Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Publishers fumble in the advertising game

Publishers Weekly (subscription required) wonders, when it comes to advertising, why publishers aren't giving readers what they want: a plot summary.

In a survey conducted in January by Bookreporter.com, 83.1 percent of respondents said they'd like to see book synopses in ads. In contrast, just 10.2 percent said they'd like to see quotes from reviews, while only 1 percent cared about endorsement blurbs.

The Book Report Network's Carol Fitzgerald, for one, doesn't know why publishing houses aren't changing their advertising strategies:
"I personally don't find this that difficult. If you cannot describe a book in a sentence or two, what the heck are you doing publishing it?"

"... Everyone in this business has been so conditioned to do what they do. It is the hardest thing to get people to think outside the box."
The article notes that some publishers expanded their marketing into a variety of magazines, and even a handful of blogs. Still, it's the message, not the medium, that matters.

In a sidebar, PW considers what role covers play in selling books, and asks a handful of industry figures what's hot and what's not. Among those questioned is designer and author Chip Kidd, whose own recent work has been criticized as being homogenous and, well, ugly:
What's hot: "Ugly is back with a vengeance. Ugly is working really well. The Da Vinci Code is proof positive that jackets don't sell books. It's the ugliest goddamn thing you've ever seen, and no one cares."

What's not: Anything too literal or obvious. "What am I supposed to do, stand there next to the shelf of books and explain everything? My raison d'etre is moving away from that kind of literal presentation. People aren't dumb."
The whole discussion seems eerily familiar. Replace a few names, and the article could just as easily be about the comics industry.