This summer I returned to my hometown and one of my favorite literary communities to learn more about how small independent presses build brand awareness and market their books. Kore Press in Tucson, AZ, is well known in the community as being a leader of feminist publishing. As Kore’s marketing intern, I was given a firsthand look at how small indie publishers get creative to spread the word about their books.

I arrived at Kore in time to pick up on a backlist marketing campaign. In the past couple of years, Kore has published several wonderful books of poetry and fiction. One of the major ways Kore finds talented writers is through seasonal writing contests judged by lauded writers and poets such as Tracie Morris, Roxane Gay, Lidia Yuknavitch, and most recently, Cheryl Strayed. With books chosen by writers such as these, it makes marketing a much easier undertaking.

Publishers market their books through three types of media: paid, earned, and owned. Things such as print advertising, direct mail, and display are examples of paid media. Owned media are websites, blogs, or social media pages. Earned media are the hardest to get, and because of that, the most important. Word of mouth, Facebook comments, Twitter mentions, and reviews are examples of earned media. Getting earned media is a great way to gauge how much genuine excitement there is circulating about your press, book, or event. That’s not to say it’s all a shot in the dark, though. Marketers in the publishing industry work hard to write compelling copy about presses, books, and contests for press releases, blog posts, and social media messaging in an effort to garner excitement. This summer I saw how a press can work with a community to generate buzz about their work.

Tucson is a tight community, and I was impressed with Kore’s commitment to working with local professors, writers, artists, and makers to not only talk about their work, but also about how to make the community a more creative place as a whole. Before I arrived, Kore collaborated with a local musician and English professor to create a series of events about noise, including a performance by Tracie Morris. Kore regularly works with local printers, designers, and venues to share promotion and messaging through community events.

Working with Kore and the Tucson writing community made me think a lot about Ooligan Press and the Portland writing community. Ooligan often works alongside local authors and events, and it reminds me of what an advantage it can be to be a small press in an established literary town. I’m lucky again to live in a place with such an enthusiastic population of writers, and luckier still to live in a city that’s home to Wordstock, Powell’s, and community-oriented presses such as Forest Avenue Press. Smaller and independent publishers may not have all of the same resources of Big Five publishers, but in an industry that is fueled by creativity, smaller presses have proven that there are always new ways to reach readers.

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