Sandy Smith on Preparing for a Book Publicity Campaign – All Things Book Marketing Podcast

Smith Publicity President and industry thought-leader Sandy Smith is interviewed on this episode of the “All Things Book Marketing” podcast, and discusses how authors can prepare for, and maximize the results of a book marketing, book publicity and book promotion campaign.

Great insights from one of the industry’s most innovative experts!

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to the Smith Publicity All Things Book Marketing Podcast. The best tips, insights and advice from the best in the publishing industry.

Andrea Thatcher:
Hi, this is Andrea Kiliany Thatcher here with another episode of the Smith Publicity All Things Book Marketing Podcast and I’m here with Sandy Smith our company president. And we’re going to talk a little bit about Sandy’s experience at the company and in the industry, her advice for authors and just tapping her brain for some tips and expertise that can help people decide how they want to approach their publicity, their marketing plan, and what to do once they have the publicity. Welcome Sandy.

Sandy Smith:
Well, thank you. It’s great to be here in the next room.

Andrea Thatcher:
So tell me a little bit about your background and your experience here at Smith.

Sandy Smith:
Sure. I come from a background in my undergraduate degree is art in art history and graphic design and then I went on to get my master’s in business. So I was joked I can speak to both sides of the brain. I worked in Boston at one of the Thompson corporations and some cutting edge graphic design companies of the day. And after probably seven to 10 years there I took some time off with my family and then when I was getting ready to come back to work I found Smith Publicity and I love books. So I thought combining my background with marketing communication and books might be a really interesting path. So it was 2005 I found Smith Publicity and there were three people here and it was pretty cool.

Sandy Smith:
What I learned from Dan, the founder, was how he could make me want to read any book. It was amazing. What also I enjoyed about working here and getting to know this industry was how much Dan really cared about his clients. The first author I ever worked with was a gentleman who wrote a book about the scientific method and he was well known in the science community and older. I got him on his first radio. I was so excited for his interview. I listened in and he was a bit older and the radio host made fun of him on air.

Andrea Thatcher:
Oh now.

Sandy Smith:
Yeah, it was heartbreaking and they cut them off. And I called Dan and he was heartbroken for this man. He called the producers and yelled at them and how dare they treat this person who his name is Norman Edmonds, He was one of the world’s biggest engineering pioneers in certain areas, and how disrespectful they were to him and one of his clients. And to me right then and there that was month one working here that I knew that Dan was doing something great not just for these authors but this is a person. He was so genuinely concerned and wanted good things to happen for this client. So that was a good start for me to show what kind of company this was.

Sandy Smith:
But what was fun for me was to be able to whisper in Dan’s ear to say, “Hey, how about we try this? Let’s go to this trade show. Let’s do things this way.” And he kept saying, “Yes. Yes. Yes.” But I didn’t have the pressure of running a company and paying the bills I just got to be doing the creative stuff. So, I started doing business development as a publicist and then I started recruiting and training new people and really taking the brilliance of what Dan had started with pitching the media, being fearless, coming up with these great angles and getting results for these clients. He had people on national morning TV show with self published books. This was, 10, 15 years ago when it was almost unheard of but he did it. But I was able to take and see the genius behind what he did and standardize it a bit.

Sandy Smith:
So we started with our author questionnaire, we started with our weekly updates and just keep improving it, improving it as we get more talent in here and learning from them. So that’s been exciting for me and seeing the types of clients that we’re attracting it just keeps getting more exciting every year. So that’s how I started and where I am today. I think I became the president of the company, I just asked Dan when this happened, I think it was 2006 or 2007 so about 10 years I’ve been in my current position. But I started out as a publicist and Dan allowed me to have fun and be part of the growth of the company. So it’s been an exciting ride.

Andrea Thatcher:
Terrific. And as a publicist just to give people a little bit of background of what it’s like working with Sandy. One of the things I love when I am assigned a book that was Sandy’s development project is how much information you bring to the table. I mean you’ve read the book, you’ve read their website, you’ve looked at all their tweets for the past 20 months, you have all the information that we need there. And I think that’s something that sets us apart at Smith how deeply we go into an author’s brand and their project and how much we try and know about the book before that first call. And so, I especially like your projects for that reason because I feel like I already know the person and even down to their communication style and things like that it’s so useful and I think it helps us have effective campaigns.

Sandy Smith:
Oh, well thank you.

Andrea Thatcher:
So that’s part of the interaction between Sandy and her role and the publicists just for everybody listening. So, we’re going to talk a little bit about your advice for authors. Can you first walk us through the process you go through when you first identify an author you think it would be great for us to work with?

Sandy Smith:
Sure. What’s wonderful is many of our authors come to us as referrals meaning that someone in the publishing industry or a fellow author has sent them to us. So right then and there we know that there are people happy with us and really trying to share what we do. So when people come to us I would say we turn down about 90 to 95% of the authors that come to us just because we don’t want to take someone’s money if we don’t think we’re a good fit for them. So the people that are a good fit for us, the things I look for is an author’s understanding of publicity. What can we do and what it can’t do for them? If someone comes to us and says, “I want to become a New York Times bestseller in two weeks, I have $100,000 I want to hire you.” No, that’s not what we do and it’s not realistic. And if anyone does take your money they are likely not legitimate or doing something you might not want to know.

Sandy Smith:
So what I look for is ideally an author who has a good sense of their target audience. They need to know whether it’s fiction or nonfiction project, who their reader is, what their goals are for being an author. That’s the first thing I asked him. “Why did you write this book? Why now in your career, in your life why did you write the book?” Because that’s going to give me insights to their goals, who their target audience is, and if I think we can realistically develop a plan that would help them.

Andrea Thatcher:
Great. And once we’re having that conversation with a potential author how do you go through with them if they’re ready for immediate attention?

Sandy Smith:
Sure. So I look at the book, the quality of the book, and some people come to us with a great book but they don’t really have the background. An example was a financial planner who came to us wanting to do a relationship book because something happened and he lost his license and he said he’s wanted to …

Andrea Thatcher:
A good start.

Sandy Smith:
Yeah, he wanted to, since he worked with a lot of couples he thought he could be a relationship, he needed to reinvent himself. And I said, “You know what? You need to go out and get more experience, certification, whatnot, and then come back and write the book.” So, looking at a project, looking at a author, we need them to be ready for immediate attention. And there’s two ways I look at that. One is that their website and platforms in themselves and two what are they going to do when they get immediate or potential immediate attention. So for their own platform I look at their website, I look at social media.

Sandy Smith:
People will say, “Yes, I will incorporate my book into my website but they haven’t done it yet.” Or they’ll say, “I’m going to start really being serious about my Twitter.” Okay, we need to do that months and months if not 18 months or so before the book comes out. But, you can’t start building your platform at the same time we start media outreach. Sometimes you only have 30 seconds or two minutes or so if that to get someone’s attention and if they come to your website, if they go to your Twitter page, or your LinkedIn, or your Instagram, Facebook, and it’s not ready, you’re going to lose those opportunities. So, from a platform perspective we need you to be ready.

Sandy Smith:
On a bigger scale, especially if you’re a nonfiction author, even fiction authors too but what are you going to do with the attention of these people? So if someone reads an article about you or listens to a great NPR interview what next? They may research you on Amazon and your book and buy it that’s great. If you’ve got to a deeper level with them especially an emotional level and if something you’re saying really strikes them maybe they’re going to look at your website. Is your website ready with an email signup? Do you have downloads available or resources? How do you want to interact and have a longer term relationship with these potential readers or longterm clients again depending on your genre?

Sandy Smith:
Someone will say, “Well, I wrote my book because I do consulting and I can’t do one on one. So I wrote the book so I can reach larger people.” Which is great. And they’ll say, “I’m also going to be developing webinars.” Well, have those webinars ready before you began publicity outreach. And again, this all goes back to your goals as to what you want to be. So many of our authors whether again, fiction, nonfiction, they want to be speakers. This is the time to develop your speaking platform before you start doing media outreach. So, get some clips together, have your speaker page ready on your website. Because they’re not going to interpret that you want to be a speaker by looking at your website. You have to be very upfront about that. So, before we even begin doing publicity for any author these are the types of things I look for is are they ready for immediate attention? A big analogy I sometimes give is if you’re having people over for Thanksgiving you want to dust your house, clean your house, wash the floors before people come in not after. So you’re enjoying the attention.

Andrea Thatcher:
Yeah, and I think it also feeds into a little bit of sometimes fake it until you make it. If you don’t actually have the speaking experience yet you can record yourself doing a YouTube video about your topic with some tips and things just so that people know that you are an eloquent speaker and you can make your points effectively in that medium. So, I feel like we don’t want anybody to feel, “Oh, well then I’m not ready.” You probably, you can do things even now before …

Sandy Smith:
Right before someone’s paying you to do it. And that’s, a blogs a great way to showcase your writing. Blogging experts say to start a blog you blog three times a week for six months and then you can go back to once a week but a blog, exactly Andrea, is a great way to showcase what you’re doing without having to have a professional investment of a speaking engagement or a book to showcase your talents, your passion, your expertise. Again, going back to the goal of the book what do you want people to know? So yes, fake it till you make it I like that.

Andrea Thatcher:
And when do you think authors should start publicity?

Sandy Smith:
Well, that’s a great question. It depends again on the goals. If you are, and I work with a lot of wonderful business nonfiction experts, to promote yourself before the book comes out can be a great strategy and we do this often with by lined articles, expert commentary trends where something in the news comes up and we pitch our experts for commentary insights on the different trends in their industry. You can do that long before the book comes out.

Sandy Smith:
Now, if you’re talking for the book timeline both for fiction and nonfiction books, this is a question we were just talking to our publicist about, some like four months, some like six months, but it really depends a bit on the genre and on the author’s personality and again if they’re ready for media attention. But we like to say between four to six months before it is when we like to get our hands on advanced reader copy or galley so that we have the gift of time to present it to both the publishing trade whether it’s a PW, a Kirkus, a forward New York times who look for books four to six months before the publication date. So that’s when we’d like to really get our hands on the books to start even long lead media.

Sandy Smith:
This is magazines are working stories four to six months out and if we can pitch them with ideas or show that we have an advanced reader copy book they like having something that no one else has. So again, having the gift of time to do that. The shelf life in a book can be pretty fickle especially in fiction so the newer the better.

Andrea Thatcher:
Absolutely, and I think we always like to point out too that there’s something we can do for an author at any point in the process but this is our best case scenario. So then, once you have your publicity campaign running and you did everything you could to make sure your platform is ready what are you going to do with the media attention once you have it?

Sandy Smith:
Sure. There’s some great ways that you can, “Repurpose your media placements.” And a placement could be a review, a recommendation, a by lined article which is an article that you write and we place in print and online media and you get credit as the author, it could be expert commentary, all different ways that we incorporate authors into the news. And the best thing that you can do is to re share this on your website, share it on Twitter, and please thank the media outlet and the host or your contact there. They love that. They want to see their name on social media too. That helps them. We also recommend that you link all these on your website maybe under a media page so that when the next producer or editor is looking at new podcast hosts they can see everything that you’ve done in one place so they see a body of your work.

Sandy Smith:
Something else to do with it is incorporate it into all your bio’s, the as seen in, as featured in, just differentiates you in your book and adds credibility to your project. There’s all kinds of ways that the value of a media placement can last long after the five minute radio interview or the 45 minute podcast. It’s a great asset that should give you benefits for years to come.

Andrea Thatcher:
Yeah and it’s creating content for your website, for your Facebook. A lot of times authors are like, “I don’t know what I’d put on a blog three times a week.” And I do this for a publicity blog and so I’m aware of that challenge. But for instance we’ll put this podcast on our blog, we’ll put YouTube videos on our blog. If you have a podcast, if you have something you can share, there’s so many different things that you can do with it that make your other jobs easier. So we’re trying to provide you with the tools you need to keep these different social platforms and things going. We want you to have mentions and of course we want you to be able to be tagging this media that’s a great to have the contacts with. So you can reuse stuff in lots of different ways. And then we talked a little bit about collecting people’s email addresses, and different ways to do that and why it’s important in a meeting the other day. Can you tell me more about that?

Sandy Smith:
Sure. Whether you are again a fiction or nonfiction author the number one asset is collecting email addresses. You want to have a vibrant and robust fan base. Most authors, especially fiction authors, write more than one book so you want to collect all the people who expressed even a little bit of interest in you so that you can be in touch with them for your next title and your next title. For nonfiction authors it often is other services or other opportunities and ways you want to interact and engage with with these audiences.

Sandy Smith:
But the number one asset you can do as an author is to collect email addresses and there’s a whole nother strategy for treating them kindly and not over communicating with them. Once you have it you have to treat them as very precious assets. But when your next book comes out you can tease chapters, you can tease book cover options, you can tease titles. And most importantly though you really want to lead with content. Why did they connect with you in the first place and it’s the 80 20 rule. You really want to lead 80% content and then maybe a little bit sharing your own news and a little bit of sell promotion.

Andrea Thatcher:
Yeah. I always tell people that 80 20 rule. I think it’s great. It gives people something concrete to think about like for every eight tweets about something else then you can put in something about your book, or a link to buy or something.

Sandy Smith:
Yeah. The biggest mistake is friending someone on social media, following them and someone goes, “Hey, buy my book. Hi buy my book.” You’re going to turn people off immediately.

Andrea Thatcher:
Exactly. It’s not an advertising platform it’s a community platform and when you have the community then hopefully they’re going to buy your book too.

Sandy Smith:
Right but first they’ve got to like you.

Andrea Thatcher:
Yeah you have to have creative content and everything that is going to draw them in.

Sandy Smith:
Right.

Andrea Thatcher:
Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our listeners?

Sandy Smith:
Let’s see. Contact your publicist as soon as you’re thinking about writing a book. I know that sounds early but we can often give you some insights from a publicity perspective of different tie-ins, different awareness months, dates or experience. We’ve here at Smith we’ve promoted thousands and thousands of books so we’ve likely worked with a book like yours so contact your publicist early.

Sandy Smith:
One example last year was an author coming out with a book on PCOS, which I believe is polycystic ovarian syndrome, and her book was coming out in October slated and we talked in January. And I was able to do some quick research and find out that PCOS awareness month was September and we were able to move the publication date a month earlier so that she could take advantage of all the great potential media opportunities that we actually did get for her and tie it into PCOS awareness month. So it was great having that conversation in January. If she had come to us in April the publication date with the publisher might not have been able to be shifted. And she came back to us this year and just for PCOS awareness month for her topic and interest. So that’s just one example but that’s I would say my biggest advice for an author. Even before you write the book or in the early stages think about your marketing plan, talk to a publicist. Because we can often give you some insights that may really help you in the end.

Andrea Thatcher:
Right, exactly. And I was at a conference this past weekend with creative nonfiction writers and I was saying even if you don’t end up hiring us I guarantee you’ll get something out of the conversation that will give you an action item, or something to work on, or maybe a piece of information you didn’t know like about the awareness month. So I just think it’s so worthwhile for people to at least reach out because they’re going to walk away with some useful information.

Sandy Smith:
Absolutely.

Andrea Thatcher:
And I wanted to mention that Sandy’s also going to be at the Book Baby Independent Authors conference which we’re lucky is near us this year in Philadelphia and that’s on November 3rd. And what will you be talking about?

Sandy Smith:
Be doing kind a book publicity one-on-one going to the basics of book publicity, helping authors understand the difference between publicity and advertising, and going over some timelines and ways that they can really help incorporate their brand and platform, make themselves newsworthy, incorporate them into the news.

Andrea Thatcher:
Great, and you can find out more information about that on our Facebook page. Please connect with us on social media, we’re Smith Publicity on Facebook and at Smith Publicity on Instagram and Twitter. Our website has a lot of great resources including this podcast, our blog, a YouTube channel, so we have lots of great tips in the vein of what we’ve been speaking about today. Thanks so much for coming on Sandy.

Sandy Smith:
Thanks Andrea. This was fun.

Andrea Thatcher:
It was.

Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to this edition of the Smith Publicity All Things Book Marketing Podcast. To reach us and learn about our many book marketing services visit www.smithpublicity.com or send us an email to info@smithpublicity.com.