One of the most popular blog posts on AuthorImprints is this interview with book publicist Julia Drake of Wildbound PR. The questions Julia answers were asked by attendees at a book marketing panel discussion I moderated for the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC). Even though the event took place in 2012, the questions are timeless and Julia’s responses have been updated and contemporized for the 2017 book marketing landscape.
More about Julia follows the interview.
Q: Should you set a formal release date, and should you direct all publicity towards this date?
Julia: Yes, an official release date is very important because it focuses all elements of the campaign—your own attention, the public’s attention, and the media’s attention on a specific day. It also puts a time stamp on your material, kind of like with fresh baked bread, and with that, a certain hype and expectation, something to look forward to, which is why it is so important to strategize and come up with a plan for a PR campaign at least six months before pub date.
At that time, the author should already have an online presence with a website/blog/and social media set-up. Then the campaign should be carried out in such a way that awareness for the book starts with building social media buzz combined with pre-publication coverage to culminate in the release and the bulk of media coverage, supported by events, and again amplified by social media. The combination of social media, events, media coverage, and the author’s online presence is what will give the book legs and keep producing exposure and sales for a long time.
Some basic factors that shape the strategy for a PR campaign would be:
- The book’s genre and possibilities for a news hook (fiction, nonfiction, memoir, trilogy/series, etc.).
- The author’s platform (debut vs. seasoned author).
- The author’s physical location.
- Whether the book is traditionally published vs. self-published.
- What forms of distribution are available.
- Marketing budget for advertisements and social media promotions.
- The author’s personality (introvert, extrovert, how comfortable they are with interacting with the public and technology).
- Event budget (blog tours versus physical book tours).
Q: If you promote your book before you finish it, what do you say? “Coming Soon”? Or what if you don’t have a firm date yet?
Julia: “Coming Soon” works for me? ? It’s okay to not have a firm date as long as the “Coming Soon” doesn’t last for longer than a year. So I guess I would put “Coming Soon” and the release year.
Q: Can a self-published writer get a review in a magazine these days? Does the publisher’s name matter?
Julia: A publisher’s name still matters, which is why it is still hard for self-published authors to get book reviews in magazines and major newspapers. But if you have an intriguing and timely “true” story to tell around your book or related to the topics/themes in your book, you may just get into high profile magazines with a bylined guest article, op-ed, profile, even a feature story. We call that “the backdoor approach.”
Be aware though that for most magazines the lead time is 3-6 months and also peruse their editorial calendar. The content they are looking for is super specific, so you really have to study each section of the magazine to know if your pitch is appropriate. To be honest though, we don’t actually pitch the print versions of magazines much, because there’s such limited space and opportunity, while their online print versions (which is actually where they turn a profit) produces a lot of original content, so we tend to concentrate on placing coverage there.
That means, if you’re looking for an easier way of getting coverage in high profile publications of any kind, pitch to their website editorial team. That goes especially for the websites of big newspapers like the LA Times and NY Times, news websites, like the Huffington Post, Daily Beast, and Slate, and culture centric websites like The Awl and Boing Boing.
In general, there are lots of great online options to pursue to get media coverage for your book/platform. Another way to get coverage in high profile publications is to do events surrounding the release of your book. To get their attention, you’ll need to get creative though and go beyond the standard book reading, unless you’re already a known quantity. But if you can pull together a timely panel, a reading series, or some other event that allows readers to experience your book, then you might just end up with a feature article. Again, think timely and how to establish a larger context of interest around your book.
Just a quick word on getting reputable and recognized reviews for self-published books: make sure to submit your book to publications like Midwest Book Review, Foreword Reviews, The San Francisco Book Review, The Sacramento Book Review, and the Portland Book Review. They review two-thousand-plus books a year from the country’s top small presses and independent publishers.
Out of the main industry trades (Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews), Publishers Weekly has a special platform for indie authors to submit your book to for review consideration. It’s called Booklife and offers a wealth of resources.
Another option, if you have the money to spend is getting a paid review from Kirkus Indie Reviews. These reviews are fairly expensive and yes, some people frown upon them, but I’ve personally gotten great results with clients who received a positive paid review from a reputable book trade magazine which opened doors to higher profile print, online, radio and TV media coverage.
In general, the visibility and acceptance of self-published books in the media is increasing. Not a day goes by that a self-published book makes a bestseller list or lands coverage in an established publication, because in the end, content is king, and everyone is starting to recognize that.
Q: Are blog book reviewers good to use? I hear this is a great and easy thing to do.
Julia: Yes, blog reviews are great because bloggers often don’t mind being contacted by authors directly and there are so many blogs out there! Just make sure to 1) read their review policies and reading preferences 2) vet their blog to make sure that it is legit (read a couple of reviews, check followers, social media reach, etc.) and 3) make sure to share the coverage and thank them for the review via social media.
Also, once you found a couple of blogs you think are right for your book, browse their blog roll because you will often find a very nice long list of other blogs in the same genre.
Q: What is the average cost to hire a publicist? What does the author get for these services?
Julia: All of our company’s campaigns are completely customized to our clients’ needs, so costs vary greatly, but campaigns run on a flat monthly fee over 3-9 months. The price depends on all the services included in the campaign: elements of the media campaign (print/online/broadcast), social media marketing (number of platforms, growth techniques, advertising, monitoring and analytics), innovative book events, blog tours, promotional video services, author websites, media kits. As a range, the monthly rate for campaigns starts at $1,500 up to $6,000.
Thanks Julia! Julia shares that she can be contacted via her company website Wildboundpr.com or by calling 310-359-6487.
Julia Drake is the co-founder of Wildbound PR, a California based literary publicity company that works with authors across the globe to gain exposure for their work via traditional and digital media press campaigns, social media marketing, innovative book tours, author websites and promotional videos. Julia has spoken at Independent Writers of Southern California, the Women’s National Book Association, and the California Writer's Club and writes for Publishers Weekly and Writer’s Digest. Visit wildboundpr.com.