Advertising a book is a tricky thing. It’s completely different to how you would market any other type of media such as music or film, or anything else you might see an advert for – a holiday, a vacuum, a nice hat, and so on and so forth. So why exactly is advertising a book so bloody tricky? Books have been around for ages – surely by now someone has worked out how to advertise them effectively? Well, no – not really.

On the rare occasion that I see a TV ad for a book, I find it very odd. I remember the last one I saw was for Dan Brown’s new novel a few months ago. All the advert really did was show the book’s cover over some dramatic music. It didn’t say what it was about or offer much in the way of a reason to buy it – apparently the fact that it was written by the author of The Da Vinci Code was reason enough. You can watch it here if you like – though you’d be wasting twenty five seconds of your time that you could spend listening to the opening bars of Pure Shores.

The reason the Dan Brown advert sort of worked, though, is because it did everything it needed to. It told you that the author of The Da Vinci Code had a new book out. It assumes that that’s enough information for you to rush out and buy it – and for scores of people, that definitely was all the information they needed. But what about lesser known authors? A TV ad like this would never work. If you’re flogging a film, you can show a montage of the best scenes spliced with some exciting dialogue to give the viewer a real taste of what to expect. You can’t do that with a book. You can’t translate the text into visual media when everyone will imagine the characters, the setting and the events differently. Equally, you can’t read out snippets from the text. Not only would it be too time consuming, but it would sound ridiculous out of context. All in all, unless you’re as big and rich as Dan Brown, TV advertising is a no go for authors.

Similar problems arise when you consider other types of advertising, though. Loads of stuff, from holidays to washing machines are advertised on billboards – but this throws up just the same problems as TV adverts. Sure, you can show the cover of your book, and if the cover is really great, that might be enough to garner a few sales – but you’re limited to the extent that you can tell your reader what the book’s really about, and at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to sell it. With a washing machine, for example, you can show a snazzy image and maybe note a few features it has, and that’s all there is to it. A washing machine doesn’t have to tell a story – a book does.

Music is an odd example because more often the not, you hear a song in its entirety before you buy it. This makes sense – on average a song lasts about 3 and a half minutes, and unlike a book or a film, you’re likely to play it again and again and again – it’s only sensible that you make sure you like it before you part with your money. Holidays can be tricky too, in that they aren’t selling a product as such, but more of an experience. Still, a few shots of a generically good looking couple mooning around on a beach is generally all it takes to draw some interest. Books, on the other hand – where do you even start? They’re just lumps of bound paper, it’s hard to make them seem sexy.

Musicians generally stream their tracks so you can listen to them for free. If you like the track, maybe they’ll charge you to buy it. It makes sense, because people are happy to spend a few minutes listening to a song that they may or may not like. They wouldn’t be so happy to spend a few hours slugging through a book they only decided to read because it was free. And at the end of it they’d probably leave a shitty review on Amazon too – a death-blow to an up-and-coming writer.

So how can you effectively market a book? Sure you can list it on book blogs and harp on about it on Twitter, but this isn’t hugely effective, and it only reaches a limited audience. Frankly, I’m not sure, and I doubt anyone else is either. In my experience, the best thing you can do is try and win some good reviews and hope your mates will try and convince their friends to read it too. Until someone thinks of a better idea – that’s all I’ve got.

How do you think books should be advertised? Got any pro tips? Leave a comment below!

It’s hard to believe just how far publishing has come in the last five to ten years. The invention and popularity of eReaders has orchestrated an eBook revolution, changing the way millions of people all over the world consume literature. Books can be downloaded onto laptops, tablets and mobile phones for very low prices, or as is often the case, completely free. Publishing has dragged itself into the 21st Century, having remained more or less the same for decades. Before the invention and availability of the printing press (in around 1450), books had to be written out by hand, making publishing and distributing new literature an incredibly slow task. After Johannes Gutenberg’s invention though, books could be printed much quicker, and eventually mass produced, meaning thousands of people gained access to books and literacy levels increased.

Publishing hadn’t changed a whole lot until a few years ago, mostly because it didn’t need to. Books were quickly and widely produced and sold in brick and mortar retail outlets, and eventually online too. Even as little as seven or eight years ago, people simply could not have imagined that just a few years down the line, reading books on something called a Kindle or a Kobo would be commonplace, and many books would cost less than a bag of crisps.

So this got me thinking – if publishing has changed so much in just a few years, what can we expect in fifty or a hundred years time? Here are a few of my predictions…

Google Glass, a sort of computer in a pair of glasses, has got a lot of techies excited. Simply by slipping on a pair of specs, you can (or will be able to soon, anyway), access all kinds of content, as well take pictures, send messages and get directions. It’s possible then, that we’ll also be able to read books in the same way. The text would appear before our eyes as if by magic, and with a simple voice command, it would scroll up or down. Perhaps not long after that, we’ll have entire computers comprised of holographic images that we see by putting on a pair of glasses. Instead of clicking, or giving a voice command, just the wave of a hand would turn the virtual page. An entire catalogue of books could be stored in a pair of glasses that could be slipped into your pocket and put on at a moment’s notice.

Diving even further into the future, when technology and man eventually merge into one, by merely closing one’s eyelids, we may be able to see the pages of a book, handily downloaded onto the little microchip inserted into our brains at birth. And then of course, eventually, there will be no need for the process of reading at all, as it will be possible to simply download all the information contained in a book directly to our brains within a matter of nanoseconds, thus absorbing the knowledge, without ever having to read a single word.

Of course, all of this seems wildly unrealistic – but that’s just the point. Back in the early 15th century, merely having a book that wasn’t hand-written seemed impossible, never mind being able to hold thousands of books on a single device smaller than a sheet of A4 paper. Publishing is bound to change as technology and trends move forwards, and writers and publishers will have to keep up if they want to stay in business. But the really exciting thing is – like the people of the 15th century, we can’t even begin to imagine how it’s going to look.