Sunday, December 21, 2008

Q&A with PR Pro Sandy Diaz - Author Expectations & Publicity Today!

Publicity Questions - answers from another industry professional! Authors ask me a lot of questions, and I wanted to provide them with some answers from another colleague. So, just don't take my word for it. :) These are some GREAT answers and authors need to take these to heart. Learn as much as you can so your book will be a success. Thanks Sandy!

Here's the interview:
• Publicists don’t want to crush anyone’s dreams but in your opinion what does the “newbie” author really not understand about the book biz?

New authors are wonderful to work with because they often have the most excitement and passion about their project.
New authors need patience. It takes time to build awareness about a new author and book, especially when reaching magazines. Editors are often working on articles that will be printed two to six months in the future.

Here is a real example from one of my Smith Publicity clients: I pitched the client to an editor in April. She contacted me in May. I sent her the client’s press kit. I followed up and she interviewed the client in June. The story ended up on the cover of Parade Magazine at the end of October.

Any sales from coverage are then reported weeks or months after the article is published. So, an action we begin may not result in coverage, and then book sales, for up to six to eight months. Fortunately, radio, newspaper, television and Internet media often work faster!

Another point about patience: smaller media opportunities are important. We recommend authors say yes to every media opportunity they can. While we work on the “home run” opportunities, baseball games are won by singles and doubles. An article in a local newspaper or an interview on small market radio show often opens the door for larger opportunities. We’ve seen strategy work many times!

• How many books will a typical new author (with no platform) realistically sell in a year?

This is a great question—and the answer is as different as is each author and book. The formula depends largely on the book's target market, quality of the book, credentials of the author, timing with current events, distribution (where the book is available for sale) and coverage in the media about the author and title.

Here is an example, we worked on a book this year with a self-published author and even though he only had his book available for sale through Amazon, he was able to sell thousands and thousands of books during his first months with Smith Publicity. This was because his book was topical (a highly controversial political book), the timing was right with the elections leading the news, he was a PhD in his area of expertise, and we were able to tap into his core audience (conservatives) mainly through radio and national television interviews. This was a “perfect storm” scenario.

Not every author is this fortunate. Book sales are impossible to predict, but selling several hundred or even two to three thousand is considered a success by many, especially for a first time author. I just read a statistic that only 10% of traditionally published (not self-published) books sell more than 1,000 copies. These numbers may help the new author put their statistics in perspective.

• How much would you say an author thinks they should spend on marketing & promoting their book in a year? What is realistic?

If an author does not have support from their publisher for publicity and marketing, authors can spend between $1,000 to $100,000 on promotion activities. Most of our clients spend between $3,000 and $12,000. The reality is: If an author doesn’t invest in promotion – either by doing it themselves or hiring a pro – one thing is certain … no one will know the book exists.
Realistically, a budget from $5,000 to $12,000 should be sufficient. A website about the book and the author is a must.

• Do you see more authors coming to market with unrealistic expectations because they watch Oprah and say, “I can do that”? How easy is it to get on major talk show like that?

We often joke that Oprah has made the job of publicists much harder … and it’s true. The odds of getting on Oprah are long; literally thousands of authors or publicists pitch her producers every week. However, the only way to get on the show is to try.

• How often does an author say, “Wow, this is harder than I thought?” or “Wow, this is easy! I’m going to be rich and famous!” What is said more often and when do they say comments like this in the process?

We most often hear “this is harder than I thought.” For authors who say this, it’s usually a few months in, when they realize that book publicity really is more marathon than sprint.

• How can industry pros temper their ideals with reality without busting their bubble or being the "Grinch" that stole their Christmas?

At Smith Publicity, we are honest and straightforward, without being negative. Just because the reality is that thousands of books are released each month doesn’t mean your book can’t be successful. We also encourage our clients to enjoy the ride, and savor the wonderful things that can happen in a campaign – from the thrill of a TV interview to a glowing book review.

• What should an author do to prepare for a realistic book launch? How far in advance?

This depends on how the book is published, but generally, authors should prepare for a book release one to two months in advance; making sure everything – i.e. website, publicity, distribution, details and book’s cover on Amazon, etc. -- is in place for launch time.

An author should prepare an “elevator” pitch about their book. If they only had 20 to 30 seconds to tell someone about their book, what would they say? What do they want people to remember? Polishing this will be a good exercise, especially if the author is planning on interviews.

Sandy Diaz is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Smith Publicity.
Since 1997, Smith Publicity has worked with hundreds of authors, publishers, businesses, and personalities from around the world create awareness for their projects. Smith Publicity has offices in New Jersey, New York City and London.
Sandy welcomes authors to contact her about their projects and will happily discuss publicity options.

Synergy Energy! Use it!

See too!