Is “Package” Everything? Assembling the Puzzle

Talk to an editor about a book and it is likely the word “package” will come up before long. That’s because in today’s crowded marketplace (not to mention a weak economy), a book’s package determines a book’s success more than any other single factor.

First let’s define our terms. When we talk package in publishing, we are referring to a number of elements simultaneously.  Getting them right is as involved as putting together the pieces of the most complex puzzle. Here they are, in no apparent order: 

The title, subtitle, and jacket design: First impression is everything. Booksellers, the first group that a publisher has to sell (that is, buyers from Barnes & Noble, Border’s, Amazon, etc.), make their buying decisions on a picture of the book jacket, description of the book, the author, the author’s track record, etc. All of this appears in a one or two page spread in a catalog (spring, summer or fall) that features books that will be published 6-8 months down the road.    

The book itself: Content is king, but if the package isn’t right, the king gets dethroned. This means that unless you have the aforementioned elements right, the ultimate reader may never become aware of your book, and even if they do, may reject it out of hand because the book does not resonate with any particular audience. But of course the contents, the book’s organization, readability, tone, message, etc. must all be on point and on target. Any one aspect of the content being off can sink a book. But the biggest factor may be the hook, or “unique selling proposition” (USP) of the book. It must offer something that people cannot get anywhere else.   

The invisible part of the package: One of the most important aspects of the book does not appear on the publisher’s catalog page. That’s what the author will do to promote his or her own book, and it applies here when you define “package” in the broadest sense of the word. In today’s hyper-competitive times, one cannot rely totally on the publisher to promote a book. Most bestsellers happen because an author does many things to sell her own book, such as: give tons of speeches or conduct many seminars on the topic; creates a Website for the book; calls in chits from media friends at high profile publications to get book mentions and reviews; plays an active role in securing high profile testimonials (blurbs) for the book, etc. You get the idea. The author’s own marketing moves often spell the difference between success and failure for a business book.    

Come back Friday to get the rest of the story on how a business book’s package affects specific parts of the book’s campaign. 




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