Book Publicity Glossary of Terms, Part One

by Dan Smith

The book marketing industry has its own jargon, and too often, we don’t slow down enough to fully explain what it all means. Like most industries, we use lots of inside terms to describe and communicate what it is we do succinctly. At Smith Publicity, we use standard publicity-industry terms, but also our own language that has evolved over the years.

If you’ve hired a publicity firm and want to ensure you fully understand the terms you hear, or you’re promoting your book, it’s essential to know what it all means. Here is a book publicity glossary of terms, part one.

  • Hits and runs

Baseball analogies are common in book marketing, and “hits and runs” is a classic. It’s relatively straightforward.

A hit is when a publicist secures interest from a media outlet. Interest can mean a producer or editor/reviewer, etc. has requested a book, asked for more information about an author, asked to set up an actual interview, or requests to speak with the author directly.

A run is when something materializes; when the interest goes to the next level. A story, article, review, or other coverage is printed, or a broadcast interview airs.

  • Conversion

When a media hit turns into a run, it’s a conversion. It “converts” from interest to coverage.

  • Conversion ratio

As publicists promoting books and authors, we sometimes refer to conversion ratios. It may sound complex, but it’s not. It is merely the amount of or percentage of hits that convert into runs, or, put another way, what amount of interest turned into coverage.

A low conversion ratio can tell a publicist many things, although it’s often difficult to pinpoint exactly why a ratio is low.

It may indicate a disconnect between our pitch and what the media is expecting when then they request a book or more information. In other words, it could mean that we need to recalibrate our pitch to be more in-line with what or whom we are pitching.

It can also mean that media response to a book or author is not what we expected, and that is mostly out of our control.

A low conversion ratio is always a useful metric for a publicist as a signal to change approaches, adjust angles, or target different media.

Conversely, a high conversion ratio is a sign that things are lining up exactly as planned and to stay the course.

  • High priority media

This term applies to 1) top-level, national media or 2) media at any level for which a book or author is well suited. Size isn’t always the determining factor of high priority. A small, niche publication, for example, can be significant for a book in terms of spreading the word and sparking book sales.

  • Intro pitches

When a publicist pitches the media, it’s done either by email, phone, or traditional mail. In emails, an intro pitch is short, a few sentences — a customized written pitch that precedes a press release. The intro pitch is designed to get the attention of the contact and persuade him to read the press release, and then request more information, the book, etc. By phone, there is no intro pitch; the call is the pitch, and a publicist has a very short window of time to capture the attention of the editor or producer.

  • Baseline promotion

In most book publicity campaigns, distributions of pitches to media are regularly scheduled. These are not “mass spams” but rather broad distributions most often to radio shows. We call it baseline promotion because it is a fundamental, virtually automatic part of a campaign. Broad distributions can be useful in securing radio interviews or to lay the groundwork for more personalized pitching. If a media contact has read something about a book or author from a broad distribution and remembers the name, she may be more receptive to a personalized pitch she receives about the author. Baseline promotion is in many ways similar to newswire services used by companies and corporate PR firms.

  • Print heavy/broadcast heavy

When we have a book that is better suited for newspapers, magazines, and online coverage as opposed to radio and TV interviews, we implement a “print heavy” campaign. We also do it based on author preference. Not all authors want radio and TV interviews, regardless of how well suited their book is, so we steer efforts toward print media. The same principle applies to books better suited for broadcast interviews, and not print, or authors who only want radio and TV interviews.

  • Pitch-only outreach

In some cases, a book publicist will send only a pitch–without a press release–to media contacts. This tactic has slowly become more common over the years and is often useful for radio and TV pitching. Shorter can be better, so a pitch-only can play to the time limitations many producers have. Also, holding off on the press release allows the publicist to have something additional to send if requested, aside from the book.

  • Long lead media

Most monthly magazines have their issues planned and ready to go months before the issue date. For example, toward the end of summer, some magazines are working on their holiday issues. The “long lead” times mean publicists must pitch editors at these publications three to five months before publication date if they want to pitch a book as “new.” Or, if a book has a specific tie-in to a particular time or season, for example, summer travel and vacation, pitching to those outlets should take place in February or March. 

  • Editorial calendars

Many magazines publish complete calendars listing what topics they will be covering in specific months. Editorial calendars enable publicists to pitch authors and books that are ideally suited for the content being published in a particular month.

  • Short notice hits

Radio is typically the fastest responding media. Requests to interview authors can sometimes provide only a day, or in some cases, only hours of notice. Producers often want an author on quickly as they are filling hours and hours of airtime every day. Last-minute requests also come through when a guest a producer has lined up becomes unavailable, and they need to fill the time with another interview segment.

  • Cumulative effect

This one is a term we use when explaining the impact of radio interviews on book publicity. Authors understandably want to see an immediate effect from a live radio interview, and often they will notice their Amazon ranking improve shortly after an interview. However, radio interviews also create interest over time as an author does more and more interviews. Imagine a map of the U.S. and pins placed wherever an interview airs, and imagine concentric circles emanating from each interview representing the geographic area that station covers. As the map fills up with pins and circles, you would visually see how more and more people are hearing about the author or book. Inevitably, the more people reached over time, and the more book sales should increase. It is why we call it the cumulative effect.

  • Personalized pitching

Book marketers are always researching and compiling media targets to contact for a book and author. The response rate from pitching is almost always highest when a pitch is personalized. It doesn’t merely mean an email that says, Dear Mr. Smith. It means researching the contact and, for example, referencing a story he recently wrote or topics discussed on a radio or TV show, demonstrating the publicist has taken the time to verify that the author and book are a good fit for the show or publication. Personalization is also done by placing the media contact name in the subject line of the email. By doing this, the recipient knows it’s not a mass email blasted out, and that again, the publicist took the time to research and identify the contact as someone who should be interested in the book or author.