Publicity: What it is and when you need it.
With upwards of a million books published every year in North America, standing out from the crowd is crucial. That’s why FriesenPress offers world class publicity services through our partner, Smith Publicity. With services tailored to help FriesenPress authors succeed in a noisy marketplace, Smith Publicity can make the difference between a book that languishes on a shelf and one that climbs the charts.
This month, we welcome Dan Smith, founder and CEO of Smith Publicity with an article that helps us get clear about what publicity is and what it can do for authors.
'Do I Need a Book Publicist?' If You’re Asking the Question, You Probably Do
To many authors, especially new ones, “publicist” may be a nebulous term. It can conjure up images of a slick-talking, super-connected pro who can pick up a phone, make a few calls, land some huge media gigs, and make a book a bestseller.
Well, the truth is a bit different, and beyond the stereotypes and sometimes skeptical view of them, most authors ask themselves, “Do I actually need a publicist?” Like so many things in life, if you have to ask yourself about needing help, chances are … you do.
You have a book out or set to be published. You’ve put so much time and effort into your book, you might think the hard work is done. But a stark reality becomes clear: You book is great, it has so much potential, but how is anyone going to know it even exists?
One element of marketing a book, and making sure as many people as possible know about it, is publicity. What book publicists do is actually straightforward: We use the media as a conduit to spread the word about a book to the public and/or specific market audiences. How we do it is also straightforward. Publicists are actually salespeople, except we’re not asking media to buy anything; we’re trying to persuade, entice, and guide them toward taking interest in a book and/or author.
Here’s the proposition we make to producers, editors, reviewers, etc.: “We’re going to give you great material for your newspaper, magazine or print outlet that’s based on, or comes from a great book, or, give you a terrific author-guest for your radio or TV show or podcast. The payback you’re going to give us is exposure and coverage for the book and author." Put another way: we scratch your back, you scratch ours.
Most of the time, we’re quite effective. People start to hear about your book. They start to hear you. From out of the very crowded field of hundreds of thousands of books being promoted at any given moment, yours gets noticed, and you get noticed.
The result: book sales, and various potential opportunities–from speaking and new business opportunities to special author events and regular media appearance offers.
A case study
We worked with a business owner and author of a book that focused on how businesses can be more profitable by shortening employees’ workday, yet paying them the same.
By developing timely pitches, creative angles and presenting media with the right information in the manner they like to receive it, the result of our 3-month comprehensive effort was:
- 51 radio interviews
- 119 article runs
- Profiles in numerous national business magazines
- TV interviews on multiple national shows
- The book exploded nationally and internationally.
- Documentary crews did films on the author and his company
- The Huffington Post created a Facebook Video on the book that went viral, getting over four million views.
- A national newspaper, named the author the “World’s Best Boss”
- Talks with major networks are in progress to potentially start a reality TV show based around the author and the book’s concept
It’s important to keep in mind that publicity is one part of a book marketing campaign. Authors should ramp up their social media, engage their personal and professional networks, ensure their Amazon descriptions are complete and include all the right information, and the list goes on.
There is a lot to do, and it can be overwhelming. Knowing you need professional help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom.
Budget is always a concern, and excellent help is rarely found in the bargain rack.
But regardless of your budget, there is help available. Prioritize your needs, maximize your marketing dollars; do your research, and treat your book like a business. Some things you may be able to do on your own; the key is to identify the ones you know you can't.
Far too often, authors who’ve invested significant time and money to get their book published don't think they need to invest time or money in making people aware of it. Doesn't make much sense, does it?
The truth is, most authors do need help marketing their book. And most do need the services of a veteran, proven book publicist.
So: do you need a book publicist?
Asking the question is your answer.
What FriesenPress authors are saying
Anna Schlegel, author of Truly Global, shares her experience of working with the FriesenPress and Smith Publicity teams.
As the author of Truly Global, I knew I had to engage the experts. I first learned about FriesenPress through a published author work colleague. He inspired me to not just write the book but to get the real experts to see me through the process. I worked with FriesenPress for about 8 months and saw my book come to life with great success. It was such a rush!
The book was doing better than expected so I thought, why not keep it going? The FriesenPress team worked with Smith Publicity who took the book by storm and put it on global display. Never in a million years could I have imagined working with such an incredible team. The book has been featured on dozens of sites, been discussed on a dozen radio shows, sold across the US and has even reached Indonesia, China, Holland, Canada, Germany, Spain, the UK, and Brazil. And all thanks to these two incredible teams.
Team Member Spotlight
The first steps on any publishing journey can be nerve-wracking for authors. Thankfully, FriesenPress authors have Sammy Paulus. Sammy joined the team 5 months ago as our inaugural Publishing Services Coordinator. Her helping hand ensures authors are empowered and inspired as they begin the publishing process.
I'm from Whistler BC, but I spent the last 9 years in North Vancouver
You’re relatively new to FriesenPress. What have been your initial impressions after settling in to your new role?
Having previously worked as an event coordinator, this role wasn't initially in my planned career path. But it was the job ad that sucked me in with its witty wording insight reflecting a young, fun workplace. I was not disappointed when I came in, and I am continually amazed how well everyone here gets along. I love the challenge of defining a new role, and appreciate the great support from my team.
Best part of your day?
While my primary role is to help authors get started at the beginning of the process, I also get to do the quality checks at the end of the process. This means I get to look at the finished products of all the authors I initially worked with. It's wonderful to see how the projects all come together.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role here at FriesenPress?
Because I'm the first stop on the path to publication, I help a lot of authors become more comfortable and familiar with our tools and process. Those eureka moments when a nervous author realizes that publication isn't that scary, or that they actually do have the skills required, are the best.
Tell us the best book you’ve read in the last year
The Night Circus. I read for an escape, and The Night Circus was a beautiful journey of magic, competition, and love.
What are some memorable books you’ve helped our authors publish?
Joy Ellen Lalonde is still in the middle of her publication journey, but I can't wait to see how her book The Greatest Gift turns out. It's actually a collection of thankful messages she posted daily after the Fort McMurray fire last year. It's an inspirational and heartfelt book, and I'm so happy I was able to be a part of it.
- If you could give authors any advice prior to beginning their publication process, what would it be?
Keep it simple. Don't worry about formatting (that's what we're here for) and think hard about whether images will actually add to the value of your book.
How Brain Science Can Improve Your Writing
It’s happened to all of us. We pick up a book and decide to read for a few minutes. It’s pretty good, so we read just a little longer. And then a little more ... hours later, the streetlights are on, everyone’s gone to bed, but we’re still up. Reading. What happened? Why do some books grab us by the hair and drag us into their world, almost against our will?
While there’s no step-by-step formula for writing bedtime-thwarting prose of your own, there are techniques that can greatly increase the chance your readers will hang around to see what happens next.
You got me in the feels
We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, but, in fact, the decisions we make - including whether or not to keep reading a book - are emotional. As expert negotiator Jim Camp points out in a Big Think article, “Decision-making isn’t logical, it’s emotional, according to the latest findings in neuroscience.”
This is important information for writers because it gives us a clue about how we can engage our readers. If humans are wired to resonate emotionally, then we’d better make sure our writing is influencing the heart as well as the mind. But first we need to get clear about which emotions we want to evoke.
Just as a songwriter decides what kind of song they want to write before they put the notes down (happy, sad, fast, slow) so, too, a writer can plan what kind of emotional notes they want the writing to hit.
Of course, knowing what you’d like to achieve and knowing how to do it are two different things. Lucky for us there are principles and techniques we can use to increase the likelihood that readers will experience the emotions we’re aiming for. And as it turns out, neuroscience has a lot to teach us.
Breaking down the science
The human brain is made of many different structures, each performing different functions. The part of our brain we associate with “higher” thinking - like math and language - is called the cerebral cortex. Located at the outer layer of the brain, the cerebral cortex is often referred to as the “executive” part of our brain (especially the region called the prefrontal cortex). In evolutionary terms, this is the newest part of our brain and is the seat of what we normally call “consciousness.”
However, even though we like to think of ourselves as rational creatures who make decisions based on objective facts, it’s not actually our cerebral cortex that makes decisions. That job is handled by a much older and deeper part of our noggin called the limbic system. Sometimes referred to as “the reptilian brain”, the limbic system is where emotions are generated and it’s 200 times faster at processing information than our conscious mind.
Just imagine: You’re seated comfortably in your favourite chair, engrossed in a FriesenPress book when someone tiptoes up behind you and yells, “BLAAGOOZEY!” in your ear. Before you can make a rational decision about how to react, your limbic system already has you spun around and up on your feet.This is important information for writers because it gives us a clue about how we can engage our readers. If humans are wired to resonate emotionally, then we’d better make sure our writing is influencing the heart as well as the mind. But first we need to get clear about which emotions we want to evoke.
That’s an extreme example, but, in fact, your limbic system is constantly reacting. Mostly it wants to know if something is likely to be pleasurable or threatening and makes decisions based on sense information: taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell.
But the limbic brain does not use words.
Think about that. Language doesn’t affect how we make decisions. Gosh, that’s bad news for writers, hey? Well, actually no. Words themselves might not engage our emotions or affect our decisions, but the images they evoke do.
Engage the senses
Most seasoned writers have heard the maxim “show don’t tell,” or as Chekov put it, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” These are concrete sensory details that mimic the experience of actually being in a scene. And the reason they’re so effective is because they speak the language of the limbic brain. In other words, sense information produces emotional responses. Knowing this is gold for writers. It reminds us to “show” in our writing and even helps us decide what to show.
For example, if you’re writing a scene about a man who has just escaped from a secret prison, it’s probably not so important to describe the clouds or what color a nearby flower is. Instead, look for details that will convey relevant emotions like fear and elation: the blinding bright sunlight, how much his leg hurts, how far it is to the dense forest; describe the sound of a distant alarm beginning to wail.
We all have needs
Another way to approach this is to remember that we’re all human beings with common wants and needs. Remember that thing called “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” from high school psychology class? If not, Wikipedia has a nice overview of the theory. Basically, it lists our common human requirements, from simple to more complex. Here’s an adjusted version for writers, starting with basic and progressing to “higher” or more evolved needs.
- Physical needs (food, water, sleep, air, protection from injury and harm)
- Safety needs (personal security, financial security, health and well-being)
- Emotional needs (love, affection, family, belonging)
- Esteem (self-respect, status, power, freedom, approval, fitting in)
- Self-actualization and Transcendence (meeting our potential,, spiritual awakening, concern with welfare of community, human rights, the environment)
Given that the limbic brain is always on the lookout for ways to fulfill its needs, we can write stories that either promise to fulfill or threaten these common needs. Subconsciously our readers will be interested because they all have the same wants and needs. This is what writing teachers are talking about when they insist, “every story needs conflict.”
Think about your favourite book. How many of these needs are being threatened? From Shakespeare to Harry Potter, you’ll find that protagonists everywhere are fighting to meet one or even all of these basic human requirements.
At bottom, reading is an emotional experience. We want vivid stories that make us feel we are part of the action. We want characters whose needs we recognize from our own life experience. It’s why we cheer for them, and it’s what keeps us turning pages.
From the President’s Desk
Spring is finally making an appearance here in Victoria. The days are getting longer, the daffodils are getting taller, and the temperatures are getting milder. Before you know it, we’ll be thinking about which books to bring to the beach.
Seasons aren’t the only thing changing. There are many new developments here at FriesenPress aimed at providing new and expanded services for authors. Later this spring we’ll be launching all new Children’s Book Paths featuring enhanced design services, marketing tools, custom illustrations, and more. We’re also developing new tools to help authors fundraise for their book and more effectively promote it later on. Stay tuned for details on those initiatives in upcoming issues of Published!.
Finally, I’m excited to introduce our new “Alumni Corner” feature in this newsletter. The purpose of this section is to learn and share information among FriesenPress authors, especially on subjects like craft development, sales promotion, writing support tools, and the writing life. There’s A LOT of wisdom among the thousands of FriesenPress authors and we’d like to help build a community that contributes to everyone’s long-term writing success.
Until next time, I wish you every success.
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