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a:Book PR and Marketing Questions Answered


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Earlier this month, Greer Macallister wrote a post for WU entitled, All the Things I Don’t Know, which struck a chord. In this day and age of double-masking, remote learning, and where should I get my COVID test today, I often wake up less with the Carrie Bradshaw “I couldn’t help but wonder” mindset, and more of a “how in the [insert expletive] am I going to answer that?”

You see, I spend a good portion of each day answering questions. There are the mom questions…”what did you pack me for snack?” There are the wife questions … “do I have 10 minutes to finish up this deck before dinner?” While the dog can’t speak, his eyes, tail wags, and door scratches are just loaded with questions. And since almost everything is about food, my answers don’t require much thought or even complete sentences. But then I’ll get a client question, which might go something like this: “My publisher got me something called a BookBub deal that’s running early next week in the historical fiction category, and my first question is, what’s BookBub? My second question is what else is it that I should be doing to support that deal? My third question is what will you be doing to support that deal?

These questions require greater thought, a review of the calendar, a discussion with my team, and a strategic plan. Sometimes still a client is having trouble understanding it all and then we make arrangements for a call where I lead him or her to various websites and social media platforms to get a clearer picture.

And I genuinely enjoy all of this.

With this pandemic year, where we question everything and everyone, the unknown about the book world feels a little deeper and darker. I think more about all the things I don’t know. I question more of what I do know. And I wouldn’t be surprised if everything changed completely tomorrow.

But for now, here are some of the more common questions I’ve been asked this pandemic year. I had a little help from friends in answering them.

1. [Insert Author Name] is on [Insert National Morning Show like Good Morning America] talking about the same thing my book is about. Why didn’t they choose me and can you go back to them?

We don’t usually get feedback about why a producer went with one author over another, but the reasons can be many including: that particular author may have an already established relationship with the network/show and is called on to be their expert on that topic whenever it is in the news; the author may be more well-known and have a larger following on social media, which is definitely a factor when producers are considering guests; that author may have an affiliation with an organization that can help amplify the segment that others do not; and that author may have clips to past TV interviews that show they would be engaging and have experience on TV. Those are just some possible reasons and publicists rarely, if ever, get feedback as to why a specific author was not booked. The producers do not have the time or bandwidth to report back with that level of feedback. I don’t expect they will be covering this topic again so soon, but I will continue to follow up as is appropriate to be sure you are on their radar as an expert for future bookings around the topic.—Kathleen Carter is a book publicist and founder of Kathleen Carter Communications, a literary p.r. agency.

2. Why did [Insert Bookstagrammer or Book Blogger Name] post that negative review? Can you get them to take it down?

Although it doesn’t happen very often, a blogger will sometimes post a negative or lukewarm review of a book. In my experience, this happens if a character or situation depicted in the novel makes the reader connect negatively on a personal level. More and more we see movies and television shows proactively post trigger warnings, and unfortunately, this has not yet been adopted by the book industry. The reader may have also selected a book to read that wasn’t the right fit after seeing others review it, and then find that they could not connect with the novel.Due to the strong relationships that I have built with the blogger community, typically an open and honest discussion will happen if a reader is not enjoying the book. Sometimes all it requires is a follow up on how negative critiques of a book can change ratings on review sites and what books will work better in the future to feature on social media. As a facilitator of virtual book tours, these situations help me in understanding the types of books that a certain blogger may or may not enjoy in the future and bring me closer to my community of bloggers.—Suzanne Leopold, founder of Suzy Approved Book Tours

3. I have a really friendly relationship on Instagram with this [Insert Book Media Professional or Book Influencer] but they didn’t include me in their monthly round-up or event—did I do something wrong? 

Book influencers must diversify their lists based on genre, publisher, time of the year, etc. They simply cannot include every book or author. That doesn’t mean they won’t promote your book elsewhere or that they won’t promote your next book.—Andrea Peskind Katz, founder of Great Thoughts blog and the Great Thoughts’ Great Readers Book Salon on Facebook.

4. I support other authors on social media all the time, it was disappointing that they didn’t do the same for me during my launch. Did I do something wrong?

And I’m sorry for that, but you never really know what another person is going through. Give support because that is who you are. Don’t give support because that is who you are.

What I tell my clients: don’t ever stop wishing and hoping, but don’t set your expectations so high that this book business becomes a disappointment. Remember what your mama taught you, and prioritize etiquette. Someone is always watching.—Me 

5. My book is not selling—the PR nor advertising is leading to sales, what can you do to fix this? 

The job of advertising and PR is to interest someone in a book. Then the book itself must clinch the sale when the potential reader goes to the retailer. Most readers need to read the book’s full description, still be interested enough to read the book’s excerpt, and then usually check other readers’ opinions in the form of reader reviews —both the good and the bad ones. (Many readers say the bad ones are even more important.) And then lastly a potential reader will check out the price. That alone can kill sales if the author is not already a favorite. I’m a writer too and I think a copy of my book should be worth more than a latte — but readers have endless choices of books on sale for $2.99 or less and sometimes a high priced book is what is throwing off sales.So other than price, if the ads and PR were done correctly, the problem is on the retailer’s page. There are so many things on that page that can turn off a reader and kill a sale. Is the book’s description doing its job? Positioning the book correctly? Is the synopsis compelling enough?  Is the book’s excerpt strong enough? The first five pages of a book are its most important.Also are there enough reader reviews on the page? Generally, you need at least 20. If you don’t have those, you need to get them — which can often be accomplished by a $119 eBook giveaway at Goodreads.  A few weeks after one of those, more reviews do appear. I think the hardest thing to accept is not every book finds its audience even when you do everything right because it is not about a book being good or bad — but about the book being appealing that clinches a sale.

When you do everything right and the book still doesn’t sell (and it has happened to me with my own novels) the best advice I can give is to write the next book.—New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling novelist, M.J. Rose, (Cartier’s Hope, The Last Tiara), is also the founder of the first marketing firm for authors, AuthorBuzz.com and co-founder of 1001DarkNights.com and BlueBoxPress.com.

6. Can you ask book bloggers and bookstagrammers to leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, etc.  And the follow-up question a couple of weeks laterWhy haven’t they left their reviews?  

For me as a publicist, book bloggers and Bookstagrammers should be treated like the media and I recommend authors do the same. Would you email (or ask your publicist to email) a journalist who reviewed your book in the newspaper and ask them to also leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads? No. The book gets sent to them (media, bloggers) for possible review and what happens from there, well …happens. Just let it be. The minute the book is sent out into the world, you have no control over the reviews, what happens or doesn’t happen, where they post their thoughts or don’t post.  Yet often bloggers/Bookstagrammers are viewed or treated differently and I’ve been asked all kinds of things by authors when it comes to bloggers/Bookstagrammers – from asking them not to post reviews unless they are positive… to asking them to revise their review because they “got it wrong”…to asking them to not tag the author if it’s not favorable … to asking them to do more (post on social, post their review to other review sites, etc). No, I don’t believe these requests should be sent. Book bloggers/Bookstagrammers are spending their time (often their free time) reading books and crafting reviews, sometimes with elaborate and artistic photos for their Instagram, creating thoughtful captions and sharing their thoughts with their audiences, engaging in conversation through the comments section, and generally spending a lot of time on their book reviews and content. Sure, they are receiving a free copy of the book, but that doesn’t mean they owe the author anything. Sure, they are usually open to authors reaching out and may even be open to some of these requests. But I say view them as you would a journalist: let them do their thing and don’t get involved. If they also post on Goodreads, Amazon or BookBub, great! If they don’t, they don’t. Authors/publicists can post on their social or in their newsletters gentle reminders that “authors rely on the importance of reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads and BookBub, so if you loved a book please consider sharing reviews there”, but I do not think you or your publicist should be emailing specific bloggers/Bookstagrammers and asking for them to post reviews on Amazon/Goodreads/BookBub, even if it seems like they would be open to this. And do not follow up and ask why they haven’t posted their reviews yet on those sites. They know the importance of those sites and if they choose to add their reviews there, they will. Whatever they do, be grateful, thank them and move on. —Crystal Patriarche is the founder of BookSparks and works with authors and publishers on publicity and marketing.

7. Can you please ask your bloggers and bookstagrammers to write me good reviews to bring down a negative review on Goodreads? 

Absolutely not. Again, what happens, happens. When it comes to negative reviews, just let it go. The best thing to do is send out those gentle reminder messages on social/via newsletters to encourage any readers/bloggers who loved your book to consider posting reviews on Goodreads if they are so inclined.— Crystal Patriarche is the founder of BookSparks and works with authors and publishers on publicity and marketing.

For 2021, I want to continue to answer PR and marketing questions, so please do email me at am@getredpr.com and I’ll do my best to answer in future WU posts.

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About Ann Marie Nieves

Ann-Marie Nieves (she/her) is the founder of Get Red PR, and an award-winning communicator with experience across a broad range of industries in both the business-to-consumer and business-to-business sectors. She has experience within all communications platforms including public relations, advertising, marketing, copywriting, website development, community relations, and social media.

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