Sandy Smith speaking at BookBaby Independent Authors Conference, 2017

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Book Marketing and Publicity

On this page you will find answers to frequently asked questions about book marketing and publicity. We’ve included the questions we’ve encountered most over our 21 years in the industry, but we often come across ones we’ve never been asked before. As technology and communication processes change, so does the art of book marketing, and new questions emerge.

As we always say, there are no bad questions when it comes to book promotion. We expect authors and publishers to have questions and are always happy to answer them.

Book Marketing and Book Sales

Good firms like ours take precautions to discourage review copies from being resold on Amazon. First, we carefully select where we send review copies. Second, we stamp each book 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 online. It happens to most books, especially ones written by famous authors.

Distributors are the ones to get you onto the shelves of bookstores. At Smith Publicity, our job is to get valuable media coverage for authors and books. When you contact a distributor, make sure they are aware you have a publicity campaign (if you do), as it often can make your book more appealing for their distribution efforts.

There is not a reliable way to predict book sales. With variables out of anyone’s control, such as media reaction to a book and author performance on interviews, predicting book or e-book sales is not precise. However, reputable marketing firms like ours only take on books that they believe, based on experience, have good potential for media coverage, which is the key to sparking book sales.

Components of Book Marketing Campaigns

Yes! We offer consulting services for authors at various stages of the publishing process. It can include support in developing a pre- and post-publication plan for the long haul, team brainstorming for book titles and cover designs, advice on website content, Amazon optimization, assistance with Goodreads and other book support services, and many other areas where authors may need help.

Smith Publicity does not directly pitch for, or arrange, speaking events for our clients. However, we position authors as speakers in press release bio sections, which often helps. We ask authors to share associations and organizations to target. We then reach out to their media arms —magazines, newsletters, blogs, podcasts — and lead with offering the author as an expert for commentary. It has helped many of our clients to become expert speakers.

No. Most of our book promotion campaigns don’t include book signings. We typically recommend signings when they can be part of a more significant 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 or event.

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 these shows numerous times. It’s never easy to get an author on a national TV show, but if your book is a good fit for a major show, we will make every effort to interest its producers. Big things happen for Smith Publicity authors every day.

In most cases, only focusing on national media is not a wise idea. We always pursue top media for authors, but it’s essential to take advantage of all opportunities in a book publicity campaign. Producers and editors at national outlets are always on the lookout for interesting books and authors covered first by local and regional media. Often, small market radio, TV, or newspaper coverage sparks book sales and makes more good things happen.

Yes, we do. We have a variety of campaign options for social media. One important part of social media is rebroadcasting the results of publicity campaigns. We encourage authors to populate their social media and websites with publicity placements. They are effective social media content and extend the reach of favorable coverage of your book. The implied endorsement from media coverage impresses potential readers and book buyers.

Publicists create customized media lists to match the topic of a book, and then reach out to both established contacts and others. At Smith, we personalize most pitches, so contacts know they weren’t targeted as part of mass distribution. Pitches are typically sent via email; our database lists each contact’s preferred method (i.e., email vs. regular mail). A few people even prefer receiving phone calls after they have been mailed a copy of the book.

The number of media to be contacted during a campaign depends on the type of book. For a niche book, the outreach may be specialized; but, for books with a more general appeal, good book promoters contact a long list of media. In an excellent book marketing campaign, it’s not necessarily the quantity of media contacted, but the quality.

How Does Smith Publicity Work?

We can reach any English-language media outlet in the world. We conduct international outreach for many clients. Also, we have a Senior Publicist and Business Development Associate located in Toronto, Canada, and we have excellent relationships with Canadian media. In most comprehensive publicity campaigns, we include Canadian media along with their U.S. counterparts.

Other book marketing agencies I hired never even showed me press releases they wrote about my book, does Smith Publicity?

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 is a significant 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 ever receives anything less than our best effort.

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 versions of their books.

Typically, yes. The controversy is often helpful to publicity. It sparks debate, makes for exciting interviews, and can help a book stand out from the crowd. However, we do not promote books that contain hateful messages, encourage violence, etc.

Yes, we have an international reach and can pitch English language media anywhere in the world.

Absolutely not. We have more experience promoting self-published books than any other agency in the publishing industry. Smith Publicity was the first book marketing agency to 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 people credit with dramatically changing how the publishing industry, and the general public, viewed self-published books.

With thousands of book marketing and e-book publicity campaigns under our belt, chances are, yes, we have. On our website you can read testimonials from authors of all genres that we’ve worked with.

Since 1997, we’ve conducted book marketing and e-book promotion campaigns for more than 3,500 titles. We are one of the oldest and most experienced agencies that focus entirely on book publicity.

There are firms with guaranteed packages of radio interviews, etc. But in general, publicity efforts for books or other products are not entirely predictable. We do offer this guarantee: we only accept books with a reasonable chance for securing meaningful media coverage. At Smith Publicity, we live and thrive on our reputation, and we want our clients to be pleased and successful.

The Author’s Role in Book Publicity Campaigns

Yes, we need a supply of books to provide media contacts that express interest. The amount depends on the length of the campaign and can range from 25 to 75. If you have ARC’s (Advance Review Copies) before the release date and we are promoting your book before release, we will need copies of these as well.

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 start 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.

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.

When your campaign ends, and you choose not to extend your agreement, we provide you with all the contact information for media who expressed interest in you or your book. It enables you to conduct your own follow up with these important contacts. Also, if a media representative contacts us about you after your campaign is over, we will forward it to you. Many other book marketing agencies don’t do this for authors who aren’t current clients, but Smith Publicity does and always will.

No, it isn’t necessary to meet your publicist in person; however, we welcome clients to visit our main office in Cherry Hill, NJ. Technology and platforms such as Skype often make it possible to build a rapport with your publicist without ever leaving your home or office. We work with authors from around the world.

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 bylined articles for pitches to media. In larger campaigns, we handle virtually everything — from media requests, and sending out books, to creating 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.

The most effective campaigns are ones where authors and publicists have regular communication/conversations to brainstorm ideas, media angles, current news, statistics, etc. We are experts in positioning authors for media attention. Our clients are experts in understanding their book/topic. Together, it is a powerful combination for attracting media attention. We also want our clients to know what we are doing and why, ask questions, and offer any insights/ideas.

The Costs of Professional Book Marketing

No! Our agreements are straightforward and clear. The only expense not covered by a publicity retainer or flat-fee is the cost of mailing books. For shipping and mailing expenses, we charge an amount upfront and draw on it for sending books to media. At the end of a campaign, any remaining balance is returned to the client.

Costs vary depending on the type of book promotion you’re after. At Smith, we have monthly retainers as well as flat-fee publicity services. We also offer consulting services that can be structured to meet virtually any budget. We do not provide services that are paid based on a percentage of book sales or other commissions.

When you earn book publicity — let’s say a big article in a major magazine and its website — your book appears more credible because it’s vetted and promoted by a trusted and influential media outlet. Anyone can buy an ad in a magazine, but getting an editor to write a story about you gives the book more credibility. Many people consider media coverage more valuable than book advertising in sparking sales and gaining new readers.

The best way to make a comparison is to talk to several firms. However, it can difficult to have an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s because each agency offers different services, packages, and specific deliverables. At Smith, we have services at various levels that allow us to help authors at nearly any budget level, however limited it may be.

Pay-per-placement (PPP) can be an option to consider, and there are reputable firms that offer it. However, make sure you know what you will pay for specific placements, and what is regarded as a placement.” For example, if you’re paying for coverage in print outlets, if your name and book are 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 successful PPP campaign, you may end up paying more than you would for a retainer service that produces the same results.

What is it Like Working with a Book Publicist?

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 might be fielding requests and questions from the media. There’s no set number of hours required to implement a book marketing campaign effectively; it is a fluid, evolving, and flexible process that requires ongoing creativity.

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.

Smith Publicity authors receive weekly written updates describing the work that was completed during the week, what media responded, and plans for the next week. Also, during the campaign, authors hear from publicists regularly to schedule interviews, calls, etc. Publicists and authors need to be in frequent contact.

Yes, all of our publicists have developed and cultivated personal media contacts. Moreover, as a team, all contacts publicists develop are shared with other members of our book marketing team.

At Smith Publicity, we try to match every client with a publicist who possesses skillsets that align with the book and author’s goals. To help maintain an orderly workflow and balance among projects, we assign publicists to projects only after an author or publisher has signed an agreement with us. In some circumstances, however, we can commit to a publicity team before or as an agreement is finalized. Learn more about our publicists here.

One of the advantages of hiring a firm such as Smith Publicity is that there are multiple layers of backup should your primary publicist be away from work for any reason. With one or two-person publicity shops, any absence can create problems with a campaign. At Smith, each book has a dedicated team, including a Publicist (sometimes two publicists share a campaign) who handles day-to-day campaign elements, a Publicity Team Manager, and ultimately our Vice President of Publicity. As a result, our campaigns continue seamlessly on any given day.

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Some of the Smith Publicity team, BookExpo 2019

Some of the Smith Publicity team, BookExpo 2019

Didn’t Find an Answer to Your Question?

We’re always happy to speak with authors and publishers and answer questions. Book publicity and marketing are specialized fields. While the fundamental purpose of what we do is straightforward – secure maximum media coverage for authors and books – many elements go into a successful campaign.

Educating yourself about marketing before launching your book is imperative. You want to go into a campaign as knowledgeable as possible, so you understand what professional book publicists like the ones at Smith Publicity do.

Book publicists Smith Publicity booth, BookExpo 2019

Smith Publicity booth, BookExpo 2019

Contact us for more information about our services and answers to any of your questions: 856-489-8654 or  info@smithpublicity.com