Book PR – The view from both sides

With just two months to go until the publication of our first two books (wheeeeee!!) we in the SPAM team have been busy telling our wonderful authors how we are going to promote their books as Sarah Benton described in ‘the Pitch period’.

Now the authors, editors, designers and production teams have done their job it’s now time for the sell-in – our job in the SPAM team (Sales, Publicity and Marketing). We’re busy selling the books into all the places we can think of who might be interested in selling or promoting our books – bookshops, supermarkets, online shops, libraries, schools, festivals etc and once the books are there, it’s up to marketing and publicity to let everyone know the books are out there.

A lot of people ask what’s the difference between marketing and publicity – and it used to be easily explained – marketing is paid for and publicity is free. Take out an ad, create a website, produce some posters and flyers – these are all paid for marketing tools. Publicity/PR compliments marketing activity and is all about spreading the word about the books and authors by talking to book editors, reviewers, librarians, teachers and the public via free editorial space and events. Now the line between marketing and publicity isn’t as defined as before, in the digital age a lot of marketing can be achieved for less than it used to – using social media, building a website using free tools, designing and distributing digital flyers – so marketing and publicity work together more than ever.

Book PR is all about convincing these people to feature the book and author by thinking up interesting news stories relevant to their audience and convincing them to read the book, write a review, a news story or interview, run a competition, anything to get the interest of their audience who will then hopefully march to their nearest bookshop, review in hand and ask for the book.

In my career so far I’ve been lucky enough to be on both sides of ‘the Pitch’. As a publicist at Macmillan I loved pitching books and authors – enthusing about the books and thinking up good ideas relevant to the person you’re talking to. There is such a great buzz when you see a piece in the newspaper and can say ‘I made that happen’.

Then as the Children’s Web Editor on the Booktrust website I experienced what it was like to be on the other side – I was bombarded with email pitches, drowning in review copies, it was completely overwhelming to begin with. I felt like this:

After a while, of course, I got the feel for which books were the ones I wanted to read or pass on to the reviewing panel, which authors to interview, which features to commission, themed book lists to put together and how to plan  relevant and interesting content for the site.

Now I’m back on the other side – and am more aware than ever of how many other books we are competing with out there. For every email I send or book I send out for review the editor has been sent a hundred other similar ones from other publishers all competing for less and less space. I appreciate how important it is to be completely familiar with the publication/festival you are pitching to, to be able to make things easy for editors and journalists who are under so much pressure to create new content, especially online. I know how time consuming it is for web editors who not only often have to write content but also have to add to the CMS, sourcing images, tagging, hyperlinking. It’s a laborious process.

But it’s a wonderful position to be doing the PR at Hot Key Books – a new company everyone is excited to hear about with nine fantastically varied books on the launch list to promote. We are very lucky too to have authors happy to write articles, make videos, embrace social media to help with the promotion – another sign of the times that authors also need to be proactive to promote themselves. There is already a buzz of interest and we’ve only just started – which makes my life easier!

And today we’re at our very first librarians’ conference – we hope they’ll be convinced to read our fantastic books.

Kate enjoying the stand and our new table cloth!

Meg

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2 responses to “Book PR – The view from both sides

  1. Yes, being on both sides of publishing really gives you perspective doesn’t it. I wrote a best selling book, turned into an interview host and now help authors get on TV, but it all works together just as you have found. Good luck, Edward Smith.

  2. Thanks for your comment Edward. It’s always useful to have both perspectives – Sarah Benton also wrote about how her perspective has changed towards sales and marketing now she has an author as a partner https://hotkeyblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/sales-marketing-with-authors-at-its-heart/

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