You have questions about getting reviews for your books, about reaching the right readers. You work hard at social media but aren’t quite sure if it’s doing anything to build your brand. You’ve heard that hiring a PR firm could be a tremendous asset to your career but aren’t sure how to find one, let alone hire one. You hired a PR firm but feel as if you’re not being heard.
I hear you. Your questions are valid. I’ve taken a few of the questions asked in the Writer Unboxed Facebook Group, and sought answers from some of the biggest authorities in the business. Keep reading, there’s even an offer at the end!
How do you distribute advance reader copies of your books to readers who will actually follow through and post reviews? –Mandy Webster
“Mandy, there are a number of different tools for getting ARCs out to media and readers, including Netgalley—which is a fantastic e-galley service, and mailing out good old-fashioned print copies. Either is great and you’ll find that certain people prefer certain formats and I suggest getting them the book in the format that works best for them. (You are, after all, asking them to spend a chunk of time reading and then possibly reviewing an entire book.) But even more than format, what really matters about getting people to read and review your book is good old-fashioned relationships. A good publicist spends a lot of time nurturing relationships with media and readers, reading what they post and following what they are interested in, so that they are sending and suggesting the right kind of books to the right people. You can’t just blindly send out books and see what sticks. Spend time researching—and supporting!—the media you are pitching. Read what they write if you want them to read what you write. Not only will your pitches and advance copies be better received if you have a sense of who you are sending your book to and how they actually cover books, but you’ll also likely find that you learn some really interesting things along the way and will probably get turned onto other great books, which is always a boon for a writer! Good luck!”—Sarah Burningham, founder of Little Bird Publicity and author of the just-released Truth & Daring: A Journal for the Thoughtful and the Bold
“I think a big part of this is establishing relationships with people you know are serious and will follow through with reviews. When it comes to coverage online via blogs and social media, you should also do some research. Look into their following, how often they review, what their reviews consist of, and their engagement.”—Kathleen Carter, president Kathleen Carter Communications
“I’ve found the key to handing out ARCs and having readers follow through is all about the connection I’ve been able to create with my readers. I work hard to create that connection, for my readers to know that they are important to me, not just for reviews but personally as well. With this connection, when I ask them for help, whether it’s to spread the word about deals or to leave honest reviews for advanced copies, they are always there for me.”—Steena Holmes, New York Times bestselling author whose forthcoming book The Patient is out in October
Is it worth hiring a marketing company? How do you find a good one?—Diane Byington
“Hiring an outside marketing company to supplement what your publisher is doing is like taking out an insurance policy on your book. You have the satisfaction of knowing that no matter how well or poorly the in-house PR and marketing efforts are going, you have someone that reports only to you and directly to you. And outside firm cannot tell you they don’t have the time or bandwidth or that you’re not an “A title.” Outside firms also can dig deep on niche outreach and engage in multiple rounds of follow-up which is a level of attention that you might not get from an overworked and understaffed in-house team with a large list of titles to promote. The best firms will work hand in glove with your in-house team to ensure no duplication of effort and that no stone is left unturned. You want your outside support and your in-house team to be on the same page from day one and to fit together like puzzle pieces rather than working at cross purposes.”—Meg Walker, co-founder Tandem Literary
“No one can buy a book they have never heard of. Period. And heard of more than once. There are wonderful ways to make that happen—reviews, influencers, word of mouth, interviews in the press, TV appearances—and no matter what brilliant PR firm you hire to help make it happen not a single one of them is guaranteed. I hire PR for my own novels, but I know going in that they are making an effort and it might not yield results.
So, I spend about 3x in marketing what I spend in PR. And that is because what we do in marketing is guaranteed. It’s simple if we buy ads for you they show up. As sexy as getting a People magazine review or Reece Witherspoon picking you? Not at all. But if we say we will reach 1 million targeted readers who read similar books to yours – we will reach them because we buy the space.
The ideal situation is to do both PR and Marketing. But there are 3000 books published a day and very little press out there so if you can only do one thing—you need to do the one that is not a gamble, which is marketing.”—MJ Rose, founder of Authorbuzz, New York Times bestselling author of Tiffany Blues, co-founder of 1,001 Dark Nights
“Hiring a book publicist and/or marketing team to help your book can be worth it and, in many cases, is absolutely necessary in order to get a book attention among the many (thousands) of books that come out every week. But there are definitely things to be aware of and educated on before you hire anyone. First and foremost, hiring someone is not some magic bullet that is going to have immediate ROI and feel worth it to you right away. More likely, hiring someone to help publicize and market your book is a long-term strategy that takes money, time, creative resources, patience and collaboration. It’s more like investing in a business that takes time to get off the ground rather than immediate satisfaction. That is not because you’ve hired the wrong person or hired someone “bad”, it’s just the nature of publicity and marketing. Rome was not built in a day and all. So, if you are an author that is willing to understand this is a long-term investment and that publicity / marketing is built over time, book by book (brick by brick), it is worth it and will feel worth it. However, there should be movement and results as you move forward.
To find a good publicist / marketer: Reach out to authors you admire, find out who they work with and who they recommend, look at the website of anyone you are considering and see what results they have and what their client roster looks like, schedule interviews and ask good questions, ask for client references, talk to those references as well as other clients they didn’t give you. Do your due diligence. The right person will bubble up for you.”—Crystal Patriarche, CEO BookSparks
I’ll soon be new to the marketing game. What is the best way to reach potential readers? How important is blogging? How important is social media?—Winona Bennett Cross
“The best way to reach potential readers is through Facebook and Instagram. Sixty eight percent of the U.S. is on Facebook. You can quickly find your “tribe” on Facebook by joining Facebook groups, participating in chats in those groups and generally being social. If you create an Author Facebook page and don’t use it or encourage participation, you will not get followers or readers. Engagement is the key. Likewise, on Instagram, search by #bookstagram and find bloggers and readers who focus on your genre. Comment on their posts and interact.
Blogging on your own isn’t as important today as it used to be BUT if you can be a guest blogger to bigger sites, you will increase awareness about your book.”—Andrea Peskind Katz, author whisperer and founder of Great Thoughts’ Great Readers Facebook Group
“I always tell my clients to pick a platform that you are most comfortable with and focus your efforts there. If you love Facebook and spend a lot of time there, stick with that. If you hate Twitter, that will show in how you use the platform. If you’re ambivalent about Instagram, that will come across in your posts. Don’t try to make yourself an expert across all social media platforms, especially not a month our from your book’s pub date. Your time is worth something. Spend it wisely, embracing what works best for you.”—Meg Walker
“I think engagement is key when it comes to breaking into a new space and wanting to connect. Being genuine and contributing to conversations that are not just for your benefit is important. Folks are easily turned off by those who only promote themselves, their books, and agendas. Support is important and rewarded, especially in the literary community. When it comes to blogging and social media, I always advise authors not to do anything they aren’t enjoying or that is not productive. You can fall down the Twitter rabbit hole all day long and get nothing accomplished. I think it’s worth trying each platform out to see how it works—or doesn’t—for you. It’s okay if you’re not on all of them and it’s okay if you’re not blogging. If it doesn’t serve you and your goals, it’s not worth your time.”—Kathleen Carter
“Knowing the difference between publicity and marketing can also help – publicity is about awareness and creating buzz in media (magazines, newspapers, websites) while marketing can be more direct to consumer and, in some cases, have more immediate results. Marketing is social media, ads, influencer marketing, newsletters, events, etc. Both are important. Both are worth it. Both take time. And since our attention spans are short, people are not consuming media the way they used to, social media is changing all the time, media are folding, it’s hard to know what will work for you and your book. There’s no one size fits all. Every book has its own pace. Finding someone who understands this and works to address these challenges and can help you navigate them, is important.”—Crystal Patriarche