Sam Missingham is a self-confessed publishing geek and book nerd. Following the launch of Lounge Books, a community for book lovers, Sam founded Lounge Marketing, a book marketing membership service for authors. She previously worked at HarperCollins and the Bookseller, where she co-founded FutureBook (see our Q&A with Molly Flatt). Sam speaks regularly around the world about publishing strategies and loves to mentor people who are new to publishing. Dedicated to innovating the industry, she aims to equip both new and established authors with practical marketing skills. We asked her a few questions to gain some essential insight.
1. Tell us a bit about Lounge Marketing, and what inspired you to launch it.
I set up Lounge Marketing to empower authors, specifically to market and sell more books. The battleground for everyone in the industry is effective marketing. In simple terms we have an ever-increasing number of books and authors but roughly the same amount of money spent on books.
The idea behind Lounge Marketing is to give authors the skills to conquer this and come out on top. I provide them with a monthly session on Facebook ads and another on Amazon Marketing Services, which, in my mind, form the bedrock of their marketing. Plus we have sessions on working with bookshops, getting publicity, effective cover design, working with bloggers, author websites and more.
There is a lot to learn, but I am a great believer in authors owning this process. For example, owning their newsletter data, managing their own social media accounts etc., gives them much more freedom and power over future publishing decisions. There is a free Lounge Marketing newsletter, with links to trusted online sources for book marketing news, tips and ideas, that helps with this.
The Lounge Marketing authors also support and learn from each other, which I hadn’t really anticipated, but is great to see. There is much to gain from authors collaborating.
2. What marketing advice would you give to any writer who’s just about to publish for the first time?
I would tell them not to worry if they don’t sell gazillions of books in the first month, and that this is no measure of their career success. This is a long-haul business and if they keep at it, they could still be making sales for that book in 10+ years. Do not panic and spend a ton of money on marketing upfront. Concentrate your marketing efforts on a few tactics that you can measure – test small amounts of money and aim to improve as you go.
I have a pretty good blog for authors starting out, including things they can do before they are published.
Also, join Lounge Marketing, of course!!
3. What do you do if you are a writer who doesn’t want to engage with social media?
It’s certainly not for everyone. In fact, I would say that the very successful indie authors use it quite sparingly and concentrate their efforts in other areas. I have trained quite a few authors on social media and there are common fears – privacy issues, uncertainty about content, typos and grammar, the time suck vs. pay back etc. These are all valid fears and, ultimately, social media isn’t going to drive lots of book sales, but there are also so many benefits. I would always encourage authors to give it a go, even if they only choose one social media platform.
If you’d like examples of authors who really understand social media and are brilliant at it, then I’d recommend Joanne Harris, Marian Keyes, Clare Mackintosh, Jill Mansell, Liz Fenwick – there are many more.
4. What do you think indie writers could teach publishers, and vice versa?
Indie authors prove the point that nobody cares more for a book than its author. Publishers will never be able to give each book the same attention as an author would, it’s simply not realistic. However, this does mean that once the publicity and marketing campaign is over, books are left with minimal attention. Indie authors promote their backlist all year-round, using each book to promote the next. It is extremely hard for big publishers to replicate this level of granular digital marketing, but it is certainly something they should spend more of their budget on.
The number one thing that puts publishers leagues ahead of indie authors is the quality of their covers. I often say this on Twitter, but I genuinely believe the UK’s cover designers are the very best in the world. If I were an indie author, I would absolutely spend my money here. If your cover is terrible, potential readers will assume your book is too. Traditional publishers are also brilliant at publicity. I judge for the Book Marketing Society and I have seen a lot of truly innovative and creative marketing campaigns by big publishers. I do like what Penguin Random House are doing in terms of audience development – they’ve created brilliant channels for their authors.
5. Finally, what’s on your reading list for the summer?
One of my Lounge authors, Gary Raymond, has just sent me a copy of The Golden Orphans – I’m promised a literary thriller that will get under my skin, who could resist?
I’ve also got my hands on Matt Cain’s The Madonna of Bolton – I was totally sold on the title of the book alone. It sounds like a hoot.
Also, I’m very excited to have been sent Barbara Kingsolver’s new book Unsheltered (not out until October), that’s a real treat to look forward to.
You can find Sam Missingham on twitter.