I’m going to close one year and open another with an interview with someone who helped me get my start in writing books. Sandra Beckwith is a former publicist who shares her award-winning expertise with others as the author of two publicity how-to books and a book publicity workbook, and as a publicity workshop presenter and e-course instructor. She is the author of Publicity for Nonprofits: Generating Media Exposure That Leads to Awareness, Growth, and Contributions and Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement. Her two book publicity e-courses and free book publicity e-zine help authors learn how to generate media exposure for their books. Learn more—a LOT more—at buildbookbuzz.com, buildbuzz.blogspot.com, and nonprofitpublicity.com.
Leslie: A lot of people are under the impression that a publisher takes care of all the publicity for a new book. You and I both know this isn’t altogether true. Can you elaborate?
Sandra: It isn’t even remotely true unless you’re a celebrity. Publishers just aren’t staffed to give your book the publicity attention it requires and deserves for a sustained period so if you want your book to receive ongoing media attention, you have to take on that responsibility yourself. A publisher will typically support the book’s introduction by sending an announcement press release and review copies and maybe execute an online promotion campaign, but after three months or so, your title’s publicist has to move on to the next batch of new titles that need publicity support. Most books can be promoted for years, so why stop at three months?
Leslie: What do you think are the top three challenges to book publicity?
Sandra: From my perspective, the biggest challenges originate with the authors. Authors need realistic expectations and a willingness to make certain their book title stays in front of their target audience.
With this in mind, I would say that the first challenge is getting the author to accept responsibility for the book’s success in the marketplace. You simply have to be willing to share the book promotion workload with your publisher.
The second is being realistic about the media outlets you target. Unfortunately, most authors will tell you they want to promote their book by appearing on Oprah’s TV show but most authors don’t write the types of books that enjoy Oprah’s Midas touch (for more on this topic, please read my buildbuzz blog entry. More importantly, it’s quite likely that your book’s target audience isn’t watching Oprah. Even if it is, it’s important to pursue other key media outlets while also pinning down that coveted appearance on Oprah. Start with the easiest options – your local media – and move outward from there.
The third is the need to understand that book publicity is about much more than book reviews. Book reviews – if you’re lucky enough to snag them – appear in the first few months of publication and if this is all you’re pursuing, you’re left with nothing in the offline or online media outlets very quickly. You can keep your book’s title in front of your target audience for way more than a few months – in fact, you can do it for years – if you understand that book publicity is really about positioning the author as a topic expert, whether the book is about fiction or nonfiction. Leveraging that topic expertise lets you get and keep that book title into the media almost indefinitely.