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The Publicity Puzzle

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By Marika Flatt

I often speak to writers’ groups at conferences and discuss how to create a stellar publicity campaign for a book. I am no longer amazed that 50% of the people in my workshops are hearing detailed information about literary publicity for the first time. I thrive on being able to unlock the mystery of publicity for them. I am easily excited by uncovering one more piece of the book puzzle in their quest for bestseller stardom.

I will now attempt to walk you through the book process in a very simplified version. Writer completes manuscript. Writer finds agent to sell manuscript to publisher. Publisher agrees to publish book. Publisher edits copy, coordinates cover design, organizes production of galleys (review copies) and actual book, coordinates distribution to bookstores and other booksellers and then the publicist takes over. Or, nowadays, author might choose to self-publish, in which case he/she is responsible for the above.

The best time to secure a literary publicist is two to six months before the publish date (depending on how much pre-pub work the publicist needs to do vs. what a publisher will be doing, or, if the book is self-published, some choose to skip the advanced review copy stage), in order to allow for the maximum amount of time to organize the campaign.

A typical campaign lasts four to six months, for starters, and is orchestrated in a systemized manner. We spend the first month developing strategy and press materials. Then we begin to outreach to book industry publications, which require that you send them a book pre-publication three-six months prior to pub date. We also begin to contact magazines with the longest lead times. The typical magazine requires a three-nine month lead-time.

The publicist then begins contacting appropriate editors of daily newspapers (if appropriate) and radio and television producers. Online media is typically the last segment of media to be contacted because they move at Internet speed and require little-to-no lead-time. After all appropriate media has been contacted, follow up begins. Follow up is absolutely essential for a publicity campaign. Most media receive hundreds of pitches a day and typically, following up is the only way to get yours noticed.

We spend the final month of every campaign doing what we call “sweeps”. This means that we follow up with ALL media that were ever interested in the book or author. We make sure that we leave no stone unturned.

There are many benefits to hiring a publicist. To name a few:
— A publicist has the media contacts and relationships needed to secure interviews/ reviews.
— A publicist knows how to pitch your book to the media and how each journalist likes to be contacted.
— Most writers do not have the time to devote to a publicity campaign. It is a full-time job.
— When an author is pitching his own book, it is typically viewed as being too self-promotional. A publicist is seen as a third party and most journalists are more receptive to discussing a book with a publicist rather than the author.

A publicist’s main job is media relations: scheduling interviews, book reviews and feature stories for a client. Occasionally, other services are offered, such as book tour coordination and event planning, media training and development of marketing materials. However, a publicist does not typically find agents, publishers or distributors for the book or coordinate travel arrangements for a book tour.

Publishers often outsource books to independent publicity firms. Due to the heavy volume of books that a publisher’s in-house publicity staff has to promote, by hiring an outside publicist, more time and energy can be devoted to individual titles. Some publishers have even done away with their publicity departments and send all their titles to an outside publicity firm to handle the promotion efforts.

Publicity is an integral step for any book that does not want to remain on the bookshelf—brick & mortar or virtual. A publicist lets the world know that the book exists and why they need it. Not every book can be on Good Morning America, but every book has an audience who needs to know about it.

Just remember, publicity is a marathon, not a sprint. The process takes time but is well worth the toil.

Marika FlattAbout the Author: Marika launched PR by the Book, LLC in 2002, combining her love of the media, public relations and books. Prior to that, Marika spent seven years leading the publicity team of an Austin-based book publicity firm. Marika is a past-president of Women Communicators of Austin, serves as an Expert for IBPA, is listed on Twitter’s Women in Publishing (#womeninpublishing) and serves on the selection committee for the Texas Book Festival.

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