As I've been working with a publicist lately and didn't have much of a clue what they do, it seemed a topic that needed a post. Luckily, I found just the person to help. Meredith is a publicist with Spencer Hill Press and she will shed some light on the subject.
What exactly does a publicist do for an author? There are a number of things a publicist can assist with. It’s up to the author and publicist to discuss what’s right for the book and what the author should and shouldn’t do on their own. A publicist can assist with the cover reveal, blog tour and release week activities. They can field ARC and interview requests from bloggers. They can set up bookstore signings (launch parties, regular signings and tour signings), library events and school signings. They can help an author sign up for conferences, or at least guide them through the process. They can also send out book blurb requests and mail out ARCs to professional reviewers.
About how far from the release date do you start planning events and other promotion? Promotion can start as early as a year out, with a big push 3-6 months before release. The sooner you can start creating buzz, the better! Early promotion usually includes the author spending a LOT of time on social media, chatting with readers, bloggers, librarians and booksellers. The goal is to create relationships with them so they’ll be excited for your book. Building relationships with your local librarians and booksellers also helps!
With events, it really depends on the guidelines of each event. Some conferences start planning their author line-up a year out. Bookstores often need 4-8 months to plan an event. Libraries and schools often book events months in advance, as well. Research is key – most bookstores/libraries/conferences have their guidelines on their websites. For those that don’t, you can usually call or email them to ask.
Do you usually wait for the cover art to be ready or are there things you can work on before that? The best time to do a cover reveal is 8-9 months before release. After that, the cover is in the system and online retailers start placing the cover images on the book pages. So if you want to do a big cover reveal to create buzz, you have to do it before that happens. There are still plenty of things authors can do before the cover reveal – including being active on social media – though it’s definitely easier to build buzz when you have a cover and description to draw readers in.
However, you can drop hints and sneak peaks of the cover. You can also put out short teaser quotes and images. Typically, the author coordinates this with their editor, to make sure they aren’t releasing material that hasn’t been copy-edited or that belongs in a scene that was removed from the book.
Does a publicist set up cover reveals and blog tours and do you think this type of promotion leads to sales? Personally, I always help my authors with cover reveals and blog tours if these are things they want to do. Cover reveals can build a lot of buzz, especially if the book synopsis and exclusive content (such as an excerpt) are included. Blog tours seem to be losing steam, but there are other things that can be done instead. For example, a one-week blog tour with unique material each day is a great way to keep things interesting.
Does a publicist set up book signings and arrange for authors to visit conventions? Have you ever had an author that just didn’t want to do public events? I’m always happy to help my authors set up signings. But I’ve also had authors who were comfortable booking their own signings because they had a great relationship with their local bookstores. So it depends!
With conventions, it depends on the guidelines. Sometimes, they ask that the author reach out. Other times, the author’s publicist can help them with registration, as well as with panel participation sign-ups.
I’ve never had an author who simply didn’t want to go to signings or events. Often, an author has to pay his or her own travel expenses and convention fees. So it makes it difficult for them to go. And sometimes they live in a small town that doesn’t have a lot of bookstores, so they’d have to travel far for a signing, which isn’t always feasible.
Do you have a set group of places to arrange for author interviews or does it vary depending on the book? It varies. As I’ve mentioned, it’s important for authors to establish relationships with bloggers. So each author might have certain bloggers they’re eager to work with. As for local and national media, that depends on where the author lives and who responds to press releases. There are certain professional reviewers who, upon receiving an ARC, might decide to interview the author, as well.
What sort of book swag would an author get the most use from? What would you recommend an author spend the money on? Teaser images? Bookmarks? Postcards? Book trailer videos? Something more unique? This is very book-specific and completely up to the author. I think every author should have bookmarks because they can be handed out at events or sent out as mini giveaway prizes. But since many authors spend their own money on swag, it’s really up to them. From what I’ve seen, book trailers are hit or miss. Teaser images are fun and can be helpful.
My advice is to think about your book. What are some key elements in it? What stands out to you? If that thing can be made into a fun, unique piece of swag, then go for it!
I heard getting reviews is so important to sales. Would you agree with that and what are some tips for getting reviews? Does it matter if they go on Goodreads or Amazon? Reviews are important, but there are other things that help sales, such as word-of-mouth. However, having reviews on Goodreads and Amazon can definitely be beneficial. Book blurbs are great, too. Often, if an author blurbs a book, fans of that author will pick that book up. The logic is this: if an author they love enjoyed the book, they will, too!
As far as reviews, do you use services like NetGalley or Edelweiss? Do you stick with book bloggers? How would you suggest author find book bloggers to contact? With my job, so far we’ve only used NetGalley. Anyone can use NetGalley – from bloggers to media professionals to librarians and booksellers.
When reaching out to bloggers, the most important thing is to read and follow their review policy. Make sure you reach out to them individually and personalize your request, if possible. Make sure you spell their name right, too! Bloggers love working with authors, but it’s important to respect them and their time.
What type of book giveaways work best? I’ve noticed that readers really love annotated ARC giveaways and signed book giveaways. Giveaways can be done on your social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) or on your website/blog via Rafflecopter.
Is there any type of promotion we haven’t talked about that would be something you recommend? Many authors have street teams. Street teams can be hit or miss, but they can be very beneficial for an author! Street teams allow authors to interact with their readers on a more personal/individual level, as well.
Is there anything an author can do to get more marketing attention? Do larger pre-sales help convince the publisher to spend more money? Or do all your authors get the same amount of help? I know I’ve said this a lot, but it really depends on the publisher, the author and the book. There’s no universal answer. Some authors take on more of the legwork when it comes to promoting their books, others don’t. Pre-sales definitely help an author and pre-sale incentives/giveaways for readers are a great way to get those pre-sale numbers up. Many authors will offer exclusive content with proof of pre-order (the reader needs to email a photo of the receipt, etc).
What is the most rewarding part of being a publicist? Is it cheesy if I say every single part of it is rewarding? Seriously, I love my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love my authors and I love promoting their books. That feeling you get when the book publishes, when readers are loving it, when the author is giddy and excited... There’s just no better feeling! Once a publicist, always a publicist!
My name is Meredith. I’m a Senior Publicist at Spencer Hill Press and Spencer Hill Contemporary. I’m also a YA book blogger and a contributing writer for YA Interrobang. I love to read YA, but sometimes I venture out into other genres. I love to write – I’ve been writing since I was in middle school. I prefer creative writing, but I also did journalism for many, many years throughout high school and college.
Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Thoughts and opinions are my own.