I used to be a book publicist and, as a book sales rep, have worked with book publicists. Gotta say: not impressed with the breed. Most have a shiny coat, bark loudly, no teeth. I expected a lot of them. I don’t think I was wrong then, but now that the tech and culture have changed, I realize I’ve expected too much from publishers and their publicists.
In the old days, publicists organized events, book tours, mailed out advanced reading copies (ARCs) and hoped for reviews. The publicists I knew were pretty smug and full of themselves, especially considering how frequently they were unsuccessful.
The other wrinkle in the mix from an author’s point of view is, if you’re with a trad publisher, the publicity department has little time to get attention to any one book or author. The other continual complaint is, besides the small media/promotion window, most of the promotion budget always goes to the author who seems to need it least. That’s the publisher trying to maximize profits (rather than pimping a mid-list author.)
The world has changed and authors need to shift expectations: Publishers don’t publicize your book much and mostly download marketing duties to the author. That annoyed me. Now I think that’s the way it should be.
My reasoning is that the author/reader relationship has changed. Readers don’t want to interact with your publisher. They want to interact with you. Who cares about publishers. With the exception of Harlequin—the one company where you always know what you’re going to get—publishers don’t have brands. Authors have brands.
Send stuff out (press releases, ARCs, bookmarks, catalogs, book tours) hoping media will bite.
Engage readers directly with Twitter conversations, blogger reviews and blog tours and hoping they will bite.
Yes, there’s still room for old model tactics, but they are either limited, outmoded, less effective or costly.
So nevermind that your publisher’s publicists aren’t returning your calls two weeks out from your book launch. Chances are they’re busy with another book and have expended your promotional budget. You can do better for yourself over the long run, anyway. (Or you can hire your very own publicist and do it up right for a longer time.)
Publishers unloaded marketing responsibilities to authors for budgetary reasons. Authors should shoulder that responsibility for a better reason:
Your readers want to talk to you, not them.
- 21 Bold Predictions: The changing future of books (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- The Amanda Hocking Effect: She didn’t sell out. Trad publishing bought in. (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)
- E-book sales triple from a year ago, now top-selling book format (pdresources.wordpress.com)
- Writing Conference Cataclysm: Ebooks versus the Amish (chazzwrites.wordpress.com)