In the latest episode of the “All Things Book Marketing” podcast, Dan Smith and Vice President of Publicity Services Mike Onorato ...
Q. Will there only be one person involved with a publicity campaign, or does my publicist have support?
A: One of the advantages to hiring a firm such as Smith Publicity is that there are multiple layers of backup should your primary publicist have to take time off for any reason. With one or two-person publicity shops, this can create a real problem with a campaign. At Smith, for publicity campaigns, there is a team including: a publicist (sometimes two publicists share a campaign) who handles day-to-day campaign elements, a Publicity Team Manager who works with the publicist and our Vice President of Publicity. As a result, should your point publicist become unavailable, your campaign can continue on seamlessly without missing a step.
Q: Can you get me interviewed on the Today Show or other major national shows?
A: The Today Show and other morning and daytime talk/news shows are inundated with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of publicist pitches and books every day. However, the fact is we've placed both self-published and traditional authors on shows such as the Today Show numerous times. It's never, ever easy to get an author on a top-rated national TV show, but book marketing is all we do every day, and if your book is a potential good fit for a major show, we will make every effort to interest producers. Big things happen for Smith Publicity authors every day.
Q: Do book promotion campaigns always include book signings?
A. No. Most of our book promotion campaigns don't include book signings. We typically recommend signings when they can be part of a larger event. When authors have events they set up on their own, we often pitch media in the area of the event to secure coverage in advance of the signing and/or event.
Q: How many books will I sell as a result of a book marketing campaign?
A: The reality is that there is no way we can predict book sales. So many variables are out of our control —such as media reaction to a book and author performance on interviews, etc.—that predicting book or e-book sales is impossible.
However, we will not take on a book if we don't believe it has good potential for media coverage, which is the key to sparking book sales.
Q. If I need consulting rather than a full campaign, can Smith publicity help?
A. Yes! We offer a variety of consulting services for authors at various stages of the publishing process. This can include help with developing a long term pre and post publication plan, team brainstorming for book titles and cover designs, advice on website content, Amazon optimization, Goodreads and other book support services, and many other areas that authors often need help navigating.
Q: I've heard that Smith is a "big company" and that I might be a small fish in a big pond, as opposed to other agencies or sole-person operations. Is this true?
A: In the niche field of book marketing, we are larger than most firms, however, we are still a small company comprised of 25 people. Every client has a dedicated book publicist and a team for support. Our size actually is a big advantage as opposed to smaller firms because we have multiple layers of backup. We pride ourselves on providing the absolute highest level of personalized client service, and no client every gets anything less than our best effort.
Q: Have you ever conducted a book marketing campaign for a book like mine?
A: With thousands of book marketing and e-book publicity campaigns under our belt, chances are, yes, we have.
You can read testimonials from authors of all genres that we've worked with.
Q: Do book review copies sometimes end up for sale on Amazon?
A: We take every precaution to discourage review copies we share from being resold on Amazon. First, carefully select where we send review copies. Second, we also stamp each book before sending with: Review Only; Not for Sale to discourage reselling. However, some media contacts, book reviewers as well as readers who have purchased a book do resell books on Amazon, or other retail outlets, after reading them. It happens to most book, especially ones written by popular authors.
Q. Does Smith Publicity offer social media services?
A. Yes, we do. We have a variety of campaigns focused on social media. Your Business Development contact can provide further information. One important part of social media is maximizing our results. If authors are active on social media/have a website, we encourage them to populate these platforms with publicity placements. Maximizing the value of media placements by using them in every possible and appropriate way is essential! It will make more people aware of you and your work.
Q: Am I guaranteed a specific level of media coverage from your efforts?
A: Book marketing is exciting because it is unpredictable! Amazing and surprising things can happen in any campaign, and they often do, but we can't know going into a campaign what exactly will happen. It's simply the nature of the business. In our experience, it's important to look very closely at publicists who guarantee things —it is often a warning sign and potential harbinger of author disappointment.
To be fair, there are certainly respectable firms that have guaranteed "packages" of a specific number of major-market radio interviews, etc. We just suggest you clearly understand what is guaranteed. We do offer this guarantee: we will not take your book on if we do not think we have a reasonable chance of securing meaningful media coverage. Smith Publicity lives and thrives on its reputation, and we don't want clients leaving unhappy.
Q. How much is an author involved in publicity strategy?
A. The best campaigns are ones where author publicists have regular communication/conversations with the author to brainstorm ideas, media angles, current news, statistics, etc. We are experts on positioning authors for media attention. Our clients are experts on understanding their book/topic. Together, this is a powerful combination for attracting media attention. We also want our clients to understand what we are doing and why, ask questions, and offer any insights/ideas!
Q. Why should I consider paying for a retainer-based campaign when there are some firms that require payment only when media coverage is secured?
A. Pay-per-placement (PPP) can be an option to consider, and there are reputable firms that offer this. However, it's very important to understand several things including exactly what you will pay for specific placements, and what is actually considered a "placement." For example, if you're paying for coverage in print outlets, if your name and book is mentioned once as a small part of a large article, rather than a feature story or review about your book, do you pay the same amount?
Also, if you have a very successful PPP campaign, you may likely end up paying much more than you would for a monthly retainer service that produces the same results.
As always, it's best to simply do your research and make a reasoned, intelligent decision that's best for you.
Q. How do Smith Publicity costs compare to other book marketing firms?
A. The best way to determine this is to talk to other firms. However, it's often difficult to get a straight "apples to apples" comparison because different agencies offer different services, packages, and specific deliverables within their offerings. We have services at various cost levels to enable us to help authors with almost any budget, however limited it may be.
Q: My book is self-published. Is that a problem?
A: Absolutely not. We have more experience promoting
self-published books than any other agency in the publishing industry. Self-published or "indie" books no longer face the challenge of overcoming what used to be a negative media perception.
- Smith Publicity was the first book marketing agency to ever secure a full article about a self-published book in the New York Times.
- We were one of the first book publicity agencies to work with e-book only self-published books and e-book publishers.
- Several years ago we pitched and secured a front page, above-the-fold New York Times article which many credit with dramatically changing how the publishing industry, and the general public, viewed self-published books.
Q: How much experience does Smith Publicity have promoting books and authors?
A: Since 1997, we've conducted thousands of book marketing and e-book promotion campaigns. We are one of the oldest and most experienced agencies that only focus on book publicity.
Q: Other book marketing agencies I hired never even showed me press releases they wrote about my book, does Smith Publicity?
A: Our clients approve every press release before we pitch the media. Our publicists create introductory pitches you may not see in a fluid, evolving publicity campaign, but you absolutely approve all press materials.
Q: How many media outlets are contacted during a book marketing campaign?
A: The amount of media contact during a campaign depends on the type of book. For a very niche book, the media we contact may be limited, but for books with extensive and general potential appeal, we contact many, many contacts and outlets. In a book marketing campaign, it's not necessarily the quantity of media contacted, but the quality.
Q: I'd like to talk with the publicist who will handle my campaign. Is this possible?
A: At Smith Publicity, we have an internal process through which we try to match every client with a publicist who possesses particular skill sets and experience that match the book and author's goals. Usually, we cannot know who your publicist will be until we know you are definitely coming on board as a client. In some circumstances, however, we are able to accommodate such requests. Learn more about our publicists here.
Q: How much time will I need to devote to my campaign?
A: Generally speaking, aside from taking part in the media opportunities we secure, your book publicity campaign does not require much of your time. We do ask many authors, depending on the book, to write byline articles which we then pitch to media. In full campaigns, we handle virtually everything - from handling media requests, and sending out books, to creating all your press materials and scheduling interviews. It's also important to keep in mind that we can and will work around your availability when scheduling media opportunities.
Q: When my campaign is over, what happens?
A: When your campaign ends and you choose not to renew your agreement, we provide you with all the contact information for media who expressed interest in you and/or your book. This enables you to conduct your own follow up with these important contacts. Also, if any media representative contacts us about you after your campaign is over, we will forward it on to you. It doesn't matter if it's one week, a month, or years after your campaign is over, we will send any media leads to you. Many other book marketing agencies don't do this for authors who aren't paying them anymore, but Smith Publicity always has and always will!
Q: Does Smith Publicity conduct international book publicity and e-book marketing campaigns?
A: Yes, we have an international reach and can pitch English language media anywhere in the world.
Q: Do Smith Publicity publicists have personal media contacts?
A: Yes, all of our publicists have developed and cultivated personal media contacts. Moreover, as a team, all contacts publicists develop are shared with other publicists.
Q: How will I know what my publicist is doing?
A: Smith Publicity authors receive weekly written updates outlining exactly what work was conducted during the week, what media responded, and plans for the next week. Also, during the course of the campaign, you'll often be hearing from your publicist regularly as he/she schedules interviews, etc. If you're ever not sure what is going on, call us! It's very important to us that we maintain regular, frequent communication with our authors.
Q: I'd really like to get my books into bookstores. Can Smith Publicity help?
A: Distributors are the key to getting on the shelves of bookstores. It's not an easy process, especially since the number of major chains has reduced. At Smith Publicity, our job is to get valuable media coverage for authors and books. When you contact a distributor, make sure they know you have a publicity campaign underway (if you do), as this makes your book potentially more appealing for distribution efforts.
Q: Do you promote controversial books?
A: Typically, yes. Controversy is typically good for publicity! It sparks debate, makes for interesting interviews, and can help make a book stand out from the crowd. However, we never promote books that contain hateful messages, encourage violence, etc.
Q: Is it necessary to meet with my publicist in person?
A: No, it isn't necessary to personally meet your publicist in person; however, we always welcome clients to visit our main office in Cherry Hill, NJ. Technology and platforms such as Skype often make it possible to "bond" with your publicist without ever leaving your home. We work with authors from around the world.
Q: Does Smith Publicity conduct e-book only marketing campaigns?
A: Yes, we implement e-book only campaigns and have developed specialized techniques for e-book marketing. We also routinely work with authors who have both print and e-book version books.
Q: Why shouldn't I just pay for ads to get the word out about my book; why do I need publicity?
A: When you advertise, you are paying to get a message to potential book buyers. You control when ads will run, how often, and where. Book marketing and e-book publicity is different because we do not have control over exactly what will happen. But when you earn publicity — let's say a big article in a major magazine — your book appears more credible because it’s vetted and promoted by an independent party. Anyone can buy an ad in a magazine, but getting an editor to write a story about you gives instant credibility.
Q: National, major media coverage is all I want. Can Smith Publicity do that?
A: In most cases, only focusing on national media is not a good idea. We always pursue top media for our authors, but it's very important to take advantage of all opportunities in a book publicity campaign. As we say, you never know who is listening to or watching a program, or who will read an article. We have had many cases over the years in which coverage in a small print outlet or a local TV or radio interview has resulted in additional media opportunities, including national ones. Producers and editors at national outlets are always on the look for good stories and interesting authors, and one of the places they "look" is other media.
Additionally, small market radio or TV interviews and articles in small newspapers and magazines, by themselves, typically spark book sales and make good things happen.
Q: Is there a set number of authors/campaigns a publicist handles?
A: No, there isn't. The number of campaigns a publicist can effectively implement varies because some book marketing programs are more complex and multi-layered, while others focus on specific media segments.
Q: Is it necessary for me to travel during my book publicity or e-book marketing campaign?
A: Not usually. The vast majority of radio interviews can be conducted from the comfort of your office or home, and editors of magazines and newspapers will either e-mail you questions or set up a time to speak. The only travel required is for television interviews – nationally, regionally, and locally. National TV interviews can often be completed remotely via satellite from a network or cable affiliate near your location.
Q: What needs to be in place for me to begin a book or e-book marketing campaign with Smith Publicity?
A: If your book is published and available for purchase, you're ready to begin! If we are working with Advance Review Copies (ARCs) or galleys, we can begin several months before a book is available for purchase so we can target long lead time media (i.e. monthly magazines) and trade publications.
When your campaign is ready to kick-off, we will need copies of your book—between 50 and 150 depending on the campaign—a signed agreement, payment, and a completed author questionnaire.
Q: How much time will my publicist work each week on my book marketing campaign?
A: The short and honest answer: it varies week by week. One week a publicist may spend many hours researching angles, media lists, personally pitching, and assessing what is working best. The next week may be fielding requests and questions from the media. There's no set number of hours required to effectively implement a book marketing campaign; it is a fluid, evolving, and flexible process that requires unbridled creativity.
Q. I am interested in securing speaking engagements—does Smith Publicity help with this?
A. Many authors look to build their platform, revenue stream, and “back of the room” book sales through speaking engagements. Smith Publicity does not directly pitch for or arrange speaking events for our clients. However, if this is an author’s goal, in the press release bio sections we position the author as a speaker. Although we will be reaching out to media contacts and not individuals who specifically hire speakers, this approach has proved successful in attracting speaking opportunities for our clients. We also ask authors to share (and we can brainstorm) associations and organization you’d like to target. We can then reach out to the media arm—their magazine, newsletter, blog, podcast, etc.—and lead with offering the author as an expert for commentary, articles, etc. and the book for potential consideration. We lead with content. This has opened the door for many of our clients for speaking interest. We recommend an author engage a speaker’s bureau or contact the National Speaker’s Association if interested in exploring a career as a speaker. Media placements (“as seen on”... or “as featured in”…) are outstanding credentials to add to a speaker’s bio!
Q. What is your geographic reach for media pitching?
A.We have the ability to reach any English-language media outlet in the world. We conduct international outreach for many clients. In addition, we have a Senior Publicist and Business Development Associate located in Toronto, Canada, and we have outstanding relationships with Canadian media. In most comprehensive publicity campaigns we include Canadian media.