The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

The book publicity timeline

I spent a goodly amount of time the other day copying 200 press releases and folding them because I’d missed my department’s deadline for sending the releases to the printing house to be copied.  The book is a paperback reprint we’re publishing in April, but in publishing we work so far ahead of time that three months early can be late.

Although timing will differ slightly from house to house, here are some common deadlines.  (This is the 30-second — actually, make that the 10-second — version of book publicity, since I don’t want to write a book now and you don’t want to read one.  At least not here and now, at any rate.)  If you do want to read an actual tome about publicity you can try books like Publicize Your Book, The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity or Publicity: 7  Steps to Publicize Just About Anything — none of which I’ve read, by the way, but I like the titles.

Four-six months before publication:

Publicists:  Mail galleys to long-lead media outlets (including monthly magazines and trade publications).

If you’re not a publicist: Make sure to share your thoughts about the book’s promotion with the publicity department.  For example, what do you think are the book’s key points?  What would attract readers’ attention?  (And the attention of journalists?)   What’s the target demographic?  (Is there a demographic we should be pitching that is not immediately obvious?)  What ideas do you have to market and promote the book?  In what media outlets would you like to see the book covered?  (Yes, we’ve heard of Oprah.  And The Today Show.)

If you would like galleys sent to your personal media contacts (some authors will have more than others depending on their profession), you should let the publicist know earlier rather than later.  Although it may make sense to wait to send the finished book to certain people (rather than the galley), if the publicist has the names early, then s/he can make that determination.  FYI, you cannot approach the same person to blurb and review the book for reasons that should be becoming obvious to you right now — if they didn’t already occur to you.

Also, a book’s web presence (website, blog and / or social networking profile) should be established so that journalists can find information online when they receive galleys.

Publicists: Schedule bookstore events (if an event is appropriate for the book).

If you’re not a publicist: Make sure the publicist knows about any significant markets and / or bookstores.  Make sure your schedule is clear around the time of the book’s publication (and if it’s not because, say, you’ve won a trip to the moon, let the publicist know).  Bookstores need time to organize and promote events (both online as well as in print newsletters) and they often won’t schedule events with less than two months notice.  If friends have promised to organize events, get in touch with them and keep the publicist apprised of what’s going on — keep in mind that most bookstores don’t have the staff to sell books at offsite events (like your friends’ parties) if fewer than about 100 people attend.

Four-six weeks before publication:

Publicists: Mail finished books to the media.

If you’re not a publicist: Publishing houses receive finished books (called “bound books” four-six weeks before the publication date of the book).  This gives us a head start to get finished books to the media before they appear on shelves.  Basically, everything you should have done before *really* needs to be completed now.

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And that’s my 10-second spiel.  Which can pretty much be summarized as: it’s never too early.

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January 27, 2009 Posted by | Author-Publicist Relationship, Book Tour, Events, Miscellaneous, Press Material | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Who / whom?

Copyblogger posts a list of 27 commonly misused words — check out the list before writing your next press release!

December 18, 2008 Posted by | Press Material | | 3 Comments

Be clear, concise and cogent

Mr. Sundberg, my seventh-grade history teacher, always exhorted us to be “clear, concise and cogent.”  In those pre-SAT days, none of us actually knew what “cogent” meant (okay, so I didn’t know what cogent meant), but we caught his drift, and that advice has stood me in good stead all these years.

A couple weeks ago, I posted about the Christian Science Monitor discontinuing its daily print format.  I referred to a New York Observer article, which — together with many other outlets including yesterday’s Short Stack — incorrectly stated that the print edition was folding entirely.  Actually, the CSM will still be available in print on a weekly basis.  (Thanks to Alice from Amacom for pointing out the mistake.)  But that got me thinking: why was the original story misreported?  By almost everybody?  Including a former CSM editor?  Cue Mr. Sundberg.  Here are some quotes I pulled from the beginning of the CSM article.

“The Christian Science Monitor plans major changes in April 2009 that are expected to make it the first newspaper with a national audience to shift from a daily print format to an online publication that is updated continuously each day.

The changes at the Monitor will include enhancing the content on CSMonitor.com, starting weekly print and daily e-mail editions, and discontinuing the current daily print format.”

Obviously, the CSM was trying to give the announcement a positive spin (a groundbreaking move by a national newspaper) rather than a negative one (another newspaper folding).  Unfortunately, that message got lost.  People read between the lines — and reported that yet another newspaper is folding — while simultaneously ignoring the fact that a weekly print edition will still be available.  Wouldn’t it have been faster — and less complicated — to say that the daily paper would be replaced by a weekly, with content available online?

“… an online publication that is updated continuously each day.” 

Really?  Do you know of a news site that is *not* updated continuously each day?  (Maybe they felt the distinction had to be made since the print edition will now be a weekly, but again, a simpler way to state the facts would have been to say the print edition would summarize the online news.) 

Even the headline was confusing: “Monitor shifts from print to Web-based strategy”

What exactly is a “Web-based strategy”?  A fancy term for online?

Apparently the CSM wasn’t so clear, concise and cogent.  What Mr. Sundberg couldn’t have predicted, but as celebrities — and Sarah Palin — have quickly learned, information spreads far and wide in the age of the Internet.  Errors (or misinterpretations) are magnified.  Forget the corrections column — once a story has been reported online, there’s no way to control how many times it gets repeated or linked to.

What this story shows us is how important it is to be clear and direct.  Quick and easy is important when peoples’ attention spans last through text message and tweet but not much longer.  Even in the pre-cell phone days when I was a News Editor at my college newspaper, I read press releases by the trash.  I’d grab the mail, head for the nearest garbage can and read — make that skim — the first paragraphs of releases.  Anyone who took too long to get to the point — or whose language required more than a skim to understand — never made it.  As it is, there are so many books and book publicists, there’s no way journalists can pay attention to all of us even if they want to.  There’s certainly no need to make it easier for them to ignore us.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | Press Material | , | 1 Comment

Digital press releases

This past weekend, Jason Kintzler blogged about pitchengine and PitchFeed, which are tools for creating and distributing digital press releases (think your plain vanilla release, but online with pictures, video/audio, links, widgets, etc.)  The story got lost in the thousands of others in my RSS reader (yes, the downside of trying to follow hundreds of blogs, despite how much I rave about my reader), so it was mighty convenient when Ami from Folio Literary Management sent me a note saying she’d tried it out.

Because pitchengine is actually a group on ning (a social network), you’ll need to first create a profile in order to build a social media release (or even to view information about pitchengine).  However, once you create your SMR (which is free), you’ll be able to send anyone a link and viewers do not need to be members / log in.  You can create a pitchengine profile by going to Jason’s blog and following the Join link.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Online Marketing, Press Material | , , , | 2 Comments

How I cheat

A number of readers have expressed surprise about how I manage to blog in addition to holding down a full-time book publicity job.  So I thought it might be interesting to post about how I “cheat.”  And now you can too!

Set up an RSS reader: anyone in public relations / publicity needs to know what’s going on not just in the industry, but in the world.  While it’s useful reading one’s daily hometown paper, there’s so much else out there, that you really miss a lot simply by reading just The New York Timesor just CNN.com (or just Gawker).  So I use Bloglines to keep track of headlines from numerous newspapers, websites, radio stations and blogs — others use readers like Google Reader or NewsGator or the RSS button on their browser — and that allows me to skim thousands of headlines daily fairly quickly.  Plus, I hate getting newsprint on my hands.

Check here for instructions about how to set up an RSS reader.

Send email blasts: Not the best option all the time, but, let’s face it, inescapable, not to mention useful, every now and then.

Learn your publicity database: Backwards and forwards.  When you’ve quit complaining about it (I know, I do it too) take some time to really figure it out.  Ask people for their tips and shortcuts.  I’ve used several programs in my time — Media Map, Publicity Assistant, Bacon’s Online — and none were easy to pick up immediately, although, ultimately, they all proved immensely helpful.  I’ve seen people spend hours using Bacon’s Online, for example, which is unfortunate, because the majority of searches take about a minute to execute (particularly when you’ve saved your search parameters).  And I’ve seen publicists create media lists that already exist.  Or painstakingly update records individually because they didn’t know about the “Update” function.  Or use a program solely to look up names because they didn’t realize they could also be using it to pull media lists.  It’s impossible to list every shortcut for every program, but use this rule of thumb: if you ever feel like something is taking a long time, like you’re really slogging through something, ask someone who’s been around for a while if there is a shortcut — sometimes there is an “easy button.”

Use Microsoft Excel: Just because we work in creative industry and have a way with words doesn’t mean we don’t need to know our way around a database.  In publicity, we often send out copies of books to reviewers.  Often, we send out many books at a time.  Some of these contacts come from our publicity databases; sometimes the names may come from an editor or author or agent.  I always ask for names in Excel so that the information can quickly be imported into our publicity database and turned into labels; otherwise, I’m stuck retyping or copying and pasting all the information.  FYI, contacts stored in Outlook can easily be exported to Excel.  (Check the Help function if you don’t know how this works.)  And fon’t forget that contact information stored in Excel can also be used to personalize letters using that handy dandy Mail Merge function.

Lose the paper: Whenever possible, I work on the computer, not on a printout.  Rather than printing out a schedule, writing notes on it, and then typing those notes into the schedule, I type them into the schedule from the get go.  If I’m looking over someone’s media list, again, rather than scribbling notes on the list, I make the changes to the list in the database (and then I verbally walk through the changes with the person so they know what’s going on).  And if I’m looking over press material and need to make edits, you know where this is going — yes, say, it with me, track changes.  My goal is always to have the fewest number of people spending the least amount of time doing (redoing) the same work.

Guess: I check the general publicity email addresses for my department and somehow, reviewers manage to find their way to our media page, ignore all the instructions / suggestions posted there, and email the wrong department (although, in their defense, a lot of publishing house websites are pretty hard to navigate).  So I field a couple dozen requests daily meant for other departments.  Since I don’t always have time / get really tired of looking up the book or author, and since I know the imprints at my publishing house very well and know what each is likely to publish, I often play guess the imprint.  Usually I’m right.  Sometimes, not.  Oh well.

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Blogs, Media Monitoring, Miscellaneous, Press Material, RSS | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Morning Brief — Wednesday, September 10

Sarah Weinman from Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind checks in on The Penguin Group (Berkley, Penguin Books, The Penguin Press, Putnam, Viking, etc.) on yesterday’s Publisher Imprint Report Card, Part V.

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TVNewser reports on The Rachel Maddow Show, which premiered Monday night on MSNBC (although the only producer listed on Bacon’s Online is “not a PR contact.”)

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I’ve been surprised at what gets caught in my spam filter — “Lolita” did in one release — so I was interested in see this post by Catching Flack’s Jon Greer about how to spam check press releases.  I haven’t yet tried it out (and it may be more trouble than it’s worth — common sense probably does the trick most of the time) but I might give it a gander if I have some spare time.

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Are bloggers “media”?  PR Squared says no … but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Blogs, Miscellaneous, Press Material, Update Your Database | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Morning Brief — Tuesday, July 29

Guy Kawasaki muses about envisioning bigger markets for products on How to Change the World.  You can see how this could apply to book marketing and publicity.  Although I’m just as beholden to the book review sections (or, at least, the ones that are left) and the major shows as the next book publicist, I do think one of the most challenging and fulfilling experiences as a publicist are digging up alternate media venues — whether they be niche publications, local media or reporters with specific interests — and crafting appropriate pitches.

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Daily Fix via PRNewser lists eight press release foibles including making vague claims and overusing industry jargon and superlatives.  So no more “pitch perfect characters,” I guess.

July 29, 2008 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Press Material | , , | Leave a comment

Morning Brief — Thursday, July 24

Yesterday saw a lot of coverage of Peter Shankman’s HARO (Help a Reporter Out), a Profnet-like service that matches up PR folk / experts with journalists: Mediabistro, Gawker, the Industry Standard.  I’ve posted about HARO before, but in the four(?) months since Shankman started the service, the group has grown from 1,000-ish members to almost 20,000 as of this morning.  More importantly for us as publicists, major national media outlets from The New York Times to USA TODAY to CNN and many more are now using HARO to source their stories.  Although I don’t see queries appropriate for my authors all the time, I do frequently see queries that would be appropriate for other peoples’ authors.  (If I could be bothered, I would pass on those queries, but I can’t be bothered, so you should probably just take two seconds to sign up for HARO if you haven’t already.)

HARO’s primary benefit for book publicists is that unlike most PR folk who represent only a handful of clients, we represent dozens (or hundreds) of authors who can speak about dozens (and hundreds) of topics — HARO’s reporter queries are therefore that much more useful / applicable for us.

Shankman sends out three email messages a day with reporter queries.  He summarizes all queries at the top with details below, so it takes all of 10 seconds to eyeball the message to see if any of your authors might fit.  I’m not saying this works all the time, but it is a free and efficient way to supplement our publicity efforts.

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M.J. Rose of Buzz, Balls & Hype directs us to a post about how Twitter circumvented the press release by tweeting their news.  My word.  When I was a recent college grad working for a Big PR Agency I was driven to the brink of madness keeping track of Press Release Draft # … 19.  (That’s when scrubbing bathroom floors starts looking like an appealing career choice.)

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Pitching Tips, Press Material | , , | 1 Comment

Morning Brief — Friday, July 11

I work in a charming, downtown neighborhood, which pretty much all of us see as a respite from the frenzy and crowds of midtown Manhattan.  The downside, though, is it is also a respite from those chains upon which we depend for sustenance (by which I mean Jamba Juice and Pinkberry).  Until now.

As I cruised by Editor’s office the other day, I spotted what looked suspiciously like a fro-yo container.  I leaned in.  Yes.  Remnants of a swirl and raspberries.  Upon further digging, Editorial Assistant informed me a Red Mango had opened a few blocks away from us!  (For those of you who have yet to buy into the Pinkberry / Red Mango phenomenon, this is, as I had to explain to an incredulous and skeptical Coach, how we both have dessert and stay in running shape.)

I have to admit I was a little disappointed by Red Mango’s mochi, which tastes less like pure sugar and more like rice (which of course it is).  Mochi, you may be interested to know, is traditionally eaten in Japan to celebrate the New Year.  The chewier the mochi the better, although this can cause problems going down, apparently.  It’s common knowledge in Japan that every year someone is taken to the hospital after choking on their New Year’s mochi.  (I’m pretty sure I read that in the Times years ago.  Either that or possibly I just made that up …)

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All Book Marketing posts about the must-have and would-like-to-have components of a media kit.

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Anastasia Suen via Largehearted Boy offers a large list of YA bloggers.

July 11, 2008 Posted by | Blogs, Press Material, Young Adult | , , | 2 Comments

Morning Brief — Thursday, July 10

Today is a sad day.  One of the best spinning teachers I’ve found is leaving for med school.  Alas.  But life goes on.

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Rusty Shelton Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists posts some suggestions for how authors can work successfully with publicists.

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Bella Stander from Reading Under the Covers has an interesting post about the importance of an author posting the name of his / her publishing house on websites and other materials.  It’s easy to forget the most obvious information, sometimes.  Whether author or publicist, when we put together press materials or follow up with journalists, we should always make sure the important information — title, author, publishing house, publication date, contact information — is in a prominent place.  I always put the ISBN up high too, since some (okay, maybe only a few) editors log in books that way.  Pub date, of course, is another popular way that books are logged in by reviewers.

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More blogging tips from social media whiz Chris Brogan.

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Author-Publicist Relationship, Blogs, Press Material | , , | 1 Comment