Questions from Indie Authors

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 claire@clairemckinneypr.com and put “Question for Blog” in the subject line.  I will answer in a forthcoming blog.  I would love to hear from you!

Book Giveaways!

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Check periodically for the latest book that we are giving away to lucky readers!

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We are currently giving away a copy of Neal Rabin’s adventurous novel (perfect for summer reading) 23 DEGREES SOUTH: A Tropical Tale of Changing Whether… ending on May 16th, 2018 at 12:00AM EST. The winner will be contacted by email, so make sure to check your inbox in case it was you!

“Enjoy with your favorite cocktail!…23 DEGREES SOUTH will capture all readers with its story of two young friends on different paths who intersect within an action packed story.”
– Chanticleer Reviews, 5/5 Stars

“McKinney, a veteran book publicist, has produced a clear, basic road map to publicizing a book. .” – Publishers Weekly
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Book Expo: How to make deja-vu new again

I have been attending Book Expo America for a long time, never in the capacity of a show-goer, but always as someone representing a publisher—big or small.  When I started out working in book publishing, we went all out with parties, huge booths, and galley giveaways in the thousands.  It was crazy.

Different publishers had different rules for the staff on the floor too, like no sitting down and to look excited and friendly.  Don’t let any important booksellers or media get by without a handshake, a pitch, and a smile.  Don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and if pressed, refer potential authors to the editor on duty (who might duck out at that opportune moment).

For the most part, the show has had its fair share of ups and downs, but there are some things that really stood out for me this year and made the experience somewhat new again:

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1. The number one thing that made an impact for me this year is that I took someone from my office to the show who had never been there before.  Not only was she excited right up until the day of the show, but she doggedly went to stand in line for Lemony Snicket, Jim Carrey, Ann Romney, R.L. Stine, Snooki from “Jersey Shore,” and Chelsea Handler. She grabbed the swag, like free totes and after the first hour proudly sported an assortment over her arm.  Starstruck and thrilled are the two best words to describe how she seemed to experience the event.  An avid reader and book person, for her this was like heaven on earth.  How fun for me to see the show through her eyes!

2. Saudi Arabia, China, Mexico and other foreign entities have taken over where other domestic publishers have taken to cost-cutting and smaller booths.  Those banners were impressive, even though I did a double take, expecting to see the words Simon and Schuster across the sky.

3. Prospective authors are very different than they used to be. With the business of self-publishing booming, there are less people meekly approaching the booths.  There is definitely a stronger sense of esteem and affirmation—and “I have as much right to be here as anyone else” vibe, which is as it should be.

BEA4. Fewer familiar faces of booksellers and of course, a dearth of book editors.  There are a couple of things happening here.  One is I’m getting older and new people are replacing the old, and two the traditional world of book reviewing and “book media” is still downwardly adjusting for the digital market.  It is as hard as ever to get reviewed in print, but online opportunities continue to grow.

Things are always changing and for me this year the key was definitely to go into the show with an attitude of interest and anticipation.  It is fun to see old friends and co-workers and it is still exciting to be in the midst of an industry that in the face of all the challenges still boasts an underlying passion for its product.

Thank you to the Book Expo team.  See you next year!

When is the right time to hire a book publicist…

I am a fan of the old saying “the early bird gets the worm.”  Corny, yes, but still very true and effective. It isn’t always possible to be out in front of the curve, but when you can plan accordingly it is a simple way to help ensure the success of your book’s publication.  When hiring a book publicist, it is best to secure an expert four to six months ahead of publication–if you are publishing with a traditional publisher. Allow me to break this down.

Your book is in the final editing stages, or it’s about to go to press for bound galleys or ARCs (advanced reading copies)–now is the optimal time to have a publicist ready to start in on your campaign. Why? First of all your publicist needs to read your book, and work with you on a plan and strategy that focuses on the general target audience for the book as well as niche markets. When the galleys come in, you want to be able to send them out right away to the media.

Most publications, especially magazines, require a lead time of four months in order to prepare a review. The review copy has to be received, accepted, sent out for review, the review needs to come in, and space has to be allocated in that publication for the piece. Book review sections in newspapers these days are small and you want to give the editors a chance to take a good look at your book for consideration. If it comes in too close to publication and you aren’t John Irving, you may end up tossed to the side, just because of timing. Bloggers too will get “booked up” and won’t be able to give your book attention for the month of publication if you don’t get them the book with a good solid three to four months lead time.

Ideally you want reviews or articles about you and your book to appear when your book is available in stores and online, especially when there are special marketing programs in place that put your title front and center for consumers to see and buy.

As far as television and radio are concerned, there is a bit more leeway, but keep in mind that a national television show is going to need time to consider your topic and whether or not to have you as a guest.  If you are not a recognized national “name” then it may take quite a while to get a break in a major broadcast venue, if ever, but you still want to have the time to give it a shot.

If you are hoping to set up events with booksellers, your will also need four months to book an event, and this chunk of time may be even longer if you are trying to get into a very competitive store during a busy month of book releases. Book festivals and conferences do their planning six months to a year in advance.

There is so much about marketing a book that is hard to quantify and qualify, but if you give yourself a head start, you will be able to get your book in front of the right people at the right time and if Plan A isn’t working, you will have enough time to shift strategy and still maximize the benefits of a publicity campaign.

Up next news and recommendations for self-published authors looking to hire a publicist…

 

Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does?

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do you know what a book publicist does claire mckinneyDo you know what a book publicist does?

At lunch with publicist friends, there’s one question that we always seem to come back to: does anyone in this business know what we actually do? Yes, yes, every author says they “want” a publicist, but how many authors, and those who work in publishing, actually understand what a publicist does and, more importantly, what can reasonably be expected from their publicity campaign?

People in this business still assume that the only good thing a publicist does is book appearances on Oprah or The Today Show or Good Morning America. Even though this circuit is outdated—Oprah’s show is off the air, GMA is closing in on the Today show’s ratings, and The Early Show just went through another reorganization—people in publishing still think these are the rounds a publicist makes. This needs to change.

I came into the publishing industry accidentally, and took to the role of publicist quite naturally; I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I’ve worked on campaigns for everything from children’s books to adult trade; cookbooks to philosophy; literary fiction to self-help—and I’ll tell you, as I’ve told everyone who has ever worked for me and with me, making a book is a long, difficult process. Nonetheless, when there’s blame about how the final product fares in the market, it often seems to fall on the publicist. Why?

Why would an author take his frustrations out on the person most directly linked to the consumers in the promotional process? Why are the notions of what a publicist does so cloudy? And why, in an era where lack of publicity is repeatedly cited as a major reason books fail, are so many publicists with years of experience struggling to keep their jobs?

Blame it on the digital revolution. Blame it on the homogenized media culture.Blame it on whomever, or whatever, you choose. One problem, aside from the difficulty of getting good publicity for a book, is dealing with misunderstandings about what a publicist can reasonably do.

Right now there are still two overarching umbrellas that classify book publicity campaigns. There are the “big” books that are positioned and sold to the “big” traditional media, and there are all the other books which, well, aren’t sold to the “big” traditional media. And when I say this, I’m not saying all of the other books don’t warrant the same attention as the big books, or that they won’t get a national break, or that they are lesser in any way. I’m saying that, still, there are basically two tracks we think about, and that’s a problem.

That not every book will be right for the “big” media spots is one problem, but it’s a reality. Too often, though, there seems to be anger about not getting those “big” spots instead of an open admission that there are lots of great press hits to be had on smaller outlets and in nontraditional ways.

There are hundreds of television, print, and radio venues, just like the old days. But now there is the Web and there’s social media. You can do viral campaigns. You can give away content in the form of actual books on blogs, or digitally in chapters on any and all Web sites.Can you, the publicist, work with online marketing to coordinate a campaign using some of these tools? Yes. Do you need to know even more people than ever before, collecting contacts like a paper clip magnet? Yes. Will you be able to do this for every book on your list? Probably not. But it would help if these “nontraditional” campaigns stopped being tagged as such. Book publicity is no longer about organizing a “big” or “small” campaign, and publicists know this, but the rest of the industry does not seem to have quite caught up.

So if you are a book publicist like me and one of your more irascible authors is quoted in New York magazine basically saying that publicists are worthless, close your eyes, count to 10, and remember that you have the power and the skill set to go out there and brave a new frontier of media. You will do things that haven’t been done before, and while you accept the well-deserved pat on the back that so rarely comes your way, you can take comfort in the fact that others are quietly saying, “How did she do that?”

(This article was originally published in Publishers Weekly titled “Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does?” and online here.)