The Story Keeper

Thoughts on Public Relations of the Book Publishing Industry

The Once in a While Song

The Once in a While Song.


12 Ways to Spark Book Sales, and How to Make the Most Out of a PR Campaign

No author is immune to book sales woes. For most authors, book sales are an important part of WHY they write a book. They want to inspire, entertain, educate, or simply share their artistic work—and perhaps make money from the endeavor! 

According to Sandra Poirier-Diaz, President of Smith Publicity, Inc., authors who are using their “book as a business card” to increase their name as an expert in their field or to attract new opportunities, book sales are typically a lower priority as they want to make money from consulting projects, speaking engagements, etc. Therefore, there are more effective ways to promote the book. 

As most of us know, Book publicity, by definition, is using the media to create attention for the title, topic and author in the form of an interview, article, feature story, blog post, review, recommendation, and so on. Publicity is one initiative an author/publisher undertakes to help create awareness about a title. However, publicity alone is one small part of a bigger strategic plan necessary to give a book and author a better chance for significant sales.

A book publicist can present a book to a producer, editor or blogger, but if they are not interested in it, there is little a publicist can do to entice coverage. Furthermore, even if a book does get coverage it is still up to the audience if they are interested in purchasing the book.

While book publicity plays an important role in creating awareness (even Steven King and John Grisham do publicity for new books) there are several factors outside of a publicist’s role that positively or negatively impact book sales. According to Poirier-Diaz, (and I feel that these make sense, based on various cases that I have read,) in order to have the best possible chance of attracting media attention and potential book buyers, authors/publishers need to consider the following to set books up for the greatest chance of success:

1. A quality book, written by a credentialed author (essential for non-fiction) with a topic that will be of interest in the current market. This will add credibility to the project.

2. Professional help. Books need to be professionally designed (cover and inside layout) and professionally edited, with well-written front and back cover copy. People do judge a book by its cover.

3. Complete Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. retail listings. Minimally, every book retail description should include a book cover, “look inside” (Amazon) or “read instantly” (B&N) feature, detailed author page with website, social media handles, author photo, detailed book description, author bio, all tagged properly in the right genre, and reviews even from friends and family to start.

4. Engage the services of a book distribution firm. Book distribution companies try to get books on the shelves of independent bookstores, plus larger retail outlets such as Barnes & Noble, Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. The more visible a book is, the more potential buyers will see it.

5. Pricing strategy, especially for e-books.

6. Well thought out social media plan.  Strategy and fan base building should begin well before a book is published, with the author interacting with bloggers, readers and professionals in his or her genre.

7. Professionally designed website. This is a place where media and readers can connect with the author to learn about current projects, past titles and future work.

8. Authors need to take an active role. Book publicity alone will not generate book sales. Authors need to connect with both the media and potential readers to make good impressions.

9. Timing and luck.  Just because (the author and publicists) are ready for the book/topic to be covered, it doesn’t necessarily mean the media is.

10. Volume of experts and author vying for the same attention. To go along with timing and luck, authors need to understand that there is stiff competition for media attention. New authors need to have patience. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

11. Amplifying publicity results. Successful authors use publicity exposure (links to interviews/articles, reviews, “as seen in Wall Street Journal…”) on their websites, social media platforms, book covers, future submissions to publishers and in their bio or marketing material.

12. Continuing relationships after a publicity campaign is over. Authors need to continue interacting with media (especially book bloggers), supporting fellow authors in the same genre, and communicating with fans and readers. Becoming a well-known author is not an overnight process.


Book and Publishing PR with Taylor Herring

 They have a wide range of experience within publishing that extends beyond just magazines, books and events. They handle ongoing PR for Private Eye magazine, and they recently completed a 12-month campaign for ‘The Lady.’ 

Who are they??

They are Taylor Herring PR, out of the UK. “Famous Publicity,” indeed.

Cath Taylor founded Cath Taylor Associates in 1997, then joined forces with James Herring to launch Taylor Herring PR in 2001. Peter Mounstevens joined the agency 8 years ago and now jointly runs the agency alongside the founders. They are privately owned.

They helped ‘Loading establish their annual comedy award, ‘The Laftas’ and marked ‘Viz’ magazine’s 25th 

They’ve provided an ongoing press office function for ‘Men’s Health’ and implemented a national ‘search for cover star’ promotion.

These guys know their stuff. 

In addition to handling event promotion, they secured a primetime, 60-minute television slot for ‘The Inside Soap’ awards.

Their book PR team has handled the promotion of all the elements of the Channel 4 Book club since it first launched in 2005.

They have delivered best-selling status for a wide range of publishers and authors, including Piers Morgan, Jo Frost – Super Nanny, Annabel Karmel, Mrk Frith, Oliver James, and even Guinness World Records!

That team has also managed broadcast publicity for The British Book Awards and promoted the BBC’s national, school poetry competition, and ‘Off by Heart.’

According to The Financial Times, “Getting Taylor Herring on board is an undeniably smart move – the agency wields a great deal of power in the world of popular culture.”

Creating a spectacle and engaging attention has never been more of a challenge, thus Herring’s philosophy on ‘standing out from the crowd’ comes from delivering the intended message through entertaining and newsworthy content; in other words, bridging the gap between new and traditional media with creative PR campaigns which capture the imagination. 

They admit they are met with challenges with every new brief, and how they respond varies accordingly.

As you may have deduced already, they don’t only do PR for books. Their clients include Paddy Power, Sainsbury’s, Kellog’s, Diageo, Playstation, Skoda, Britvic, Cadbury, The National Lottery, TK Maxx, Tyrells, The Icecreamists, Heineken, Panasonic, and Fiat.

Haha, and sometimes they “hijack” the news agenda; sometimes they anticipate it, and sometimes it’s set up. Several case studies on their website provide an inside look of their work over the last few years. 

 Their team has won praise for their “unparalleled service, creativity and dedication,” gaining a reputation for unmatched ingenuity in creating “high-impact launches” alongside their core work – developing comprehensive long-term programmes for clients. 

They offer expertise in key areas of communication, including; Media Relations, Consultancy, Social Media, Guerilla Marketing and Stunts, Broadcast Consultancy, Crisis Management, Celebrity Endorsement, Events, and personal PR.

An independent panel of judges listed the agency at number seven in the prestigious ‘Media Guardian’ in the marketing sector while Marketing Magazine has placed them at number six in their of Marketing Services Agencies. Since the launch, this PR firm has risen 45 places in the PR Week Top 150 agencies league tables. They’ve also been signaled out as one of the UK’s Top 10 fastest growing companies in all PR sectors – with the agency’s performance commended by the judges as ‘a major achievement.’ They also scooped up a Barclays Media Momentum Award for “fastest growing PR agency two years running.

Ok, take a breath! Inhale…exhale…wow! This agency is something impressive.


Booked PR in England!

Here’s something refreshing. An independent UK Public Relations firm was recently established by this lady:

“After several years managing the in-house publicity department for an independent publisher, I launched Booked PR. What’s new? Being a trained journalist with a background in radio news, I have the depth and breadth of media contacts which make high profile coverage achievable. Having managed a hectic newsroom, I know exactly how a good press release should read and the best time to strike.” -Helen McCusker

Services of the company include:

  • Meeting the publisher and author pre-campaign
  • Press releases and long-lead mail outs
  • Access to a comprehensive media list
  • Interview planning and scheduling
  • Preparation for TV and Radio
  • Developing media relations
  • Serial rights management
  • Book signings and events

It’s nice to see a PR firm playing to the strengths of an ex-journalist, with experience in promoting finance, political, business, lifestyle and biographies. It sounds like she prides herself on developing and maintaining good relationships with not only the authors she represents, but also the journalists she interacts with on a daily basis. She says, “I find it useful to meet with them occasionally for coffee and discuss new promotional opportunities and features.”

Being conveniently located within a one-hour commute of London enables McCuster to accompany authors to most media engagements, which provides potential clients a look at the personable nature of Booked PR.

Here are some testimonials of clients:

“We have worked with Helen during the past year to promote our book and have been very impressed by her energy, enthusiasm and hard work. She is fun to deal with and will always go that extra mile for you”-Edmund and Helen Tirbutt, Beat the Booze

“Helen managed to secure prime time interviews for me on the Today programme and exclusive extracts in The Daily Mail. She was always a pleasure to work with” -Ross Clark, How to Label a Goat & The Road to Southend Pier

“Helen is an absolute pleasure to work with. She is unfailingly reliable, cheerfully determined to hunt out the best media opportunities for those she represents and possesses true creative flair” -Sally Nicoll, Bets and the City

“Helen supported the marketing of my first book, which helped lead to my appearance on the panel of the hit BBC series Dragons’ Den in 2007” -Richard Farleigh, Taming the Lion

“Helen was quite the investigator in acquiring many radio and television interviews for me and seemed to have entry into various areas of the media.” -Shirley Clarkson, author of Bearly Believable

“Helen has provided a huge boost to Sterling’s profile and reviews in the UK media. She worked on over 30 books in a short space of time and secured excellent coverage in channels we had not previously been exposed to. For example, Clean Food will be reviewed in a variety of high profile magazines this summer including Red, Health & Fitness and Sainsbury’s. She helped change the way we are perceived in the market and I look forward to working with Booked PR again in the future.” -Alec Grimsley

“I can say without reservation that Helen is worth every penny you will spend on her services. In particular she blends creativity in thinking of smart ways to get you in front of the right media and contacts, with a tireless work effort that is often way beyond the amount of hours you have paid for. My book is quite specialist and we worked hard together across 5 months to produce a selection of national newspaper articles, 15 plus BBC radio interviews and several key business publications have published features or book reviews. As a result of this extensive media coverage, Waterstones upgraded my book to core stock which should help enormously with high street sales. Helen has some great contacts but is also totally comfortable making cold calls to get you in front of the right people. If you can demonstrate your commitment, she’ll help to make your PR campaign a success!” -Mel Arora

There are plenty more where those came from, which says a lot the posotive feedback clients are giving Booked PR.

Also, something interesting to note: Booked PR was a finalist in the Publicity Circle Annual Awards in 2010, and winner of the Inspire 12 award. McCuster has set quite an impressive example in Book Publishing Public Relations.

Penelope Trunk’s Problems With Book Publishing

As I was perusing the bookshelves of the world wide web, I came across a very interesting woman. Author and blogger Penelope Trunk’s blog post on the problems with the publishing’s marketing strategies, and the rules of play for the industry in an online world, galvanized her readers.

One of her more recent books, The New American Dream: A Blueprint for a New Path to Success, came out July of last year. Her experience with PR for this book was not a positive one. 

Trunk said, “I sold this same book, two years ago, (2010) to a mainstream publisher, and they sucked. I am going to go into extreme detail about how much they sucked, so I’m not going to tell you the name of the publisher because I got a lot of money from them. I’m just going to tell you that the mainstream publisher is huge, and if you have any respect left for print publishing, you respect this publisher. But you will not at the end of this post.”

In her post she goes on to explain that the publisher paid her advance in full. Three months before the publication date, the PR department called her up to ‘coordinate their efforts’. “But really they just gave me a list of what I was going to do to publicize the book. I asked them what they were going to do. They did not have a written plan, or any list, and when I pushed one of the people on this first call to give me examples of what the publishers would do to promote my book, she said “newsgroups”.


[nooz-groop, nyooz‐] noun

a discussion group on a specific topic that is maintained on a computer network, especially the Internet:cooking newsgroups.

Trunk said, “You mean like newsgroups from the early 90s? Who is part of newsgroups anymore?”

At the next phone call, she told them she would be happy publicize her book on her blog, because she knew she could sell tons of copies that way. They said they were planning to use LinkedIn to publicize. When Trunk asked why, they said they were going to “build buzz” on their fan page.

Trunk went ballistic. “There is no publishing industry fan page that is good enough to sell books. No one goes to fan pages for publishers because publishers are not household names. The authors are. That’s how publishing works.”

Sadly, she couldn’t have been more right. Marketing online requires that you have a brand name and a following, and the book industry doesn’t build its own brand; the author IS his/her own brand.

Hilariously, Trunk then scheduled a phone call with her editor’s boss’s boss. She told him his business was online marketing and his team had no idea how to do it, and he should hire HER!

He told her, “With all due respect [“which,” wrote Trunk in her post, “I find, is always a euphemism for I hate your guts,”] we have been profitable every year that I’ve run this division and I don’t think we have a problem.”

Then he told her he really needed her to work well together with the marketing and publicity team. That team flew Penelope Trunk to their office to have a meeting. 

I want to recount some of the interesting things she learned (and recorded in a rather facetious way) in that meeting:

Print publishers have no idea who is buying their books

More than 85% of books sales are online, mostly at Amazon. It used to be that a print publisher could look at the data about which stores are selling a book and which are not, and then they’d have a good handle on who is buying the book; but Amazon tells the publishers nothing about that, so the publishers have no idea who is buying their books.

Print publishers have no idea how to market online

The old ways that publishers promote books, like TV spots and back-of-book blurbs, are over. They don’t sell books in an online world. Those offline marketing tactics have no accountability, whereas online marketing is a metrics game. Print publishers haven’t learned how to run a grassroots, metrics-based publicity campaign online. They cannot tell which of their online efforts works and which doesn’t, because they can’t track sales. They don’t know how many people they reach.

The profit margins in mainstream publishing are so low they are almost nonexistent

It takes a print publisher about a year to publish a book, after it is written. It’s unclear what the publishers are doing during this time.

 Then Trunk did six months of research to learn about the future of the publishing industry.

Here are the new rules for book publishing:

1. Self-published books are the new business card. It’s a way to remember someone and also know what’s interesting about them.

2. Nonfiction writers write books to get something else: speaking gigs, consulting gigs, a steady flow of job offers. Books are good for a lot of things, but direct sales from a book are rarely a way to support a life.

3. Book sales are about community. If you have a community of people who listen to you via blog posts, then you have a community of people who will be interested to know how you put a bigger idea together in a book.

4. Book sales are about search engine marketing. The only markets that exist on the internet are search items. If no one searches for xyz, no one will land on a page that sells xyz. You can only sell what people are looking for.

5. The only reason to have a print book is to be in Barnes&Noble. You can achieve just about every goal you might have for book publishing by publishing it electronically. An electronic book serves a lot of purposes: you can talk about bigger ideas than a blog post allows for. You give people an easy way to know you for your ideas. You can create a secondary revenue stream for yourself. A print book is mostly about vanity. It’s about being able to go into Barnes&Noble, when you are there for the magazines and the free wifi, and stroke your ego by holding your own book.

So there you have it; a very extensive and interesting complaint from author Penelope Trunk, along with how she will go about publishing her books in the future.

Have no fear, Authoright is Here!

Are you looking for a good self-publishing company? Maybe you are on the hunt for a literary agent? Do you know how to market a book? Have you thought about eBook marketing? 

Authoright helps authors in all these areas and more, providing comprehensive book marketing services across the publishing industry. If you are a self-publishing author looking for effective book marketing services, if you are a self-publishing company wanting to provide book promotion solutions to your authors or a literary agent wanting to secure book publicity for your mid-list writers, then Authoright can help.

As you may have guessed by now, (based on my other posts, or probably from your own experience) successful book marketing has always been a challenge! Regardless of the medium through which an author publishes their work, knowing how to market a book is essential! According to Authoright, with the right book promotion plan, a self-publishing author can achieve the same levels of media exposure as an established writer. Who woulda thunk, right??

Authoright has a wide range of book promotion services, designed to raise the profile of any author and their book. This encompasses everything from eBook marketing, to a social media campaign and advertising books – meaning, authors appearing in newspapers and magazines, on television and radio, and trending online.

Authoright is passionate about new writers. Instead of working with “celebrity books”, (books written by big-name authors, making them shoe-ins to sell) they strive on behalf of new authors, to gain for them the same sort of book publicity and book advertising as the big shots.

The role of a literary agent is changing, (just as that of publisher and author is shifting.) Over the past few years, Authoright has been working more and more with literary agents to develop a series of creative and comprehensive services and support strategies that will make tackling these new challenges as effective as possible.

We all know that it’s becoming ever more difficult to sell work; budgets are tighter, competition is ubiquitous, and the requirements publishers place on your submissions can, at times, feel overwhelming. In order for any book to survive and ultimately become successful, it is critical that the author becomes an active promotional tool engaged in the publication of their book; publishers are investing less and less in terms of marketing support.

Authoright says, “If creative, energetic marketing is not put in place, the book won’t sell and no one will make a return.”

With book marketing budgets monopolized and absorbed by bestsellers, celebrities and distribution-marketing, there’s rarely anything left in the pot for debut or mid-list authors. This no longer needs to be the case! Authoright has developed a series of ‘outside-the-box’ marketing services that literary agents can pass on to their authors. Most are only too happy to invest in the future and the success of their writing. Authoright’s services are designed to be affordable to any author, enabling them to access and benefit from the same level of service that a best-seller would receive. (Again, doesn’t that sound great?! Isn’t that every up-and-coming author’s dream?)

In the new world order of publishing, the process no longer needs to be linear and one-dimensional. Agents are increasingly looking to broaden their horizons. Therefore, let Authoright help you!

Advice from Author David Greenberg

Yesterday David Greenberg, author of successful children’s poetry books, “Slugs”, “Bugs!”,”Snakes!”, “Skunks!”, “Don’t Forget Your Etiquette! The Essential Guide to Misbehavior” and others, visited BYU-Idaho campus. He held a couple of Q&A sessions throughout the day and addressed questions posed by students, including how to find an agent, and other queries about the current writing/publishing industry. He gave a lot of good advice. One of my favorite points of advice was “Go to conferences!” He said that’s where all the agents are! In fact, writing conferences are teeming with agents! “They want you to be successful,” he said. “Each one of them dreams of finding the next J.K. Rowling, and for all they know it could be you!” One example of one of those said conferences is S.C.B.W.I. (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.)

One student asked, “If someone like me were to submit some of my writing to a publishing house, what would be the likelihood of it actually being read by someone who works there, before getting dumped in the slush pile?” Mr. Greenberg boisterously answered, “You’ve got to know someone on the inside! You’ve got to put together a packet of materials, (things you’ve written) and write a letter asking for feedback. That’s what I did!” He proceeded to tell us a story about the letter he wrote to a publishing company, and he got a response from someone very famous: Maurice Sendak, author of “Where the Wild Things Are!”

“Out of all the head hauncho’s who were too busy to respond to me, he took the time!”

He mentioned other useful tidbits, in regards to putting yourself out there and finding an agent/PR person to help you. The “Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators Market” is a definitive publishing guide for anyone who seeks to write or illustrate for kids and young adults, inside which you’ll find more than 650 listings for children’s book markets (publishers, agents, magazines and more) – including a point of contact, how to properly submit your work, and what categories they’re looking for. A similar source, “Writer’s Market” is essentially the same concept, but targeted at an older reading audience. I asked, “Is the contact info for your agent and editor in those ‘Writer’s market’ books? He said, “Not mine. The accessibility of that information is dependent on the policies of the publisher.”

He went on,”But whoever you submit material to, when it comes to query letters–keep ’em short! Absolutely NO typos or mispellings.” I was inspired when he said, “Write with excellence! You’re not going to get a free pass for something that’s pretty good, or okay, or something you slapped together the night before–BE TENACIOUS!”

I got a chance to ask, “What’s the difference between an agent and an editor? Isn’t the agent your main PR person?” He said I was correct, but he surprised me when he responded that the agent also acts as an editor at times.”

Thus, I learned a little more about PR in the book publishing world. Not only does an author’s agent work to make them look good, they are also very involved in helping to polish the author’s work.

Here is the last thing Mr. Greenberg had to say to us before the Q&A session ended, in response to a student asking what the process of getting published was like for him in the beginning:

“I am resolute. I am resolute. I am passionate; I don’t give up when it seems impossible.”