Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You’re The Best Publicist for Your Book by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Today the IWSG has the honor of hosting the master of book publicity, Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

You’re The Best Publicist for Your Book
Why Your Publisher Can’t Sell Your Book Without You

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

If your name isn't King or Grisham or Roberts you've probably already figured out that you need to do a lot of publicity on your own. But did you know that your publisher can’t do it without you?

Sure you can hire a publicist. A big publisher might even assign one of their own to you, but you are the one who must show up for the signings. You are the one readers want to know about. And you are the one who is most passionate about your book.

I have a publicist friend who is also an author. He rightfully claims that he could never find a PR person who would do the same kind of job he does, including the time he spends on his own PR work. How could anyone argue with that? We all are our own best publicists, even if we hire someone else.

But what if we don't have the time or expertise?

We can learn to do it ourselves. After all, we are writers. We should be able to grasp the knack of how to write a media release.

But the best way to do it is to learn a lot about the marketing of books and then partner with expert publicists or people who can help you with specific projects like online book tours. And partnering with them in a way that won’t eat up your advance or cost you more than you’re likely to make on your book.

Here are some suggestions for preparing yourself to be the best publicity partner around.

1. Join organizations like IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) where you’ll learn to understand the world of publishing from every angle—your, that of your publicist and that of your publisher. And get the support you need along the way.

2. Subscribe to newsletters sent out my experts in the field of publishing. Dan Poynter, John Kremer, Penny C. Sansevieri, and one of my favorite publicity gurus Joan Stewart are all online resources for getting online information that isn’t rooted in myth and gossip. You’ll learn tons from my Sharing with Writers newsletter, too. Subscribe by sending a SUBSCRIBE message to

3. Take a class in public relations. The only way I know how to avoid drastic mistakes in choosing a class is to patronize your local college or attend writers’ conferences sponsored by universities.

4. One of the most frugal ways to learn a new skillset is to read. Most of those who publish free newsletters like the ones I mentioned above have books that will get you off on the right foot. Find mine here.

The next question is how do you find the best help with publicity possible.

1. Consider what you need and how much time you can put into it. Your budget may not accommodate a full-service publicist. You may not have the time to fully participate with all of those services.

2. If that’s the case, consider people who will work with you piecemeal like Penny Sansevieri. You may need an online book tour. I like Denise Cassino's book launch service for that. Contact her at . It shouldn’t be too expensive to get help when you do it in bits and pieces. And when you work with others, many of the contacts you get from your service will become contacts for the life of your writing career. Or you may need help writing your first release so you can do it yourself. That kind of help is available, too, from people like Mindy Philips Lawrence, .

3. Before you hire anyone consider their Rolodex. I'm talking about a file of contacts that are real personal, working relationships with editors, radio hosts, etc. Ask what kind of publicity have they gotten for their other clients? Consider whether those contacts are people who might have an interest in a project like yours. A book publicist who has had mostly experience with mystery writers, deals mostly with books stores that dedicate themselves to stories about crime, and has a huge file of names of reviewers interested in psycho/thrillers probably won't be able to do you much good if yours is a literary novel. And vice versa.

4. As you have already guessed, you want someone who has clients similar to you. Check that out, but also check with the clients. Were they satisfied? If not, why not. Their expectations may have been different from yours. Further, if there were some gaps that you consider important, you may be able to negotiate with your newfound partner to include those services in the publicity package you are contracting for.

Am I speaking from experience? You betcha. And lukewarm results were not the fault of my publicist. She did a great job with what she had. She just didn't have what I needed! If you do your homework, you’ll be happier with your publicity campaign and your publicist will be able to help you reach your goals more quickly…and they’ll be happier with you.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of so-called hard-to-promote genres ( and of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers, because she likes helping other authors avoid the same promotion potholes she once fell into. She blogs frugal book promotion and great writing ideas at Sharing With Writers and read her multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter and the just-released e-book version (2nd edition!) of multi award-winning The Frugal Editor where you’ll learn how to write killer query letters—to agents, publishers, feature editors and all the other gatekeepers who can make a difference for your book.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess I need to subscribe to some newsletters. Never paid for a book tour though. Always set those up myself.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you, Carolyn. I receive several of those newsletters and the publicist I use is top-notch.

Pat Hatt said...

True indeed, can't get out there no matter the publicist unless you help sell you at your feed

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm going to check out some of those newsletters. Thanks for all the useful ideas.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

So true. We are the best champions for our books.

Michelle Wallace said...

By nature, I'm not a salesperson, so I'd find it difficult to publicize my product. Thanks for all the information.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post. It scares me to pieces that I may be facing these issues by the end of the year. I think I need to sign up for some newsletters! Thanks

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thank you for the excellent advice, Carol. In truth it's writers like you who pave the way for the rest of us.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Carolyn,
Thanks for sharing these tips. Studying the industry is the right way to go.

Damaria Senne said...

This is a great post. I forwarded to a writer friend who has decided to go the indie route. It's definitely one of the resources she needs to consult on her journey.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great post. I never would have known about Sharing With Writers if you hadn't taken the time.

lindaballoutalkingtoyou said...

You are a tremendous help and inspiration to all us Indies.