How to Work with a Publicist

I was scrolling through some searches today, looking for different topics I might cover in this week’s blog.  I decided not to write about digital pr and marketing today.  Instead, I am going to talk about relationships.  Specifically, how to work with a publicist.

Don Hires a Publicist

Don is a first time author whose novel is being published by a small press.  He hires a publicist because he wants to make a name for himself and sell books.  He has a modest following on social media and he has contributed a few pieces to some small blogs.  He has a day job that takes most of his time, and writing the book was challenging.  Now that he knows he has a professional on his side, he is looking forward to making some money and hopefully signing a big publishing contract for the next book.

The Publicist understands that Don wants to get coverage for himself and his new book.  He thinks the book is terrific and has had really good success getting blog reviews and some small publications to cover a first time author.  Don agrees to a short contract for a review and interview campaign and The Publicist starts getting the word out.

Three months later, The Publicist has secured about a dozen hits on moderate level blogs and a review in an independent magazine.  He also got a brief Q&A on Don’s college alma mater’s website.  The Publicist was happy with the job, but Don was not.

Why Is Don Unhappy?

If I look back at the reasons why Don hired a publicist, it is clear why he is unhappy.  He hired a publicist to “make a name for himself and sell books.”  The Publicist heard that, and filed it away under “this is what every author wants, but everyone knows how this works”.  Each entity went into this relationship blind, with notions about the process that were not based in reality.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, here are some questions to ask a publicist that should help make your campaign a good experience.

10 Questions to Ask a Publicist

  1. In an ideal world, what kind of results can I expect?  What are some samples of coverage author like me receive?
  2. What will I need to do to help you succeed at your job?
  3. Will I make my money back?
  4. How many books will I sell, approximately?
  5. What services do you think I need?
  6. What services will you be providing?
  7. How long will it take?
  8. Can we schedule a phone call a month from now to go over how my campaign is going?
  9. Can I get my money back if I am not happy with the way things are going?
  10. Do you complete any tasks that are open at the end of the contract?

10 Answers You Should Hear From a Publicist

These are some answers you might hear to questions you ask a publicist.

  1. This answer is going to be book and author specific.  The kind of coverage you get will vary based on what the book is about, your background and experience, where you live, who you know, etc.
  2. This answer is also a bit specific, but at the very least the publicist will need a picture, a bio, a book jacket, a contact list from you if you have people who can help, and a copy of the manuscript or book for the publicist to read.
  3.  I can’t say for certain, but most authors do not earn back their marketing expenses on their first books.
  4. Publicists do not sell books.  Our job is to raise awareness of you and your book so that there are increasing opportunities for you to sell copies.
  5. This answer is going to be based on the job itself.
  6. This is going to be based on your budget and what the book needs
  7. Whichever contract term you select should be ample time to meet the deliverables outlined by the publicist.
  8. Yes, of course we like to have status meetings with our clients
  9. There is a cancellation clause in the agreement.  We can’t guarantee results, but we do not sell services that we do not feel we can provide effectively.
  10. If there are any leads that require additional follow up, we will make sure to follow through.

For more information on hiring publicists check out our blogs, How Much Does a Publicist Cost? and Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does? (previously printed in Publishers Weekly magazine)

 

Marketing Fiction: Beyond Book Reviews

At the recent Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) I gave a presentation on identifying major and minor themes that can help with marketing fiction.   Let’s face it.   For indie authors, book reviews in any traditional sense are difficult to come by.  We all want to end up in the New York Times, but there are over 1 million books published every year and only 52 New York Times Book Reviews.  Even with a publicist who knows people at the Times who make editorial decisions, by the numbers it looks like a long haul to getting that review in the paper.

The Problem with “Book” Marketing

Many writers think of their books as singular products, referring to them as my “novel”, “mystery series”, “fantasy”, “romance”, “coming-of-age novel”, etc.  I have been working on marketing fiction for twenty-five years and I can honestly tell you that trying to sell your book to a reviewer based on, “this is a great new novel” is not going to cut it in our competitive world.

One Solution to Fiction Promotion Challenges

There are many strategies you can use, like digital pr, but the one I suggest first is dissecting your book to go beyond book reviews. In my presentation, I described the process using a book we all know, The Great Gatsby.  I analyzed it through a more comprehensive lens–digging deep into any promotional angle I could find. Here is an outline of the process you can try on your book(s).

The Deep Dive for Marketing Fiction

  1. Open a blank document or take a clean sheet of paper. Write the title and genre of your book at the top.
  2. Make two columns, one called “book assets” and the other “my assets”
  3. In the “book assets” column write a list of the locations in your book; any topics that it covers (in Gatsby the list included Prohibition and Class Wars); and anything particularly interesting about the characters.
  4. In the “my assets” column make a list of things that pertain to you and your brand, such as where you live and where you grew up.  Add items like what you do beyond writing; any parts of the book based on your own personal experience; why you wrote what you wrote; and any additional interests, hobbies, or skills that you have.
  5. Now make a list at the bottom of the page of where you can imagine finding interest in the items in either list.  Is there a story in the media that relates to your topics?  In addition to being a novel, does you book include anything of interest to health care, psychology, or business? If your book is a mystery, note mystery outlets that you would target online and in print.
  6. Finally, pretend you are a reporter and write some mock headlines based on your list of angles and outlets.  The Great Gatsby in today’s world might inspire a headline like “Class Divides in New Novel Mirror the Culture of Celebrity and Billionaires vs. Everyone Else”; or “New Novel Explores Whether Class is Defined by your Market Value or by Knowledge and Manners.”

Thank You English Teachers

Remember English Class?  Yup, this process has some similarities.  The exercise will help you think about marketing fiction in a broader way.  It will also help enhance the number of opportunities it will have in the media.  Marketing fiction is always a challenge.  The first step to getting more press and attention is to see how many latent themes and topics your book can address.

For information on marketing fiction, see Case Studies #3

Explore our blog and search for what you need to know.

5 Resources to Kickstart Your Promotional Efforts

If you’re gearing up to publish your first book or simply want to know some of the best sources to turn to for fresh marketing ideas and tips on how to promote your book, service and/or product, look no further. We’ve put in the work so you don’t have to.

Here are our top three resources to help get you started with any of your upcoming promotional efforts:

Resource #1: Cision

If you’re looking for some general information about all things PR and marketing, Cision has you covered. In addition to being a top public relations/earned-media software company, Cision also runs an informative blog that PR professionals turn to daily to stay up-to-date on all of the latest news, trends and even round-ups within the industry. Although not specific to strictly book promotion, it still provides useful information that can be applied anywhere.

Resource #2: Buzzsumo 

As many of our loyal readers will know, we can never stress the importance of research enough as it is at the foundation of everything we do. Buzzsumo is a bespoke search engine that we utilize regularly to conduct much of that research into specific topics. It’s a great way to find out what people are talking about as well as discover outlets and journalists to reach out to for potential coverage.

Resource #3: Trello

Another important element to promoting a product or service is ensuring that you’re organized. That’s why we love using a web-based list-making application, like Trello, that keeps our company workflow in check.

Resource #4: Google Sheets

Like we’ve mentioned in the past, another good way to stay organized is by keeping track of every contact/outlet you’ve pitched in an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet. Google Drive is a particularly good resource to have in your toolbox because it’s free, and you can share documents with others.

Resource #5: Claire McKinneyPR

Okay, I might be a little biased here, but our blog has some seriously helpful tips, tricks, and insider information across a multitude of different areas like book promotion, digital PR/marketing, personal branding, social media, and even design. Consider us a one-stop-shop!

For more of our latest blog posts, click here.

 

 

How to Organize a Virtual Event

Thanks to the pandemic, we as a society have figured out ways to make nearly everything virtual: school, doctor’s appointments, business meetings, even fashion shows. You name it, there’s a Zoom link for it.

Shifting into the online world, virtual events have become more popular than ever. But here’s the question: how do you plan one?

No matter the occasion, here’s our 8-step guide on organizing the perfect virtual event.

Step #1: Create Your Guest List

Like any party, start by creating a guest list. How many people would you like to invite? Will it be a small gathering or a larger one? Formulate a rough list, and if you’re unsure about the size, err on the upper end of your estimate.

Step #2: Gather Attendee Contact Information

Will you be sending a physical invitation, an evite, or both? Once you’ve established how you’re going to invite people to your event, make sure you have attendee email addresses and/or home addresses. Organization is key.

Step #3: Flesh Out the Details

This portion of your party planning can be time-consuming, but incredibly important. When is the event going to happen? What time? Will there be any special guests? Swag bags? Speeches? Make sure you know how you want everything to run as it will inform what goes on the actual invitation.

Step #4: Design an Invitation

As mentioned above, this could be an evite, a physical invite, and/or a simple email. Be sure to outline the date, timing, and exactly what you’re going to do in that amount of time. For example:

Step #5: Generate a Running List of RSVPs

Be sure to document who will be in attendance, their email addresses (so you can send the Zoom link), and/or home addresses if you’re sending physical invitations and swag bags. Once again, staying organized is the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Step #6: Select a Hosting Platform

At this point, you’ve solidified a date, a time, and a guest list. Now it’s time to select a hosting platform so you can generate a link for attendees to tune into the day of the event. Whether it’s Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Zoho, or any of the other video conferencing platforms currently out there, be sure to do your research as you may need to purchase a specific plan depending on the number of people who will be in attendance.

Step #7: Send the Link

The key here is to not send the event link out too early as your email can get lost in your attendees’ inboxes. We recommend sending it out a day or two before the event.

Step #8: Enjoy the Party!

Although most of us wish we could be hosting people in person, a virtual event is still a great excuse to get dressed up, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy catching up with friends and family. Have fun!

For more tips and tricks, check out more of our latest blogs.

Our 6-Step Guide to Earning Local Media Coverage

If you recently launched a new product or service and do not have the slightest idea where to begin with your promotional efforts, look no further than your very own backyard.

Whether you’re looking to raise awareness about yourself, your book, your business, and/or your brand, local media coverage can be the most successful form of publicity that can offer the greatest amount of impact. And guess what? You don’t have to spend a penny on advertisements. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Streamline Your Story

Streamlining the story you want to present to the press is essential when it comes to landing local coverage. Why should they cover it? Is it compelling? What value does it provide? Keep these questions in mind as you develop your story.

Step 2: Do Your Research

This may come as no surprise, but one of the most crucial parts to securing an interview, review, or feature stems from the amount of initial research you put in. Start by making a list using the 5 W’s:

  • Who is the best person(s) to pitch?
    • THINK: Editor in Chief, News & Program Directors, topic-specific reporters
  • What segment of the outlet would be the best fit?
    • THINK: News, Sports, Art & Entertainment, Politics, Opinion sections
  • Where can you find journalist contact information?
    • THINK: Contact sections of the outlets’ websites and Twitter handles for direct messages
  • When is the best time to pitch them?
    • THINK: Trend stories and news cycles
  • Why should the outlet be interested?

Step 3: Formulate a Pitch

At this point, you’ve established a story and figured out where and whom you want to go after. Naturally, it’s time to sit down and actually write the pitch. The key here is to share who you are and your story in the most concise way possible – ideally in one or two short paragraphs. If you’re looking for an interview, it might be in your best interest to include a press release and talking points in the body of the email (after your signature) so the receiver doesn’t have to click on multiple attachments. It’s also imperative to highlight the fact that you are local and any noteworthy contributions you have made to the community. This can be done in both the subject line and the body of the email in your introduction. For example:

SUBJECT LINE:
Portland local takes action against homelessness through new initiative

INTRODUCTION:
Dear Journalist,

My name is John Doe, a local Portland businessman and philanthropist…

Step 4: Connect with Your Contacts

Now, you’ve sent your pitches out and are awaiting responses. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to follow them on social media and engage with their posts. Sometimes all it takes is seeing a familiar name to evoke a response.

Step 5: Follow Up

Another vital step toward earning local media coverage is your follow up. If the contact you pitched hasn’t responded to your email, ping them again. Give them a call. Shoot them a message on Twitter explaining who you are and what you’re looking for. It’s okay to be relentless in your pursuit as it can take multiple follow-up messages to elicit a response.

Step 6: Stay in Touch

Whether your inquiry is accepted or denied, don’t be afraid to ask about the types of stories your media contact typically covers so you know for the future and keep in touch with them over email and/or social media. It’s always advantageous to maintain a good rapport.

For more publicity tips, check out our Publicity 101 series.