A sound marketing strategy leverages the knowledge, experience, and contacts of the author, the publisher, and the publicist. No matter which publishing option you choose (traditional, self-publishing, indie, etc.), you, the author, are responsible for the majority of the marketing. Typically, the marketing is broken down in the following way:
- Publisher: The publisher markets the book to buyers at retail and specialty vendors. Sometimes they will secure reviews and perform other media related duties, but their main focus is on getting the books into stores.
- Publicist: The publicist’s main function is to create the overall marketing strategy and to secure media engagements. Publicists can also assist with reviews and endorsements, but their focus is on getting interviews.
- Author: The author’s function is to connect with readers. Many assume that this is the publisher’s function, but in reality it is the responsibility of the author. Readers do not develop connections and relationships with publishers; they follow authors. Therefore, authors must actively initiate and cultivate relationships with their target readers in order to drive interest and promote sales.
Regardless of how the duties are divided up, it is important that all parties remain in constant communication. This means that the author needs to proactively coordinate the efforts of the team and keep the publisher in the loop when he or she has events, media coverage, and advertising so that the publisher can ensure there are enough books available to meet the spike in demand.
Because the expense of hiring a publicist often falls to the author, many authors assume they can forgo hiring a publicist and still fare well. However, hiring your own publicist is a good decision for a number of reasons:
- They answer to you, and so it is in their best interest to act in your best interest.
- They have spent their career establishing industry contacts and developing experience.
- Handing over the bulk of your promotion efforts to a publicist frees you up to focus on career-building activities such as writing, speaking, and making appearances.
How to choose a publicist
An effective publicity campaign is essential to generating consumer demand and building sales momentum, so hiring the right publicist is key. Book reviews, feature stories in newspapers and magazines, radio interviews, and television spots can have an enormous impact on sales. A professional publicity campaign can cost from $2,000 to $10,000 a month, but some publicists will arrange payment for services on an a la carte basis.
Consider publicity as early in the process as possible, as most publicists begin work on a book campaign four to six months prior to the publication date. Most publicists require a book manuscript before deciding whether they can represent a book, so the ideal time to approach a publicist is after copyediting is complete. If you need assistance finding a publicist, Greenleaf can provide a list of publicists we have worked with in the past. We recommend interviewing several publicists to find one that is the right fit for you and your book.
Here are some questions you may consider asking potential publicists:
- Do you charge a monthly retainer or do you charge per booking?
- How much is the retainer or cost per booking?
- How long do most of your campaigns last?
- What do you book most: radio, television, or print?
- How many national bookings have you gotten in the past six months? Which ones? For what book?
- Who will be involved in my campaign?
- How far in advance of publication do you start working?
- What kinds of results are reasonable to expect?
- What results do you consider particularly successful?
- Will you send me a sample schedule for a client with a book similar to mine?
- Which genres do you represent most successfully, and are there any you don’t handle?
- How long have you been doing book publicity?
- May I speak with some authors you’ve represented?
Role of the publisher in marketing
When it comes to marketing books, the publisher’s role is to get the books from its warehouse to retail and specialty stores. To accomplish this, publishers retain a team of sales reps who travel throughout their assigned region and pitch books to buyers at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and indie bookstores. The sales reps use catalogues and Advance Reader’s Copies (ARCs) to entice buyers to place titles on their watch list. Sales reps start pitching books 4–5 months in advance, even though actual buys often don’t occur until a month before the actual publication date.
Role of the author in marketing
The author is the main driving force behind the book’s marketing strategy. As stated in the introduction to this section, an author must have an active and growing platform in order to be successful. The author executes much of the actual marketing (which is why we created this resource). Go through each section and review the elements of marketing; however, don’t think that you need to pursue all the types of media or that it all needs to be done simultaneously. A successful marketing strategy is one that plays to your strengths, is appropriate for your genre and abilities, adheres to realistic time restraints, and meets your goals as an author. Assess each section by asking yourself the following questions:
- Does this meet my needs as an author?
- Does this fit into my existing skill set and abilities?
- Do I have the time to commit to these efforts?
- What do I want to achieve as an author (e.g., Is this a hobby? Am I promoting my business? Do I want to be a full-time writer?)?
- What can I afford?
- What resources do I have (e.g., connections, finances, materials, etc.)?
- Is someone else already handling this?