Unless you live under the Rock of Gibraltar you probably heard that Beyoncé released a new album.
Instead of the usual massive fanfare, with advertising, talk shows, billboards, sandwich boards, carrier pigeons, mimes, and cereal box prizes, Beyoncé’s new eponymous album just appeared on iTunes. Her entire advertising campaign for the launch of the album consisted of this Instagram.
Despite retailers such as Target and Amazon throwing a fit because of the iTunes early exclusivity, Beyoncé (the album) has sold 1.3 million copies, making it one of the bestselling albums of 2013 even though it was released on December 12th.
Now, obviously this strategy worked because Beyoncé is Beyoncé. She’s already at the top of her game, she has millions of followers, and the unorthodox nature of her release generated a ton of publicity on its own.
Still, there are implications for the traditional book world. It’s hard to overstate the amount of money that is spent publicizing books by already-bestselling authors. There are authors who are going to be bestsellers even if they released a copy of the phone book, and yet publishers routinely spend a huge amount of marketing dollars advertising them.
Would that money be better spent on trying to bump lower- or middle-level authors up a rung on the ladder? Should publishers be investing in potential breakouts instead of the sure successes?
You tell me. It’s not a simple matter, as the big name authors often pick the publisher that will deliver the biggest marketing, fueling this cycle. But here’s hoping some publishers make like Beyoncé and save their marketing money for the authors who need it most.