Marketing Wars, Episode Two:
Return of the Publicists
by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Sandra Reimer is the owner of Reimer Reason Communications, located in Ontario, Canada. She assists authors as a publicist and also helps charities and businesses market themselves. Sandra Balzo is both a writer and a public relations professional, specializing in book publicity. Balzo's first mystery, UNCOMMON GROUNDS, was nominated for both an Anthony and a Macavity, and her short story work has been nominated for multiple Anthony Awards and has won both the Robert L. Fish Award, the Macavity Award and the Derringer Award. She can be reached at Sandy@SandraBalzo.com. Patti Nunn’s BreakThrough Promotions is staffed by writers committed to writers. Patti believed from the outset that most writers couldn’t afford to pay a publicist three figures per hour. So she came up with a variety of affordable representation plans, where authors pay for the publicity they get. She can be reached at PJNunnAssoc@aol.com. (Full disclosure: Patti Nunn has been a key player on my team since my second book came out.)
What 5 tips put a new writer in the best light for you as a potential publicist?
Aside from quality writing, the following five things make an author easier to promote:
- The book has a distributor and is easy for readers to purchase.The book has a distributor and is easy for readers to purchase.
- The book is published by a recognized publisher.
- A catchy title that accurately represents the book and an attractive, professionally-designed book cover.
- The author has education and/or experience related to their book that provides fertile material for media interviews and speaking engagements.
- He or she already speaks on topics related to their books or can write magazine articles related to their books
- WRITE A GOOD BOOK AND BE NICE
It's like those agents are always telling us: It really IS important to be enthusiastic about what you're selling. I'm selling your book and, equally important, I'm selling you.
I won't take on a book I don't think is good. I don't feel like I can be effective and--to be honest--I'm not willing to burn my goodwill with the media. If I pitch them a book that doesn't live up to the billing, will they pay attention to the next one I send them?
As for the "be nice," part: Yeah, it's because I like nice people. But it's also because I won't let someone who ISN'T nice talk to my media contacts.
- START EARLY
You should be shopping for a publicist six months before your pub date. Review copies go out a minimum of three months ahead and, even assuming your publisher's publicist is sending out the bulk of them, there are always places they haven't thought or follow-up to do. ALSO (important point!!), I need time to read your book!
And speaking of time, the two questions a reporter--any reporter--asks when considering a story are: "Will my audience be interested?" and "Is this timely?" By starting early, you help us be timely.
- PROVIDE INFORMATION
The book, first and foremost. Any blurbs you've gotten. A bio, even if it's rough. If possible, include your "platform"--that is, why you're the logical and best person to have written this book. Oh, and a hook, if you've come up with one on your own. Otherwise, I can help you do that.
Remember that publicity is a campaign, not a battle. Sure you want to make a splash when your book comes out, but you need to keep your name in front of people until the NEXT book comes out. Any newsworthy (key: NEWSWORTHY!!!) event--award nominations, film options, etc.--provides a reason for me to go back to that same group of reporters. So stay in touch and provide me with ammunition.
- BE REALISTIC
Understand that we can't make someone write a story or put you on TV. What we CAN do is position you and the book in the most interesting way, and provide everything that the reporter needs to write an article. I don't want them to have to dig for information. Reporters--like all of us--are busy people. If they have two equally interesting ideas, human nature says they will write the story that's easiest.
- Contact potential publicists well in advance of the release date. So often authors come aboard late and miss many good, early opportunities.
- Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, and keep asking until you’re sure you understand the answers.
- Study the industry thoroughly enough to have realistic expectations. Many disappointments in publicist/author relationships involve unrealized expectations due to poor communication.
- Be candid in communications with your publicist about anything involved in the promotion process. We can’t know what you know or what you need unless you tell us.
- Don’t be afraid to think “outside the box” and suggest any idea that seems feasible. The more involved an author is in the process, the more likely the efforts will produce a satisfying and successful result.