The Beyonce Debate

The music world is very much like the book world in many respects. Big names garner huge sales without much effort, and little names usually need a lot of publicity to make their mark. In December, a music great did something not many people would have the nerve to try, and it worked out for her spectacularly!

If you haven’t heard about Beyonce and the self-titled album she released in mid-December, you probably don’t listen to Top 40 radio. But she did something daring—instead of months of promotion leading up to the album release, Beyonce used Instagram and posted a video and the word “Surprise!” on the day of the release. Nothing more. No one knew about the album, it had an exclusive release on iTunes (meaning, you could only buy it there), and best of all, she did no other marketing at all. The one photo caused an all-out frenzy and people went directly to iTunes to download, making it one of the top selling albums of 2013, even though it was only released in the final few weeks of the year. Amazing, by any standards!


Of course, she’s such a superstar and has such a following that it wasn’t impossible for this to succeed in her case. It was risky, but it paid off. The debate is on now, however, about other musicians doing something similar, and whether or not it would work now that it’s been done. Was it great just because it was a gimmick? Could she do the same for her next album and still do as well? Only time will tell, but the idea of not spending money on marketing has got to be throwing publicity departments everywhere into a tailspin.

The question here is whether or not companies need to be throwing HUGE publicity/marketing money behind sure-sellers who have proven themselves to have enormous followings. This idea is starting to make the rounds on forums and websites galore. Can they go with minimal marketing and still sell high, while that money could be thrown into lesser-known acts who often get very little in the way of marketing funds and publicity? Sure, record companies want all of their acts to sell big, but they don’t want to “waste” marketing money on someone who might not sell as many albums. It’s a tough decision, and certainly one that’s just been challenged.

This can all be applied to authors and publishing companies as well. If an author has already sold well and has a proven track record, more money will be spent promoting the author’s books in stores, online and through whatever media necessary.  But a new author—even one with a lot of buzz—will traditionally get less backing from their publisher for marketing. That seems a little counterproductive. Beyonce’s experiment has many wondering whether this is an old idea that might do well to change. If publishing companies spent less sending bigger authors out on book tours etc., would we stop buying those books? I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t keep looking for new books from my favourite authors just because I haven’t seen a full page ad in a magazine talking it up. But I WOULD be inclined to pick up a book by a new author that has some promotion behind it. Often, we find out about these books through word of mouth. It’s not enough, in my opinion.

The world is changing, and social media is becoming the way to connect authors/musicians with their fans. One tweet, one status update or one selfie on Instagram is often enough to generate thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. Maybe we’d do better to start focusing some social media marketing on well known names, and leave the traditional marketing to promote the lesser known.

What do you think about new creative ideas for promotion and marketing? Do you think lesser known authors would benefit from more backing, while not taking anything away from high-profile authors? Do we need to change our thinking behind promotion and social media? Join the conversation!


I came across an interesting concept this morning regarding librarians as salespeople.  The article was mainly about how librarians should really be promoting the library and its resources that are available to the public and the argument that the world doesn’t need more pushy salespeople.  This really struck a chord with me as lately, I’ve been popping into school after school for various education or theme-specific events and I have to promote the library.  It is usually sort of unsuccessful, and I’ll tell you why.

We often have discussions at our children’s librarians meetings about how to get into the schools to promote the library.  They can be heated discussions or just logistical, noting that just calling a school to ask  to visit can be very successful or not really at all, depending on the climate of the school or even the mood of the person you talk with.  If only they could see how important it is for the schools to be connected with the public library, we always say.  We have so many great resources and programs that would actually help their students as well as make life a bit more interesting, and for the most part, we are FREE!  How could they not want to deal with us?

When I go to an event at a school, often it is not managed well and either I am stuck off in a corner by myself or back in an isolated room.  And even when I get a prime location, no matter what exciting things I have on my display table or how I try to drag people over to see what we have to offer, people often end up just walking by, trying to avoid my eyes.  Why are they looking like I want to have a lengthy discussion with them about the weight of paper?  What is so bad about the library that they feel they need to ignore it altogether?  I swear, I could do a dance around the table and still, people would just walk on by.  I often end up talking with people who already come to the library or thrusting handfuls of brochures and bookmarks at anyone who even approaches the table.  Do we need to have prize draws or free samples of books just to BRIBE people to the table?

So should we be better salespeople in order to get people to the library?  I think in some ways it wouldn’t matter.  Libraries aren’t the deadly quiet, boring, insignificant places that people assume they are.  Libraries today are relevant and exciting and modern and best of all…!  We have more than just books; many libraries have movies, video games, computers, music, special events, artwork and especially, we have fabulous people to talk with and help serve you better.  So how do we get that message out there?  Where else can you go to have fun…for free….take something home….for free….learn something….for free or just expand your world for a while….for free!  I don’t know any other place like this on earth, except for school, possibly, so maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe there is a bit of protectiveness there (I won’t say jealousy) that just can’t be avoided.  And the people that already come to the library know the great reasons for visiting.  The ones that never darken our doors THINK they know.

If people don’t want to hear what we have to say about the library, another pushy salesperson is not going to make them want to visit any faster.  They need to decide to come to us of their own free will, their own choice when they see just how much it could enrich their lives.  But I’m thinking of getting some prizes for my next venture into schools.  Can’t hurt……