Once a book goes in to production, an author’s attention usually turns to publicity. The publicist assigned to a book works to get reviews, interviews, feature stories, and Q&As with magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, podcasters, bloggers, etc. Film and TV’s portrayal of publicists can leave the impression we spend all our time planning parties, booksignings, and wining and dining. That can be a component of a publicist’s job, but only in so much that those events present an opportunity to get attention from the media. At AMACOM, the publicity department also works with social media and spearheads AMACOM’s social media presence.
I thought since publicity seems to be something almost all authors are interested in, I’d start a semi-regular series “Ask a Business Book Publicist.” Below are some frequently asked questions we encounter from authors and my answers.
When do you start working on publicity for a book?
We begin to evaluate the publicity potential of our titles well before books make it in to our seasonal catalogs. In fact, someone from the publicity department participates in AMACOM’s editorial committee that evaluates proposals, so we’re thinking about publicity potential from proposal stage. Once catalogs are printed, we mail them to an extensive list of media contacts. But for most of our trade books, we begin in earnest about 4-5 months before pub date. That’s when the manuscript goes in to production, and that’s usually when we first get to evaluate a book in depth.
Do I really need to fill out the author questionnaire?
Only if you want to help sales and marketing staff quickly understand your book and your view of the target market. (That’s a yes.)
When should I launch my website?
In all likelihood, an author’s online presence is part of what helped him or her sign with a publisher. But if an author lacks an online presence, creating a website is essential for pitching media. So launch at least 5-6 months prior to publication date. The media’s first line of research is just like everyone else’s: they Google it. If an author’s name or company doesn’t come up on the first page of search results, you can imagine they start to question if an author is really an “expert.”
Will you get me on Oprah?
Ha! The show ended last spring, but had a big huge cultural impact and is recent enough to illustrate this point: while landing an author and book on Oprah was within the realm of possibility for many books, it was also improbable. Oprah’s show was the show everyone wanted to be on, so ooddles and ooddles of publicists were vying for the producers’ attention. And top-tier media is very selective (they can and ought to be!). Pinning one’s definition of success on a few top-tier media outlets is not wise. Success is whatever moves you closer to your goal, whether that is increasing consumer awareness of your book (and thereby drive sales), building a strong platform, or establishing an author as a thought leader.
Should I hire an outside publicist?
This is entirely up to an author. It really depends on what the author’s goals, time, and budget are. I advise authors to consult with their publicist first to find out what the publisher’s plans are, get some suggestions for publicists to talk to, and ensure that it’s a coordinated effort from the get-go.
What do you want to know about business book publicity? Post your questions in the comments, and I’ll answer as best I can.