Doc Martyn’s Soul: 4 steps to successful academic marketing

There is a common misconception that trade books require more marketing effort than scholarly books. It is a misconception because the effort is different not more or less. Books for academic audiences still benefit from innovative, well-thought out campaigns. Spending time on understanding what academic marketing entails, identifying the audience and the content most applicable, and using all parts of the marketing team to put the campaign into place is well worth it.

What is academic marketing?

Everything we do. Simple as that. Arguing that academic marketing is somehow different or separate or unique is not a good use of time and resources. Every part of your marketing efforts are multi-purposed and whether you publish five percent or ninety-five percent academic books those multi-purposed marketing tasks crossover between trade and scholarly books.

Know your audience.

Fairly obvious, but this is where academic marketing starts to diverge from trade marketing. While academics are quite possibly a small part of the audience for trade books, they are almost certainly the most important part of the audience for your scholarly books. Knowing what those scholars are doing, what’s trending, who are the thought leaders in that field, which schools dominate in undergraduate and graduate programs for that subject, and so on, is crucial. The more specialized and individualized you can make your academic marketing, the more you are speaking directly to the people who make buying decisions that will dramatically affect your sales. To make your marketing that targeted you have to know who you are targeting.

Tell your audience what they need to know.

Academics know their field of study but that does not mean they know they need your book. So tell them. Make it easy. Marketing communication needs to be to the point and filled with the specific information that is most relevant to an academic’s field of study, the classes he or she teaches, the next book on which they are working, and so on. It sounds obvious, and much of it is, but if you bury the “need-to-know” information in the third paragraph of an email that has no call to action or in between ten books in a one-page ad, you’re simply making that decision—you know, the one when they decide whether to buy a book or not—that much harder.

Use social media.

Yes, academics like social media, too. Revelation? Hopefully not. Just check out the proliferation of scholars on twitter; they’re using it to quickly share ideas, communicate about conferences, and so on. In fact, they use it just like the rest of us, which means that marketing teams should be using social to engage with scholars, just like we do with other audiences. Showing this group content, building communities around relevant (and linked) discussions, gently pointing them in the direction of suitable books makes social just as important in academic marketing as it is elsewhere.

The four things listed here need to be done in order to be successful. Simply expecting that a certain number of scholars or librarians will find out about the book and buy it for their research collection or their shelves is too reactive, too subtle. Identify the target market, tell them why they need the book, and engage with these people on multiple levels, just as you would for a trade book; you will formulate marketing campaigns for scholarly books that boost sales, brand identity, and reach.

Martyn