Our guest blogger for this month is well-known author and academic, Jenni Ogden, who shares her experiences in using methods that have contributed to her considerable success as an author. In particular, Jenni explains the advantages of employing a publicist to promote your book and you as the author.
While Jenni’s first books were in the non-fiction field of Clinical Neuropsychology, Jenni has since branched out into the world of fiction writing. Along the way, she has collected an impressive list of awards and prizes for her first novel, “A Drop in the Ocean”. Jenni is presently working on another novel set in Queensland.
If you are like me, the very words, “marketing” and “publicity”, exhaust you. Unfortunately, unless your book has been published by a traditional publisher (and even then sometimes, if you are not one of their top authors) there seems nothing for it but to get on with it; read the numerous e-books on the subject and click into the free webinars run by crazily successful entrepreneur writers who have 20,000 subscribers on their e-mail lists and write three or more books a year, usually in the same gripping series.
If you are happy to sell primarily through Amazon and love social media, you may be able to promote your book online yourself. Prepare to spend a considerable number of hours a week on promotion. Write your next book at the same time because the authors who are successful on Amazon tend to be prolific writers with two or more books a year. They can afford to give their first book away to lure readers onto their mailing lists.
But what if this is your first book and it took you years to write? What if your next book will take another two years to write? What if your books are the kind that sell well in actual bookshops rather than as e-books? What if you want to see if they sell in a bookshop? If this is a goal, you will need to find a distributor who sells into bookshops, or take a road trip and “sell” your book to bookshops yourself. A very expensive exercise.
Alternatively, you can find a distributor who may be willing to distribute your book for you (and take a percentage of the fifty percent discounted retail price that the bookshop will pay) or find a good, high-quality pay-for-service or partnership publisher who includes distribution into bookshops as one of their options. Either way, if you make $3.00 profit (after print and distribution costs are subtracted) on a good quality paperback book that is sold in bookshops for $26.00 you will be doing well.
But here is the catch: bookshops buy books they have heard of. Three months after your book is published, the two or three copies taken by a few bookshops will likely disappear from the shelves and be returned to the distributor unless readers are still asking for it, or your book and your name are coming up again and again in reviews and articles. This is why you need to decide, before your book is published, whether you need your own publicist.
A publicist’s job is to find publicity for your book and for you, the fascinating author of this and future books. Publicity is free coverage of your book in the media. You supply content for the media, and in return they tell their consumers about your book, or at least include a link to it or your website. Marketing is a different beast; it is paid coverage. This might be in the form of Facebook ads, Goodreads give-aways, and so on.
The only downside of good publicists is that they are not cheap. They will probably cost you considerably more than that fantastic editor who guided your revisions, because they need to spend more hours over a longer time period working for you and your book. A standard fee might be $80.00‒$100.00 an hour, and in Australia you will need the publicist’s services for at least a month before publication and for two to three months after. Not, of course for 40 hours a week, but perhaps for 50 plus hours in total, spread out over the time period required. That’s $4000 and up for a modest publicity campaign.
On top of that will be the cost of Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), postage of those ARCs to reviewers and media, competition fees if you decide to enter your book for book awards like the IPPYs (Independent Publisher Book Awards), perhaps a slot on Netgalley which will build up the reviews your book receives and get it into book blogs, and more.
Chances are, you may not recoup this investment. But here’s the thing; if you intend to write more books, the right publicity will help get your name and your writing voice known and build those crucial loyal readers. If you have already spent 2000 plus hours writing your book and have invested in an editor, copy-editor and professionally designed cover (all essential for most successful books), then what is better; investing more dollars wisely and hoping you will sell enough books to make your losses less painful (or even make a profit), or selling 100 copies to friends before your book sinks without trace?
So how can a publicist assist you to achieve these miracles? My experience has been with a United States publicist but I did research Australian publicists as well, and their roles are similar. Any publicist works only in the country they know, but in today’s online world, reviews and book blogs are international. However, getting articles into Australian magazines and reviews into Australian newspapers are only likely to happen if you have an Australian publicist.
Here are some of the things publicists do:
- They read your book and love it, and feel confident that they can find story lines (angles) that relate to you or the themes in your book that will interest your target potential readers
- They know how to write a press release and the other stuff that a press kit needs, and they know who to send it to and when
- They know the right way to pitch to media (print, blog sites, trade reviewers, interviewers, TV, radio) and they have a long list of contacts they can choose from
- They come up with angles you hadn’t thought of for articles and blog posts that you write, with your name and new book details attached (your byline), and that they pitch to
- They plan your publicity campaign and keep you on track, making sure deadlines aren’t missed
- They suggest competitions you might enter, and enter your book for you
- They put your book on sites like Netgalley to garner reviews and they follow up on all their queries and submissions
- They may organise blog tours, in-person book tours, social networking and websites
- They stay cheerful and optimistic and keep you calm and focused, and they celebrate your small and large achievements along the way.
Perhaps you can do it yourself? Yes, you can, but it will take a lot of time, research, and trial and error, and you most likely won’t be as effective as a good publicist would be. That’s the beauty of experts, and that’s why I go to a doctor if I think I have some terrible illness, rather than experimenting with treatments purchased over the internet.
OK, so you’ll hire a publicist. How, who, when? The same rules apply as for finding the right editor. Finding a publicist should begin as soon as you have decided you want your book in bookshops and you have a distributor who can hand-sell to bookshops (or you plan to take a road trip and do it yourself out of your car boot).
Unfortunately, there aren’t many to choose from in Australia. Here are some ways to help you select a publicist who suits you:
- Seek recommendations from trusted author and publisher friends
- Interview a publicist before you decide, and before you sign a contract, make sure the publicist has a good feel for your book (and has preferably read at least a good portion of it, and can genuinely be a champion for it)
- Ask for the names of the publicist’s other authors who write in your genre and if possible contact those authors and ask for their confidential opinions
- Seek a publicist you feel at ease with; check how flexible they are regarding their time (for example, do they offer set packages that run for a set time, or will they spread their time out over a longer period, which may work more effectively for your book)
- Find out how they prefer to communicate and make sure this fits with your preferences;
- Sign a formal contract.
Be ready and willing to play your part. This means being an effective communicator and meeting deadlines if you are writing articles and blog posts, preparing well for interviews and book tours, and showing up to events on time.
The biggest advantage of having a great publicist is that it becomes fun when you have someone on your side ‒ even if they are paid to be there ‒ sharing your triumphs, whether it is a fabulous review from an unknown reader or that article about you and your book in the Australian Women’s Weekly !
Jenni Ogden is the author of non-fiction books, Fractured Minds and Trouble In Mind, and writes a regular blog post for Psychology Today.
Her first novel, A Drop In The Ocean, set on the Great Barrier Reef, was published by US partnership press, She Writes Press. In 2016, the year of publication, the novel won four international book awards:
Gold—Nautilus Book Award for Fiction, Large Publisher
GOLD—Sarton Women’s Book Award, Contemporary Fiction
GOLD—Independent Publisher Book Award, Best Fiction, Australia/New Zealand
SILVER—Readers’ Favorite International Book Award, Women’s Fiction
Read reviews of the book on Goodreads or Amazon, and if you like the sound of it, order from your favourite independent bookshop or purchase online.