Marketing Books—Getting the Discussion Going 

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Article By Africa Speaks

The old proverb is, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” Book publishers add, “But you can sell a  book by its cover.” 

Marketing is positioning a book in the purchaser’s mind,  while sales (and distribution) is getting the product into the customer’s hands in exchange for a fair price. Both are essential for successful book publishing.  

The marketing of books includes the three “P’s”—the right product at the right price at the right  place. It includes the new digital realities of marketing as well as more traditional ways to create awareness and desire to purchase.  


Covers & Catalogues

Covers are tremendously important in marketing. They urge customers to purchase a particular book or to choose between multiple options. Some believe that subtitles are also important,  convincing the reader that this book is a worthwhile investment of time and money. The cover needs to attract the customer and to give a promise. Many do this by featuring an endorsement  by a famous or respected person on the front and also on the back cover. Publishers sometimes ask famous authors to endorse each other’s books. 

Which brings us to marketing books by showing the covers. Publishers’ catalogues or web pages  are designed to show off their products. Catalogues are expensive to print and distribute, but  now, electronic distribution is a big help. The ultimate “catalogues” are designed by eSellers such as Amazon, who not only display books from many publishers, but also give reviews,  endorsements, chapter readings, and “other books you might like.”  

How do you get your print catalogue to potential customers? Some put it in a shipment with  other books. Others actually print a mini-catalogue in the back of other titles, filling out the  pages with similar titles. What has worked for you, or hasn’t worked? Do you need a print catalogue, or can you stay with an electronic version? 

Can you join your catalog with other publishers to increase the choices for readers as well as  saving costs? Years ago Tyndale House placed racks of books in non-bookstore markets. When they increased the number of titles on display from 32 to 48, sales dramatically increased  because people had more choices. The more choices the buyers have the more likely it is that they will find titles they want. 



In all marketing, we know that word-of-mouth advertising is very powerful, whether it is one  customer telling another, or a noted person or pastor recommending a book.  

We also know that sampling is powerful. Book purchasers standing before a display of books  first look at the front cover, then turn it over to look at the back cover, then tend to leaf through the book—possibly seeing if something inside catches their eyes. This is the ultimate  sampling. 

How do we harness these two powerful concepts for greater sales and distribution? What can we do to promote reading, both of our own company’s titles and those of other Christian  publishers? Perhaps as we exchange our ideas we will spark unique ways of marketing our Christian books. 



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Africa Speaks

Africa Speaks is an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.


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