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Marketing and Promotion
Pricing Books
ISBNs, Bar Codes, etc.
The Publisher's Marketing Strategy
Promoting the Title

No book sells itself. From initial acceptance, to design, to print-run size, to promotional budget, marketing considerations pervade the publishing process. The most important are outlined below.


To estimate the size of a title's print-run, publishers first consider each of these factors:

  1. Potential size of audience
  2. Past sales of similar titles
  3. Advance orders for the book
  4. Promotion plans
With these factors in mind, publishers estimate best- and worst-case scenarios for sales, and decide on a print-run size. In this decision, distributors and wholesalers often have useful opinions. The general rule is to guess low and save money. If sales are strong, the publisher can always go back for a second printing, which will be cheaper, as setup is already done.

Pricing Books

The publisher's retail price must reflect several factors:

  • An analysis of what buyers are willing to pay for books of similar scope by competitors in the same subject area
  • The projected sales, including worst- and best-case scenarios
  • The book's unit cost, which common printing, warehousing, and shipping. For the first run, publishers also add development, production, and overhead
  • The unit cost of sales, including sales commissions, distributor, wholesaler, and bookstore discounts, promotional copies, etc.
  • A reasonable expectation of profit

If the market for the title is less than 1,000 copies, it may be more economical to print copies digitally. Another possibility is to forego the bookstore market and only sell the title to specialty markets at a lower discount.

ISBNs, Bar Codes, etc.

ISBN: Distributed by R.R. Bowker, the International Standard Book Number identifies each book with a unique number. They are purchased inexpensively in blocks of 10, 100, or 1,000.

ABI Forms: Filling out Advanced Book Information forms, provided by R.R. Bowker, gets your book listed in Books in Print, Forthcoming Books in Print, and Subject Guide to Books in Print, which are used by most libraries and bookstores.

Library of Congress Number: This number, assigned by the CIP Office at the Library of Congress, allows the book to be tracked by people using the Library's catalog system, and is essential for library trade. It is free, but publishers are expected to send a complimentary copy of the book immediately upon publication.

Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) Data: This data, provided free by the CIP Office at the Library of Congress, is printed on the copyright page and helps librarians catalog the book.

Bar Codes: The book industry--especially the retail side--is computerized, and needs bar codes. They can be obtained via several manufacturers, such as FOTEL and Precision Photography, and are usually printed directly onto the back cover of the book.

The Publisher's Marketing Strategy

A publisher's marketing department develops strategies and tactics to address the following issues:

  • Market positioning, including specifics on competitive titles and pricing, all potential sources of sales, and buyer expectations and trends
  • Book covers and the sales catalog, the visual presentation of new titles
  • Sales contracts with book distributors, online sales resources, specialty gift and sales catalogers, book clubs, and specialty groups
  • Acquiring new authors and titles--the goal being to identify the best markets and determine how the publisher should promote and advertise each title
  • Direct mail marketing

Promoting the Title

Some publishers employ publicists to manage the publicity campaign for the publishing house or specific titles. For each new title the publicist performs these tasks:

  • Researches new title and author information to develop press kits for newspapers, selected magazines, radio, television, and online media
  • Makes follow-up calls to potential reviewers and organizes author interviews and readings
  • Keeps the publisher and author well informed about events and publicity related to the book
Many promotional activities, such as readings, radio interviews, and book signings, are also undertaken by the author.


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