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January 18, 2010
5 new ways to compete for book PR
(Editor's note: This is a guest post from Barbara Henricks of CaveHenricks, a public relations firm for business books and authors. She's considered by many to be one of the best book publicists in the publishing industry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I’ve been in the PR business nearly 20 years, and there’s been more change the past two years than in the first 18.
That’s created much fear and confusion. Readers are consuming content from more outlets and with a staggering number of devices-- via iPhones, computers, Blackberries, Kindles, Nooks and Sony Readers, to name a handful.
Getting a book published in 2010 is vastly different than in 2007. Advances are lower, editors are more wary of risk, print runs are shrinking, bookstores are ordering fewer copies, marketing dollars are tighter and publicists are chasing coverage in a media world that is undergoing its own transformation. That means authors today must master a new environment, relying on strategy, customization, and increased author participation.
Here are five ways for writers, authors and publishers to market in this new environment:
- A great media campaign will discard many if not all of the old notions, conventional wisdom and template approach of the past. There is no one blueprint for building a best seller. The best campaigns draw on all forms of media, with increased emphasis on digital forms. Campaigns today rely on the author’s participation beyond traditional tours and interviews. The best campaigns draw on an author’s natural strengths.
- There are no longer any magic bullets. No one single media hit can ensure a book’s meteoric rise to the top, with the possible exception of a full hour of “The Oprah Show” that features only one book, its ideas or the author.
- Magazine coverage is coming later and later, but now has the potential to prolong a book’s sales life. Not so long ago, if a magazine did not commit to coverage 3-4 months ahead of a book’s publication date, the process was over. Now, magazine editors will often take a look at finished books and post a review, an article or a bylined piece by the author in their online editions almost immediately. In some cases, if the online piece gets a lot of views, the magazine will run something in the print edition months after the book’s release, which will keep the sales alive well into the campaign.
- Bloggers are jumpstarting many successful media campaigns. For this to work, authors must be willing to become active participants – offering relevant content, contributing comments and connecting directly with bloggers themselves. It’s still the publicist’s job to do the legwork to guide authors through the vast landscape of bloggers, identifying a target group whose readership matches most closely with the book’s intended audience, but the author’s direct participation is required to make this outreach successful.
- Relationships will remain at the heart of good book promotion, but forming them will be more difficult than ever, particularly with the blog world. The best approach is good strategy – taking stories and ideas to a journalist only after very careful consideration of whether that book or message truly meets their needs. Repeatedly delivering only relevant material is the biggest relationship builder of all.
The landscape is different, the challenges new, but as always, big ideas and great books will will always find their way. As someone who cherishes her Kindle for its portability, must have the Sunday New York Times in its reassuringly weighty bundle, reads daily news online and cherishes her big glossy copy of Vogue, I know the industry will figure out how to integrate these formats into a successful mix.
Right now, it’s in flux.
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Great article! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks. This was really helpful.
I could not agree more. Last week I had a high profile WSJ editor say to me of the changing media landscape, "It must feel like you're aiming at a moving target!" I laughed, and appreciated her sensitivity to what it's like in my shoes right now, after more than thirty years as a book publicist. Very little is the same. Half my media contacts, sadly, are in other fields or reinventing themselves in other media venues. What I most agree with is that one must continue to build solid relationships with whoever is left standing by being relevant, relevant, relevant.
Great article and very helpful!
Spoken like a true pro! As a PR Consultant and book author undergoing the book promotion process once again, I found resonance with a lot that you are saying. I might add having your own blog to build your platform well before the book comes out will assist in building loyal readers even before the book hits the shelves.
I really appreciate that! It's always awesome to have ideas which may help advertise the books we write. Be sure, that I'll make use of your tips here in Brazil. Congrats on the article!
Thanks everyone for your great comments. Christine, I couldn't agree with you more -- authors should definitely focus on their own blog and online presence well before their book hits the market. Kathryn, we too are updating our media databases daily in this fluid environment.
This couldn't be better timing for me as I'm one of those people writing a book in 2010! Luckily a NYT's feature on us, sent excellent literary agents our way to help guide us.
As a digital nomadic globetrotting family since 2006, I think we live in exciting times despite the many changes happening to many industries.
"big ideas and great books will always find their way"
Thanks so much Barbara!
Enjoyed the article.I look after both authors and publishers specifically in the technology and business sectors in the UK. Authors are under increasing pressure to execute book promotion through their own online channels and social networks. Publishers are keen to provide tools to reinforce PR messages and are continually striving to reach new channels. The big difference I see is that publishers are increasingly commissioning (and relying on) authors to deliver new book announcements through their own organic routes to market. Authors must have a platform prior to contract. Interesting times...
The most important thing she said was "the author’s participation". The author of any book MUST get out there and engage his/her readers through all forms of media, speaking, book signings, and inspiring those who have never heard of them to at least open the cover. You have to be an evangelist who is able to make personal connections with everyone and anyone you meet. It's the author that sells books. Trust me, I know.
I did... I gave $40 to the Red Cross and you can too... Here's the link: http://www.stopstressingnow.com/2010/01/president-obama-asks-for-my-help/
It's great to have a pro like Barbara H. share "real" information. I write a business blog and over the past year have been approached by PR professionals seeking coverage for an author they are representing. This is a practice I don't mind at all. While I don't publish "sponsored" posts, if a book is one that I feel is relevant to my topic then I'll do a review and/or a review/interview post. Also I'm writing my first book and plan to be a "self-publisher." What this post gives is food for thought: on the one hand, Ms. Henricks paints a clear picture of the changing nature of the book publishing industry - not an easy road; on the other hand, people are still reading and reading in many different ways using new technologies.
I agree with what Barbara says in her article but I don't think that the article entirely fulfils the promise of the headline, "5 new ways to compete for book PR."
Subheadings like: "A great media campaign will discard many if not all of the old notions, conventional wisdom and template approach of the past," and "There are no longer any magic bullets," are somewhat negative. They don't really tell the reader how to compete but rather what not to do.
It is useful to know where not to waste one's time, but it would be even more helpful to know more about what to actually do.