Often, a personal recommendation - whether that's a tweet from a reader, a journalist’s review, a WhatsApp message from a friend or myriad other things - is what will tempt a reader to pick up a certain book.
But how do all those people find out about the book in the first place? The answer: through the publicity and marketing campaign for a book.
The differences between marketing and publicity
There are subtle differences between publicity and marketing, but the two departments work closely together, and their actions often complement each other. Both focus on reaching as many potential readers as possible.
Simply put, the distinction between comes down to how to reach those readers. Marketing is about utilising paid-for channels, while publicity is free.
Marketing teams have larger budgets and focus on advertising, branding and audience, whereas publicists look after reviews and interviews (in newspapers, magazines and online) as well as tours and events. Of course, there are many crossovers - which is why the two teams work so closely with one another.
Marketing and publicity departments don’t just get involved when a book is about to be published - they’re integral throughout the whole publication process. Their involvement usually starts even before a book has been acquired, when they take part in the pitch meeting; telling an agent and author about their vision for a campaign. Marketing also influences the cover copy and the design approach for a book - thinking about what might appeal to the book’s target audience of readers.
Understanding these target readers - what they’re interested in, what they want from a book - is so important to what marketers and publicists do. They also think carefully about how readers might go from hearing about a book to actually buying it. This target audience informs everything: for marketers it influences the type of websites on which to place digital ads, through to which train stations would be good targets for a poster campaign. For publicists, it determines which type media outlets they target, or where they should look to hold book tours or events.
The author’s role in a campaign
Both the publicity and marketing teams will be in frequent contact with the author throughout the campaign, and will often work collaboratively with them on its direction.
Publicists tend to have more day-to-day contact with authors because they will usually accompany them to interviews or to events. They’ll also work closely with them in earlier stages of the publishing process, to help the author prepare for how to talk about their book in public and to the press.
See what a publicity manager's day looks like the video below.
But the marketing team will also speak to the author on a regular basis throughout the campaign. They might help them prepare content for their social media platform, for example.
So, what can authors do to get the word out about their book?
Here, our marketing and publicity teams give their insight about the use of social media in promoting a book and share some tips about what authors can do themselves.
Sonia Razvi, marketing manager in Penguin Random House Children's
Social media is a brilliant tool for engaging with your fans and recruiting brand new ones too. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, you can pick the platform that works best for you. Your marketer will often provide you with assets that you can use to promote your book on your social platform – these can range from lifestyle assets to animated graphics to trailers.
Consider taking your followers on your book journey with you – with teaser quotes from your book and a behind the scenes look at the process. If you’re comfortable, you could also consider doing Instagram Lives – which could take the form of reading an extract from your book and answering any questions from your followers.
Promoting your book on social media might seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be – and you don’t need to spend all day on each platform. Make use of scheduling tools so you can schedule content for peak times on social media.
Hayley Barnes, senior press officer at Transworld
Start a conversation! Twitter is a particularly useful tool for making connections within the book community and to be able to support other writers. Follow authors who publicise themselves well online - Richard Osman, and debut author Clare Pooley are perfect examples of showing how effective social media can be.
Before you begin, have a conversation with your publicist and marketing team to devise a social media strategy which is most effective for your book. It’s useful to be aware of the platform you are using and why – but, a really useful tip is not to exclusively plug your new book. Followers will quickly get bored if you do! Incorporate your other interests or recommend books you’ve enjoyed other than your own.
Ultimately we know that some authors may not feel comfortable doing all this work on social media, and that’s fine too. The publicity and marketing teams are experts at reaching readers with many divisions running their own Twitter accounts to promote the latest releases.
And beyond social media?
Immerse yourself in the book community. If you don’t know where your local bookshop is, find it! Supporting your local bookshop and introducing yourself to its booksellers is vital - authors need support from bookshops as much as they need support from authors. Another great way to promote yourself beyond social media is to attend events - bookshop author talks, local book festivals, author signings etc – you’ll make connections and get to know how they work.
Not quite at this stage yet? Learn more about getting your work noticed in literary magazines and online.
Illustration: Mike Ellis for Penguin