House Tour, Final Stop: Publicity

Well folks, we made it! We’re finally at the end of our publishing house tour. Last stop: Publicity. Publicity is not only the final step in-house for the publishing lifecycle of a book, it is one of the few departments that continues to be involved with a book well after publication. However, before we dive too deep into what that means, let’s first take a look at publicity’s role in the publishing process.

Similar to marketing, publicity is generally involved in the publishing process as early as acquisitions. Many houses will have publicists involved while courting an author because a good publicist can determine if they are the right fit to usher the author’s book into the world. Furthermore, a good publicist will know which publications, radio shows, podcasts, etc. will fit the book’s audience and leverage their knowledge and connections to convince an author to work with them.

Most large publishing houses will have separate marketing and publicity teams. Most of the Big Five houses have numerous marketing and publicity teams for their different divisions and imprints. However, smaller houses may have their marketing and publicity teams rolled into one department with many employees working both positions. 

But what exactly is book publicity? Book publicity is the effort a book publicist makes to get the book(s) they’re promoting into the consciousness of consumers. Simply put, it is the job of the book publicist to help drive sales by building recognition. However, unlike marketing, publicity is not paid for by the publisher. Instead, the publicist targets a wide range of print and broadcast media—newspapers, magazines, websites, radio, TV, and podcasts—all with the goal of getting the book reviewed or having the author interviewed in order to promote the book.

In addition to getting the book/author recognition in the media, the book publicist also plans and organizes author book tours. Publicists work to leverage the book tour to its fullest extent and will build in local television and radio appearances in addition to the tour event. While a book tour is the ultimate goal for any author, because of the large expense, very few authors are sent on tour, especially first-time authors.

Because resources in house are spread thin to begin with, very few books get the full attention of the publicists in house. Publicists will work strategically with sales and marketing to determine which books need the most attention. After all, the end goal is to always sell more books. That being said, not all books are publicity-driven. 

If an author has a huge platform and name recognition, the publisher may choose to rely more on that individual’s fame and following to propel book sales. Furthermore, many celebrity authors will choose to use a publicist outside of the publishing house. For example, a book such as Hillary Clinton’s What Happened would have been largely publicized outside of the house by an independent professional book publicist that specializes in political books.

Despite all the work that book publicists do to get their books in the media, things can still go wrong. Sometimes a publicist will do all the work, get the book all the right placements, and it still won’t sell. However, this does not always signal death, particularly for nonfiction. If a nonfiction author is an expert in a given subject or has a great radio/TV presence, publicists can pitch their authors to speak on newsworthy topics. This is one way in which a book can have a second-life. 

As a book publicist, you have to know your backlist. Who are your authors? What work do they do that is current and relevant, and how can you spin them to news outlets? By keeping your authors relevant in the newscycle, you can keep their books selling years after initial publication. They may never make the New York Times bestseller list, but they can experience years of steady sales, which is good for the publisher and author alike.

At the end of the day, publishing is a business and the name of the game is selling books. Book publicists are an integral part of keeping a book and it’s long-term saleability alive long after initial publication. Authors who recognize the work that their publicists do on their behalf and collaborate well with their publicists will ultimately have a more favorable outcome. They may not have a splashy entrance with their book’s initial release, but by being open to the different opportunities their publicist presents, they may experience long-term success, which is ultimately more profitable. 

If you are interested in learning more about book publicity specifically, I recommend checking out The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity by Lissa Warren.

Thank you for joining us on our Publishing House Tour. Be sure to join us next month when we kick off our next series: Building a Book.