Publisher, distributor, publicist, agent, marketing team, editor . . . The list of titles in the publishing world could go on for half a page. It may seem like there’s a small army of people working on your book, and many authors become understandably bewildered by the number of job titles involved. It can consequently be difficult to discern who does what tasks for your book.
Have you ever found yourself wondering what the difference between your marketing team and your publicity team is, and what roles they play in relation to your book? You’re not alone. One of the most commonly confused and misunderstood aspects is the distinction between a publisher’s marketing duties and a publicist’s.
The truth is that the duties of a marketing team and of a publicity team do often overlap. But, in essence, your publicity team is trying to get you and your book media and public appearances, while your marketing team is focused on making your book visible to your target audience via ad space, online efforts, etc.
A book publicist is going to be the one writing press releases day and night, soliciting media, scheduling your book tour, and creating promotional materials. Meanwhile, your marketer will be buying relevant ads for your book, optimizing your Amazon account, distributing your book trailer, spearheading your online marketing campaign, and more.
Agent Steve Laube points out that marketing is “all about creating multiple impressions,” while publicity is “all about meeting the author.” He warns authors against confusing the terminology, and getting angry at marketers for not doing things like setting up media interviews or organizing speaking engagements—things that aren’t in their core business.
Oftentimes, publicity will feel “more real” to the author since its results (ie: television and radio appearances) are higher profile while marketing is more behind the scenes but equally important.
As you move forward with your marketing efforts, be sure to ask the people you work with what, exactly, they do. Your book’s success is going to be inclusive; it will depend on you and your publisher, and all of the employees therein. Knowing what they’re expected to do will not only make you more empowered as an author, it will also allow you to harness your team effectively to make the best publishing experience—and book—possible.
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Oftentimes authors are quite confused about what exactly each person does in the publishing process. There are so many people involved in developing and promoting a book that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the many functions and responsibilities of each department. To help make it easier, here’s a quick breakdown of the general jobs in publishing and how each one functions.
If pursuing a traditional publishing deal, the author must first secure an agent. The agent serves two roles. One, the agent acts as a gatekeeper for publishers, vetting books for quality and marketability and sorting through the many authors vying for a publishing deal. Two, the agent is the author’s representative in the negotiation process for securing the book deal. The agent’s job is to get the best deal possible for the author and to sell author’s rights in a way that is most beneficial (e.g., the agent may recommend selling subsidiary and film rights separately). In exchange, the agent takes 10 to 15 percent of all payments made to the author in advances and royalties.
The publisher is the person who actually produces the physical book. Inside a publishing house the author will work with a variety of people:
- Editor: The editor helps polish the manuscript and makes sure it is free of typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes.
- Designer: The designer works on both the cover design and the interior layout for the book (some house separate these functions out).
- Print buyer: The print buyer works with vendors to secure the best deal on printing services. Traditionally published authors may not deal with this person directly (but trust us, they’re there).
- Production associate: This person works as the puppet master, making sure all the pieces of the publishing process flow into place on time and on budget.
- Distribution team: Depending on the publishing route you take, you may work with an in-house distributor or a third party, but in either case the distributor is responsible for getting your book into the internal and bookseller systems and making it available to wholesalers and retailers.
- Marketing team: Each publisher has a marketing team that works with the trade to drum up interest among corporate buyers, indie bookstores, libraries, schools, and some specialty stores. They may also help with securing some reviews and advertising, but again this depends on the publisher.
Some publishing houses have a staff publicist, but for the most part authors will need to hire their own publicist to help secure media coverage, interviews, reviews, and other coverage to help create demand for the book. Some publicists work online and may also schedule and coordinate events, provide media training, and schedule speaking opportunities. While the publisher works with the bookstores and the author connects directly with the reader, the publicist’s job is to work with the media—all three parties aiming to drive book sales.
Authors nowadays must wear many hats, including “writer,” “entrepreneur,” “marketer,” and “ringmaster.” You are largely responsible for serving as the producer of content and as the face of your brand as an author. You are the driving force behind your platform and are ultimately what attracts people to your book. As mentioned above, it’s your job to connect directly with readers, and you should be doing this in as many ways as possible—through social media, speaking, and other platform-building activities.
As you can see, it takes many people to take a book from idea to the bookstore. There are additional functions depending on the publisher, but overall this is the core staff for any book that ends up in a reader’s hands.
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Whether you are publishing with a traditional house, an independent publisher, or self-publishing, the bulk of book marketing responsibility is on you as the author. Many authors are choosing to hire a book publicist to help connect with readers and potential audience members.
Before you hire a publicist, it is important to ask a few basic questions to help you determine if he or she is legitimate, effective, and has the background and strengths that you are looking for:
Payment & Fees
- Do you charge a monthly retainer or is payment based on bookings?
- How much is the retainer?
- How long do most of your campaigns last?
- What type of publicity do you book most: radio, TV, online (blogs, etc) or print?
- Can you describe the involvement required from me?
- Can you describe the extent of online initiatives? The balance between online and traditional media?
- Who will be involved in my campaign?
- How far in advance of publication do you start working?
- What kind of results are reasonable to expect?
- What results do you consider particularly successful?
Former Clients and Books
- How many national bookings have you gotten in the past 6 months? Which ones? For what book?
- Will you send me a sample schedule for a client with a book similar to mine?
- May I speak with some authors you've represented?
Every author may not need to ask every question, and some authors may want to go into more detail about what they are specifically interested in. But these represent some of the most important items to know before you hire your publicist.
Visit Galleycat to see a great list of book marketing experts and publicists to follow on Twitter.
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It doesn’t take an industry expert to tell you that an appearance on Oprah or Today can shoot book sales through the roof, but a dirty little secret in the book industry is that media coverage—even a BIG hit—does not always turn into book sales. You owe it to your publisher, your distributor, your hard working publicist, and yourself to turn media into money. Here are five tips to help you use fame to get fortune:
#1: Leverage your publicity with the supply chain.
Update your publisher and distributor! If there is no supply to meet the demand your publicity is creating, you’re wasting money and losing sales. Your distributor can target stores in the geographic markets your media coverage is reaching and use your publicity as leverage with national buyers to get more books in stores.
#2: Make time for proper timing.
I understand that things move fast in a publicity campaign, but it’s nothing short of tragic when sales—big sales—are lost because of a silly detail like timing. If you think reviews will have a big impact on your book sales, make sure your publicist has galleys in hand at least four months prior to publication. If your publicist is booking radio or television interviews, consistently give your distributor three to four weeks notice so they have time to work books through the supply chain. If you land a national TV interview, communicate with your publisher and distributor immediately to troubleshoot any inventory issues and to give them the opportunity to use the hit to negotiate front-of-store placement with the chains. Whatever you do, don’t let money slip through your fingers because of sloppy timing.
#3: Define three sales points to use in all media interviews.
NOTE: The hook that lands the interview is not necessarily the hook that sells the book (and vice-versa). Be a good guest, but don’t be shy about using free airtime to sell your book. Know your readers and appeal to their needs in your interviews. If you only appeal to the needs of the media, you may get lots of interviews, but your book sales will flop. HINT: Don’t feel obligated to answer only the questions interviewers ask or to stick to the hook in the press release. For example, if you landed the interview by positioning yourself as an expert on a newsworthy topic, don’t assume people will go to a bookstore to buy your opinion. Instead, offer specific, usable content in the interview and clearly communicate (1) who needs the book and (2) what they will gain from reading it.
#4: Say your title at least three times in every interview.
Yes, there will be times when this is impossible, and there will be times when this is tacky, but if you make it a rule and stick to it, you will sell more books. Erase the words “my book” from your vocabulary, and always use the full title to refer to your work. This is one easy way to sell books in an interview without sounding like an infomercial.
#5: Invest in media coaching.
A media coach will help you define your sales points and teach you how to incorporate them into every interview. The fastest way to guarantee big returns is to get your distributor (who, in turn, gets the national buyers) excited about publicity, and then bomb the interview. NOTE: Being a talented speaker, charming personality, or good conversationalist does not make you media savvy. If you’re investing in publicity, you should minimize your risk and grow your potential ROI by learning the mechanics of an interview and fundamentals like sound bites and message consolidation.