Authors, publishers and books have long been the PR clients in the book publicity business. And as the industry has changed, so has the media covering it along with the PR people promoting the books.
In recent years, the book industry has changed with the rise of e-books, Kindle, Amazon.com, pressure on big publishers, and more self-published authors. Despite the changes, thousands of new books come out each year, so competition for readers and media coverage is tougher than ever.
To keep up with changes, PR tactics and strategies for books and authors have had to change. A number of years ago, for example, there was no internet and online news, no social media and no podcasts as media targets for books; now they are everywhere. (Over the years, I have done PR for about 30 books—through several agencies, including my own—and I have seen it change due to the trends above.)
So, we now have media targets in print, the web, broadcast (TV, online video, radio, online radio and podcasts), social media, book reviews, quotes in news and feature stories, op-eds, bylined articles and speaking events, among others. At a speaking event for authors, you also want to be able to have the books sold. That's the bottom line here: Book PR and media placements are supposed to help sell books.
How Do You 'Book' the Author and the Book With the Media?
The book itself and new media outlets often aren't enough. Even with all the changes above, you still have to find the news hook, whether it be the anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis, GMOs, Donald Trump and immigration or Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo. The client is either the publishing house or the author, but the product you're pitching is the book. Yes, the author has to be able to speak well to the media about the book or a news hook, but the book is what's being "sold."
And in many cases, you'll be lucky enough to have two key PR chances. For a large number of books which first print uncorrected proofs or galleys, that is the first outreach the book publicity can make to the media. Once the final book is out, you have a second bite at the apple. Both require book mailings to media, and those expenses.
But everyone who does PR can't just one day say they do book publicity; it's more of a niche and a specialty. There are agencies that specialize in book publicity, and there are agencies which do other kinds of PR and list book publicity as another PR service they provide.
My advice to those shopping around: Pick one that specializes in book publicity. They should know books and publishers inside and out. Get referrals, do careful research and vet a few of the book agencies out there before hiring one for your book.
Tips for Book and Author Publicity
- Make sure the client is media trained and understands that the PR campaign will combine pitching the book and news hooks.
- Have a PR team member assigned to specifically work on social media for the book and the author.
- Make sure the book and the author have a website to help promote the book.
- Keep changing the book PR pitch as often as needed to keep up with new news hooks and new developments.
Remember Yogi Berra's comment: It ain't over 'til it's over. Sometimes it takes a long time to land a media hit for a book and for it to appear. It took me months to get a book on Real Time with Bill Maher, but it was worth it in the long run.
The next time you see a major book review, an author on TV or a book at the top of the best seller list, you can bet a book publicist had something to do with it.