The release of this year's Whitbread Book Awards shortlist raised many a literary eyebrow. Judges rejected titles by Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, Julian Barnes and Man Booker Prize winner John Banville, causing a media stir.
But how do publishers ensure publicity for authors – well known or not – outside of the main literary dates in the calendar?
The Bookseller and Publishing News are the longstanding major weekly trade titles for the sector. 'These titles are incredibly powerful,' says Midas Publicity chairman Tony Mulliken. 'You cannot sneeze in the trade press without the whole industry knowing about it.'
Inevitably, it is the MDs and CEOs of publishing houses who are most familiar with these mags – but Mulliken claims in-house PR departments are not as good as they should be at targeting them. 'There are not enough copies in publishing houses, but that is no excuse for people not to see them because they are available online,' he argues.
Becoming more enjoyable
Both titles have relaunched in the past two years, and their tone and format have become more enjoyable to read as a result, says Arcadia Books publisher Gary Pulsifer.
'Publishing News has become more creative since its relaunch, particularly with its features – but both titles have improved,' he adds.
Pulsifer claims Publishing News tends to be more in-depth than The Bookseller, with more editorial space and a greater global focus, covering international book fairs and running interviews with foreign publishers and agents.
Year-round news-generation tactics for book launches or unknown authors are generally well rehearsed. For example, PROs often use an unknown author's personal background to rouse journalistic interest; and publicity drives are often timed for a particular season. Diet and fitness books, for example, are timed for the new year,
paperbacks in June (for the summer holiday season) and hard-back cookery books in October (for the run-up to Christmas).
Last year saw a record 200,000 books published and Dotti Irving, CEO of Colman Getty – which has promoted the Booker Prize since 1993 – says competition for coverage is getting tougher.
Publisher Publishing News
Deputy editor Roger Tagholm
Circulation approx. 9,500 (not ABC audited)
Who reads your title?
Booksellers, retailers, publishers, agents, the media – and there is consumer take-up, too, because there are so many people who want to write books and are researching the industry.
How are you different from The Bookseller?
We are more lively, slightly more edgy and more fun. We also use bolder photography.
To what extent do you work with PROs?
We could not do our job without them. We like to print good pictures, but they have to be high resolution. Most importantly there cannot be any duplication, we do not want to publish a picture or a story that has been, or is going to be, published anywhere else.
What kind of stories do you cover?
We cover anything to do with high-street bookselling and publishing: new books, book deals, store openings, new publishers. We like human and celebrity-interest stories, and we will not look at an obscure medical textbook. But we will do a story about Jamie Oliver's titles being damaged in a warehouse flood, or an author who is obsessed with the Loch Ness monster or who has got a walk-on
part in a film, for example. Our deadline for news is Tuesday noon.
Publisher VNU Business Media
Deputy editor Joel Rickett
Circulation 9,698 (not ABC audited)
Who reads The Bookseller?
Bookshop workers, librarians, publishers – and we have a big international following. We also have a large readership in the media.
Why is coverage in The Bookseller important for PROs?
It will often spawn consumer coverage elsewhere: journalists use us to set their own interview agenda, from the press to women's mags to chat shows. Publishing News is more industry-facing.
How would you advise PROs?
Our deadline is Tuesdays at 5pm. We must know about book launches three to four months in advance. We won't preview something that will be released the following week or that has already been released,unless it is destined to be a bestseller.
And what do the various sections cover?
News can cover launches, acquisitions and general business issues, but we try to generate stories ourselves so this is not an easy section to target. We have a preview section, which we use PROs for, while features straddle news and reviews. We also have a regular piece on what book groups are reading and why – and we have a weekly feature on what an in-house team is doing to promote a book.