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
- In an ideal world, what kind of results can I expect? What are some samples of coverage author like me receive?
- What will I need to do to help you succeed at your job?
- Will I make my money back?
- How many books will I sell, approximately?
- What services do you think I need?
- What services will you be providing?
- How long will it take?
- Can we schedule a phone call a month from now to go over how my campaign is going?
- Can I get my money back if I am not happy with the way things are going?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I can’t say for certain, but most authors do not earn back their marketing expenses on their first books.
- 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.
- This answer is going to be based on the job itself.
- This is going to be based on your budget and what the book needs
- Whichever contract term you select should be ample time to meet the deliverables outlined by the publicist.
- Yes, of course we like to have status meetings with our clients
- 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.
- 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)
Using Instagram to publicize your book is one of the most cost-effective ways to share your book with avid readers. This is largely because of bookstagrammers.
What is bookstagram?
A bookstagram is an instagram account dedicated to — you guessed it — books. The bookstagram community itself is massive. It encompasses authors and readers who love sharing their passion for books.
Using Bookstagram to Generate Awareness Around Your Book
Bookstagram can be a great place to share your book, especially if you have a budget, but we will get to that in a second. One of the great things about bookstagram is that, unlike in newspapers or on the radio, people who follow bookstagrammers and engage with their content are a lot more likely to love books. If you connect with bookstagrammers that have a specific niche that is relevant to your book, then you are placing your book directly in front of an audience that is likely your ideal audience for sales.
3 Tips for Working with Bookstagrammers
- Do not expect large bookstagrammers to share your book for free. Many of these bookstagrammers have huge, active audiences. Would you want to give something of value away for free? Probably not. Smaller bookstagrammers may be willing to trade for a free book — but make sure they have a public profile.
- Research bookstagrammers before reaching out. If you write thrillers, it would be a waste of time to reach out to a bookstagrammer who only enjoys romance.
- Engage with the bookstagrammers you would like to work with prior to reaching out to them. Although this is not absolutely required, it is good etiquette, especially if you are hoping to get something for free.
If you are looking for other ways to publicize your book, check out the following posts:
Our Six Step Guide to Earning Local Media Coverage
Book Awards for Indie Authors
Publicity 101: 5 Steps to Curating the Perfect Media List
People think what I do is glamorous and super cool – publishing. When I was a recruiter we used to use “Publishing” as a headline to attract talent for our open positions that were basically secretarial jobs or filing clerks. There used to be editors and publishers who were almost like celebrities in the New York scene. Books were launched with parties at trendy venues, lucrative deals were made at Book Expo, and everyone was looking to discover the next Salinger, Hemingway, Roth, Asimov, Morisson, Kerouac, or any other writer you admire. Sounds like fun, right?
What I’ve said so far is what the audience sees. Most people in the industry don’t expose the magic by showing you what happens backstage. It’s not all that interesting, but these things must be done to publish professionally and competitively.
In the indie publishing world, I see repeats of wasted opportunities and misinformation about how things work that can be cleared up by remembering a few details and rules. As a publicist, and, now, a publisher, I’m going to wear both of my hats and dish the dirt on what you need to know.
- Format: Proper formatting is a very basic aspect of putting a book together. When I was an editorial assistant we called it front and back matter. I don’t know if that’s what the managing editors are calling it these days, but it still works for me. These are the pages at the front of the printed book including a title page; copyright page; dedication; acknowledgments; author’s note; and predetermined blank pages. The title page and copyright page are mandatory, while the others will or won’t be added depending on the author. My advice is to look at books from traditional publishers to see what they are doing with their pages and copy the format.
- Identification: There are identifiers your book needs. Without them, it doesn’t exist in the market and can’t be sold. They are ISBNs, bar codes, and a Library of Congress number. Most everyone seems to know how to get the first two, but the latter is still often missing. I was taught that it is necessary, especially if you want libraries to find, recognize, and shelve your title. Check out this site for information on how to get your number(s).
- Accessibility: If you choose to publish exclusively with Kindle Direct, independent bookstores, and probably the chain stores as well will not know about your book, nor will they want to stock it. When you sign up with Amazon’s publisher only, your sales channels are those that Amazon covers. To have your book recognized in the trade market, you need to upload it with a national wholesaler such as Ingram, which is now the only wholesaler that distributes to independent stores. You can also try to solicit wholesale orders through your website, but that still won’t give you the credibility you need with the trade market. I recommend doing all of the above.
- Credibility: Bookstores and publications will look to see if your book is listed in Ingram’s database. I’ve had conversations with editors at publications who will look up the book and if they don’t see it in Ingram they won’t cover it. Why? Because some bad apples in the indie publishing world convinced these people to review books that never made it to publication. The quote I’ve heard is, “I’ve been burned before”.
Book Marketing and Publicity
Regarding promoting a book, there are two major issues I keep coming across.
- You have to consider timing. I won’t belabor the point here because I’ve said it many times before. If you have written a novel or memoir, you will need three to five months ahead of your publication date to send out review copies and allow for publications and bloggers to read and schedule reviews of your book. For a prescriptive non-fiction title that has “news you can use” there is a bit more flexibility, especially if it is tied into your career or field of expertise.
- Printed review copies are necessary. In indie publishing, we often use the finished book as a review copy and have it stickered or printed in a way that indicates it is a preliminary version. The publication date is printed on the book or sticker so that it is clear when it will be for sale. You can register with Net Galley, offer a watermarked pdf, -mobi file or ebook, but 90% of the reviewing public wants a hard copy. I know it’s an added expense but you will be better off in the long term doing it the correct way.
For more resources and information I recommend the Independent Book Publishers Association website. It’s not that expensive for a membership, which will give you full access. Also, I suggest visiting Jane Friedman’s website. She is a veteran in the industry, a professor, editor, and a published writer.
“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
I was asked to speak this past Saturday, at an Indie Author Day at my local library. It’s interesting to me that even when I speak to people who have heard me several times, there are always new questions. I love that, because it gives me insight into what the world is like out there for indie authors–even those who have been doing this for quite some time.
For our Thanksgiving Week post, I decided to share some of what was asked and answered.
- I hired someone to do my Facebook and Twitter who was an expert in my subject area, but after six months I didn’t see a bump in sales. I also had some speaking events and didn’t get any new attendees from the social media outreach. Why is social media important given what I’ve experienced? First of all, social media does not increase sales on it’s own. Social media helps you build an audience or community, but you still need to motivate your followers to do something in order to see a result. Combining consistent social media with some marketing of your pages or books (boosting posts on Facebook is an example) is a more strategic plan for generating book sales. Also, I asked her why she was using Twitter and why not Instagram? As it happens her books are about animals–and animals (especially cats) are super popular on photo based platforms like Instagram. I explained that social media isn’t a generic platform. It is made up of various tools that you can use based on what you are trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach.
- I’ve tried to get reviewed in the major newspaper in my area. When I reached the book person she said because my book was published by a self-publishing platform it wasn’t eligible for review. Is that true and how am I supposed to get book reviews? Yes, it is true that the major newspapers–think of the top 25 by circulation–will not review self-published books and even those published by very small indie presses. There are simply too many books and too little space. Also, reviewers haven’t achieved the level of trust yet with indie authors or perhaps your publisher, to determine what is going to be worth their time to cover. Book reviews on blogs and in publications that favor indie books as well as some local papers and online sites are obtainable. Some examples are Foreword Magazine, San Francisco Book Review, and Publishers Weekly’s “Book Life” platform.
- I was in the newspaper business but the local papers are all gone. Or they’ve been bought out by corporate syndicates and they have little to no staff on hand to cover books. How can I get local coverage? It’s true that there are many local papers that have been absorbed into corporations. Usually there is one features person who covers several at one time. But there are also local glossy magazines, which tend to have staff writers because they reap the benefits of local businesses advertising. Indie authors can check out people who are freelancing, because they may be submitting pieces to the syndicates or some of the locally focused online outlets. Finally, try the “free” papers in your area. They are often looking for very locally based stories and will copy information from a press release.
If you have a question email me at email@example.com and put “Question for Blog” in the subject line. I will answer in a forthcoming blog. I would love to hear from you!