Partner with Your Publicist: How to Prepare for Your Book's Publicity Campaign

In order to stand out in today's publishing landscape—traditionally or self-published—you may need the help of a publicist. Here's how to prepare for your publicity campaign.
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This is the second installment in a two-part series of blog posts by Sara Wigal about publicity campaigns and working with a literary publicist. Read the first part here.

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I wrote previously about how market changes have affected the day-to-day activities of writers, and the expectations placed on them to support their books with publicity and marketing activities. Most authors now must put in the work whether through their own grassroots campaigns, or through partnership with a literary publicist, if they hope to receive media and reader attention for their books (this PW article was an interesting look at one author’s realization about how necessary this process is these days). If you want to really get the best bang for your buck when working with a publicist, you can do a lot to pave the way for a smooth partnership that optimizes your media exposure and ultimately your book sales.

Depending on whether you are independently or traditionally published, the preparation process for your book’s publicity may start in a slightly different place.

If you are traditionally published, be sure to let your publisher know you plan on hiring outside support. Open up a dialogue early on about what they plan to do promotionally and fill in your outside publicity team on these plans. That way your publicist can create a plan that supports—rather than duplicates—the activities of your in-house publicist, expanding your total media exposure. Before your publicity campaign begins, coordinate an introduction between your outside publicist and your in-house publicist so your whole team works effectively for your book. Your timeline for this may be up to a year in advance of your publication date, and the outside publicist may start between 2 to 6 months before publication, depending on what types of media they will be working with on your behalf.

If you are independently published, you’ll want to consider what your publicity goals are before you set your publication date. If your preferred outside publicist, for instance, can’t start until a month later than you would have hoped, consider putting off your book’s release date by a month to work flexibly with this person. When you are indie, you have the power to make decisions like this that support your total brand and goals.

You should also be considering the timing of when you publish in regards to your personal schedule—plan your campaign and launch for a time when you know you won’t need to travel for a day job or vacation so you will be available to your publicist for the many responsibilities you will have as a partner in your campaign. You can also consider holidays and media hooks; if your book is about parenting, perhaps releasing it around Father’s Day or Mother’s Day would be a good idea that will help you and your publicist more easily court the media.

Once you have planned out these big-picture timing issues about your book publicity campaign, it is time to start in on some actionable items.

Before your campaign begins, you should:

  • Write an elevator pitch. You need to be able to succinctly describe your book to anyone that asks. Hopefully this is something you already have and its how you got published and/or hired your outside publicist to begin with!
  • Set up your social media accounts. You don’t need one for every platform, but typically we recommend Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are good starting places and having at least one account that is active before your publicity campaign starts is a good idea. If you have multiple accounts, use the same handle if possible for each place so you have cross-platform cohesion and better brand recognition from your followers. Even if you hate technology, it’s not really an optional part of book publicity these days—being on social media provides incredible boosts to your branding and even if it is uncomfortable for you, it’s typically worth tackling the learning curve. Your publicity team will guide you, and can even work with you to minimize your personal involvement on these platforms.
  • Watch or read basic tutorials about these social media platforms and learn how to use them. Even if you pay someone to “ghost post” for you, some amount of engagement is required of you, and knowing how to use the technology at its most basic level is important.
  • Get a Goodreads account and begin adding books to your reading list and interacting with other users. All books these days get listed on this wonderful website, and many publicity activities revolve around it. You’ll save yourself time later if you’re already on the site and familiar with it.
  • Brainstorm the types of things you want to convey to the media. What is your message? Even if you wrote a fictional novel, you have a platform to convey—it may be about your passion for your subject, how you were inspired to write, or an experience that shaped you that lead you this far. This will help your publicist think through angles about why you may be interesting to the media.
  • Compile a list of any past publications you have, preferably with links. Your publicist will ask you for past book titles as well as any websites or publications you have been featured by previously to help him or her start researching for appropriate media to reach out to on your behalf.
  • Compile a list of influential people you are connected to and may be able to ask favors of that benefit your campaign. People that will read and review the book online, send copies on your behalf to their good friend that writes for your local newspaper, and will help invite people to your book launch party. Think about your social network…you are about to tap into it! Don’t be afraid to politely ask for favors, and let your publicist guide you toward respectful protocols for these activities.

Publicity campaigns are a lot of work for writers and their PR teams, but going into your campaign prepared will help both you and your publicist (and publisher, if applicable) to smoothly navigate through the creation or expansion of your book brand.

If you are published already, what are tips you’d give to new writers just embarking on this phase of their book’s life cycle?

This is a guest post by Sara Wigal. Sara Wigal is an Assistant Professor of Cinema, Television & Media and Director of Publishing at Belmont University, a unique undergraduate degree that equips students with necessary skills and knowledge to enter the book world. She serves the Next Chapter Society council which supports the programming made possible by the Nashville Public Library Foundation. She previously worked in literary PR, beginning as an assistant and working her way up to a Senior Manager role, shaping author brands and interacting with the media. Wigal has been published by The Tennessean, Publishers Weekly, and Writer's Digest.

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