How Publishers Are Marketing Digital Audiobooks

As audiobook listeners increasingly turn to digital content, how do publishers catch those ears (and eyes), especially during the holiday gift-buying season? While a number of audiobook marketing executives say the aim of promotional efforts should be to draw attention to audio regardless of format, there are some different avenues that can be used to highlight digital editions.

The biggest challenge in the digital marketing scenario, according to Linda Lee, v-p and general manager for Scholastic Audio, is to give one’s programs an edge in a crowded field. “Since many digital distributors are able to offer hundreds of thousands of titles—compared to retail hard-copy resellers, who might have product SKUs only in the thousands—it is hard to have a title stand out,” she says. “Therefore we usually have to be far more aggressive with our promotions in the digital space.” As examples of means of drawing in consumers, she cites offering larger discounts and even free titles. “We try to focus these highly discounted and/or free offers on first-of-series titles,” she says, hoping to hook listeners who will want to purchase subsequent titles at full price at a later date.

Hachette Audio takes a similar tack: “One thing we do to promote digital audio is create special low-priced offers for download titles we know make great gifts, particularly when we have a tie-in moment—for example, when a new book in the series is coming out in hardcover, or when the title we’re downpricing is newly available in paperback,” says Megan Fitzpatrick, director of marketing and publicity.

At Tantor Audio, marketing manager Cassandra McNeil says that though she plans various discounts throughout the holiday shopping season, “the big digital focus for us comes after the holidays, where we can change the focus to asking, ‘Did you get a new MP3 player/audio device?’ and then offering sales to help listeners choose new titles for their new devices.”

Not surprisingly, such downloadable audio promotions are a perfect fit with social media, and the majority of publishers that PW spoke with mentioned targeting listeners via Facebook, Instagram, and SoundCloud, that latter of which, Fitzpatrick says, is “one of our most crucial social media channels—we have 386,000 followers.” Samantha Edelson, marketing director at Macmillan Audio, says that advertising on social media, as well as with bloggers or podcasts, as ways to extend the company’s digital reach. And Sarah Lieberman, v-p and marketing director for Simon & Schuster Audio, points to the role authors can play in the promotion process. “Many of our authors are increasingly supportive and excited about audio,” she says, and they work together to promote audio titles through the author’s various channels as well. To that end, Lieberman says that she and her team focus on procuring behind-the-scenes material—recorded interviews, videos, in-the-studio photos—that could be used for promotion, or even as bonus material for a published recording: “It’s on our mind for every single person that comes through the studio. We think it adds to the consumer sense of being a part of what we’re doing.”


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