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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Published novelist forced to market like self-publisher

I met novelist Kenn Bivins at an online book marketing forum, where we talked about the challenges of marketing PIOUS (Two Harbors Press, Oct. 2010), his debut novel about forgiveness and redemption.

Although his book was published by a traditional publisher, he’s had to do the marketing himself, just like a self-published author.

Unless you’re already an established author with a strong marketing platform, you’ll probably receive only the bare minimum of marketing support from your publisher. It’s one of the things authors complain about the most. When you need the support you can’t get it. When you don’t need it, you get millions of dollars in advertising and publicity.

Although Kenn shares the same marketing challenges as self-published authors, he has one huge advantage: he’s an art director at JWT, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. He’s responsible for overseeing and executing the design and development of the firm’s interactive work.

Kenn knows how marketing works, and in the following interview he shares his insights and experiences. 

THE CELEBRITY EDITOR: What kind of marketing support have you received from your publisher?

KENN BIVINS: I'm not entirely happy with my publisher because they're a bit passive about marketing from what I can see. I'm seeing my book in a lot of places online and offline but I'm not sure, other than wide distribution, what else is being done to promote my book. I work in advertising so I have high expectations that seem to have exceeded the capabilities of my publisher.

EDITOR: Do you feel author branding has a place in your marketing or in the writing of your novels?

KB: I'm learning that it's ALL about branding myself instead of my novel. I plan on creating a body of work, and I want to draw an audience to me and not one particular book. With fiction, readers are interested in the author. If they love one book, they will pretty much read anything that author writes. I know as a reader, that's how I behave. I have to remember that as an author with my own marketing. I'm still developing my approach on author branding as I put together collateral for the festival and book signing season next year. I will need a PR person to multiply my efforts and reach. Do you know any good, affordable, and available PR people?

EDITOR: Um, we’ll talk. As you’re in advertising you have an edge on most writers when it comes to marketing know-how. What advertising principles have you applied to the marketing of your own book?

KB: Repetition is the one principle that I'm using with PIOUS. The typical human attention span responds to a concept or idea after it has been presented seven times. I have the challenge of marketing PIOUS while not appearing annoying or intrusive. This is where getting book reviews and having other people talk about PIOUS comes into play. If I can get other people to talk about PIOUS while I'm talking about PIOUS, then people will go in a book store or browse online and say, "Hey. There's that book, PIOUS. Let me see what that's all about." So by the time my second novel is released, people who have read PIOUS will recognize my name and hopefully want to read more from me.

EDITOR: Did you have a marketing platform before getting the book deal? Was a marketing platform important to your publisher?

KB: I had to present to my publisher what my marketing plan was and that included social networking, book festivals, blog proliferation, national book club penetration, and book reviews.

EDITOR: What kinds of low-cost things are you doing to promote your book online and offline?

KB: I think grassroots marketing still reigns supreme and that entails being seen. Social networking has put me in touch with a lot of people that potentially want to read my book. Also, I plan on making myself available to book clubs on a national level. 

The biggest low-cost way to promote myself has more to do with promoting others outside of myself. I believe that helping others not only gives my brand more value, it also helps me to grow on a spiritual level.

EDITOR: Can you see yourself publishing your own books in the future (since you're doing so much of the work anyway – writing, illustration, marketing)?

KB: I haven't ruled out self-publishing, but I would do it ONLY if I had help on the marketing end. I'm new to the realm of publishing, but if I'm honest, I'm also big on quality control so who knows?

For purchasing information and more, visit Kenn's website at Piousbook.com.


  1. Bookselling has changed...I'm not sure why anyone concentrates on selling one book at a time anymore.

  2. Bookselling HAS changed but grassroots marketing remains the same. Good old fashioned word-of-mouth leads to viral sales. Pass the word about PIOUS, a novel by Kenn Bivins.

  3. Kenn, unfortunately that grassroots approach that is implied here IS selling ONE book at a time. As Dr. Phil says "How's that workin' for ya" :) Shake the old schemata in an effort to broaden your scope.

    No one has ever engaged in a grassroots movement to buy anything especially books - Grassroot movements are successful because people buy ideals that resonate with them - they buy ideals they believe in. Grassroots movement would probably occur if you share what YOU believe about this book - and then maybe people can get behind it.

    Now that I spent time on this response I think I'm going to add a few more words and turn it into a blog lol

  4. I decided to start a blog series "How to build a following" First entry: http://bit.ly/h5oaTo