The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Books in the land of tea and crumpets

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Brits make us look bad.  I’m talking about book publicity / promotion in the UK versus the US of A.

Many a time have I heard extolled the virtues of British book publicity campaigns — the ads plastering the Underground, the front-page features and reviews — the implication being that American promotional efforts are somehow remiss.  (On behalf of all of us book publicists who work extremely hard to build relationships with journalists and to generate coverage for the books on which we work — and on behalf of the companies that pay us — I’d like to say this is extremely offensive.)

It’s also simplistic.

First, we’re talking about two different countries and two different markets with different tastes and sensibilities.  Marmite is really popular in the UK; here, anyone who’s ever seen it generally thinks it looks like something you should be picking up after your dog.  Or take peanut butter, the staple of all American children and athletes; in the UK, it’s never achieved much beyond, well, existence.  Bringing it back to books, let’s not forget these are the people who sent a CEO zipping down the Thames.  In a speed boat.  To deliver a copy of the new James Bond book to Waterstones.  Which is akin to someone from Scholastic hopping on a broomstick and flying a copy of Harry Potter to Barnes & Noble.  You see the problem here.

Second, the dozen or so major British print and broadcast media outlets are all national and centered in one city (London).  Imagine only ever pitching New York City media.  I found this site that apparently lists all British media published online.  Check the list — and then note that it includes all print (daily, weekly, monthly) as well as broadcast media.  Now, as any Economics 101 student knows — including those called into their deans’ offices in danger of flunking out like your truly — with an oligopoly, everyone does what everyone else does for fear of losing sales.  This means that an author featured in the Times has a pretty good chance of being featured in the Guardian and the Telegraph and the Mail and the Independent and … you get my point.  Here, meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times couldn’t care less what The New York Times reviewed.

I don’t begrudge my British compatriots their successes — and I find it inspiring that books should play so prominent role in their society — but let’s not forget that (to paraphrase the popular quote), we’re a common language divided by two cultures.


March 30, 2009 - Posted by | Miscellaneous | ,


  1. Mind you, the UK is a lot smaller than the US. And the whole of the British Isles could fit into my state of Victoria, in Australia. Those of us with large landscapes have all this distance between us… 😉

    Comment by Tez Miller | March 30, 2009 | Reply

  2. This is so funny! We talk enviously about how US media is diversified, so that, being regional, there’s lots more scope for placing pieces in more than one paper.

    Unfortunately, in the UK, being featured in one newspaper guarantees almost exactly the opposite of what you surmise – they hate to do the same thing as each other and so it’s hard to place more than one article on any given book. Also, tube ads are amazing, but only the top 1% of authors – ie the ones who sell a lot anyway – get them.

    The grass is always greener hey?

    Comment by Rebecca Gray | March 30, 2009 | Reply

  3. Having lived over the pond, I simply find that the Brits simply like to read.
    I was having this discussion with my better half and the American
    teenager is more concern about MTV Cribs and the latest down load
    they can put on their iPod. No one actually likes to “read” anymore.
    What’s wrong with actually picking up a book?

    Comment by Jerode King | March 30, 2009 | Reply

  4. […] not reading the Book Publicity Blog (and really, why aren’t you?), you probably missed this post.  I found it an interesting take on the differences, maybe a little real, but maybe a bit […]

    Pingback by US vs. UK Book Publicity « | April 4, 2009 | Reply

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