New and established authors alike struggle with how to best market and publicize their books. In my interview with publicist Caitlin Hamilton Summie, we discuss the changing landscape of book promotion and how to get the most marketing and publicity bang for your buck.
Caitlin Hamilton Summie is the former Marketing Director of MacMurray & Beck and also of BlueHen Books/Penguin Putnam. At each company she also managed imprint profile and directed all publicity, hardcover & paperback. In addition, for nearly two years she simultaneously directed and handled sales nationwide for MacMurray & Beck. In 2003, she founded Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, an independent book publicity and Marketing firm. Hamilton Summie wrote book reviews for The Rocky Mountain News, author profiles for ABA’s Bookselling This Week, and has published both short stories and poems. She is a former independent bookseller who earned her degrees at Smith College and Colorado State University. Her first book, a collection of short stories called TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS, is being published by Fomite in 2017. Find Caitlin online at caitlinhamiltonmarketing.com.
This guest post is by Kristen Harnisch. Harnisch is the award-winning author of The Vintner’s Daughter, the first novel in a series about the changing world of vineyard life at the turn of the twentieth century. Her next novel, The California Wife, will be released in 2016. Harnisch has been a speaker at the Writer’s Digest Conference and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and three children. Connect with Kristen at kristenharnisch.com, on Twitter @KristenHarnisch, and on Facebook facebook.com/kristenharnischauthor.
1. What changes have you seen in the marketing of books during your tenure as a publicist?
I’ve seen huge changes over the course of my career: the shrinking of book review pages, the rise of the Internet and Internet media, the development of the citizen (consumer) reviewer, and the creation of online engagement through social media. It has all vastly changed how we publicize and market books.
2. What do you see as your highest and best use as a publicist in today’s market?
I think the answer depends on what each author needs, but in general, for everyone, it is to create the kinds of publicity and marketing plans that help authors meet their goals. Do authors want sales, visibility, or both? A publicist should be a creative partner and guide for an author.
Before a writer contacts a publicist, I’d advise that he/she decide what his/her goals are and what expectations they have of a publicist.
3. What does the average book publicity campaign cost (a range is fine) and what services should it include?
I’d expect to pay $5,000 and up. Most plans include some aspect of media outreach (generating reviews and interviews, for instance) and event bookings. Some plans might also include a social media component, others a marketing component (marketing to libraries, as an example).
4. What advice would you give authors who can’t spend vast sums to market their book(s)?
Of course having a budget helps, but what matters is creating a savvy, well thought out marketing effort. I would advise every author to educate him/herself about the industry, to learn what marketing and publicity are, and to approach their campaigns like businesses. If an author is doing marketing on her own, I would advise she prepare a marketing plan.
5. In your experience, what activities or practices sell the most books? Do these differ for self- or hybrid-published authors?
Yes, I think different tactics can help certain categories of books. Speaking gigs can boost book sales, and I think radio is great. For the self-published, a consistent release of titles is often helpful as are price discounts and promotions through vendors or other outlets. And of course, all books need reviews. And who doesn’t love book clubs?
6. What kind of author is your ideal client?
My ideal client has written a book I love, is clear about his/her expectations, is easy to communicate with, loves to brainstorm, works collaboratively, and is willing to get out there on behalf of his/her book to help make it a success.
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