Katerina’s Wish takes place circa 1900, but sharing her story with the widest audience possible is a 2012 challenge. Some of that responsibility falls on the author. But a lot of it also falls on the shoulders of a publisher’s in-house publicist. Ideally, the two work hand-in-hand, yet one of the biggest questions that authors seem to have when gearing up for their book’s promotion is what the role of a publicist entails (which may seem counterintuitive, given that it’s, well, about being public).
Fortunately, Courtney Sanks, the Simon & Schuster publicist behind Katerina’s Wish, generously answered a few questions about what this key player in a book’s success does.
– In a nutshell, can you explain what a publicist does to promote a book?
A book publicist’s goal is to great buzz and awareness of an upcoming title throughout different communities. There is the traditional media community such as local and national newspapers, magazines, television, and radio as well as the book trade community. This includes industry review publications (think Publishers Weekly) as well as librarian and academic publications (School Library Journal).
Every book campaign is different but once a book is set to publish a publicity plan is created. Every single book we publish is sent to our list of reviewers either in the form of an ARC or finished copy. The publicist also sends a finished copy and pitch letter or press release to a refined list of media deemed appropriate for that title. We ask ourselves, “Is this more on the literary scale of the spectrum? Does this book target middle grade or teen readers? Is this good for any niche publications? Any particular bloggers? Does the author have any contacts we should send to?” We really aim to target our audience so every book has a chance to succeed. A lot of meetings happen between the publisher, marketing and publicity teams.
Perhaps that is a very large nutshell, but book publicity is an intricate web of planning and reacting at a moment’s notice so that at the end of the day we can say we did as much as we could to get a book out there!
– What can/should authors do to dovetail with your efforts? Any advice on which strategies might be more fruitful than others (e.g., setting up blog tours and/or book store events, speaking at conferences/festivals, creating swag, generating press releases)
Work your contacts! Prior to the book’s publication date start networking in your community. Get to know your local booksellers and librarians. Local connections are invaluable when it comes to setting up book signings and events and this also encourages booksellers to pay special attention to hand-selling your titles in their stores. Once the book is in stores, we also encourage you to offer to sign stock at your local bookstore, as signed copies generally sell more swiftly.
-Research neighborhood events such as book festivals and find out how you can get involved. Be sure that any “off site” (an “off site” is an event that takes place somewhere other than a bookstore) can accommodate the sale of your books by partnering with a local or chain bookstore.
-Go online! Set up a Facebook or Twitter account page for yourself and/or in the name of one of your characters. This can be a great marketing tool and previous authors have found that teens and tweens really respond to their sites. Updating your personal website with information about your new book is also helpful. Touch base with your editor to set up your author portal or your publisher’s equivalent author website.
-Make connections with the editors and reporters at your community newspapers. Local newspapers are often interested in highlighting the talents and accomplishments of their readers. Op Ed columns are another great PR tool for certain books. If your book topic or area of expertise is timely, controversial and lends itself to an Op Ed letter then we encourage you to write and submit one to your local paper.
-Don’t forget to reach out to your fan base about your bookstore signings. Including the store, date and time on your website, Facebook page, etc., is a great way to promote the event and let your fans know where to find you.
– Anything else you’d like writers to know about the author-publicist relationship?
Don’t hesitate to keep an open line of communication with your publicist! We are here to help your book succeed and any contacts you make along the way could lead to more coverage. If you are participating in any writer’s workshops, teaching seminars, or just on vacation and want to pop into your favorite bookshop to sign some stock, let us know and we’ll always lend a helping hand! We publish several hundred books a year (that’s a lot of press releases!) but we’ll always do our best to maintain a working relationship with you and get your book out into the world, (it just might take a day or so to get back to you.) And remember, not only is it our job, we’re book lovers too!
Thanks Courtney! I’m sure you’ve helped a lot of writers today. Best of luck getting this beautiful book into as many readers’ hands as possible!