What IS PR exactly? How does it work? DOES it work for self-published authors? To me PR has always been one of those weird mysteries in life, like the reason flies dart around in endless square shapes.
So for a long while I’ve wanted to get in touch with a book PR person to see what-is-actually-involved and how whatever-is-involved would work for a self (or trad)-published author. Finally, finally I made the call, fully expecting to be asked to drop an email … that would likely never get a reply.
Tony Mulliken, one of the co-founders of Midas PR, happened to Chair a panel I attended at the London Book Fair – he seemed like a switched on, friendly sort of chap, so I thought Midas would be a good place to go. Also, in October Midas ran a PR Masterclass with The Guardian all about useful things authors can do PR wise – how to write a press release, present your book to journalists, social media, etc. It sounded awesome – open to trad and self-published authors – and the kind of event it was a shame to have missed.
Unbelievably, my call was put straight through to Fiona Marsh, Midas New Business Director who was astoundingly helpful and spent something like 40 minutes chatting to me about what Midas do. This is a sum up of the conversation:
– Publishing is a minefield and it’s very tough out there right now: whether trad or self published
– There is no ideal way to get published (trad or self) as each way has pros and cons
– It is very tough to make any money in publishing, whether as an author, publisher or otherwise. You need income from somewhere else in order to survive as an author
– Distribution is key to selling books as any PR is wasted unless the distribution network is in place
– PR is about building discoverability
– Midas tailor PR campaigns around what is new/different about the author and/or their book to create buzz and interest
– Self-selling works (i.e. at school or other events)
– Whether self or trad published, it’s a long-term game with PR focused on building an author brand … so book PR is actually author PR
– It’s tough to get a review from a national paper, especially for children’s books. Many nationals do round-ups or focused lists (e.g. Summer Reading; Christmas gift lists; Best Books of 20XX)
– Whatever your PR strategy you will need to keep ‘feeding the beast’
– For children’s authors PR can also include lining up a series of school visits (I would love someone to use their contacts and do this for me – seems to be the best way for a children’s author to get exposure and sales)
– Effective PR is based on the PR person’s network, market knowledge and contacts
– Not all PR is directly reflected in sales. It’s tough to know what will work for any particular book
– There are many, many books out there and it’s tough to get noticed
– Midas usually run campaigns that last 4-6 months and start work 3-3.5 months ahead of publication in order to set things up for the book’s release date. Midas charge around £2,000 per month of the campaign
– In response to the growth of self-publishing, Midas recently set up an independent, non-trad publishing house called London Wall. Unlike the vast majority of non-trad publishers they offer a full PR service with their publishing packages
OK, OK, I could have used different words rather than just repeating the word ‘tough’. You know, like hard, challenging, difficult but the thing is … it’s tough. Even with a PR engine behind your book, it’s tough. And it’s definitely tough without one.
The conversation with Fiona Marsh got me feeling an odd mix of elated and appalled. Elated because it’s always a buzz to talk books and publishing … appalled by the randomness of it all. During our chat the word “luck” came up – how there is an element of luck involved in having a book succeed. And it’s something editors and agents have said too. Yes, there’s all the work writing, editing, creating a finished product, getting out there but somewhere in there it helps to get a lucky break.
It seems PR is another way to create luck. And if you don’t manage to get lucky well … tough?
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for this piece of journalism, a tough message (that word again). Sounds like indie or not, all authors have an uphill struggle ahead.
They’d have to really work hard to create enough book sales to cover £2000 a month – I’m a little bit terrified by that!
Yep – there isn’t much to say that an author would get a financial return for their investment. It is terrifying. A reason why publishers do their PR in-house, I guess!
An informative piece thanks Larisa. Luck is an interesting word. To an extent we make our own luck, but the book market is such a crowded place, even with endless hard work I think new authors still need that sort of luck you don’t make too.
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