Fannying about with Press Releases: What do Book Publicists do?

Book Publicists

Fannying about with Press Releases: What do Book Publicists do?

Having just attended the Marketing and Publicity Book Conference, run by The Bookseller I’ve not only changed my publishing batteries but also my blog batteries. Today’s post, suitably, is about book publicists and what their job really entails.

For those of you that don’t know, I am the Marketing and Publicity Executive at Canelo Digital Publishing. It’s only me – at the moment – and therefore I have a lot of responsibility. I am very busy. But one of the questions I get asked a lot is:

What does a book publicist do?

Well… unlike what Bridget Jones says, we do not just fanny about with the press releases. We mostly just send them, and then follow up. And then follow up again, and then chase, and then phone and then… It goes on.

As a digital publisher, I have a hard time trying to get our books publicised in recognised national and international newspapers/magazines. Mostly because some newspapers/magazines book space is limited and ‘digital only’ books are looked down upon. For some reason. *eye roll*

The wonderful mediums that do accept digital pitches receive a lot of emails from me. I regularly pitch reviews, feature ideas, interview requests, and give updates about the company. It’s a hard job but very rewarding when it works.

To date, I’ve had reviews for our books in major newspapers and magazines. I have an upcoming feature in a major newspaper and have organised several online features and a small YouTuber event. Also, I’ve contacted authors, actors, and broadcasters for reviews. And today I am going to a launch party for a big book of ours with some live theatre in the background.

Publicity is exciting and incredibly rewarding when it works, which is probably only 20% of the time. The other 80% of the time I am emailing and pitching and chasing constantly. Plans go askew, crises happen, people pull out of events, authors get sick and all these other inevitable issues. But you deal with it.

You don’t earn enough to have a 2-bed flat in Borough.

Don’t join publicity just to earn ‘good money’ like Bridget Jones. And definitely don’t join just to meet some potentially famous people. You might do and that’s great, but the priority is to get the books out there.

The topic of the Marketing and Publicity conference was about grabbing attention for books. Many of the speakers said they were no longer running book campaigns but starting movements. If you’re not prepared to break the rules, be more than a bit determined, and ultimately aim for Pluto when it comes to publicising a book it’s going to be a rough road. As I learned on the job.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was:

Don’t aim for what you know you can get, but aim for what you want.

If you know you can get a few reviews in newspapers and magazines and a few author quotes, great. But it’s better to aim for the trending hashtag, with a massive traditional publicity campaign, radio and TV interviews. Or a personal recommendation from Margaret Atwood than just a few reviews. Even if you don’t get them, it’s worth a try.

There’s no such thing as failure.

When I went to my boss and said: can I organise a YouTuber event, he said yes. It wasn’t a complete success – as it was fairly last minute and people pulled out – but I learned a lot. And had a fun morning (getting drunk) with the author and a few YouTubers.

There is no such thing as failure; there are lows and there are highs. Keep your head and persevere.

Do you have to be an extrovert to be a publicist?

Thankfully not! It helps, as being a ‘people person’ helps in most jobs. But as long as you have a solid strategy, good social media skills, and a touch of bravery you can be a publicist. If you have to network – which you will – just remember there is always someone in the same shoes as you. And no one is going to ignore you unless you ignore them by not talking to anyone all evening.

You can always copy Bridget and just ask where the toilets are. That is always an icebreaker.

Personally, I am not an extrovert. I’ve just moved into a studio flat and I’ve don’t think I’ve been this happy in ages. Not to say my last flat was bad (I shared it with my best friend of 12 years) I was just not very good at going from work then home and having to socialise throughout again. I only have enough hours of natural socialising in me. Introverted publicists unite!

Thankfully Twitter and blogging are my friends.

At yesterday’s conference, I was live-tweeting the event. through that, I was able to talk to people, network, make contacts and develop my career at the same time. I think I had three Top tweets on the official hashtag #MPconf18. And the insanely talented (also wonderful) YouTuber Leena Normington even retweeted me and shared my pictures of her panel. To me, that’s a successful publicity event

Book publicists work is made of many strands. It can take a while to untangle and make into something pliable, and threads will come loose as you go, but perseverance and a little bit of creativity go a long way.

Check out the #MPconf18 hashtag for more details and advice from the Marketing and Publicity Conference. And feel free to follow me at @ElliePilcher95 for some upcoming blog posts about publishing, writing, and living in London.

For more information about life for book publicists, you can read my previous blog post: Day in the Life of a Marketing & Publicity Executive.

Love Ellie x

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