With any author’s book publicity campaign, there are a few baselines he or she can work from to catapult PR outreach for the book from blasé to butt-kicking. Hiring a top-notch literary publicity firm is only part of the publicity process; the author’s involvement is a crucial component to operating a smooth campaign that results in media attention for the book. Typically, the author who will have the most successful publicity campaign is one who is:
Willing to Be Involved and Engaged
This means you must check email frequently and respond with regularity to questions and requests from your publicist. Not on email? Be honest about this from the offset, and be sure to work with your publicist on ways you can connect easily and frequently throughout the week. Make a plan and then stay in touch!
Available and Willing to Strategize/Do Media Interviews
Ultimately, your publicist is the publishing and PR expert, but you are the expert on your own writing, which makes you a really important player in this game! One of the most frustrating things publicists can experience is when a book publishes and the author goes on vacation right around that time and is unavailable for interview—your team can’t do the heavy lifting without you.
A Team Player
Beyond being physically available, it is important when partnering with your publicist to offer up info that may seem intuitive to you about your book. Your publicist will think through many unique angles, but your ideas are important contributions to the campaign, and they’re what kick everything off! Sometimes authors have a misconception that hiring a publicist means handing over the reins and sitting back while the media attention rolls in, and the truth couldn’t be further from that. You and your publicist are a team.
Here’s a classic example: The Oprah Winfrey TV Show has been off air since 2011, but most publicity firms are still asked just about weekly if they can get a client “on Oprah.” This type of disconnect from current entertainment media—and unrealistic shooting for the absolute media stars—can leave authors feeling disappointed by their book publicity campaigns when Oprah doesn’t come through. While it’s not an author’s job to know every show or news outlet, having a healthy grounding in what is reasonable (which is rarely anything with Oprah and not tasking your publicist with the literally impossible!) always makes for a nice starting point with your PR team. Taking a true assessment of your book and author brand strengths and working with your publicist to find good media fits for you is a much better direction to head than just running after the biggest book tastemaker you have heard of for a book review.
Active on Social Media
So many readers and media insiders turn to social media more and more for their news…and staying active on these platforms maximizes an author’s possible interaction with both these influential groups.
Friendly with Fellow Authors in the Industry
Has an Appreciation for Booksellers
These are the people that often make-or-break the sales of books! “Hand-selling” or individual recommendations from booksellers to walk-in and loyal customers are enormous parts of establishing a readership even now in the digital age. Playing nice with your local bookstores is a smart move. These publishing industry insiders are also influential when it comes to many award nominations, and they get asked by many authors to nominate them. They’ll be more likely to really support the work of an author who has browsed and bought books from them for a long time and shown up to many local book events.
Cares for Fans
Authors who are willing to walk over hot coals to meet one fan, versus only doing something with an audience of 1,000 people, is a useful quality for book publicity campaigns. You never know who that one fan will turn out to be (or who they know). Reading communities are truly built one-by-one and respecting each reader is a vital part of brand building.
The best author is one who understands that book publicity is a marathon, not a sprint. It can take many months to get “gains” of media attention in the form of reviews, interviews, and other features, and being patient is part of the process! You should certainly hire a PR firm with a critical eye toward getting what you pay for, but understanding the timeline for the job will help you and your publicist work together best.