As book coverage in newspapers and magazines shrinks, but hundreds of thousands of new books continue to be published a year, book publicists have an increasingly challenging job. These publicists use a mix of traditional outreach and social media in an attempt to not only spread the word about new books, but also build up the reputation of an author.
"What sets book publicity apart is that we're promoting the books, but we're also promoting the author's career," says Tracy van Straaten, VP of publicity for Scholastic Trade Book Publishing.
Traditional tactics of in-person author events, trade shows like BookExpo America, and SMTs are still popular with publishers, who mostly handle publicity in-house. Publishers get galleys, or advanced reader copies, to send to both print and online reviewers, long-lead media outlets, and other influencers within book publicity, looking to build buzz, get reviews, and set up author interviews.
"We've worked with everyone from Oprah to all of the morning shows to all of the evening talk shows, to general interest magazines to hard-core book reviewers," says Dee Dee DeBartlo, senior director of publicity for William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
DeBartlo explains that all publicity for a book leads up to the on-sale date, but publicists should start building buzz well in advance of the publication.
Technology, though, continues to change old habits, including the way publishers send out review copies of books. "As the Kindle and other e-book readers proliferate, we're going to see more e-galleys," DeBartlo says.
"Start building a community for your book long before it comes out, up until it does, and even beyond that," adds Susannah Greenberg, president of Susannah Greenberg PR, who works only within the book publishing industry. She mentions several tactics that have increased in popularity in recent years, including creating book videos—sort of like movie trailers, but for books—and blog talk radio.
"Grassroots with books is really important because sometimes you want to go from the inside out and social media is a very large component right now," says Heidi Krupp-Lisiten,CEO of Krupp Kommunications, which started as a strictly book publicity agency and is now a full-service PR firm.
Stuart Applebaum, EVP and spokesman for Random House, encourages publicists to work with the editors of a book, to keep up with the status of the unpublished book and plan ahead with creative ideas.
"Editors keep our publicists well-informed," he says, "so [they] are ready to go with thought-out, constructive ideas utilizing both traditional and new communications tools."
- Start early by building up a community of fans prior to publication, which will help spread the word
- Mix both traditional book publicity strategies, like reviews and author tours, with social media and online tactics
- Don't confine outreach to book review pages. Look to other sections of the newspaper and position the author and book in ways to attract non-book coverage.
- Don't stop outreach after the on-sale date. Continue to build up the author as a personality or expert, which could pay off for future books and projects.