Eight hundred new books are printed every day. This is the effect of self-publishing, a once stigmatized practice that has through sheer volume turned the publishing industry on its ear. Particularly the publicity end of the business. Small publicity firms no longer handle only those clients who have managed to plow through the publishing industry establishment. Self-published writers these days often comprise the bulk of some publicity firms’ clientele.
Corinne Licketto, a book publicist at Smith Publicity in Cherry Hill, has witnessed this paradigm shift in the past four years. The company deals only in book publicity — not marketing — and has carved a profitable niche by helping established, new, and self-published authors get the word out. In the past four years, Licketto says, the snickering has largely dried up as the publishing world has come to accept the fact that self-published writers actually generate a lot of money.
Licketto will speak about the differences between marketing and publicity as part of “Book Publishing Basics: The How and the Why of Publishing Your Book” on Saturday, April 16, at 9 a.m. at the Princeton Marriott Hotel. The event, hosted by Open Door Publications, also features Karen Hodges Miller, owner of Open Door in Lawrenceville and a frequent U.S. 1 contributor, who will give the keynote address on the publishing process; Noelle Stary, president of 20 Lemons, a marketing company based in Woodbridge, who will talk about book marketing techniques; and Eileen Sinett, speech presentation coach and founder of Speaking that Connects in Plainsboro, who will explain how building a seminar presentation can help sell your book and build your brand. Cost: $99. Call 609-620-0188.
Licketto, grew up in Abbington, near Philadelphia, with two parents who work in radiology. She realized in her sophomore year in college that she wanted to go into public relations, she just didn’t know what end to be in. She just knew that “in PR you always start from the bottom.” Licketto earned her bachelor’s in English from Ursinus College in 2007 and started as the assistant to Smith Publicity CEO Dan Smith.
But being the assistant to the CEO, she says, exposed her to the three major arms of the business: publicity, sales, and administration. She quickly moved up to become an account manager and then a publicist and sales manager, though she still manages accounts.
#b#Not a sprint#/b#. Publicity and marketing are not the same thing. Marketing is the building of strategic relationships with institutions and buyers, Licketto says. A plan to get books bought in bulk and distributed or sold from there. A school might require the book as a text; a bookstore might buy 500 copies to sell.
Publicity is what lets you know about the book, Licketto says. Publicists do not deal with account managers looking to buy in volume. They talk to the media, try to set up interviews, or get reviews printed. “We pitch for articles, commentary, and placement opportunities,” she says. “Marketing is tuned into the reader; we’re more tuned into the media.”
Both avenues are important, of course, but Licketto says that marketing is aided greatly by the popularity of a title. But whereas marketing looks for immediate sales, publicity looks to build up the credibility, relevance, and appeal of a title over time so as to bring in consistent revenue. “We like to say that publicity is a marathon, not a sprint,” she says.
#b#Taking aim#/b#. A basic in publicity is relevance. Editors indeed hate it when people try to sell them on ideas that have no relevance to the publication or program. Licketto says that knowing the right outlet is a good start. An education magazine would have no interest in a self-help book, for example. Nor is a magazine focusing on a narrow geographic area in central New Jersey the right place to pitch a book about the beauty of the Maine coast. Unless, of course, the writer is local to the publication and that publication is likely to profile a hometown author, regardless of the subject.
The biggest mistake she sees is when promoters take a single plan of attack and just hope for the best. It is better, she says, to tie a pitch to local interest, a national trend, or a major event.
#b#Running the marathon#/b#. Like working in PR, book promotion starts small, Licketto says. Every writer wants the kind of attention — and subsequent hike in sales — that came from Oprah. But Oprah did not promote anyone just out of the gate.
Publicity starts with a local base, Licketto says — hometown papers and radio programs, for example, that provide the foundation. Once coverage happens in the markets most directly related to the author and his work, the process widens to include regional publications and programs and then can move on to more national and global outlets.
Licketto has not shepherded anyone to the likes of Oprah yet, but she cautions authors to understand the value of national coverage in other outlets — particularly trade publications. A book on autos that gets a write-up in Car & Driver magazine, for instance, is worth celebrating.
#b#No crystal ball#/b#. Good timing in publicity is essential. One Smith client, a former employee of Ford Motor Company who wrote about what he saw there, had the colossal good fortune of coming out just as the world’s news and entertainment outlets turned their attention to the crisis in Detroit’s auto industry.
Conversely, something like the recent earthquake and tsunami news out of Japan badly inhibits publicity efforts because media outlets are consumed by major events, Licketto says. So while timing is everything, it is to a degree subject to the nature and whims of world events.
Beyond the timing, even professional publicists do not always know how a title will take off. “That’s definitely water cooler talk around here,” she says. “Why some things work.” Licketto says her firm has come across some titles that seem like a slam dunk for national coverage and yet never get past regional coverage. On the other hand, Smith Publicity worked with the publishers of author Nelson Johnson’s “Boardwalk Empire,” which everyone figured would have good local appeal but was bought by HBO as the basis for a popular and highly acclaimed series. Licketto admits the simple fact that even in publicity, “you never know.”
As for what self-published authors can expect, the same goes. Certainly there are examples of books sold by their authors from the trunks of their cars.
James Redfield sold 100,000 copies of his 1993 new age tome “The Celestine Prophecy” from the trunk of his car before Warner Books took over the publishing rights (and subsequently sold 20 million copies of it). But those stories are rare and Licketto says authors should aim for the stars if they want to, but also should keep in mind that solid exposure is good for sales, even if they don’t come from Oprah.
“We like to be practical,” Licketto says. “We can put something out there, but what the media do with it will dictate what happens.”