I think constantly about value. What will bring value to my client’s book—the write-up in People, the outreach to book clubs, the branded swag for influencers, a radio satellite tour to bring a specific message to a large audience. What is the marketing communications mix for my client? How will I generate conversation, drive influence and sales, gain the implied endorsement from a reputable source, build an online buzz.
I recently spoke with bestselling historical fiction author (a Get Red PR client) Camille Di Maio on Instagram for her book industry interview series about the ins and outs of PR and what’s changed through the years. While each day something will happen that will make me squeal with delight, and I say that because I’m a big believer in small victories. The rejections are also daily and sometimes another ‘no’ leaves me weakened and tending to wounds that I know will heal but for the briefest period are unbearable.
The next day, I sit at my desk and do it all over again, because no matter what, I love what I do. The conversation I have with myself about value starts again.
I decided to ask a few authors and a veteran literary publicist—with many books to their credit—their their thoughts about value. Specifically, how have their marketing communications efforts evolved through the years, and what are some of the big differences between their various book releases.
ROBYN HARDING, Internationally Bestselling Author of THE SWAP, out now
I published my first novel in 2004, before social media was widely used (or even created in most cases), so I was at the mercy of my publisher’s in-house publicist to promote my book. She arranged local television, newspaper, and radio interviews for me, and put me in touch with several online book bloggers. (I still remember being asked: What do you consider to be your best feature? I didn’t bat an eye then, but I would now.) My next few novels were promoted the same way. After taking a break to explore screenwriting, I returned to publishing with my first domestic suspense novel, THE PARTY, in 2017. The world of promotions had moved almost completely online, and I had much more opportunity to participate in my own publicity. Now, my in-house publicist gets my book into the hands of print and online publications for inclusion on lists and round-ups, which I share on social media to amplify their reach. (I’ve had my books in big traditional publications like People and Entertainment Weekly, but it didn’t seem to impact sales.) I usually write a few articles that tie into the theme of my book, and my publicist will place them. In 2017, I didn’t have Instagram or Twitter, so I was trying to promote a book and develop a following at the same time. Since then, I have found an amazing book community online, and have developed friendships with many bookstagrammers. When my latest novel, THE SWAP, was published on June 23, I felt such incredible support. I spent the entirety of pub day thanking people on social media. It was pretty great.
CHRIS BOHJALIAN, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of THE RED LOTUS (which came out on March 17, 2020 when the world shut down); look for the special 25th anniversary edition of WATER WITCHES on June 30
My 21st book was published on March 17, 2020, so the differences between my most recent release and the twenty that preceded it is like comparing apples and oranges. It makes more sense to compare (for instance) my 20th novel with my first. I have been writing since the Mesozoic era, and the big changes between publishing a book in the late 1980s and the present include:
— The dramatic decrease in newspaper and magazine coverage of books;
— The decrease in television coverage of books;
— The rise of the online book sites and the way readers give books one to five stars;
— The rise of thoughtful book bloggers and passionate book blogs;
— The rise of the social networks to sell books;
— The increase in small, dedicated book groups that meet in living rooms across America;
— The increase in national book clubs hosted by smart celebrities who care passionately about good books;
— The way digital audio has fueled monumental growth in audiobooks;
— The way eBooks have rendered book tours less fiscally viable;
— The way streaming networks have adapted books into limited series that really give a book a chance to breathe on the the screen;
— The way that online bookstores have made ‘discoverability’ of a new book more difficult for book browsers, because there are fewer bricks and mortar bookstores and they have smaller inventories.
I’m sure there are others, but these are off the top of my head.
And then, of course, there has been the publishing chaos caused by Covid-19. That has obviously reshaped everything — especially discoverability and what people want to read.
And so while the most important part of my job has not changed — writing books — I have a feeling that the people at my publisher have to work harder than ever and be smarter than ever, and constantly invent and re-invent how to get attention for a new book. I have no idea how they stay sane and do such fantastic jobs, but day after day and book after book, they do. Really: I am dazzled daily by the team at Doubleday and Vintage and consider being published by them one of the great blessings of my professional life.