View Full Version : The difference between marketing, publicity, and self-promotion

01-11-2012, 04:56 PM
The definitions and distinctions of marketing, publicity, and self-promotion have come up quite a bit lately in discussions in the Roundtable, E-Publishing, and Self-Publishing forums.

Would it be possible to have a sticky thread in which someone more knowledgeable than me defines the terms so that that we can refer back to it when our brains break?

01-11-2012, 05:04 PM
Here's my take:

Marketing = what publishers aim at bookshops

Publicity = what publishers aim at the reading public

Self-promotion = what authors aim at the reading public

Michael Davis
01-11-2012, 06:15 PM
My take: self promo is one of the mechanism done specifically by the author to achieve the other two. Publicity is aimed at establishing a base/branding. "Marketing" is everything done by author/ agent/publisher/store to sell your books. But JMO.

01-11-2012, 06:29 PM
Marketing: selling stuff to people who buy stuff

Publicity: selling stuff to people who tell people to buy stuff

Self-promotion: selling yourself to people who buy stuff, or people who tell people to buy stuff

Self-promotion (modern): Tweeting, facebooking and blogging about stuff that isn't related to your book, in the hopes that people will like You The Person enough to bother finding out that you have a book, and then buy it

Self-promotion (bad): Tweeting, facebooking and blogging BUY MY BOOK. forever and ever, until the internet tells you to shut up.

[I'll be serious later, after I've had way more coffee...]

01-11-2012, 06:49 PM
Since I'm thinking about it now, might as well elaborate. :tongue

Marketing: selling stuff to people who buy stuff

Marketing is aimed directly at the consumer -- in writers' cases, it's the reader. Your website, for example, is a marketing tool. If you're going it alone (without a publisher who can get you bookstore placement), there isn't a lot of actual marketing you'll be doing for your book. Most of your promo efforts are going to be in publicity and self-promotion.

End-cap displays, posters, bookmarks and various personalized promotional items, banner and other paid ads -- those are marketing tools, because they're intended to generate interest from consumers (readers).

Publicity: selling stuff to people who tell people to buy stuff

Publicity is generally done through a third party, usually "the media". Radio and newspaper interviews, blog appearances, pretty much any mentions of you/your book that don't come from your own website or blog is publicity. Publicity is making the public aware of your product (book) so that consumers (readers) will remember it when they see it, and hopefully buy it.

Self-promotion: selling yourself to people who buy stuff, or people who tell people to buy stuff

Self-promotion includes any personal efforts you put into the marketing (developing your website, buying ads, using social media) or publicity (scheduling interviews or blog appearances, throwing an internet hissy fit, saving orphans) of your product (book).

Self-promotion also sucks the big hairy one when you're trying to do it effectively, but that's beside the point. :D

01-11-2012, 07:15 PM
Here's how I see it:

Marketing is about identifying the customer and pitching a product to them. It's a very broad term and includes lots of activities, most of which are focused on connecting to a customer and directly trying to interest them in your product.

So in the University where I work, the Marketing department works with advertising agencies to "brand" the Uni, come up with posters and visuals and produce prospectus for different departments. Their focus is outwards to prospective students/parents of students; their aim is to try and interest them in attending the University.

For a book, marketing is directed towards readers (selling books to bookstores would probably fall under the remit of Sales - closely linked to Marketing in many cases). Marketing identifies readers who might be interested in the book ("Fans of <author> will love <new author>'s debut novel, I'll Never Be An Emo Vampire!") and tries to sell it to them directly (posters, blurbs, events, release 'buzz')

Publicity is the public discussion of a product. Where I work in the Press Office of the University, our job is to generate publicity. We do this by writing press releases and pitching stories to the media about what the Uni is doing. When the Uni is mention in public (i.e. the news/on a TV show/etc) and that message doesn't come directly from the Uni itself (as with Marketing) then it's publicity and it benefits us and our reputation. Having your product discussed by third parties without your (apparent) direction is generally considered good exposure.

For a book, generating publicity would involve trying to interest the press in running stories or features about it (shopping the ARCs out for book reviews, giving interviews with the author, having signing events and inviting journalists). You are looking for any mention of the book by someone not the publisher or author - a third party endorsement of the product.

Publicity is a double edged sword, especially in the internet age - it's very hard to control what the general public is saying about your product. You can't keep them "on message" as you would with a Marketing department. When you send the book out for reviews, there's always the chance it will be utterly slated.

Self-Promotion is the work you do yourself to market or publicise your work. You might self-market by directly advertising your book, or self-publicise by ringing round media outlets offering to give interviews.

In the context of the book discussion, self-promotion would just be anything the author takes upon themselves to do in order to further sales of their book. Self publishers obviously will have to do all their own marketing, and try to generate publicity for themselves, but any of their efforts could be classed as "self-promoting" because they do it all themselves. For an author with a professional publisher, much of the promotional work is done by the marketing and press departments of the publishing house - they will have to do very little self-promo work, probably talking about the book on their blog or mentioning it in tweets or whatever.

Obviously the exact amount of self-promotion an author is expected to do will vary depending on their particular circumstances and arrangement with the publisher. It's probably more likely they'll be asked to participate in the marketing strategy being run by the marketing department rather than go it alone on the internetz. But this will depend on the situation.

Just my take on the matter. I'm sure others can add/correct where they see fit.

01-11-2012, 11:30 PM
So in a US Big Six publisher, there is generally a "Marketing" division (sometimes a "Marketing and Sales" division), and a "Publicity" division.

The folks in Marketing/Marketing and Sales work with the businesses that sell books, getting them to stock the publisher's titles and to promote them with things like end-cap displays, etc. (for bricks-and-mortar stores) and banners, spotlights, sidebars, etc. (for online retailers). Carl Lennertz, VP of Indie Retailing for HarperCollins, is one of the few people in this kind of role who has a blog (http://publishinginsider.typepad.com/about.html).

Smaller presses (and some smaller imprints of the Big Six) may bring Marketing and Publicity into one division under one director or VP, but the tasks are still differentiated.

The Publicity division is responsible for getting information about the publisher's titles (and authors, in some cases--for example, when an author wins an award or does something else potentially newsworthy (http://vvsd.net/cornwell.htm)) out to the media. It's the folks in Publicity who send out review copies, who book authors on local and national radio and TV shows, who work to position authors as "experts" to be quoted by reporters, etc., etc.

01-12-2012, 12:36 AM
From my experience in the book context thus far:
Marketing: Calls to action, areas where you encourage purchase, download and subscription. Includes exchanges - freebies, giveaways, and discounts - all towards a specifically defined end goal. Usually focused on a product/book.

Publicity: Raises awareness of a product, person or topic. Provides details, but does not necessarily direct a viewer or consumer to an end goal. Publicity includes news stories, blog posts by other writers, reviews, and word of mouth.

Self-promotion: Draws attention to the personality behind a work. Includes blogging, writing for other publications, speaking appearances and workshops, handing out cards and social networking online and off.

This is what I've been operating from, in any case. Publicity I consider out of my hands at the moment, and marketing I'm learning. Self-promotion I think I have down pretty well.

01-12-2012, 12:41 AM
Hmm, I'm learning a ton from this thread!

I thought publicity is marketing you have to pay someone to do, and self-promotion is any publicity or marketing you do for yourself, rather than for a client.

To clarify my prior definitions:
Marketing -- mailing out flyers, etc. You create and distribute your own promotional materials.
Publicity -- purchasing ad time, etc. You pay someone else to promote your product.
Self-promotion -- doing the any of the above for your own benefit, rather than for someone who hired you to do it on their behalf.

01-12-2012, 03:37 AM
I've simplified all definitions for the sake of clarity, and as an introduction to three areas whose understanding is usually confused in general. Please note that there is (obviously) far more to each area than what I write here. If you need more information please take a look at the link and feel free to ask. I don't have all the answers, but there are far more knowledgeable and experienced marketing members than me.

Simplified text book definition of marketing: identify a consumer / customer need, meet and exceed that need's expectations.

Applied to books / publishing: fantasy readers require novels that include elements considered improbable in this reality.

Publicity: the visibility of the product that fulfills that identified need in the marketplace as identified by marketing.

Applied: where your novel can be seen by as many readers of your genre as possible.

Self-promotion: sales work as done by the individual.

Applied: you take out ads in the local paper, sell your book from the car boot, talk it up on forums and social networking sites, etc.

The three areas can be seen thus: strategy (marketing), tactics by the publisher or (paid) promotion agency, tactics by the individual.

For anyone who's curious, a truncated marketing plan explained and applied to publishing / novel: http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Vision47/Marketing101.htm

Hope this helps a bit.

P.S., article is mine and am a marketing person.

Anne Lyle
01-12-2012, 08:35 AM
Smaller presses (and some smaller imprints of the Big Six) may bring Marketing and Publicity into one division under one director or VP, but the tasks are still differentiated.

I shall tell my publicist he can call himself VP of Marketing - he's the only guy at the imprint whose sole responsibility it is to do marketing and publicity :D

Seriously, though, these are all helpful clarifications. In academic non-fiction publishing (my former career), "marketing and publicity" are that strange little department in the corner of the office who use completely different software from all the editorial and production staff (usually on Windows boxes instead of Macs), so I was never very sure what they got up to...