Targeting newspaper reviews is 'blinkered'

Targeting newspaper reviews is 'blinkered'

It is "incredibly blinkered" to only target traditional newspaper reviews for books, The Pool c.e.o. and co-founder Sam Baker has said.

Speaking at The Bookseller's Marketing and Publicity conference yesterday (30th June), Baker also admonished the industry for its obsession with the hardback, saying that publishers needed to "remember real people buy paperbacks".

In a panel exploring alternative paths to publicity, chaired by Netgalley's UK community manager Stuart Evers, Baker was joined by vlogger, bookseller and author Jen Campbell, The Sunday Times' editorial director Eleanor Mills, and Four Colman Getty PR account director Katy Macmillan-Scott.

Baker said the industry was too focussed on getting reviews into newspapers.

"If that is your core audience, if you have got a literary audience and that's you're aiming for [it's fine]," she said, "but it's incredibly blinkered."

The Pool launched earlier this year and Baker said that with the exception of "two or three publicists who were willing to take a chance, we were blanked".

"Now we're beating people off with a stick," she continued. "We have got to look beyond the traditional models. Your audience isn't where he or she used to be, and traditional models don't have the strength they used to."

Readers are looking for someone to edit their choices, said Baker, adding: "People do want people to say 'if you liked this, you'll like this other thing too'. Someone who's not an algorithm on Amazon.

"The reader doesn't know whether a book is new in the main, they just care whether it's good or whether someone they trust thinks it's good."

Mills advised publicists to think beyond the review page of any newspaper they wanted to approach, and to see if their authors could fit into other sections or could give an expert view on current events.

She also said books could have an "afterlife" on digital products, giving The Sunday Times' Crime Club digital newsletter as an example, long after they were released.

Macmillan-Scott said publicists needed to be nimble: "Trying to find a news angle is a great way of selling a book. Trying to find authors who can talk on a specific subject is a fantastic resource.

"When something comes up that gives you an idea, you have got to take it up." Campbell said YouTube was a great way to connect with readers, but that she had seen publishers approach BookTubers "quite badly". 

"The great thing about BookTube is its authenticity so I think publicists have to look at how to approach different people differently," she said. "You have got to embrace the unpredictability of it."