The book business has come to rely on authors who can essentially sell their own books. Celebrities and previous bestsellers get top billing, and a large percentage of marketing and publicity dollars. Publishers have limited resources across the board and while they work very hard to implement smart, savvy PR campaigns for all of their books, the truth is there are just too many titles and too little manpower for all their projects to get enough attention.
So, when I’m signing up a new nonfiction author (fiction is another story when it comes to publicity), I generally tell them they should be prepared, and many of them have heard this elsewhere before they even get to me, for a minimal amount of support from their publisher when it comes to both marketing and publicity. I try to set the expectation level in a realistic way so that they are not disappointed or surprised later. Often, publicity departments are stretched to their limit, and new authors are assigned very junior publicists with limited experience. And the turnover is very high. I’ve had many authors go through two or three publicists in the course of one book campaign, which makes for a challenging and frustrating experience on so many levels.
I like to recommend early in the process that my authors consider putting away a piece of their advance, depending on what the numbers wind up looking like, to hire an outside publicist who can help them launch a full-scale promotional campaign before, during, and after the book’s publication. These publicists can be very expensive, several thousand dollars a month or more, but the key difference between them and those who work in house is that outside publicists work specifically for their client, so they are bound to get a lot more attention and support. Authors also have a chance to interview and research publicists who they feel are a good match, something that isn’t an option from the publisher, who assign publicists without discussing it with the author first. There are a number of ways to approach hiring an outside publicist, and I like to suggest my client do some preliminary research first on what kinds of pr firms might fit with their particular type of book. I also think it’s a good idea to speak with your editor or publicist (if one has already been assigned) to see if they can recommend some outside publicists who they have worked well with and who have had successful campaigns launched. If the author decides they are able to support this type of endeavor financially, and they feel they will be able to launch a stronger campaign with this kind of help, it can wind up being successful all around
There are exceptions to every rule, and I’m happy to say that I recently experienced a level of support from a publisher unparalleled to anything I’d seen before. The book is called THE ULTIMATE CHEAPSKATE’S ROADMAP TO TRUE RICHES by Jeff Yeager, and Broadway published it as a trade paperback original in late December. The author had made some previous appearances on the Today show where Matt Lauer had referred to him as their “resident cheapskate,” so he had some nice media experience already in his back pocket. Plus, his broad message of finding happiness by spending less money is one that hit at just the right time, in a down economy where people are not necessarily interesting in making more, but in focusing on how best to spend what they have. Jeff also happens to have a great voice, and uses a smart but humorous approach, which makes him and his message very accessible on a wide scale. Out of the gate, there were opportunities to help Jeff stand out from the vast array of competition, including an innovative book tour on a bike (he is currently on a brand new leg of that tour) that the author and Broadway developed. Broadway was able to capitalize on the positive publicity that resulted, and it’s now gone back to press several times with 47,000 copies in print. Plus, I just did a deal for his next book, THE CHEAPSKATE NEXT DOOR, which will extend the brand that Jeff and Broadway are working so hard to build.
It’s wonderful when the publisher is able to get behind a book in this way, but it’s not always possible. Authors have a very small window when their book is published in which to maximize opportunities for publicity and spread the word as widely as possible, so it’s critical to use every effort and resource available to both the publisher and the author to make for a successful book launch.