My Job as a Publicist: 1993 vs 2013

breaking-tradition

Image courtesy HikingArtist.com

Whether you’re an author or a publicist, you know the old rules of book publicity are changing fast.

Every morning, I wake up wondering what the work day will bring– definitely not a lunch date with an editor or reporter. Not a day of placing calls or answering the phones. And certainly not an afternoon of writing formal releases for mailing out to the press.

Yep. The times “they are a changin'” and I suppose I’m changing with them, although I must confess it’s not often easy.

For the fun of it, I thought I’d put together two schedules comparing my work as a publicist in the early 1990’s and what I do today. The contrast is pretty stark.

Jane Lassar’s Work Schedule (circa 1993)

  • Mail printed page proofs to book review publications
  • Order photo prints (5 X7) for sending to media (allow 2-3 weeks for delivery)
  • Call radio and TV producers to pitch authors as guests
  • Send pitch letters to book and magazine editors with story ideas (or call them with same)
  • Write press materials (news releases, fact sheets, etc) for including in press kit folders 

Jane Lassar’s Work Schedule (2013)

  • Read manuscripts in digital form on my iPad or Kindle
  • Photograph authors using my iPhone
  • Seek new publicity outlets including blogs, web sites, and other online publications 
  • Coordinate and schedule author podcasts and blog tours
  • Coach authors about blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads 
  • Teach myself a new computer trick every day

If you’re a veteran book publicist or PR professional, I’d love to hear from you about how your work has changed over the years. Send me an email or DM me via Facebook or Twitter. Don’t bother writing or calling. I won’t know how to respond.

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Thinking of hiring a publicist? Ask these questions first

Working with a good publicist can save you lots of time and effort.

Whether you’re working with a person assigned by your publisher or hiring a PR person on your own, a good author-publicist team can make the publishing process a lot more pleasant and ultimately help you sell a lot more books.

But finding the right publicist can be challenging. You want to hire someone with good communication skills who is well respected by the media. You also want to find someone who’s open to creative ideas and has a good working knowledge of current book publicity trends.

To help you choose that “special someone,” I’ve put together a list of questions you might want to ask when interviewing publicist candidates:

  1. Do you have an eReader (Kindle, Nook, etc)?  Your publicist should know something about eBooks given the direction publishing is taking. If the publicist says “I only read print books,” this might be a problem.
  2. What do you know about Goodreads? Social media sites like Goodreads and Library Thing are becoming hugely important for publicizing books. A publicist’s knowledge about these and other book-related social sites can be a huge advantage for promoting your book.
  3. Do you have a Facebook and Twitter account? A clear understanding of these social media tools (or at least a willingness to learn more about them) is imperative in today’s world of book PR. If a publicist says “I don’t do Facebook,” you might want to ask why not.
  4. Do you blog? A publicist who blogs can better assist you in creating and maintaining your own blog.
  5. Will you be promoting my book through blogs and social media?  If the publicist has no intention of pitching to blogs and/or using social media to promote your book, you might consider finding someone more in tune with current PR practices.

Let me know if these questions are helpful. Better yet, post a comment on this blog. Hope to hear from you soon!

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Book Giveaways: The Best Money You Never Spent

At Gray & Company, Publishers we’re very liberal about offering free books for contests and giveaways.

When I schedule an author for a radio or TV interview, I always offer the station several books to giveaway on air. Here’s why:

Extra book mentions: We hear this often during radio broadcasts: “Callers #1-3 will win a free copy of [book title] by [author name].”  Every time your name and title are mentioned for the giveaway, that’s more free publicity for you and your book.

Extra word of mouth: Winners will spread the word about your book to their friends, family, and c0-workers. They’re excited to have won something and will definitely share this news with everyone they know. They might even tweet about their win on Twitter or post something on their Facebook page.

Good relations with hosts and producers: Stations love to give away free stuff.  Show producers will appreciate your generosity and will remember you for future interviews.

Giveaways can also be an excellent PR tool when promoting your book online and through social media channels. Where appropriate, I always offer a free book to sites or blogs interested in hosting a contest, perhaps in conjunction with a book review or author Q&A.

But here’s a word of caution: Never, ever offer a giveaway to sites that are strictly review-oriented. Always check to see if there’s a precedent for book giveaways somewhere else on the site.

Social media, especially large-scale book-oriented sites like Goodreads or LibraryThing are fabulous vehicles for giving away books.

Recently, I offered 15 giveaway copies of Les Roberts’s An Infinite Number of Monkeys eBook as part of Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program and about 150 readers requested copies.  I put together a similar giveaway for Goodreads and many of the winners posted customer reviews not only on Goodreads but on Amazon as well. You can’t buy better book publicity than this!

When authors tell me their publicists are reluctant to offer giveaways, I scratch my head in amazement. When you think about the cost of purchasing ads, the postage spent on shipping giveaway books is next to nothing. There are inexpensive ways to ship the books (we mail them USPS media mail) and often the contest-sponsoring outlet or organization will mail the books for you.

Book giveaways are a great investment, publicity-wise. Try one for your next project and let me know how it works. I might even send you a free book.

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Ask this simple question: Who is going to like my book?

As a publicist, I often read about building audiences . . . targeting audiences . . .  growing audiences.

There’s a lot written about this subject (see links below).

But as any experienced author or publicist will tell you, it all really boils down to one simple question:

“Who is going to like my book?”

This sounds a bit obvious, but by answering this question– and a few related ones– it’s possible to build a pretty effective book publicity campaign.

For example, here are a list of questions I ask before promoting a new book:

  1. What kind of person is going to like this book?
  2. How old is this person?
  3. Does this person use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to get his news and information?
  4. What type of print publications (newspapers, magazines, etc.) does this person read?
  5. What type of radio and TV stations do they watch and listen to?
  6. Does this person prefer reading print books or eBooks?
  7. Has this person signed up for book-related social media sites like Goodreads, Library Thing, or Shelfari? Does he/she actively use these sites?
  8. What other type of books does this person like to read?

By answering these questions, I’m basically building a profile of the typical reader for the book I’m promoting. I use this profile to determine how and where I want to spend my energy and refer to it often when I get overwhelmed with too many ideas or tasks.

Building a large-scale social media campaign makes no sense, for example, if your typical reader doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon of trendy PR methods, but if your typical reader doesn’t post or tweet, you’re wasting valuable time relying on these tools.

Knowing what newspapers, magazines, and radio stations your typical reader enjoys will help you narrow your efforts when pitching to media. Why spend valuable time lining up interviews on public radio, for example, if your typical reader listens to a different format (i.e rock, oldies, sports or AM talk).

As you’re planning your book PR campaign, I hope you’ll keep the simple question of “Who is going to like my book?” in mind. I’ve been doing this for many years with excellent results.

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Don’t let your Twitter numbers get you down

I’m definitely a competitive person.

That’s why I get a little discouraged when I look at my Facebook/Twitter follower numbers. The numbers are growing but they’re certainly not in the thousands– yet!

I’m also a fairly positive person. So rather than take myself to task for lower numbers, here’s a little pep talk I’ve prepared:

MY PEP TALK  (as given to myself)

Jane, you are a highly skilled book publicity professional.

After years of working with traditional media,  you’ve embraced the new methods of social media with great enthusiasm and excitement and continue to learn something new every day.

Your social media numbers continue to rise as you learn new strategies for building followers by reading worthwhile articles and how-to’s (often via Facebook and Twitter links!).

Instead of obsessing over how many friends or followers you have (or don’t have), pay more attention to how social media works and how you can use it to your advantage.

End of pep talk

It’s important to keep in mind that a person might have thousands of Twitter and Facebook followers  but if they don’t have the right followers these numbers are useless and irrelevant.

Here’s a short list of the kind of followers you want to have:

  • People who will pay attention to your message and care about its content
  • People who will continue to pay attention to your message and care about its content
  • People who will share and re-tweet your message to others
  • People you’re interested in following back– so there’s an interchange of news and ideas

Of course, you should always be thinking of ways to build your number of social media fans and followers (see related links for some incredibly helpful tips and and suggestions). But don’t give up on Facebook or Twitter just because you don’t have a million followers right now.

Stay confident– and stay connected!

Related links:

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When a publisher asks “Do you have a Blog?”

As publicist for Gray & Company, I sometimes overhear conversations our publisher, David Gray, has with potential authors. A writer will come to David with a kernel of a book idea or even a rough book outline– asking if our company would be interested in publishing the book

David often replies: “Do you have a blog?”

Some authors answer: “Ugh. I don’t want to write a blog. I don’t have time” or “Blogging doesn’t interest me.” It might be better to reconsider and have a closer look.

Laborious and time-consuming as it is, writing a blog can be a very important first step in the actual process of writing and researching a book. At the very least, developing a Facebook page (sort of a mini-blog) based on your book project or idea can be an excellent way to begin.

Here’s why I think blogging is so important for authors and would-be authors:

Prove you have something to say

Any writer knows that interesting, well-written content is the basis for a successful book. If you don’t have something to say, you probably won’t write a very good book. Blogging is your chance to prove to yourself (and potential publishers) you actually have something to say on your subject,  so much in fact you find yourself writing about it on a regular basis.

Blogging also gives you an opportunity to organize your content by deciding what to write about on a given day. Many bloggers I know keep a running list of ideas– a “blog bank” of sorts where they can reach in and pull out ideas for future posts. Once written, the blog entries are separated into categories and placed into archives for future reference. Sound familiar? A lot like organizing content for your book.

Learn to be disciplined

Writing a blog isn’t easy. Sometimes you just don’t feel like posting and the ideas don’t come.  Although I’m not an author, those I work with tell me the process of writing a book is similar. You need to write regularly on a schedule whether you’re in the mood or not. The discipline of writing a blog is great preparation for writing your book.

Build your audience

Through blogging (or Facebook posting) you have a wonderful opportunity to interact with readers, not only to get feedback on what you’ve written but to get new information and ideas.

One Gray & Company author, Carlo Wolff, author of Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories, is using his Facebook page to communicate with readers while working on his new project, Invisible Soul, a book about Cleveland soul music. Check out Carlo’s Facebook page of the same name (and be sure to “like” it) to see how others are contributing ideas for the book and giving him additional references. Notice all the “likes” Carlo is receiving for his posts, an indication his book will be of interest to readers once it’s actually published.

Great publicity tool

When your book is actually published and you’re ready to publicize and promote, you’ll be absolutely thrilled to have a blog or active Facebook page. You now have a built-in platform for announcing when and where the book is for sale, creating links to Amazon and other online retailers, and publicizing your upcoming book signing events.

You can use your blog or Facebook to offer book giveaways and post excerpts. The possibilities are endless. And best of all, your blog readers and Facebook fans are targeted readers (i.e. those who already have an interest in you and your book). Your publisher will love you. Guaranteed.

If you’re now even half-convinced to write a blog but don’t know where to begin, check out one of my earlier posts about Lynda.com, offering instructional videos on how to set-up a WordPress blog.

Once you begin blogging, send me the link so I can subscribe. I’ll be watching for the book that follows as a result of your successful blogging. Best of luck!

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These books began with blogs

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Google Alerts: Knowledge is Power

Any good publicist will tell you– “knowledge is power” (with credit to Sir Francis Bacon).

The more you know about the book industry in general and other authors with books similar to yours– the better you’ll be at promoting yourself and your book.

Enter Google Alerts.

Through these alerts, you can monitor the web for content pertaining to any subject you choose. Sign up (you’ll need to have a Google account) to receive daily email updates or “alerts” with links to stories, news items, and features pertaining to the people and/or subjects that interest you.

Here’s what the Google alert sign-up looks like:

Notice the “query” field is blank. Here’s where to enter topics, book titles, author names or anything for which you want to receive a Google alert. Notice you can customize (using the drop down menus) how often you wish to receive your alerts, how many you want to receive, and to what email address the alerts should be sent.

Next you’re probably wondering what to put in the “query” field. Let me give you a few examples of words or phrases I might use if I just wrote a book about the Cleveland Indians, our city’s baseball team:

  • Cleveland Indians 2012
  •  “New books Cleveland Indians 2012”
  •  “Book title” (a book similar to mine about the Cleveland Indians)
  •  “Author name” (an author similar to me who’s also just written a book about the Cleveland Indians
  • “Book title #2” (another book similar to mine Cleveland Indians)
  • “Author name #2” (another author similar to me who’s just written a book about the Cleveland Indians

Using Google Alerts, I can follow news stories about the team itself which will come in handy for crafting workable pitches (no pun intended) for my book. By following coverage and reviews for other Indians-related books and authors, I can get ideas for where to publicize my own book and what my “competition” is up to. Invaluable!

If you don’t have a Google account, you can easily sign up at google.com

Create alerts at: http://www.google.com/alerts

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