In my experience, no matter how many books an author has published, whether they’re traditionally or independently published, or what their day job is, publicity is the one area that leaves many authors in the dark. Everyone wants to be on Ellen or have a rave review in the New York Times, but how does a publicist pull that off? And if those outlets aren’t attainable (which is the case for 99% of authors), then what else can be done to garner media coverage and increase sales?
Enter the publicist.
If you’re with a traditional publisher, they will assign you an in-house publicist. But if you’re on your own, or want someone to supplement your in-house publicists’ efforts, you’ll need to find an outside publicist. When it comes to in-house publicists, you don’t have much say in the matter, but it’s important to ask plenty of questions and be informed of their plans. For finding an outside publicists, there are hundreds of us, all with different styles, philosophies, and specialties. It’s up to you to find the publicist that is the best for you and your project.
Whether you’re heading into the marketing meeting at your publisher or interviewing someone on the outside, there are several questions you should ask:
Who do you see as the intended audience for the book?
Your publicist’s primary role is to secure media coverage for you and the book, but if that media doesn’t reach your target audience, it’s not going to result in sales. You want to make sure the publicist understands the target audience and how best to reach them.
Some of this is a matter of opinion, so if they say they see your book being read by urban hipsters while you saw it as more of a book club book, hear them out. They may have valid points. And if you’re in-house publicist wants to target the urban hipsters, you can probably find an outside publicist to hit up the book-clubbers.
What is your pitching process? How do you contact and follow up with media outlets?
Some in-house publicists might be cagey about their response to this question. The fact is, most in-house publicists are over-worked and under-paid, and due to time constraints, rely on mass emailing rather than crafting tailored pitches. Sometimes, the mass emails work, but often, they get deleted, un-opened.
Outside publicists vary in their approach. There was a time where we relied on mass pitching because it gave us more bang for our buck, but as the amount of books being published is increasing and the number of outlets covering books is decreasing, we’ve moved away from mass pitching and instead, create tailored pitches for a shorter list of media outlets.
For follow ups, you want a publicist who’s going to get on the phone. Many emails slip through the cracks and many radio producers don’t even check their email. Following up via phone is an important component in ensuring your pitch gets noticed.
What is your timeline for the campaign?
It’s easy to get nervous and insecure when you don’t know when things are happening. Having a loose outline of when certain outlets are going to be pitched, when a blog tour will be launched, when you can expect to see coverage, etc. will help put you at ease.
All publicists should have a timeline for their campaigns and although that timeline may shift based on the news cycle, holidays, and other factors, it should give you an idea of what they’re doing and when.
What is your communication style?
You want to have a good working relationship with your publicist, and agreeing on a communication style is a key part of that. If your in-house publicist says s/he only emails when she gets a hit or prefers to do everything via email, then it’s best to respect that. Also, letting your in-house person know that you’re on email all day or that you’re only available for calls later in the evening, will help set the expectations so both of you can communicate more effectively.
If you’re hiring an outside publicist, you want to find someone who gels with your communication style. If they don’t do phone calls, but you are really more of a phone person, then that publicist isn’t right for you. You also want to make sure they work well with your in-house team.
Publicity is more of an art than a science and there is no formula for a successful publicity campaign. Some authors are booked on big national shows while other books only get a handful of blog reviews. Rather than focusing on what a publicist has been able to accomplish in the past, focus on what he or she sees for your book’s future.
DANA KAYE is the owner of Kaye Publicity, a boutique PR company specializing in publishing and entertainment. Known for her innovative ideas and knowledge of current trends, she frequently speaks on the topics of social media, branding, and publishing trends, and her commentary has been featured on websites like The Huffington Post, Little Pink Book, and NBC Chicago. For more info, visit www.KayePublicity.com.