Julia Drake answers questions about book publicity on Sellbox.com

Here is a recent guest post by Julia Drake on David Wogahn’s sellbox.com blog: http://www.sellbox.com/2012/06/an-interview-with-book-publicist-julia-drake/


Q: Should you set a formal release date, and should you direct all publicity towards this date?

Julia: Yes, an official release date is very important because it focuses all elements of the campaign—your own attention, the public’s attention, and the media’s attention on a specific date. It also puts a time stamp on your material, kind of like with fresh baked bread, and with that, a certain hype and expectation, something to look forward to, which is why it is so important to strategize and come up with a PR campaign at least six months before pub date.

At that time, the author should already have an online presence with a website/blog/and social media set-up. Then the campaign should be carried out in such a way that awareness for the book starts with building social media buzz combined with pre-pub coverage to culminate in the release and the bulk of media coverage, supported by events, and again fortified by social media. The combination of social media, events and the author’s online presence is what will give the book legs and keep producing media coverage beyond book reviews for a long time.

Some basic factors that shape the strategy for a PR campaign would be:

1) The book’s genre and possibilities for a news hook (fiction, nonfiction, memoir, etc.)

2) The author’s platform (debut vs. seasoned author)

3) The author’s physical location

4) Whether the book is traditionally published vs. self-published

5) What forms of distribution are available

6) Marketing budget for advertisements and social media promotions

7) The author’s personality (introvert, extrovert, how comfortable they are with interacting with the public and technology)

8 ) Event budget (blog tours versus physical book tours).

Q: If you promote your book before you finish it, what do you say? “Coming Soon”? Or what if you don’t have a firm date yet?

Julia: “Coming Soon” works for me? :-)  It’s okay to not have a firm date as long as the “Coming Soon” doesn’t last for longer than a year. So I guess I would put “Coming Soon” and the release year.

Q: Can a self-published writer get a review in a magazine these days? Does the publisher’s name matter?

Julia: Yes, a publisher’s name still matters, which is why it is still hard for self-published authors to get book reviews in magazines and major newspapers. But if you have an intriguing and timely “true” story to tell around your book or an interesting article related to the topics/themes in your book, you can get into high profile magazines with a guest article, op-ed, or maybe even a feature story.

Be aware though that for most magazines the lead time is 3-6 months and also look at their editorial calendar. The content they are looking for is super specific, so you really have to study each section of the magazine to know if your pitch is appropriate. To be honest, magazines are a small and declining market though. In fact, most magazines are building out their online presence with strong, original content. So if you’re looking for an easier way of getting coverage in high profile publications of any kind, pitch to their website editorial team. That goes especially for the websites of big newspapers like the LA Times and NY Times, news websites, like the Huffington Post, and culture centric websites like The Awl and Boing Boing. They’re always looking for original content.

In general, there are lots of great online options to pursue to get media coverage for your book/platform. Another way to get coverage in high profile publications is through an event you’re doing around your book. Of course it needs to be something bigger than just a bookstore reading. But if you can pull together a timely panel, a reading series, or other “experience” worth writing about that still allows you to plug your book, then you might just end up with a feature. Again, think timely and how to establish a larger context of interest around your book.

Just a quick word on getting reputable and recognized reviews for self-published books. You can submit your book to Midwest Book Review, Foreword Reviews, Bloomsbury, The San Francisco Book Review, The Sacramento Book Review, the Portland Book Review. They are one of the few remaining wholly independent review sources, reviewing two-thousand-plus books a year from the country’s top small presses and independent publishers.

Another option, if you have the money to spend is getting a paid reviews from Kirkus Indie Reviews. Publishers Weekly has a paid review program for vacuum deposition. These reviews are fairly expensive and yes, some people frown upon them, but I’ve personally gotten great results with clients who received a positive paid review which opened doors to higher profile print, online, radio and TV media.

In general though, the visibility and acceptance of self-published books in the media is increasing by the day, so I predict that at some point, the playing field will be even more leveled and content will be king.