No budget? No sweat

No budget? No sweat

It’s no surprise that marketing budgets have been cut this year. With the upcoming months still being incredibly uncertain, many pubishers will be finding that their titles just aren’t getting the investment they wish they could. This time last year, countless titles were moved to the spring with the hope that we’d be in a better situation and the hit to sales would be less dramatic. Of course, an outcome of this is an extremely full publishing calendar but minimal funds to go around.

Every time I speak to publishers, they tell me it feels as though the Christmas period never ended because things are just so busy. The main obstables include giving debut releases the campaigns they deserve on limited budget, having two competitor titles publishing at the same time (or even the same day) and sometimes working on books that have no allocated marketing spend at all. Right now, I believe the only way to combat the calendar and create successful campaigns is to think carefully about each piece of activity and continually ask: why?

Be strategic

Have you considered grouping titles together? Many publishers I’ve spoken to have questioned me on this, but imagine you have three fantasy titles releasing in May, each with a small budget. Why not run a ‘Magical Middle Grades’ campaign? You could go as big or small as you like with this. It could be as simple as social, or you could collaborate with influencers to amplify your brand with a level of peer-to-peer recommendation. Ultimately, your aim is to reach a specific audience of gatekeepers who will likely demonstrate intent to buy all of your titles within a particular genre and age group.

Grouping titles and pooling budgets will give you a broader scope for your campaign, a better chance of cut through and will also mean you’re not running multiple smaller campaigns that will end up competing with one another. Last year, we created a trailer for Bonnier Books that was shown during Richard and Judy’s Book Club on ITV. The premise was books that give you hope in times of struggle. It focused on the sentiment, the way these books can make you feel, and helped maximise the strengths of each title in a collaborative effort.

Be selective

You’ve got your strategy hat on, now you need to be selective. Carefully consider the optimum distribution route for your campaign. Marketers often default to a social campaign on Facebook and Instagram, but this isn’t always your best bet. At the moment, it’s becoming increasingly expensive and challenging to get cut through on Instagram as it’s so densely populated by ad content.

If you’re working on a YA title, you’d be better placed to run some advertising on Snapchat or TikTok, as these are the platforms where the audience are spending the majority of their time and are consuming similar content. Similarly, if you’re trying to reach a certain type of parent, or you’ve got an interest specific title, think about Pinterest. It’s often a forgotten social platform in the publishing industry but Pinterest reaches 53% of all parents, so it’s a great option for children’s book campaigns. For the latest release from Rob Biddulph by Harper Collins, a mixture of Pinterest advertising and Google Display proved to be the best option for cut through and building a buzz.


The digital space is well and truly saturated at the moment, with the lack of alternative distribution routes during lockdown. The key to making your campaign shout louder than the rest is gamification: the application of typical elements of game playing to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement. Adding an element of gamification will elevate your campaign above the rest as it forces your audience to stop and interact, to make a choice to participate and immerse themselves in your brand.

This can be as simple as creating an interactive asset for Instagram stories to encourage people to swipe up or could be as inventive as a bespoke game that allows children who wouldn’t usually read to get to know the characters. Nickelodeon’s game for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, "The Meltdown", serves exactly that purpose. 

Ultimately, there are limitations with smaller budgets. You can’t always host the all singing and dancing campaign that your title most likely deserves. What you can do is harness your strategic thinking to make sure you’re choosing the best possible route to your audience. You can be selective and particular, with your targeting, distribution route, optimisation and engagement. It is of course frustrating seeing your budgets rapidly reducing, and seemingly having more titles than ever to publish. But creativity thrives on limitations, and this could be the perfect opportunity to experiment with a different approach.