discussions

Discussion: How Marketing Makes or Breaks a Book

Here’s a mildly relevant topic that has been plaguing me recently. 

Okay, so I have been thinking for the past few days how marketing can be so important for the way the book is perceived and then also, how well it does because of that. So I thought it’d be a fun thing to chat about with you all.

Where is this coming from? 

I think this whole train of thought started way back when A Court of Thorns & Whatever came out. This book was definitely marketed as a YA, and a part of that marketing strategy was very intentional, but a lot of it came from the fact that the writer already had an established place and audience in the YA community. However, if the reviews are to be trusted, this book is definitely not YA – I think even in the age range of the characters it overshoots YA, but I also think people were saying that the way it explores certain themes is more New Adult than YA. And this had very important consequences, especially in terms of how well the book did, and also the kind of audience it attracted (hence leading to a YA box including dick soap, but I digress).

Genres and age groups are specific marketing strategy

And the whole YA “genre” is a marketing strategy, and a good one that really worked. I think YA is so popular right now, and the genre lines of it are getting kind of blurred, which is an interesting thing to see play out. I think marketing a book as YA or as Adult sets up readers’ expectations for said book, and when a book is marketed poorly, readers’ expectations are not met, which leads to more negative reviews.

And I think sometimes marketing a book in a specific genre can be it’s demise. For example, you guys know how much I hate the existence and marketing of the Women’s Fiction genre. It should not be a thing, but that’s a different post. When Big Little Lies was coming out, it was marketed as Women’s Fiction and I think that lead to a lot of people dismissing it, when in fact that book did a fantastic job at portraying women’s domestic lives in such a nuanced and literary superior way. It also did a really great job at showing domestic abuse in all its awfulness even when it seems it’s “not that bad”. But the book ultimately was marketed as Women’s Fiction and in a specific way, when it should in fact be read widely.

Comps are sometimes the best and sometimes the worst

Comparing a book to Harry Potter, or Gillian Flynn or Margaret Atwood is a really popular marketing strategy. Just recall how many times you’ve seen “the next Gone Girl” and how many times that has failed you. I think marketing a book with a certain comparison can draw many people in, but I also think it can lead to more negative reviews, if such expectations are not met.

Books need to sell

The sad truth is that publishing (much like everything else these days) is an industry, and books need to sell. Which means they need to be marketed in a certain way, most frequently the one that leads to most sales. However, this can definitely alienate certain readers, or even lead to people disliking books purely because their expectations were not meant.

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So those are some thoughts on book marketing and how it can affect a perception of the book in the book community as a whole. I really hope you enjoyed this and I would love to hear from you – did a book’s marketing ever lead to you disliking it or even avoiding it? What are your thoughts on the way marketing can affect a book? I’d love to know!

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16 thoughts on “Discussion: How Marketing Makes or Breaks a Book

  1. Comparing books or marketing it as “the next something, something” doesn’t quite work for me as so many books tend to follow the same tag line which makes it redundant. I think it’s my subjective opinion but I have read so many books that should have been shelved as NA or adult. Relying on the character’s age alone is not enough to classify a book as YA. Also, I think that since YA is a booming field presently many authors want to file their books under it to give it the buzz.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree! I am one of those people that thinks YA is a genre AND an age group, so I definitely think some stuff is wrongly shelved as YA when it’s definitely not. I’ve seen Red, White and Royal Blue on so many YA lists and that books is very NOT YA, both in themes and in actual ages.

      And definitely, YA is IN and I think you can definitely see when characters are aged down in order for the book to be marketed as YA and not Adult 🤷🏻‍♀️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. this is an interesting topic! there was a book that I specifically requested because it was about a Chosen One who’s actually supposed to be evil and bring about the end of days or something along those lines. I read all 500 pages of the book and it was only towards the END that there was foreshadowing that he would go dark! the author commented on my review to say that it was the marketing team’s decision to spoil that on the blurb and promote it for book 1 when it wasn’t going to come into play until a later book. so on one hand, I was disappointed that the reason I picked this up didn’t eventuate in the damn book I read, lol, but on the other, their tactic was successful, so…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. glad you found it interesting!

      oof yes – the question of whether or not it’s successful is definitely different to whether or not it’s fair and sets up expectations accordingly. And ugh sooo many books get spoiled in the marketing/blurb and I am just like WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the way books are marketed definitely affects them. However, it’s important to remember that YA isn’t a genre, it’s an age group. Books that are considered to be YA in terms of the genre are just fiction/non-fiction (huge umbrella) books written for teen and young adult age groups.

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    1. I agree to a certain extent, but I also feel like YA has a lot of themes specific to it (and they do stem from it being written for teen and young adult audiences). There are also so many books where it’s obvious that the characters are acting older, but are aged down so that a book fits YA, which I think sort of blurs the lines of YA as an age group.

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  4. I totally get annoyed when the books get wrongly ‘genre-ed’ because they end up as a disappointment. I loved this post and I agree with all you said.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of my favorite things to do is analyze certain marketing tactics that publishers use! Most recently what’s been striking me is the change in romance covers from scantily clad and shirtless models, to bright illustrated covers! In fact for the longest time I thought Red, White, & Royal Blue was YA because I wasn’t used to romance books having such toned down covers! I actually appreciate this new marketing fad because I think it’s getting people to try a genre that otherwise faces a lot of prejudice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg I could talk about this topic of romance covers all day! I agree, I love the new illustrated covers we’re getting and the fact that people are picking up romance books more because of it. And I also think it’s interesting how much prejudice is tied to those og romance covers and how people are willing to read the same content with these new covers. It’s so interesting. Oh and I constantly see RW&RB on YA lists – it’s so weird how the book was just perceived as YA, because it wasn’t necessarily marketed as a straight up romance.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know – that book is on so many YA lists and it’s so confusing. I think people just assumed it was YA because of the cover and the fact that the marketing wasn’t explicitly focused on letting everyone know it was NA 🤷🏻‍♀️

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  6. I love the topic of this post! At first I thought it was going to be about the complete and utter lack of marketing that some books get (a whole different topic!) but you bring up some awesome points, especially with the comp titles- I’m so tired of the same few titles being used to describe EVERY new release. For a while there everything was being pitched as “The Fault in Our Stars meets X” and it honestly made me want to not even read the new releases because I wanted something fresh, not just the same old stories. Also, it can be a total turn off to some readers if they don’t like the comp titles, which is sad because often times (I find at least) they’re really not that similar to the titles they’re compared too…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh the lack of marketing for some books is also a really interesting topi to discuss! And that’s such a good point that some people might be turned off by some comp titles, even if the book isn’t similar to those titles. That had definitely happend to me before with the marketing of some books. Thank you so much, glad you enjoyed the topic!

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