Why Book PR Needs Lead Time. Lots of it.

“Dear publicist, My book just released and I’d like to promote it. How can you help?” “Hi! My novel came out last fall and sales have been close to zero. Can we talk about what your firm can do to promote it?” Ouch! These emails break my heart. I typically get about two like this

What You Pay For When You Hire a PR Firm

Imagine that your book is coming out in several months, and you fall into the camp of those who want to put some time and resources into promoting it. Knowing that that your publisher can’t commit to much more on the publicity side than mailing out galleys to a standard media list, you’ve decided to give it your all, to go ahead and hire an outside publicist.

But as you research firms and see the 5-figure price tags for most campaigns, a lump forms in your throat. Your advance was modest. You know you can’t begin to estimate how much, if anything, your book will generate in sales. At the same time, you’re learning that the gist of what a publicist does is build press lists, write elevator pitches, send emails, make phone calls, mail galleys and coordinate interviews when opportunities arise. All of which seems pretty straightforward. You figure that if you had the time and the nerves, you could probably handle much of this yourself.

To Promote or Not to Promote: An Existential Question

It’s no secret that publishers do little these days to promote most books but that there’s an infinite number of steps authors can take to fill the void, from DIY to hiring an outside publicist. Nor is it a secret that even the most exhaustive efforts can potentially get you….almost nowhere in terms of sales.

This may be why many authors opt not to do much promotion if any aside from what their publishers have planned (typically mailing out galleys and ARCs to reviewers) and to focus their energies instead on what they really love: writing.

That’s a perfectly understandable and admirable choice. As agent Donald Maass wisely noted in a comment to one of my recent posts on Writer Unboxed, “The better bet [rather than spending too much time or money on promotion] is to write a killer Book #2.”

In an ideal world that’s what we’d all do. That world would be delightfully zen, free of the complications that come with drive, ambition and a desire for recognition. Free, too, from any need or desire to try to make a living from our craft. Our next book might be that killer or it might not; in the end its destiny is something we don’t control. But it wouldn’t matter and we’d be content to keep on writing.

In reality, though, most of us need or yearn for more. We certainly need to

The False Divide Between Book Promo and Author Promo

After years of drafting, critiquing, revising, submitting and watching rejections pile up, you’ve finally landed a publishing deal and your book is coming out in several months.

Over those years you’ve worked hard, too, to build a platform — giving webinars on craft, writing articles that have run in places like the Huffington Post and contributing regularly to a popular blog (maybe WU?) drawing thousands of readers from around the country.

Yet, when you sit down for the long-anticipated meeting with your publisher’s marketing team, you’re told that despite your strong online connections with readers in cities from Portland, OR to Portland ME, your publisher won’t sponsor a book tour.

You’ve just come up against the false divide between ‘author promotion,’ which spotlights you as an author and an individual, and ‘book promotion,’ which focuses specifically on a given book.

In promoting yourself as an author a book tour can be an important part of leverageing all the connections you’ve built as a voice in the literary world, and doing so makes perfect sense. People who’ve enjoyed your blog posts and articles, whom you’ve exchanged comments and tweets with, may well want to meet you in person when you’re in town. They’ll come to your talk in the local indie bookstore and possibly invite a couple of friends. Some might host book club events for you or feature you on their own blogs. If well-organized,