Book publicity FAQ: Media
Follow the Reader, an incredibly informative publishing blog, has been running a series of posts entitled Fine Arts of Marketing, Publicity + Advertising in which they discuss, well, book marketing, publicity and advertising.
Here on the publicity end, there are a number of questions that we book publicists often get from editors, authors and literary agents, so I’m listing a few FAQs here. I initially had tackled a number of questions in this post, but decided it would be easier to break it up into two, so this post deals with media questions. Next week I’ll post book tour FAQs.
Can you book me on [show] tomorrow?
Pretty much, no. (Unless the author can address a breaking news topic, in which case we might book an author with a few hours notice.)
What you need to know: Broadcast producers (and their print and online counterparts) need time to receive books and prepare for interviews which means that typically their lead times are between two and four weeks, sometimes more. Typically, we’re booking interviews two-four weeks out, although some shows will book guests for the next week.
Can you book me on Oprah / The Today Show / The Daily Show / Fresh Air? Will my book be reviewed in the New York Times Book Review?
Some books really are a good fit for these shows / newspapers and you can be assured that the publicists are heavily pitching those titles. Many others are “maybes” and we still pitch those titles just in case. But be realistic about your expectations based on the coverage you do see — before you start clamoring for a Daily Show appearance simply because your friend told you that it really sells books, watch the show. When was the last time Jon Stewart interviewed a novelist? How often does Terry Gross cover personal finance? (And publicists — be realistic with your authors.)
What you need to know: There are hundreds of thousands of books published annually; most shows that interview authors cover, at most, four books a week, often less. (To see what books are covered on the national NPR shows, you can check my NPR Book Watch.) This doesn’t mean you won’t get a national booking, but it does mean we all have to work harder to fine tune and personalize pitches — this is where input from authors can be really handy — and to research which shows / correspondents cover (or like) a topic.
On the print end, book coverage has largely been reduced to token reviews (or more often mentions) although many blogs and websites have picked up the slack. (What remains to be seen, of course, is whether a blog review can generate the sales that print reviews in major national publications can.)
What you should also know is that publicity departments are in touch with the editors and producers of many major publications and national shows (and some local ones) months in advance of a book’s publication. At the start of each season, publicists mail out catalogs to thousands of editors, producers and reporters and subsequently meet / talk with many to review the season’s titles. Three to six months before a book’s publication, galleys are sent to major editors and producers nationwide. Finally, four-six weeks before a book’s publication, finished books are sent to the media. We’re not kidding when we say we blanket the media.
The downside to aggressive media outreach campaigns is that when hundreds of publicists are promoting thousands of titles, the media to whom we are aggressively reaching out have progressively less time to respond to each request we make. This means that we often don’t get responses from editors and producers (try as we might to be selective about what we pitch to whom).
All around, it’s not an ideal situation, but that’s the reality these days.
What book publicity / media questions would you add?