Book Marketing and Publicity: Here’s What Happened…Here’s What Should Have Happened

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As you may or may not know, I am a publicist who works with authors, speakers, and business owners. I recently took on a little side project that I’m really excited about. I’m the booker for a popular podcast called the Something You Should Know show, which used to be a nationally syndicated radio show that become a podcast in December of 2016. I did this for a variety of reasons, mostly because it keeps me on the cutting edge of what the publishing industry is up to, what’s happening in media and podcasting, and because I just love it.

The great news about this particular podcast is that it consistently ranks in the top 20 on iTunes over all categories (and is at #10 as I write this), and because of its popularity finding high profile guests is pretty easy. (I booked an interview with Alan Alda just the other day! Woo Hoo! Thanks, Alan!)

(Note to all who have authors to book: Keep me in mind.)

Which brings me to an interesting little story.

I contacted a well-known PR agency about booking one of their clients a couple of weeks ago. I’m not going to mention the company or the guest because while what I have to say is not meant to be critical, it could potentially be taken that way. The truth is it’s actually a lesson in what all of us can do to be better at our game.

Here’s what happened.

I introduced myself and sent a one-sheet describing the podcast, how we just had our 3 millionth download, and included screenshots showing its popular ranking on iTunes, and invited them to pitch their authors to me.

They responded pretty quickly and said they would snail mail me a copy their author and lead book, which happens to be a New York Times bestselling book. When it arrived, it only included a form postcard in the packet. No press kit; not even a press release. No interview questions or interview topics. No cover letter. Nothing.

Now, I’ve been doing publicity for a long time and we always create a press kit for our clients.

The contents vary depending on the book, but generally a press kit includes the following:

  • A book release (which speaks of the benefits to the reader)
  • A cover letter (that explains why this author is qualified to write this book)
  • Interview topics (because media doesn’t always want to do the interview or story I’m suggesting, but this piece gives them additional options)
  • Interview questions (which basically gives the producer and host a good idea as to what the interview would be about)
  • Throughout the pieces there are their key words so they may also be used in the media room on their websites.

This pr firm gave me nada. Zip. Zero.

I followed up with an email requesting the press kit, and after another day went by, I received a bio and an exercise from inside the book.

OK. Interesting choices.

Incredulous here.

It got me to thinking…Is everyone too busy to do the most basic requirements? Have we gotten to the  point that no one wants to write the material that goes along with pitching an author? I wonder…Don’t get me wrong. There are still plenty of publishers producing good, quality written materials to go with the books they’re promoting (although they, too, are missing an important element, which I will get to shortly), but others, not so much.

The fundamentals are the fundamentals for a reason. You have to have some excellent written materials with the key messages for any media you’ll be pitching. Leaving it up to the media person to just “figure it out” has never been a good idea, and the demand for good materials is increasing. This is especially true if you’re dealing with any kind of influencers.

Influencers who share the same niche space are often friends with one another and they like collaboration. They like to know what the campaign is about. They want to be a part of the plan. They want to know the launch date of the book. They want to know a little something about the strategy so that they can be a part of it and not just do some stand alone thing. Media does not stand alone anymore. We can all see what everyone else is doing.

This concept seems to be missing from book pr people and those in their ecosystem.

It isn’t just about mailing a book and then seeing what happens. I asked a few of my other blogging and podcasting friends about this too, and they agreed. A couple of them even said, “Joanne. You have to write that blog post. Do it!”

Some of the legacy media may not require as much of this, although I think that’s changing too. In my Media Breakthrough Package, I interview an Executive Digital Media Director who handles 250 television stations. They all have websites and need content, so it seems to be coming from all directions, yet I really don’t hear anyone talking about this.

Here’s what should have happened.

  • After I sent my initial email pitch and this PR firm responded with a yes, they could have emailed me the press kit. Then I could easily share it with the host, who at the very least needs the bio and talking points. Any pictures or graphics would be nice as well.
  • When mailing the book, include the press kit or at minimum the book release with it.
  • Share the publication date of the book along with something about the marketing and publicity campaign so that we could determine when it will make sense for us to do the interview, and include information about it in the show notes. This would be helpful for everyone involved.
  • Getting the website and social media widgets and networks together is one thing. That’s old news, actually. It’s a given. Now, media wants to be included and it’s time to start doing at it this way.

Now this particular PR firm is very successful, so maybe they don’t need to know about these tips. Personally, I think it will catch up with them.

One of the most important things for all of us to do is to keep our eyes on trends. Not the Shiny New Object Syndrome, which does nothing but distract you and send you down paths you don’t need to go down…we don’t need more of that. But we need to be alert. We need to talk to others in our fields. Talk to the media. What do they want? What do they need? And make the appropriate changes.

This is just good business sense. As you create your campaigns, whether you work in publishing or you’re an author, remember the importance of creating and developing great materials, and including media in your plans. Let them know. They can, and will help you.

To your success!


For more on book publicity, you can read this, and let’s connect socially too, if we haven’t already.

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