Book PR 101

Author Monica Jackson found these two interesting Book Standard articles about book publicists and their advice to authors. I thought this bit was particularly helpful:

Unless you’re friends with (and I mean have had the person into your home
numerous times), do NOT contact the media yourself. Reviewers and feature
writers do not like to be called directly by an author. Do NOT pay people to go
into bookstores and turn your books face out on the shelves, and/or pay people
to hang outside the bookstore and harass people going in with news about the
book. (Yes, this happens). DON’T ask your publicist to get you on

Oh hell. There goes my entire media campaign for my next book…now what do I do? And how do I break it to my grandmother that I’m not going to pay her to go into Sav-on and turn my books face out any more?

10 thoughts on “Book PR 101”

  1. I’ve had one or two writers brag to me about sneaking into bookstores and signing their books when no one was looking. When caught, one writer’s mother loudly proclaimed that her daughter was “doing them a favor” by signing the copies. Actually, they were trying to force the store to sell them by making them non-returnable. Had I witnessed that episode, I’d have made sure I not only avoided the book, but burned any backlist I owned.
    My publisher’s take on that: Yeah, go ahead. We can always sell the signed returns for a couple bucks more. Just try not to piss off the booksellers. There’s the rub.
    Signing the books, even without an event, only works when you OFFER to do it. “Hey, you’ve got a bunch of stock. How ’bout I sign it so you can stick an ‘Autographed’ sticker on it.” Doesn’t work, you turn around and leave.

  2. I disagree with that advice. I wouldn’t appreciate people calling to bug me on the phone, but there’s nothing wrong with emailing reviewers to let them know about your book. This is especially true if you’ve ever met the person or otherwise have a relationship with them. As long as you approach it properly, the worst you can do is be ignored.

  3. I heard the mystery reviewer for the SF Chronicle give a talk where he said that he appreciates hearing from the writer directly (via email), as long as it isn’t a form letter and especially if they’re local. I can see where calling would be a problem, though.

  4. At least when I was with Walker, signed books were returnable. There’s no reason to sneak in; just walk up to the counter and offer to sign. I’ve never had any response except “That would be great–let me find the SIGNED COPY stickers…”

  5. I agree with Keith and others.
    As long as you approach the bookstores professionally, I think most are OK with you autographing their stock, esp. if you’re a local author.

  6. To be honest, I think the “don’t contact the media yourself” rule is wrong. I worked as a reporter for a small Missouri daily for a couple of years and let me tell you, there was ALWAYS a news hole to be filled, especially on the weekends. During the relatively short time I was there, we must have run a dozen news stories on authors plugging their book in one way or another. And this doesn’t even count all the books that were featured in the A&E section.
    One thing that does help is if there is some sort of local connection or some sort of community event involved. Lee Goldberg speaks at the Boone County Library about mystery writing. Or – though he only lived here for a couple years, Lee Goldburg says that Boone County remains a lasting influence on his writiing.
    Also, I don’t know how it works at other papers but simply sending out review copies from New York usually doesn’t work. We had a closet full of them at the Trib and at the end of the year, our editor let us hacks each take a dozen of them (unreviewed, unwritten about) home as our Christmas bonus.
    Anyway, I know this might be unrepresentative but that was the dynamics at one 20,000-circulation paper…

  7. As to contacting the news media: In recent years it has quickly become an exercise in self-abuse, given how few members of the news media read anything beyond Oprah’s Book Club, starring. . . Tom Cruise’s laundry list or Paris Hilton’s little black book or whatever mindless wetwork crap is passed off as bestselling literature nowadays.
    I can’t begin to repeat the number of stories and experiences involving a well-intended person contacting a member of the news media, be it a newspaper or a radio station or a television station, to let them know the ‘critically-acclaimed, award-winner Writer so-and-so will be at such-and-such on a certain date, at a certain time, signing copies of their latest tome, and reading from it’, and as response gets a constipated pause, followed by a genuine ‘Who?’
    I suggest instead involving supporters of your writing in promoting your latest literary work. A grassroots effort, then. You might get a better response, you might not. But having to suffer certain blissful ignorance at the hands of a professional news media type who would blather and slather over Michael Jackson or Janet Jackson (which one got in trouble, again?) or kiss-kiss the cracker ass of a professional football player back from the slammer one time is just too much for the average Writer’s ever fragil ego to endure.

  8. It’s certainly hard to get through the entertainment hype, but books still are promoted and given press space in the newspapers nationwide. To imply they don’t on the handful of celebrity straw men is hyperbole. Then again the idea is to write something that warrants attention on merit instead of freakdom. Press releases are tossed off by the 100s every day. Most come from vanity presses.


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