Working with the Publisher
Before you begin your venture, find out exactly what the publisher is doing. Your acquisitions editor may have already filled you in on publicity and marketing plans for the book. Or it might be your developmental editor, or someone else in the publishing company, who is your main contact by the time your book is ready to emerge from the printer. Ask this person how the publisher plans to publicize and market your book.
Don't contact the publicist or the marketing manager on your own. The publisher will have a plan, and each team member will be busy carrying it out.
What is the difference between publicity and marketing?
Publicity is the promotion of a book for low cost and includes such things as book reviews, press releases, interviews, and your Internet presence. Marketing is the more expensive promotion of a book and includes such things as posters, displays, advertisements, and sales people who call on chain-store buyers.
You may be surprised to find that your publisher doesn't plan to ship many copies to bookstores. Your book will be featured in the publisher's fall or spring catalog, and because of that some bookstores will order it. But there may be no media blitz, and you may be disappointed to visit stores and search in vain for your title. Yet if the publisher's plan works, there will be a second phase of marketing.
After the hardcover's critical success, and after library sales cover publishing expenses, your book may come out as either a trade or a mass-market paperback. This is where the publisher hopes to make a profit. In paperback form your book may appear in stores, marketed to parents and grandparents who buy books for the children in their lives. But even in the paperback edition of your book, you may find that a national publicity and marketing campaign is only available to authors who are famous. Oh my goodness, you may think, this is my window of opportunity, and without more fanfare the book will be remaindered — sent back to the distributor with the cover torn off — before people have a chance to learn how good it is. What, you may well ask yourself, can I do to help?
Offering Your Services
It is important to ask your editor or other contact person whether they like to see authors give library readings, get radio and newspaper interviews, and visit schools to promote their books. Sometimes they want to coordinate such activities, but sometimes they leave you on your own. Each publishing company will have its own take on these issues, as will each editor. One of the deciding factors will be the way they perceive you: Will you be an effective presence to sell the book?
Your editor may help you establish working relationships with the publicist and marketing manager. They may ask for your ideas, so be prepared. If you know of print, broadcast, or web media that might be interested in your book, now is your chance to tell them. Your ideas will probably vary in cost and complexity, but all will require time and effort from the publisher's staff. Even if your idea is simply for a press release to be sent out to local newspapers, someone will have to research the newspapers' names and addresses, write and print the press releases, address and stuff the envelopes, and mail them off. Even the simplest ideas cost time and money.
Getting Involved in PR
One way to give your ideas a better shot is to do some of the work yourself. Using the example of suggesting a press release, you could research the names and addresses of those newspapers to which you want to send a press release and include a list with your idea. To go even further, you could write the press release yourself and send it along too. If some of the work is already done, this takes some of the load off of the publicity department and your idea will probably be looked upon more favorably. You may feel shy about writing promotional copy for your own book, but if you study the text that appears in ads for similar books, and on their back covers, then sit down and practice, you'll soon feel comfortable enough, and maybe even find it fun.
But what if your editor doesn't seem to want you to communicate with the publicity and marketing departments at all? In this case, hand over a list of your ideas, including addresses of media outlets and press releases, and politely wait for a response.