By Camilla Sterne
“At Your Service” is an ongoing blog where we ask a self-publishing industry professional to describe his or her services, in order to help self-publishers understand the intricacies of each step in the self-publishing process.
Today, Sandra Poirier-Diaz shares with us the ins and outs and of getting publicity for a self-published book.
Poirier-Diaz has over 15 years of experience in marketing, communications and public relations—including more than four years at Smith Publicity, where she currently works. Highlights of her publicity successes include placing clients on the “Today Show,” and in “Parade Magazine” (cover), “Wall Street Journal,” “Forbes,” “Self Magazine” and CNN.
She previously worked as Manager of Marketing Services for Thomson & Thomson, of the Thomson Corporation, where she planned and implemented over 400 marketing, public relations and image development programs. Poirier-Diaz also worked for Advanced Computer Graphics in Boston. She has extensive experience in graphic design and website content development.
Q: Explain what your company does.
A: Smith Publicity works with authors and publishers to use the media as a conduit to create awareness about a book. The goal is to help build an author’s brand in order to set the stage to spark book sales. Simply putting your book up on Amazon is not going to do much. Along with many other parts of author-led initiatives, publicity is one part of a larger marketing plan to help create awareness of a title.
Q: Can you explain the costs involved?
A: We have some baseline prices. It really does depend on the author’s goals. He or she may just want local media, and that will be a much different campaign than an international campaign. Usually we work with an author from one to six months depending on goals, budget and platform. The price range is between $3,000 a month and $4,500 a month.
Q: Does the author pay for results?
A: They’re paying for the service of a professional book publicist dedicated to promoting their title. We don’t charge per media placement. If you have a publicist who is working on five projects, some that are very difficult to place and others that are easy, where are they going to spend their time? On the one that they will get paid the most for. Pay-per-placement is typically not in the best interest of the author. If a book is a publicity natural, the cost will be much higher. On the other hand, if a book is challenging, it may not get the attention it needs.
Q: Who’s the most appropriate person that would benefit from your services?
A: Typically, an author with a well-produced book. We don’t want to put forth books to the media that have glaring typos. We simply won’t take them on. We want someone who is serious about their book and building a platform, who has realistic expectations and knowledge of the book-publishing world, as well as authors who are qualified to write on the topic of their book. Anytime there is a personal tie-in with the storyline, it makes a really strong campaign.
In the case of a non-fiction book, (we like) the author (who) typically has education or professional experience that directly relates to the information in their book: for example, a financial planner who writes a book for parents on paying for college.
From a fiction perspective, an example is one of our authors who wrote a novel centered on a woman choosing not to have children (and the positive/negative consequences of that decision). In her case, this was the path she chose in life. In interviews, we were able to focus on the topic as a whole, and then her experiences — societal pressure, family pressure, husband’s input, feelings about being a woman, career advancement, regrets and so on. Because of her personal journey, she –and her book — became a more credible and interesting expert for the media.
We want someone who is interesting and has something to share with audiences. Non-fiction books are typically a little easier. (Someone who is) passionate with a good quality book and media-worthy chunks of info, that’s the type of author that really makes for the best candidate.
If we don’t accept a candidate, we’ll explain why. Sometimes it’s quality, or the book is too old. We’re going to be hard-pressed to find anybody who will be interested in an old title. Honestly, sometimes it comes down to personality. If their expectations are so high that they’ll never be happy with the realistic outcome, we just say that we’re not the best fit for what they are looking for. The analogy I use is that if you’re a baseball player, do you start in the major leagues or do you start in Little League? You really need to build that brand. You can’t expect to walk in and be playing in the Super Bowl or the World Series. That’s just not realistic.
Q: What percentage of authors that approach you do you take on?
A: For the serious authors who can afford our services, I would say we probably take on between 40 to 60% of the authors that approach us. Out of the 50% that we reject, large portions are fiction books that are old. We know that the reaction is not going to be positive.
Q: Once you’re hired, how do you go about looking for publicity and what are the best sources to get publicity?
A: When we start a campaign, the first thing we typically do is look at magazines. Three to six months out (before the book is published), we look at magazines that would fit the target market of the author.
We’re looking especially into local media, alumni connections, etc. If we take on a book, we already have a solid plan in place for media outlets.
We reach out to newspapers, television, radio, online media, book bloggers, special interest bloggers and a variety of local, regional, national or international media. (The reason we often focus on local media is that) if we have a business book and the person is writing a book as a business card and they really want local clients, well, getting a feature in the Boston Globe might not be valuable to them. Even though you and I might think, “Wow, this is a phenomenal media placement,” it should make sense to the author’s goal.
Q: If an author can’t afford to hire a publicist, what are the most important things he/she should do to get publicity?
A: Truly the best advice is to get the best quality book to start with. Then:
–Put together an “elevator speech” or a two-sentence blurb about your book: “This is my book, this is who it’s for, this is what readers will get, and this is a little about me.” Have a synopsis of your book — one or two sentences.
–Have a good website or blog where people can connect and learn about you.
–Visit the local library or bookstore and offer to do readings or events and see about donating books to the library.
–Pitch to local media and contact community editors, lifestyles editors, book editors, alumni groups etc. directly: The more personal, the better; the shorter, the better. Also, send a link to your website and social media so the person can check you out.
–Have a robust Amazon page with links, bio, full book description and as many reviews as possible. And have specific metadata tags on Amazon so you appear on a variety of search engines.
–Sign up for book awards, and enter the best contests based on your budget and goals.
Q: What are the things that authors most often do wrong when trying to get publicity?
A: One of the biggest mistakes I see is a lack of patience. It takes time. If you send a book to someone to review, don’t start haunting the person the next day. It takes months. There might be 100 books on that person’s desk. Patience is probably one of the hardest things for excited authors.
Sometimes we have authors who don’t want to be involved in their campaigns. An author has to be involved, whether they are working with a publicist or on their own. The author is the expert. We try to tie in storylines to the news. The author has to be involved in reading the news and seeing what their voice can add to the conversation. That’s a big mistake, not being available for (news) opportunities. Involve yourself in as much media as possible.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: The biggest challenge today is the volume of people who are vying for the same attention. With 4,000 books coming out every single day, authors have a lot of competition.
Q: How is getting publicity for a self-published title different than getting publicity for a traditionally published title?
A: Five years ago, there were huge differences between getting publicity for a self-published title and a traditionally published title. The media would say if it’s self-published, don’t even bother sending it. But we’ve had self-published authors on the Today Show, in People magazine and on Good Morning America. As long as it’s a professionally produced book and the author has the appropriate credentials for their topic, (media will often consider it). Some review sites won’t consider self-published books. From a distribution perspective, traditionally published books have much better chance for placement on retail stores shelves, which is often hard to secure for a self-published book.
But for 90% of what we do, as long as the book is good and the author has great credentials, it doesn’t matter (whether it’s self-published or traditionally published).
Q: Has social media changed the way you work?
A: It has, because what social media has done is allow (authors) to rebroadcast or amplify media. They can take the interview and Tweet it and post it on Facebook. They can use it over and over again and can spread it far past its original placement. From a publicity perspective, social media has led to different ways of connecting and learning about opportunities.
Q: What social media channels would you most focus on?
A: Twitter is clear front-runner. Twitter allows an author to instantly communicate with individuals — readers, potential readers, media, other authors, clients, experts, etc. — and allows an author to search by topic or hashtag in order to participate in targeted and meaningful conversations beyond a set network of people, and therefore helps to build awareness beyond this set community (such as Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections).
Q: Any other tips you can offer?
A: Hire the best team possible for the book cover. Get a professional editor. Put your best foot forward. Distribution support can make or break a book in terms of sales…
Enjoy the process of talking about your book. Keep writing. If you really want to be an author, keep writing. The more books that people have under their belt, the more time someone will invest in an author. Those fans can become extraordinarily excited.
Q: Thank you for your time!
BlueInk Review offers credible and unbiased reviews of self-published books exclusively. Visit us at www.blueinkreview.com.
Camilla Sterne is a senior at the University of Denver, where she studies creative writing and media studies. She is the Editor-in-Chief of “Foothills Visual and Textual Journal” and Assistant Lifestyles Editor at the “DU Clarion.” She is a former freelance writer for the “Boulder Weekly” and BlueInk Review staff writer.