13. Jun, 2017

To PR or Not to PR? That is the Question...

You’re an independent author and you’ve self-published your first book, via Print on Demand or an online publishing service.

When considering your public relations campaign, you may be asking: - do I pay a professional to publicise my book, or do I market it myself, through all possible ‘word of mouth’ channels?

I have seen questions appear in ‘indie’ author group threads, asking for recommendations on cheap publicity services. I think we need to be aware as self-publishers, that there is a difference between relatively affordable publicity opportunities like a Goodreads Giveaway, or a twitter book promo on Shout My Book, and an end-to end publicity service from a public relations professional. The latter will cost you and there is no cheap option and unfortunately, no guarantee of return on investment.

I’m coming at this from hiring a PR company to manage and execute a six- week traditional and social media campaign, for my debut picture book. I was prepared to invest money in a third-party professional service to promote my self-publishing project. I did not have the wherewithal at the time, to promote it myself.

Did I succeed? Do I have regrets? Well, I certainly have a lot of mixed emotions but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to offer my verdict on the value of a traditional media vs. a social media book campaign.

This week I’ll cover my traditional media PR experience (epic fail!) and next week, the outcomes of my social media campaign. That’s where the gems of true wisdom lie, so stay tuned…

Traditional Media Campaign – What to Expect

Traditional media is considered media that was around before online i.e. TV, radio and print magazines and newspapers.

Once you have contracted a publicist for an agreed period of service, they will read your book, interview you and write a press release to send out on ‘the wires’. This will be visible to media outlets (within the agreed geographical parameters) and they may pick up the story of your book’s publication.

This could take the form of requesting an interview with you for print, TV or radio, or asking for a ‘review copy’ of your book, to profile on their media service. The press release blast will be followed with a systematic plan of personal approach from the publicist, to targeted media outlets, identified as good prospects for interest in your book.

Sounds great, huh?

Even in adversity, I live in hope of triumph, so I would always encourage you to shoot for the stars. However, my biggest take-away from my traditional media campaign is manage your expectations. Your publicist may even warn you that media relations are a tenuous process. Best believe them.

My press release, which went out to media in five US cities and Sydney, was re-posted by a small handful of US media outlets on the day of release. Furthermore, there were two interview enquiries (one from a local newspaper in Sydney) and one other enquiry for a review copy. None of the enquries came to anything.

What I’ve Learned From This Type of Campaign

Fact. My book is not going to appeal to everyone and I accept that the traditional media campaign may have failed because my book missed the mark and lacked media appeal.

As an ‘indie’, what I also need to understand is that there is a big wide world of professional publishing out there and there are systems in place for traditionally published books to reach the right media channels through a publishing house or an agent’s PR.

It is also less likely that an unknown, first time author, who has published their own work, will be of any traditional media interest, or will be considered marketable, or saleable to the book-buying public. After all, who do you like to read about in the traditional media?

People you know.

My Verdict on Traditional Media Publicity Services

I would not recommend that an emerging, self-published author invest in a third party's traditional media PR services.

You are likely to know your own local media networks best, so approach editors with a copy of your book and gauge their interest. Don’t expect anything and be pleasantly surprised if something comes through. After all, a mention in a real-life traditional media source is still the best feeling and offers ‘cred’ for your work. I’ve seen many a traditionally published author get excited by this type of exposure.

Next week – Should I Pay for PR on Social Media?

Many indies I know are masterful at the art of self-promotion on social media and may laugh at me for paying someone to promote my work. I envy their nouse.

I also see questions on indie group boards from many who are struggling to understand how to best market themselves online. Next Tuesday, I’d invite you to return to this blog to hear my experiences with a professional social media PR campaign. This is where things started to look up for me, so don’t worry, there’ll be loads of constructive advice and you won't have to pay for it.

Have a wonderful week. Cool