweet about the industry. Julie Crisp has more followers than Tor UK but it’s probably a surety that she achieves the same promotional benefits for Tor’s titles as Tor’s actual Twitter stream, only people can feel more connected to an actual person, rather than an imprint.

Both Voyager and Orbit have a brand of their own away from their publishing groups – this could be important as it builds and taps into that essential fan community. They both also have less ‘personal’ pages on their publishing groups’ sites, so this caters for a wider readership.

Conclusion of conclusion of summary: Orbit’s model of digital marketing is fantastic. They demonstrate the ideal Twitter/Facebook/blog/website combination – all regularly updated and mostly interactive. But time and budget are huge factors that not every imprint can indulge in, which is where the personal touch, and a bit of ingenuity, comes in.

*Excitement not guaranteed

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