A glimpse of the high profile New York publishing world
by Amy Murphy
Heather Gould, who recently worked as a Senior Publicist for William Morrow in New York, provided some interesting and valuable insights about planning publicity campaigns to launch new books at the December APW luncheon. She also shared some useful ideas on what authors and writers could do to help promote their own books.
Heather started off by explaining that a publicist’s main job is to act as the liaison between the author, the editor and the media to get the book’s message out in front of the buying public and set the book up for success. One primary task is to distill several-hundred-page books down into two sentences designed to stimulate interest in purchasing the book. Each publicist has multiple authors they work with so they are constantly working on different campaigns. One of Heather’s successes includes increased sales of a new book by over 100%, with the book spending consecutive weeks on the NY Times bestseller list.
Planning publicity campaigns for major book releases begin a year in advance of the book’s release, with the publicity team deciding how to best to market the particular book to a specific target audience. These campaigns include developing a packet of press materials that tell the story behind the book, distributing press releases and mailing out books to be reviewed by major publications. Sometimes book/media tours are planned, but they are generally going to the wayside due to the expense involved with traveling as well as competition from the increasingly high volume of books being published.
Heather encouraged authors and aspiring writers to carefully consider who their audience is, who they are writing for, and how they can best get the message out while they are writing their books. If you write to a limited audience, your chance of having a successful book will most likely be limited.
There are several key things to consider when marketing your own book, starting off with building a diverse network of potential buyers and cultivating as many contacts as possible. Join writing groups and get online by developing a Website or Web log (blog) and devote time to maintaining and updating your Web presence. Get hooked into your book’s genre and start locally and regionally to generate interest and create a buzz that will hopefully expand in scope. Get out and meet all the bookstore owners that you can and be personable to all of your potential customers. While giving presentations or readings, think of fun and unique things to do with an audience to promote your book and generate interest in it. It’s also really important to keep clippings of everything you’ve done, including articles, photos, pitch letters, press releases, etc. Having a really great photo to include in your book and press releases is also important.
Heather graduated from Western Washington University in 2000 with a combined Bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism. She began working as an Assistant Publicist with Harper Collins/William Morrow in September 2001, after attending the University of Denver Publishing Institute. She is currently working on her Master’s in Business at UAA and works for the Anchorage public relations firm of Bernholz and Graham.
When asked what her future goals are, Heather said she doesn’t want to be a writer, but enjoys writing for public relations and is very interested in marketing and brand development. It sounded like there was audience interest in hearing Heather speak about the importance of branding some time in the future!