New trends are emerging in the book market, all centered on the integration of physical and digital channels. All of this is reflected in a new marketing strategy for the publishing industry. We’ll look at the most effective strategies in this post. 

Book publishing, when you think about it, is one of the oldest industries in the world, from Gutenberg’s invention of printing in the second half of the 15th century, until today. 

The other side of the coin is that it is a sector that often struggles more than others to evolve rapidly, to become fluid, flexible, and dynamic as our times require.  

And “our times” are those of Digital Transformation: An major turning point that has changed the way we  produce, consume, and relate to ourselves and to others. Naturally, it is also changing how we read and, more generally, to the book itself

Beware, though: The issue is by no means limited to the shift from physical to digital books (a shift that, by the way, is proving to be slower and far less inexorable than it appeared years ago). Far from it!

For the publishing industry, instead, it’s a matter  of placing physical and digital side by side, make them coexist and interact, have a cross-channel strategy. 

It is therefore a question of triggering a virtuous circle in which the two sides reinforce one another.  

This integration must involve the entire supply chain and all processes, from production to distribution and sales (in this period of emergency, online sales have recorded a predictable surge, consolidating a trend that was already growing steadily; we’ll return to this in the next section). 

Above all, however, digital plays a key role in a marketing strategy for publishing. And it’s here that there are the most interesting opportunities for operators in the sector. Opportunities that are, for the most part, yet to be seized.

It is precisely on this aspect, therefore on book publishing and marketing strategies, that we will focus in this post. 

First, however, let’s take a small step back and quickly see how much the publishing industry has taken the brunt of this complicated period and how it has reacted. Be warned, there are many interesting signs in this data! 


Book publishing before and after Covid 

Let’s consider the data provided by the Report on the State of Publishing in Italy by AIE (the Italian Publishers Association). In 2018, the total turnover of the book market had increased by +3.0% over the previous year. The trend continued then in 2019, with +2.8% that brought the total turnover of the sector to €3.037 billion. 

Then came 2020, a very complicated year that was ravaged from the very first months by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And yet, in this emergency context, very interesting data emerged. One out of all: The sector grew again, by 2.4% compared to 2019. 

This is a truly important result if you consider that from January to April the sector’s turnover had plummeted by 20%. The recovery came as early as June: – 11%. By September, the year-on-year losses had fallen further, to reach -7%. At the end of the year, it’s positive with the +2.4% we mentioned earlier. 

This recovery and this stability should give the players in the sector pause for thought. They contain many positive signs; and that they stem largely from the unprecedented exploitation of digital. 

  • From January to April, with the closure of many bookstores, online sales accounted for 48% of the total (compared to 27% in 2019… we’re talking almost double). 
  • The trend has not been halted by reopenings: In July, online sales still made up 44% of the total. 
  • eBooks saw 27% year-over-year growth. 
  • Then, pay attention to podcasts and audiobooks, which are often enjoyed through dedicated platforms based on subscriptions: For this branch, the increase over 2019 was even 94%. 


FREE EBOOK – Why podcasts will transform our consumption habits


Then we come to the bookstore front: There’s no point in hiding, the economic damage here has been significant. Yet, even here, if you go deeper, interesting trends emerge. In the face of the growth of e-commerce giants like Amazon, the neighborhood bookstores are holding up well (chain bookstores have often been penalized by their location in historic city centers, or in any case in places with high traffic).  

To be even more precise: Bookshops are holding up well, even very small ones, which have managed to reinvent themselves, opening online shops and providing home delivery services, but also making their online presence felt, especially on social networks, with streaming presentations, remote reading groups, promotional videos, and the involvement of small or large influencers

In short, companies who have been able to be flexible and integrate an effective digital strategy have resisted and relaunched, for sales, of course, but also and above all for marketing and communication. And we know how closely these two aspects are related. 

The lesson is valid for large or small bookstores and for independent and chain bookstores, and it’s very clear: Today, marketing for publishing is played almost entirely on digital. Rather, it’s played out at the intersection of paper and digital. And it’s all about finding the right mix. 


Digital Marketing strategy for publishing: The winning channels and strategies 

So, this period is hinting at some interesting trends. Those involved in creating marketing strategy  for the publishing industry know that it’s all about keeping your eyes open and seizing opportunities before and better than others. And –as we have already said – today’s opportunities are mainly digital. 

First of all, for publishing houses (and for book sellers) it’s important to take care of the website, with absolute and surgical attention to the SEO side. 

Maximum care also for online shops: Of course, tools such as Amazon or other e-commerce portals are indispensable; but setting up an internal shop that is personalized and well optimized in an ominichannel way, guarantees higher revenues (also because of disintermediation) and – above all -it  is the first step to aim at a greater loyalty of one’s readers. This is a decisive point, on which there is still a long way to go. 

Remember: Loyalty is also becoming increasingly digital, from the point of view of data and personalization (and we’ll focus on this decisive aspect at the end of this post). 

Upstream, however, it is necessary to pay the utmost attention to the methods that lead to the purchase, to the so-called digital Customer Journey. 

SEO optimization goes in this direction,  but it’s just one of the aspects at stake. 

Among the most effective digital marketing strategies, it is good to implement: 

Even better if it’s conducted in a way that is increasingly tailored to the user (and, again, here the central factor of personalization returns). Cold emails that are the same for all recipients are much less effective than those aimed at increasingly specific targets, at segments selected based on their characteristics, their previous purchases, their behavior and their preferences. This is what we mean by data-driven marketing.  

  •  Social Media Marketing.  

Publishers can no longer forgo a well-constructed social strategy. Readers are increasingly present on  social media channels. It’s where they meet, exchange opinions, interface with authors, but also with booksellers, and attend video-streaming presentations. 

In this regard, try to implement a video-marketing strategy: it is increasingly important. Videos are the most attention-grabbing content type on social, and the one with the best engagement rates. 

(We’ll dedicate one of our next articles in this block to video-marketing for the publishing industry). 

  •  Book influencers.  

This point is closely linked to the previous one. On social media — and in particular on Instagram — the phenomenon of influencers is now consolidated for the world of books as well, and this makes it important to start collaborations here. Again, the point is not to “shoot in the dark.” The influencer marketing ecosystem, in fact, is becoming increasingly layered and specialized, and it’s often more effective (and convenient) to interface with micro-influencers, than those who are defined as top influencers. This is because micro-influencers generally have a smaller fan base, but one that is much more loyal and involved. These influencers  are perceived as more “authentic,”and therefore closer to the reader. 

Proximity (even and especially digital) to the individual reader is the way to go when it comes to book publishing and marketing strategies. 

Moving from data to personalization 

This is a decisive point, on which we will focus at length in the next posts on the Publishing Industry.  

The real engine of Digital Transformation, in fact, lies in something very simple: Data. This is the enormous amount of “digital traces” that we all leave online every day. For example, when we search on Google, when we express preferences on social networks, when we make purchases, when we leave feedback on Amazon, when we geolocate ourselves, perhaps through dedicated apps… These are just a few examples of the digital traces we leave online. 

This is the starting point for those marketing for publishing today: Use your data to get to know your audience.  


Publishing industry: The importance of marketing for publishers

The point of arrival, finally, is the person: the reader.  

In your marketing strategy for the publishing industry, marketers must learn about individuals and move from a one-to-many to a one-to-one perspective. With the most advanced digital tools, today, this can be done even when facing very large audiences. 

That’s exactly what Doxee, a company that specializes in data-driven marketing and personalization, is all about.  

The tools are many: From personalized videos, built based on individual recipients and interactive (Doxee Pvideo®) to personalized micro-sites (Doxee Pweb®). There are many possible applications, and we’ll return to those in upcoming posts. 

The direction to take is clear: To transform data into relationships in order to get closer and closer to readers. It’s a path that passes through physical and digital channels… together. 


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