Coverage migrating off the books page

Though the book publishing industry seems relatively healthy, there has been a serious bloodletting in book media in recent months, especially at newspapers.

Though the book publishing industry seems relatively healthy, there has been a serious bloodletting in book media in recent months, especially at newspapers.

Both The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The News & Observer in Raleigh have let go of their book section editors, while the Chicago Tribune recently announced it was shifting its weekly book section from Sunday to Saturday. Even the Los Angeles Times recently ended its stand-alone Sunday book section, merging it in with Op-Ed coverage.

All these moves have triggered some angst among book publicists. "There are certain kinds of books that are review-driven, and if they can't get as many reviews, it does impact the exposure and coverage they need to get," says Sandi Mendelson, CEO of Hilsinger-Mendelson East. "One of the reasons we're all in this business is for that magical review that turns on a bunch of readers to a book."

But the reality is that the decline of these stand-alone book sections will likely have little impact on how the vast majority of titles get promoted. "It's heartbreaking," notes Stacey Miller, principal of S.J. Miller Communications. "But for the most part, nothing has changed in the world of book promotion because the ordinary mid-list author was not going to be getting a review anyway."

"You do need to focus more on off-the-books-page strategies," adds Lissa Warren, De Capo Press acquiring editor and senior director of publicity, and author of The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity. "But, frankly, it's a strategy you had to have in place even before all the book sections began to have these problems."

The good news is those off-the-books-page opportunities may be growing because reporting staffs are stretched thin, and a new title provides an easy hook for a story.

"Most reporters are looking for excuses to quote that expert and that time," adds Miller.

Though online media isn't necessarily picking up all the slack from the decline of book sections in print outlets, Carol Fass, president of New York-based Carol Fass Publicity & Public Relations, says it may be heading that way.

"We do a lot of Internet marketing and a lot more viral campaigns to drive word of mouth," she adds. "Everything is heading for the Internet except for the big household books that are going to get all the attention anyway."

"You have to go for radio, and you have to go for TV," Warren says, "and you have to go for the Web, and that includes blogs and podcasts."

PITCHING... books

Don't rely on the book alone to generate off-the-books-page coverage. Come up with a compelling backstory about the author or some other creative angle to increase media interest

Be selective with market-by-market tours - categories like fiction, memoirs, or history still work, but for other genres, it may not be worth the cost

Look online, especially to the growing number of blogs, podcasts, and discussion groups aimed at bibliophiles

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