The journey to a best-selling book often hinges on your skill working with a PR, or public relations firm. The author’s path to fame and glory is strewn with brilliant ideas and wild goose chases. So many book promotion plans sound good on paper but turn out to be ineffectual.
With this in mind, is it a good idea for an author to hire a PR firm to promote their published works? Like so many things, the answer isn’t cut and dried. It all depends. While you nearly always get what you pay for, it’s crucial to be clear about what exactly it is you’re paying for when hiring an agency to promote your book.
The first thing to look at is your goal for promoting your book. Are you publishing your book so you can have the credibility of being a published author? If what you want is the respect of having this important credential, then releasing your book into the marketplace may well be enough. A few book release announcements on your blog and newsletter could give you some exposure. This means that with a “book release” instead of a “product launch,” you can use your book as your calling card to get new speaking and consulting gigs.
But what if the credential of getting published is not enough? What about those ambitious authors who want their books to propel their brand to a nationwide audience?
Finding the right kind of help to tell your story to the media can make all the difference in the return on investment you get with your book release. This is the job of a book release PR firm.
Finding the Masses
Most authors invest months, even years of blood, sweat, toil and tears writing their manuscript. Ironically many authors believe that if their book is good, it will sell itself. Have you looked at the volume of books on Amazon lately? Each year, there are hundreds of thousands of new books released…just in the non-fiction category! The idea that your book release is going to rise to the top of the sales charts based on the sheer brilliance contained within its pages is hopeful, at best.
A good book is certainly worth the effort of a good hearty launch. But how do you go about it? Using a skilled literary PR agency could be the answer to putting your message in front of your primary audience.
One of the biggest appeals of hiring a PR firm is the well-worn path they’ve trod to media outlets. A non-fiction author with the right platform is highly desirable in the eyes of talk show hosts, and a good PR firm knows just how to get their attention.
Popular topics like business, politics, finance, inspiration, health and relationships draw viewers and listeners to fresh ideas and the authors who write about them. If you’ve got a good story to tell, you could well find yourself on TV or radio with the help of a solid PR firm.
Social media is also a key ingredient in your book publicity campaign. While it’s up to you as an author to develop your following, a qualified PR firm can help you design an effective social media master plan. They can also direct you to other like-minded centers of influence in the social sphere. The degree of help with social media depends on the agency.
What Makes A Great Publishing PR Agency?
Whatever your level of experience – from first-time indie author to veteran bestseller – hiring a PR agency to market your book is probably a smart move. So, what do you look for? Here are the top 4 ingredients:
Industry Specialization: Often, a PR firm that has experience with media outlets which cover the topic of your book is the best place to start. A client of mine, Dr. Allan Colman, consults with marketing departments of law firms. He is working with a PR firm that is involved in the legal industry and has lists and current contacts with the influencers in this industry. Hence, the PR specialist know about media outlets that an industry outsider would be hard pressed to identify.
Literary PR Agencies: There are a variety of PR firms who work exclusively on book releases. This means that they are savvy to insider dynamics of working in the book trade. This can include managing things like:
Award Submissions: they keep a list of literary awards on-file and regularly submit manuscripts for consideration.
Trade Reviews: book industry buyers read trade journals regularly. Reviews in the major literary trade journals have extraordinary weight on buying decisions from corporate buyers and library districts. Some of these respected journals include Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus.
Bookstore Tours: there is a list of highly respected bookstores nationwide, and some PR firms will maintain a list of people to contact for high-impact bookstore tours with large independent retailers including Powell’s Books, Politics & Prose or Elliott Bay Bookstore.
Speaking Tour: there are many speaking engagement opportunities which are available to authors, who are considered experts in their field.
Dream Media Outlets: Often successful authors will identify a list of dream media outlets where they want to expose their books. Provide this list to your PR firm and get their ideas on how to get featured in these publications.
Weekly Reports to your Publisher: Your publisher can work magic if you feed them real-time information about “PR wins.” Feeding this information on a regular basis to their Sales & Marketing teams does wonders, as sales teams tend to talk-up books that are getting national media attention.
Take an unflinching look at the strength of your network of news outlets, blogs and book reviewers. The marketing support you get from your publishing agency will be greatly enhanced by the amount of time and attention you contribute to your success.
Be clear about the tasks you want to accomplish before hiring a PR firm. By getting clear about your goals and milestones before hiring an agency, you can be sure that the PR firm you hire will help you and your book reach the widest possible audience. Instead of a wild goose chase, you could end up with a basket of golden eggs!
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.