In her latest post for Writers & Artists about what happens after an author is taken on by a publisher, Nicola Garrard discusses her on-going work with a book publicist.
Without publicity, even the best novels will struggle to find readers; they risk becoming a drop in the ocean of some 180,000 books published in the UK each year.
A publicist works behind the scenes to get the book into the public eye: they arrange media coverage, send ‘proof’ copies to media reviewers, authors, book bloggers, and, in the case of YA, schools’ librarians; they solicit interviews, column mentions and broadcast media interviews; they encourage the author to write opinion pieces, arrange event appearances and give valuable advice.
I knew none of this at my first meeting with HopeRoad’s publicist, Victoria Gilder. I have never had to publicise anything in my life; school students are a captive audience. Imagine if teachers had to publicise their lessons and students were free to choose? Market forces would favour the kindest, warmest, funniest and most creative teachers. Lessons on algebra and front-loaded adverbials would lose out and the entire school would be in the Art rooms or running after footballs.
For readers to choose a novel, it also has to stand out as appealing, kind, warm, funny, creative and worthy of the enormous time they invest. And communicating these qualities is what publicity is all about.
As soon as the cover designers and editor began work on 29 LOCKS, I was given an Author Questionnaire about my motivations, previous publications, ideas for whom to send review copies and information that might identify ways of reaching readers through my contacts, communities and associations. Next, Victoria explained her publicity plan, which details the book’s media and events strategy, and we agreed the wording of a press release, both working documents which have already evolved as new reviews and opportunities come in.
Like the submissions process, there’s a nail-biting wait to see which book trade papers will publish the initial press release. 29 LOCKS was fortunate to be featured by trade publication, BookBrunch, giving booksellers a first taste as they plan which titles they will stock.
Book trade publications have a tough job navigating which of those 180,000 books to cover, but they often foreground the news of Big-5 publishers (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster) on whom their advertising income depends. Click on The Bookseller’s website and you’ll see advertising space bought by large publishers to catch booksellers’ eyes: £2000 for 24 hours, £5775 for a print page and £6,500 for a page in their influential Buyer’s Guide. Those following The Bookseller on Twitter may not realise that its feed may also be bought by publishers at a cost of five tweets for £1500!
Whilst its business model relies on income from large publishing houses, book trade publications are also taking steps to promote independent publishers and diverse books. The Bookseller’s new Discover preview will soon focus on independent publishers’ new releases by writers from underrepresented backgrounds.
The eye-watering costs detailed above – potentially £30,000 in a single week of advertising – are beyond the budget of independent publishers, yet with a little creative thinking, independents are able compete with the Big-5’s big publicity and marketing budgets.
Print media, such as magazines and newspapers, is in decline; more people are working from home; fewer commuters view advertising hoardings on public transport; more books than ever are being bought online; and, with cancelled festivals and book fairs, social media has become a formidable equalizer. As a result, new independent publishers like Knights Of have stormed the field with strong sales and literary prizes for their diverse children’s lists, inspiring loyalty in readers who instinctively respond to the celebrity children’s author phenomenon and its big-budget media saturation by supporting the underdog. Finding key supporters allows independent publishers to achieve the same number of clicks and views as paid-for content by harnessing good-will and a sense of social purpose.
Social media is an essential tool in publicity and has already found many supporters for 29 LOCKS, leading to glowing early reviews and interest. If I were to advise new writers, I’d say create a social media account today and follow these tips:
- Be positive and polite at all times
- Engage with authors you love and book bloggers whose opinions you value
- Like and share their posts
- Write reviews when (and only when) you have enjoyed a book
- Follow and interact with the winners and shortlistees of writing competitions: they will be published in the near future and are a source of support in the process of agent-finding, submissions and reviews for your novel
The Society of Authors provides excellent support for writers trying to get to grips with the world of publicity and marketing. I found this video, from communications specialist Anna Caig, especially helpful.
Working with the talented people at HopeRoad has been a wonderful experience and has taught me that the author’s role does not stop when the final manuscript is sent, but is an active and on-going engagement. With just two months to 29 LOCKS’ publication on the 30th September, HopeRoad’s publicity strategy has already built significant momentum, finding loyal supporters in high-profile, award-winning authors*, influencers, journalists and charities, who have each recognised the story’s uniqueness and its capacity to do good.
*Next time: Jacket Quote Fishing, or how to get authentic and influential early readers
Pre-order 29 LOCKS at hoperoadpublishing.com/29-locks
Nicola Garrard has taught English in secondary schools for twenty-three years, including fifteen years at an inner-city London comprehensive. She lives in Sussex with her family and a Jack Russell terrier called Little Bear. nicola-garrard.co.uk