Kathy Carlton Willis
Kathy Carlton Willis

Kathy Carlton Willis and her husband, Russ, have enjoyed ministry for almost twenty-five years. Others admire Kathy’s passion—her life is a testimony of God’s sufficient grace in the face of adversity. Kathy is also well respected for her practical and often humorous messages and articles, full of hope and insight.

Her business, Kathy Carlton Willis Communications, is all things word related. She considers herself blessed to get to fiddle with words as writer, editor, publicist, writer’s coach, book doctor, speaker, and more. She gets jazzed helping other writers communicate their messages. You can reach Kathy at WillisWay [at] aol [dot] com, or to learn more about her, visit http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com

Publicity During a Tough Economy

I’ve had several authors contact me recently who said they were struggling with what to do to promote their upcoming releases. With this tough economy and smaller advances, it’s often confusing to know what to do to give your book the edge it needs to have a long sales life. Some consider tackling the publicity themselves to save what it costs to hire a professional, but will that save money in the long run? This decision risks reduced sales, stress from the additional workload, and time away from writing the next project.

A publicist has the media contacts and networking in place to secure interviews and book reviews. We know how to pitch your book to the media and how each media representative prefers to be contacted. Most writers do not have the time to devote to a publicity campaign. It is a full-time job. An author pitching his own book is typically viewed as being too self-promotional. A publicist is seen as a third party, and most media outlets are more receptive to discussing a book with a publicist than with the author. In other words, it communicates to others that “you have people.” And I love it when I get to be one of your peeps!

Sometimes publishing houses hire outside PR firms to manage specific book campaigns or entire lines of books. Other times, they pay half toward an outside campaign, and the author matches that. The third option is for the author to pay the expense from her advance, believing that PR is what will make or break the overall sales for the book, as well as assisting with author branding for her career, not just this one book campaign. It’s worth it to explore all options to see if there’s any way you can secure an independent publicist to manage your campaign. Most publishing houses are willing to chip in one to three cases of books if you have publicist, and sometimes they will even pay for the postage to mail out the ARCs and media kits.

Another aspect of using an independent publicist in this tough economy is to write the marketing campaign for your book proposals to sell more of your book projects to committee and board meetings. Plain and simple, a detailed marketing campaign with out-of-the-box creativity will sell books—it’s music to the ears of acquisition editors and accountants. This plan proves that the author has built a media team to assist in promotional ideas for the project and is fully committed to maximizing potential sales.

When hiring a publicist or publicity firm to promote your book, make sure you interview them to determine their publicity style. Most will give you a free telephone consultation and will write up a detailed proposal for your campaign. This will help you decide which one is the best match for your personality and book project. One question to ask is how much follow-up they do after they mail out the initial media kit, review books, and e-blasts. Also find out what their open rate is for e-blasts. If they know the craft and have an established network, they will have a greater open rate than novices.

Many publicists will offer additional services. Ask your publicist to customize a plan that fits your needs. Perhaps you need someone to set up a Facebook page for you, or to give you tips on social networking. Maybe you want coaching on doing better interviews. Some assist with article placement and branding. Consider getting advice on doing more with your book influencers. Many ways are available to build a customized publicity campaign for your book, so don’t settle for the cookie-cutter media campaign.

My greatest joy is to brainstorm with clients and devise a tailor-made plan that fits each book campaign. I welcome your questions and will be glad to assist you in finding the publicist best suited for your needs.