The days of blindly sending out review copies in hope they’ll catch someone’s eye are gone. Publishers are cutting back on print galleys and trying out digital delivery options, while the media gets slower to respond.
Yes, book publicity is evolving rapidly as a storm of digital innovations disrupt traditional publishing and media businesses.
But like clouds in any landscape, even these have a silver lining, seasoned publicists say: targeted pitches can work with more effort on the front-end, backlist books are getting more coverage, and authors are opening new doors.
I’m pleased to announce that today’s #followreader chat on Twitter (4-5pm ET) will spotlight Kalen Landow and Kathleen Schmidt, two book PR pros who are navigating their way along new horizons with far-sighted strategies and well-honed skills. Landow (who will be tweeting as @TaylorTrade, though she is also well known on Twitter at @kalenski) is director of publicity for the indie imprint Taylor Trade, a division of Rowman and Littlefield. Schmidt (@bookgirl96) is director of digital strategy at the Shreeve Williams Agency, an independent book publicity firm.
To get a snapshot of the book publicity trends they’re seeing, read on.
For more details on how you can join today’s #followreader conversation, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Five key trends in book publicity:
1. Print galleys are less effective than before
Landow: In the two years I’ve been at Taylor, we’ve cut our galley runs significantly. Now, the most important group for galleys are my sales reps, and most everyone else can wait for finished books. With the media, I’m having better success with an e-mail query first and then following up with a book. Unfortunately, this takes more time on the front-end.
Schmidt: I agree. More often than not, print galleys are wasteful.
2. Targeted pitches work better
Landow: The media outlets I’m focusing on have also changed. For a small imprint like mine (45 books a year with a backlist of thousands), I’m having better success focusing on regional publications, radio and television than national shows, and also working with bloggers and website administrators. Again, it takes more time and energy to do the research, but the payoff is great. If an author has a good contact at the New York Times or Wall St Journal, we’ll pursue it, but otherwise many of the legacy publications are coming off my list.
3. Backlist coverage is on the rise
Landow: We actually have better success landing PR for older books than we do for frontlist. Most of the requests that come in to me from legacy media are for backlist titles. I hope this means that pub dates means less and less and that good, solid books on a relevant topic stand a chance.
4. Media responds more slowly than in the past
Landow: I’ve also noticed that media hits seem to start a month or so after the pub date, not right away like they used to. Perhaps it’s a consequence of working at a smaller, less PR-driven house, or because of sending out fewer galleys. We also don’t work with firm pub dates in most cases, so a September book can mean the 1st or the 30th. We also seem to be selling fewer serial rights, too, which I think is a reflection of the overall media market.
Schmidt: Production schedules are so tight these days that it is rare galleys are ready 4-5 months in advance, as they used to be. That also affects the timing of media coverage. I’m also experimenting to see if media would rather have a menu of advance copies to choose from in an e-mail sent by the publicist.
Landow: Authors also need to be involved in promotion now more than ever. That doesn’t mean that they should be randomly contacting the New York Times, but rather that their lists of contacts are critical, as is their willingness to do outreach. They can’t be shy about engaging friends and family and renewing contacts.
5. It’s critical to meet readers where they are
Landow: When key reviewers, such as Lev Grossman at Time magazine, say point-blank that they won’t read digital galleys, my feeling is that it’s time to trot off to Kinkos as fast as possible. It’s about doing all we can to meet readers where they are – not about loyalty to any one format. I use bound (Kinko’s) We’ve also used Scribd with some success.
Schmidt: Some publishers are not allowing e-galleys be downloaded to the Kindle. Yet it is a widely used, protected format. If someone would like an e-galley in a format that’s compatible with their e-reader, they should be able to get one.
To join today’s #followreader conversation, here’s what to do:
- Just before 4pm ET, log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
- To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
- I’ll start by asking Jason a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
- To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write.