When your book launches, you naturally have a vision of where you’d like it to go and what you’d like to see happen. Reviews, interviews, readers, sales… Maybe fame and fortune! (Truth be told, many of us do harbor this dream deep down inside.) Yet, whether this vision is clear or blurred around the edges, a part of you knows that realistically, it may not take the exact shape you hope for in the end.
If you’re taking proactive steps to promote your book, staying grounded in this reality takes on a whole new meaning. After all, setting up a plan usually starts with laying out specific goals, then writing up — and plowing through — the to-do list that will bring them to fruition. Should you decide to hire a marketing or PR pro to help, the word “realistic” can easily lose its meaning altogether. Now, there’s money on the table. You’d like it to buy you exactly what you want.
As one providing these marketing and PR services, I see what often happens next: the vision morphs into a veritable checklist of desired outcomes. Specific events to speak at, specific media outlets where coverage should happen, specific social influencers who should be convinced to send out a tweet.
How I wish it were so easy! The truth is, book PR can be as messy and unpredictable as a first draft. It’s very much an art, not a science. The process is a lot like querying agents: we make hit lists of people to contact, draft press releases and email pitches that we tailor in as much as possible to specific individuals or groups, and send them out. Despite follow-up and pavement pounding, often our efforts are greeted only with radio silence.
In working on campaigns, my wonderful team and I always have our own wish lists and hopes for each book. There may be a particular news site we see as a perfect match for a specific novel we’re promoting. Or a radio show we would love to see interview this novel’s author. But even in cases where we have a strong hunch that coverage will pan out, the odds are fairly low that it will.
But there’s a beautiful flip side to this: even as we get the silent treatment from the outlets and people on our wish list (including from people we know personally), we inevitably wind up getting interest from all sorts of other wonderful outlets we had no expectations for at all. Those interviews on MSNBC, NPR’s On Point? Those articles in Marie Claire or The Washington Post? They always come as a huge, and thrilling, surprise!
Which brings me back to control. Focusing too much time or energy on a checklist of desired outcomes can actually impede your PR or marketing pro’s efforts to do what it takes to generate wonderful surprises. If an author implores us to keep trying The Today Show, for example, we may not have the bandwidth that allows the next great idea for a pitch that will really get traction to pop into our head. It’s kind of like in David Milgrim’s delightful children’s book Cows Can’t Fly: you can’t see the amazing flying cows if you’re “much too busy looking down.” [Read more…]