Marika Flatt is the founder of PR by the Book, a boutique publicity firm based out of Austin, TX. In this interview she offers insight into the world of publicity and shares some concrete advice for authors seeking promote their books.
Marika, tell us a little about PR by the Book. Why did the company choose to specialize in PR for authors and publishers?
I landed a job straight out of college with a literary publicity firm and quickly realized it was my perfect job, combining my love of media and books. After leading the publicity there for seven years, I launched PR by the Book, so it was a natural transition and it's really fulfilling have a niche in PR that promotes literacy, culture and the shear love of reading!
What are some of the services you offer to authors?
We're a boutique publicity firm headquartered in Austin. We develop and orchestrate media campaigns, offering creative strategy, consulting, and customized campaigns-- from an a la carte project, to a publicity tour to a full-range campaign. We offer clients a collaborative relationship and one where our door is always open to them. We work with many publishing houses on an ongoing basis but are also hired directly by authors (both those with a traditional publisher and self-published.)
How do you decide whether or not a project is a good fit for you? What are some of the qualifications you look for?
That's a tough question to answer. With 15 years experience in publicity, I have a good internal gage of what projects we can be successful with and which ones are not a great fit for PR by the Book. We look for a timely story, a newsworthy story, a great back-story from the author, an author who already has a well-developed social media platform, etc.
Is it ever too soon to start promoting an upcoming release? Ideally, how early should the author start promoting his/her book? What's the latest that an author can get started on pre-release promotion?
4 months prior to the pub date is ideal! But on average, it's about 2 months before a pub date that a full-blown campaign will get going. It's never too late if it's a compelling story, you just have to adjust your strategy accordingly.
What if an author missed the pre-release promotion? What are some things he/she can do to promote a book after publication?
Establish yourself on the Internet. Set up a website or blog, and post every few days. Get on Facebook and Twitter (or have someone show you how) and start engaging with like-minded groups and individuals.
You can also purchase ads on Facebook for increased exposure.
Also, an online media campaign might be appropriate at that time.
We always hear about book signings and author events at bookstores, but do they really work?
They work in terms of exposure and building your publicity platform. It's natural for first-time authors to perceive everything related to publicity as directly correlated to sales, but that's not the case. So, don't enter into book signings and author events with the mindset that it will immediately increase sales. Go into the events with the mindset that it's elevating your platform, building name recognition and is an investment in your career!
How effective is social media in promoting an author and his/her books?
Incredibly effective. Our long-term client, Phil Ward (author of Dead Eagles and Those Who Dare), saw his "likes" on Facebook increase from 25 to 2,000 after placing 5 months of Facebook ads. In addition, he's building a community on Facebook for those interested in WWII stories and thereby generating an audience for his Book 3, 4, and down the road.
If you had to name the single most important thing an author could do to promote his/her upcoming book, what would it be?
Before the book is published: Start thinking about publicity WHILE you're in the early stages of writing and editing your book. The ideal book campaign starts 2-4 months before its pub date (and that doesn't include a pre-pub month just focused on sending out galleys), as most high-caliber outlets won't even think of covering a book if it's already been published.
Before, during and after the book is published: Be incredibly active on the Internet! (Blog, Facebook, Twitter)
We know that PR is about as unpredictable a business as publishing, but what's the typical rate of return on a PR campaign?
There are no such numbers, unfortunately. We're celebrating our 10th Anniversary this year because of our diligent track record in this industry. We have build the success of PR by the Book on the hard work of our team which has resulted in amazing media exposure for our clients over the years. Therefore, the only guarantee for someone when they are hiring PR by the Book is that they are getting one of the hardest working, most creative, most passionate teams of publicists on the planet!
Realistically, what are some of the highlights a new author can expect from a PR campaign?
We take great care in writing our press materials––our team consists of top-notch writers, so new authors will be quite pleased to see themselves presented as top-notch experts in their field.
Authors can also expect a warm, collaborative relationship with their campaign manager, and the opportunity to flex their writing muscles in creative ways they hadn't imagined.
Tell us a little bit more about you. What's your favorite part about your job?
I'm such a lucky person that I get to lead this amazing, dynamic group of publicists in our creative efforts to help clients get their messages into the media. I love what I do, which is why I've stayed in this industry for 15 years. I am so passionate about instilling a love of reading in people of all ages, cultures and interests!
What's the biggest challenge you face while promoting authors and their books?
The biggest challenge is that we never know how the media will respond to a pitch. The book might be amazing and the author incredible, but if there is a huge news story breaking, all coverage might be usurped in favor of the media covering the latest headline. We can always guarantee our efforts, but we can't guarantee the response.
When you're not at work, where would we find you on a pretty day in April?
I have three kids so you'd probably find me getting some exercise outdoors with one or all of my kids! We are lucky to have beautiful weather here in Austin in April, but we have to get outdoors in the Spring, because when summer really hits here, it's tough to do anything outdoors except be in a pool of water!
Any final words for our authors?
It's a competitive market out there so make sure you are going the extra mile to develop a quality product (i.e. great writing, a book cover that demands attention, etc.) and take the time to roll your book out effectively. It doesn't benefit you to rush a book out into the world. Give the process time to unfold effectively. Publicity is a marathon, not a sprint, and good media takes time to marinate. (Do you like how I combined running and cooking in a double metaphor?)
For more information, please visit www.prbythebook.com.
Have you ever engaged a PR firm to promote your book? What were the results? What about the social media efforts Marika recommends––how have you benefitted from Twitter and Facebook?