Before Your Book Launches - Promotion & Publicity

So you've written a novel; now what? In this series, debut author-to-be Crystal King describes the traditional publication process from start to finish: the lead-up, what to expect along the way, and how building her social media platform has made a difference. In this installment of "On the Path to Publication" Crystal talks about promotion & publicity.

Six months ago I wrote a post about the importance of building your social presence early. I shared my tactics and reasoning for working on building an audience. I'm not going to rehash all that here, but all of it is still relevant. I'm working hard on building audience on my social channels, hosting book giveaways, curating the best content and interacting where it makes sense (and where it is authentic) with influencers who may be able to help me promote FEAST OF SORROW. But there is a lot of other things besides social media to think about. 

Since I work in the world of marketing, social and PR, I think that my publisher introduced me to my publicist early, probably to get me out of the hair of my editor. From what I hear from fellow authors, the publicist is generally assigned 3-4 months before the launch date. 

A publicist will do several things. They'll get your book up on NetGalley and Edelweiss, sites for early reviewers (if you are a book blogger you should definitely sign up for it, free!). 

A publicist will also work hard to make sure that magazines, newspapers and online publications will review the book and include it in articles or on top ten lists. The publicist will also try to get me, as an author, interviews. That is the heart of what they do. They also schedule book readings and events, they may help make introductions to high-powered book groups and help place articles you write on topics related to the book. It's possible they could flex their muscles with film contacts (I can hope). They might set up the author on virtual book tours (where the author is interviewed on a variety of blogs). It depends on where you fall on the totem pole for books the publisher chooses to promote (and it may be that you never really know where you rank on that pole). Most of this work starts about three to four months before the book launches. 

The marketing team is a different story. They're going to be focused on advertising and making sure that the sales team has the right materials to sell into bookstores. They promote via social media and may help do more event-driven types of campaigns. They work in tandem with the publicist but are less focused on press and more on building awareness for the book. For example, the Touchstone marketing team has helped me with imagery for my social channels and are going to help me design a cookbook for people who pre-order the book. 

I have heard over and over again from other authors that "No one is going to love your book as much as you do." It's true, and over the last few months, I've had to temper my enthusiasm in regards to how much I bombard my publisher with my ideas. 

One thing that has helped me immensely is picking up the book "What to Do Before Your Book Launch" by bestselling authors M.J. Rose and Randy Susan Meyers. This handy guide helped me reset a few expectations. There is a chapter where they talk about how things on the backside of publicity work with publishers--the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that authors are never told. How the author is really just a cog in a bigger wheel and we need to keep that in mind. Touchstone, for example, publishes upwards of 80-100 books a year. The team is small which means that they are simultaneously working on many books at the same time. Bigger names are going to get bigger billing because they bring in more revenue for the publisher. I just thank my lucky stars that FEAST OF SORROW didn't go out at the same time as Anna Kendrick's recent book, because it felt like that's all that was promoted for the month of November! In the month of April, Touchstone is launching 14 books. I share a book launch date with the upcoming Lisa Unger book, The Red Hunter. Sharing a date with someone that famous will likely have both disadvantages and advantages. 

In talking with many other authors, I know a number of people who decide not to solely rely on their in-house publicist and decide to also pony up for an additional publicist. When that happens, the hired publicist, in theory, coordinates with the in-house publicist to divvy up the work and gain even greater reach. Of course, if you publish your book with a small press or you self-publish, you may need to hire your own publicist regardless. Sometimes the publicist you hire is awesome. But, sometimes they aren't and I've heard several stories from friends about the disappointment they faced by choosing the wrong person. Choosing the wrong person may not just mean less press, it will also put you out of pocket a whole bunch of money, usually in the range of $5K-15K depending on the type/amount of work you are looking for from the publicist and what their rate of service might be. 

There are a lot of articles on how to find a publicist, but one of the best out there is from Jane Friedman

In the next few months, I'm going to be focusing on writing a lot of byline articles for publication. I'm also looking for additional book events that I can attend after my book is launched. I'll be thinking about what I want my email newsletter to be, and I'll likely conduct a few more book contests (which help me build my mailing list). I'll also be prepping for the book launch itself. More about that next month!

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About the Author

Crystal King is a 30-year marketing, social media and communications veteran, freelance writer and Pushcart-nominated poet. She is the author of the FEAST OF SORROW, about the ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius, and THE CHEF'S SECRET about the famous Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi. Currently Crystal works as a social media professor for HubSpot, a leading provider of Inbound marketing software. Crystal has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet writing center. A former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in media res. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at her website:

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by Crystal King