Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fibro Q&A: Just how do you publicise a book?

A few weeks ago I was sent a new book. It's called Swept (Love with a chance of drowning) by Torre DeRoche and is a memoir about how a chance meeting in a bar found Torre, a self-confessed 'city girl with a deep fear of water' sailing on the high seas with the (incredibly hot sounding) Ivan. It's a great yarn, full of adventure (and duct tape), with an evocative cover.

It's also self-published. Beyond the immediate questions that crowded to mind about the why of publishing your own print book in a world that seems to revolve around self-published Kindle editions, the next phase of questioning went immediately to the how of publicising such a book. How do you make your non-fiction book stand out in a field that seems to be shouting with a million voices without the safety net of a publishing house behind you?

I decided to ask an expert. Katie McMurray, the powerhouse behind KatieMac Publicity, specialises in media campaigns for authors, experts, businesses, festivals and awards. She used to publicise 200 authors a year for the Sydney Writers' Festival and is acknowledged as a leader in the field of book publicity in Australia.

The thing I love about Katie, mostly being on the end of her hard-fought campaigns to win editorial coverage for 'her' authors, is that she never sends me irrelevant stuff. She knows what I write about, she knows the publications and websites for which I write, and she hand-delivers me (okay, via email) updates about books (and therefore interview talent) that she thinks will come in handy for me. And they do.

She seemed like the perfect person to ask about how to publicise a non-fiction book. And she was.

What does a publicist actually do?
Katie McMurray: "A publicist achieves media coverage - stories in newspapers, magazines and online; radio and TV interviews. This is editorial, not advertising. We find what it is that best tells a story about our client and pitch that to journalists and producers. The best publicists have a consummate understanding of media and know what media are looking for. It's like a combination of translation, story telling and sales."

The general consensus seems to be that books are notoriously difficult to publicise - do you agree? What is the best traditional medium for finding readers?
KM: "All publicity work is challenging. We are competing for space and air time to get our clients media coverage. If you are an expert and you have a new book and something to say, media will give you the time of day.  But you need to put your best foot forward and not presume that someone will want to interview you just because you've got a new book. You need to give them other compelling reasons to talk to you.

"In the book game, the saying goes that 'radio sells books'. I think it takes a mix of well-targeted media, plus a great marketing plan (public speaking, newsletters, blogs etc) to get a book right out there."

Most publishers now seem to expect writers to blog/tweet/Facebook... Are blogs really an effective marketing tool for authors? 
KM: "A blog is a way to keep you connected to the people who most love your work. It's a relationship tool. From a media and publicity point of view, a blog keeps your thinking fresh and keeps people interested in you. If my author-client is writing a regular blog, then I have regular new ideas to pitch to the media."

Is it possible for authors/writers to overshare on social media and their blogs? Where do you think the line is?
KM: "I've not come across too much of this. I publicise non-fiction books by people who are experts. They tend to really know their stuff and their followers want to hear it."

What are your top three tips for an author wishing to publicise a book?
KM: "Number one, have something to say and say it powerfully. Two: Be somebody. Putting a book out does not mean the media will pay instant attention, so make sure you're active in your industry and business through public-speaking, workshops, blogging etc. Three: have your book professionally edited and talk to as many people as you can before you sign with a publisher or spend your money self-publishing."

You can find out more about KatieMac Publicity here and follow her on Twitter here. You can find out more about Torre DeRoche and her book Swept here (including how to buy) and follow her on Twitter here.

Update: the 'why' of self-publishing becomes clearer. I'm very excited to report that Torre has been offered a publishing deal and is now represented by Elizabeth Evans from JVNLA in New York. What can I say but 'go girl!'.  


  1. I started my blog to publicize my book "Maybe It's Just Me!"

    So far I know of two copies sold as a result of my posts.

    In 150 years I will get most of my money back! Yet I plan to publish another book soon.

    I like the writting don't like the "Look at me!" selling.

    Cranky Old Man

  2. Wow, very interesting.

    I hope to get a book pubished so I love reading stuff like this.

  3. Great insight into how the publishing industry (and writers) get their work 'out there'. I know how hard Torre has worked to get the book finished, and now the task of publicising and marketing it to readers. Yikes!
    This puts social media for writers into perspective for me. I used to think it was a massive time suck, but if you've got a book out there, I can see how a toothy blog topic would create interest. I know I've bought 4 books this year from blog posts alone. I'm VISA happy like that. ;)

  4. I read an interview somewhere with the author Jodi Piccoult and she said in it that it is up to the author to promote and sell their books. After one of her early books had bombed she discovered that her publisher decided before it hit the shelves that it wasn't going to do well therefore they shouldn't promote it. She hires her own publicist and does massive speaking tours with each book. Obviously whatever it is that she does works very well ;-) judging by the frequency of her books on the bestseller lists.


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