Several decades ago, cable TV promised not to show ads. That fell apart. Then premium channels like HBO and Showtime vowed no ads and then they show them in between movies and shows. Then streamer Hulu vows no ads during a show or movie — and then it created a version with commercials that cost consumers less money. Netflix indicates it will allow for commercials soon. Eventually, content providers must resort to showing advertising, either to generate revenue or to promote its own programming.
When will the book publishing industry discover this maxim?
It is long overdue that every book carry advertisements, but many bibliophile purists, some bookstores, and a handful of consumers balk at the notion. Ads are for newspapers, diner placemats, church newsletters, and billboards — not books — they say.
Everything eventually turns to ads and sponsorships.
* Sports teams sell ads everywhere — in their yearbook, scorecard, media guide, home run fence, the stands, the uniforms, on television, on radio, stadium naming rights, etc. Product pushes are even done during a broadcast in between plays. Some major sporting events were even renamed to include a corporate sponsor, such as autoracing’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and tennis’ Citi Tournament.
* School yearbooks and some educational materials have ads and sponsors.
* Radio shows, magazines, blogs, podcasts, videos, and websites have plenty of ads and commercials. Comic books, too.
* Playbills and event programs are filled with ads.
* Campuses, hospitals, and museums advertise sponsors and big donors.
* There are ads even on store receipts.
They are everywhere.
Dogs pooping ads? Women birthing babies with ad tattoos? Chewing gum bubbles depicting ads? Ice cubes with ads?
Well, maybe not, but don’t put it past a marketer not to contemplate such possibilities.
However, one sacred cow out there needs to be revisited: books.
Over one billion books are sold annually in the United States. Most of them do not contain advertising, certainly not printed books by the mainstream publishing houses. Think of the lost opportunities, especially when some books sell hundreds of thousands and millions of copies.
Most books are read more than once by the owner, and often are shared with other people or they get donated or resold. So a billion new books sold could lead to several billion readings.
Most books are not local or regionalized, unless you want a guide to California beaches, Dallas BBQ restaurants, or historic landmarks in Boston. So, local ads are limited, but nationwide, lots of companies could advertise, from Apple and Starbucks to Tesla and Nike.
The drawbacks, however, aside from the local problem, is the ads need to be more evergreen branding pieces as opposed to advertising a specific product. Some products get upgraded or discontinued, so over time, the ad becomes outdated. Another issue is sales. Most discounts are offered over a short period of time. A sale could end before one even opens a book.
Still, these branding ads could be used to generate loyalty subscriber sign-ups or they can offer an across-the-board consumer discount or coupon — with no expiration date.
If the ad price is cheap enough, publishers can sell a lot of these. Often, publishers have several blank pages in their books. There may be blank pages in between chapters, at the end of a book, or in the front matter after the title page. There may also be space at the bottom of the last page of a chapter or at the top of the first page of each chapter. Books are typically printed in signatures of 32, 16, and 8 pages. That is why all book page counts are divisible by eight. There almost always contain some empty pages waiting to be used.
But, with ads come some complications:
* The reader’s oasis and bid to shut the world out gets disturbed if ads become commonplace.
* Some authors may balk at whom publishers allow to advertise. Will writers have any say?
* Will advertisers start to influence or shape the content that it is willing to commit to support?
* Will authors demand a cut of the ad revenue?
* Will some readers or authors make demands on publishers about which ads they will support and won’t, whether due to a product’s quality or a corporation’s politics?
* Will books get pulled if advertisers get sued for something and the ad can no longer run?
Still, my bet is that publishers wake up to the ad revenue that they routinely leave on the table. It is just too big to ignore — and as profit margins get tighter in this high-inflation era, ads will need to be seriously looked at.
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at [email protected] He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand. He has 30 years of experience in successfully helping thousands of authors in all genres.
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2022. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This blog, with over 4,000 posts over the past decade, was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a “best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: .