The Top 10 Questions I Get as a
PR Book Consultant

May 25, 2021
For authors, completing a manuscript is only the first major hurdle in writing a book. The second is marketing your book so it connects with a wide audience.

Authors face many important publishing and marketing considerations between finishing a manuscript and getting their book into the hands of readers. As an established PR book consultant, I have worked with scores of aspiring and established writers over the decades and am very familiar with their concerns. Here are my answers to the top 10 questions I get as a PR book consultant:
1. Should I Send My Manuscript to a Publisher?
The answer is it depends. Traditional publishing is considered the most reliable path to mainstream success; however, you will have less creative control and a smaller percentage of royalties compared to self-publishing. A publisher oversees the editing, design and marketing of the book and gives the writer a cut of the profits.

In addition to your manuscript, you will need to submit a detailed and lengthy marketing plan to your publisher. It should illustrate that you already have an established following and that will implement a multi-pronged approach to expand your following and convert followers into book buyers.
2. Should I Self-Publish?
Self-publishing gives the author complete control over the publication and much higher royalties compared to traditional publishing. With this ownership comes more responsibility in going to print. A self-published author should:

  • Work with an editor to ensure your book reads well
  • Hire a designer to ensure your book cover (front and back) is enticing and stands out on a bookshelf
  • Collaborate with a book marketing specialist to ensure your book reaches a large readership
3. When Should I Begin Marketing?
To garner interest for your book before its release, you will begin marketing as many months as possible before publication, ideally 4-6 months before. Book sellers look to pre-order sales as a sign of interest in a book and decide which books to stock based in significant part on pre-orders. To make it on a best-seller's list, a book will almost always have solid pre-order numbers since this creates momentum for ongoing book sales.

Also, keep in mind that book reviewers will need a copy of the manuscript at least 3 months before publication in order to publish their reviews in timing with your book release.
4. What Should My Marketing Plan Include?
Your book marketing strategy should include traditional public reactions and digital marketing. Traditional PR involves pitching to media contacts to land TV, radio or print interviews. It may also include book tours and speaking engagements.

Digital marketing encompasses all things internet-based, such as websites, social media and email lists. Even if you are not plugged into the digital world, it is highly recommended to create a digital presence when marketing a book.

Traditional PR and digital marketing work synergistically. For example, show producers considering authors for a media interview usually want to see the book website and social media pages to gauge the author's professionalism, following and relevance.

Generally speaking, a great marketing plan, at minimum, should include:

  • What you the author will do promote the book
  • What outreach includes, such as speaking engagements, social media following, etc.

5. How Do I Develop a Book Pitch?
If you understand anything about pitching, understand this: a pitch is not a summary of your book. (In the PR world, a book summary is a press release.) Rather, your pitch should link your book to something in the news.

This is where a book publicist is extremely helpful. At its most essential, a pitch identifies themes in the book that are tied into the news. To successfully pitch, you must also know each media outlet's audience and the aspects of your story that would be compelling to them.

As you might have guessed, your pitch can and should change depending on who you are targeting. For example, a pitch to a national media outlet should incorporate national trends to capture the interest of show producers. A pitch to a local radio broadcast, on the other hand, should highlight how your book's themes would be of interest to local residents.

Learn how to get the most of your book publicist here.
6. Do I Need a Website for My Book?
There's no getting around this one; yes, you should create a book website. As mentioned above, show producers will likely want to see your book website to get additional information about your brand. Potential readers also like to check out a book website before buying it.

In the digital marketing world, a website is like the home base. All other marketing strategies - be it social media, content marketing, direct email campaigns, etc. - are all based around a solid website informing the audience about the brand (or in the case of an author, the book).
7. Should I Blog? How Often?
Blogging is a great way to build your following. Blogging regularly - at least once a month - encourages a loyal readership and shows that you are invested in your brand and communicating to your followers. Blogging regularly also helps with SEO (search engine optimization). Content that is well-written, user-friendly and regularly added to a website is valued by search engines and can improve a website's search engine rankings.

For aspiring authors, blog content can form the idea for a book or content can even be repurposed at least in part for a book. Authors who have already published or are about to publish a book can post blog content that is similar or tangentially related to your book. For example, an entrepreneur who has written a book about how she started a business can blog tips and insights on being an entrepreneur so the content dovetails with the book premise.
8. Do I Need Social Media?
Sorry to the folks out there who dislike social media, but the platform is pretty much necessary at this point to promote any brand, including a book. Social media is how you disseminate your content and interact with your followers.

For example, if you have a new blog post, you'll want to advertise it on social media. Have an upcoming interview on a local TV station? Post a teaser and links to your social media platforms. Much like a blogging strategy, your social media plan should include posting regularly to your accounts, at least once a week.
9. Can I Just Sell My Book on Amazon?
Amazon is an undeniable powerhouse in the book selling industry. In fact, it's the number one bookseller in the world. So, yes you will want to sell on Amazon. That said, limiting your sales platform to Amazon will of course limit the avenues in which the public can purchase your book. In short, consider other selling platforms besides Amazon.

Before selling on Amazon, be sure to set up an author page. Also, you may want to create a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) ebook, which allows readers to borrow your book, thereby giving it more exposure.

Another tip when selling on Amazon is to actively seek reviews since this adds to your page's trustworthiness and therefore makes it more likely for someone to buy your book. A lot of good reviews also equate to being found more easily on Amazon. What's more, the media will look to reviews to gauge public interest in your book.
10. Can I Sell My Book in Bookstores?
For authors working with a traditional publishing house, getting your book in a bookstore will not be a big challenge. This is one of the advantages of going the traditional publishing route; publishing houses have access to the sacred and scarce thing known as bookstore shelves.

If you are self-publishing, you will have to develop and put into place a well-thought-out strategy to have your book sold in a bookstore. Your best bet is to approach local bookstores. Know the demographic of your readership so you can market your book to them. Cultivate a relationship with the store by purchasing books and attending events.

Also, the book industry is a returnable industry, meaning bookstores return unsold books for a credit. As such, be prepared to make your book returnable for bookstores. Finally, if you want your book to flow on and off independent bookstore shelves, consider giving the stores a wholesale discount somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 40%.

Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, the lay of the land changes considerably each year when it comes to book marketing. Do yourself and your book a favor and reach out to a proven PR book consultant for reliable guidance on how to publicize your book. Reach out to me today.