The Women's National Book Association hosted a panel March 29 on "Digital Marketing and PR in Book Publishing: Driving Buzz and Sales," covering the most efficient ways to blend books and technology for promotional purposes. The panel featured Iris Blasi, digital media manager at Hilsinger Mendelson East, Lydia Hirt, marketing manager at G.P. Putnam's Sons/Riverhead, Kelly Leonard, Hachette's v-p and executive director for web strategies, and moderator Susannah Greenberg, WNBA-NYC's publicity chair and president of Susannah Greenberg Public Relations.
Two digital marketing outlets that have fallen out of favor among the panelists: author blogs and Google+. "I've been going away from author blogs," said Hirt, citing that "book bloggers really own their territory" (meaning authors would be better served getting an established book blogger to cover their books rather than doing it themselves) and that an author's time can be much better utilized on more interactive, less time consuming digital platforms like Twitter and Facebook. However, Leonard, in a point echoed by the other panelists, stated that she believes an author website, even if it's just a splash page that links to the author's other social media accounts, is worthwhile as a home base. For Google+, Leonard stated, "There's no traction there," after which Blasi added: "It had a lot of potential, but it didn't pick up in the way people thought," saying that it's not as social as other outlets. Blasi, speaking to the more general point about how to tailor your social media outreach, said: "Really think about where your audience is and go to it." To this end, Google+ might be a valuable platform for a tech/business book, since that seems to be the kind of title that plays to the users of Google+. Similarly, Pinterest's visual layout would be an ideal fit for an illustrated book.
The content of your social media outreach was also a large point of discussion. One of the main takeaways stressed by the panelists was that social media is about conversation, not just dissemination. Forever Romance, Grand Central's romance imprint, uses hastags and more personal tweets to give a voice and personality to their Twitter account. As an example, Leonard said that instead of tweeting "come to this author's reading," to tweet "come join us for this author's reading." Leonard added that three out of five Hachette tweets or Facebook posts aren't about their own content. Hirt mentioned a Facebook promotion Putnam ran for The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen, in which they gave away a galley of the book to one person in all 50 states to tie-in with the book's itinerant narrative that spans much of the U.S. Said Blasi, summing up social media's function as a two-way street: "Voice is solidified with interaction."