Seven Myths of Book Publicity

by Dan Smith

There are many misconceptions about book publicity and book marketing; some a result of a lack of knowledge and understanding, and some from outdated advice, which no longer applies to today’s market.

Here are a few common myths I see in the current publishing and book marketing landscape:

1) Radio interviews don’t sell books

Well, to be sure, radio interviews certainly don’t always sell books, but they often do, sometimes many. Also, radio interviews follow what I call a “cumulative effect.” Put simply, the more you do the more you will start to see books move. Picture a map on your wall, and pins stuck in the location of every interview you complete. The more pins on that map, the more likely you’ll see a cumulative effect, and some books starting to move.

2) Book sales are all that matters in book publicity

Well, this may depend on the author, but now more than ever, media coverage provides a number of additional benefits, some much more lucrative than the profits of book sales. For non-fiction authors, a book and subsequent media exposure from a book marketing campaign can lead to speaking opportunities, and bolster credibility for enhanced employment. For business owners, consultants and advisors, the “book as a marketing tool” approach can result in increased sales and prospective client inquires and direct business opportunities. For novelists, especially first timers, a book can be the cornerstone of developing a compelling brand and platform that leads to a variety of opportunities. A fan base created from an initial book can then lead to more sales, and, increasingly, possibly get the attention of traditional publishers or agents.

3) The only good time to launch a book promotion campaign is early fall and after the new year

In my experience, this is flat-out untrue. Why? Ironically, one of the reasons is that because many people still think launching a book at any other time is bad, there’s less competition when vying for media attention. You can launch when most others do and be one of many in a marathon run for media coverage, or perhaps wait just a bit until the crowd rushes by, and stand out a little more. As we do as book publicists when we pitch, be a bit contrarian, be different, be special … and don’t be like everyone else.

4) Authors should focus only on the highest level media

This is what I call the “Oprah effect,” and it can destroy an author’s chances of success. When Oprah Winfrey’s TV show was still on, we would routinely have authors calling us ONLY wanting to get on Oprah because that was the ONLY path to success. The Oprah Effect bordered on causing insanity with some authors. One of our clients actually wanted to ship himself via UPS to an Oprah producer! Today, top shows such as the Today Show and daytime talk shows often become the sole focus of authors seeking media exposure. An author should swing for home runs diligently, but at the same time go after ALL media of any size, in any location. The reality is that a well-structured campaign that involves many levels of media can be very successful, and, being a guest on the Today Show does NOT always equate to book sales! It’s Book Promotion 101; ignore smaller media at your own peril. A comprehensive publicity campaign is exactly that, comprehensive, including all levels of media.

5) Guaranteed results from a publicity agency is the most important thing

Well, not so fast. Intuitively, yes, it makes sense: You’re paying an agency, and they guarantee tangible results. Much better than a retainer-based firm that can’t guarantee anything, right? But it’s important to consider the adage “you get what you pay for.” Let’s say you are guaranteed 25 radio interviews. What kind of interviews are they? All radio interviews are not created equal. An Internet radio show certainly may be a good opportunity, but some may also have twelve listeners. Read the fine print of any guarantee, and read it carefully, because it may be very fine print! Some book marketing agencies offer excellent guaranteed packages, while others leave authors wondering what hit them after their “guarantee” has been met. Often, an author can pay more – sometimes much more – for a guaranteed results/pay-per-placement program than she would from a retainer program, even when results are identical. A retainer-based or flat-fee program may be your best choice because it can offer a comprehensive, holistic approach to promotion your book. Just consider options carefully and do your due diligence before making any decision.

6) Self-published books still face many obstacles when it comes to media coverage

Ten or fifteen years ago … maybe so, but now, things have changed, significantly. Self-published authors are routinely interviewed on national TV shows and featured in newspapers, magazines, and radio. For the most part, the media doesn’t care how a book was published, as long as the topic is relevant, the book professionally designed, and the author can provide solid information. When it comes to book reviews, your self-published book will indeed likely not be reviewed in the New York Times and other major review outlets, but you and your book can be featured in those same outlets via print interviews, feature stories, etc.

7) Social media is all that’s needed to spread the word about a book

First, let me be clear, we recommend every author engage in meaningful social media activity. But social media alone, in most cases, isn’t sufficient to fully promote a book. When social networking started exploding years back, many “experts” predicted that traditional publicity would go the way of the dinosaurs. Actually, traditional publicity has become essential for social media to work when promoting a book! Articles, reviews, interviews, etc. provide some of the best material to populate social media platforms. Likewise, traditional media coverage benefits from authors active on social media as producers and editors often research potential story subjects and sources or guests, and a professional and substantial social network presence adds to an author’s credibility. Put simply, social media and traditional publicity can be the beginning of beautiful relationships, as both help the other.