By Paul Czajak
[UPDATE: Scarletta has been rebranded as Mighty Media Press.]
Those of you who know me know that I have been very lucky with the fact that I signed with a publisher that takes an integral part in the promotion of the Monster & Me™ series. From setting up school visits, library visits, bookstore signings to getting me on Fox News and entering my books for awards, Scarletta does it all. I truly have been blessed because I know many authors don’t have this luxury, and to be honest if I didn’t, I would be clueless on how to go about publicizing my books. So I thought it would be great to bring a professional publicist by the Writers’ Rumpus to answer a few questions for those who are as clueless about PR as I am. So without further ado I would like to introduce to you Sammy Bosch, Sr. Marketing Associate for Scarletta.
Thank you Sammy for taking the time to answer some questions today.
First off would you mind giving us a little background on yourself? What you do, and how you got into it.
After graduating college, I went to graduate school at UC Santa Barbara for a Ph.D. in English literature with a medieval studies emphasis. But once I decided to pursue my first love, publishing, I moved back to Minnesota, applied to internship programs, and was offered a marketing intern position at Consortium Book Sales and Distribution in Minneapolis. Although I had majored with an English and Communication Studies degree, I had never worked in book marketing before. Luckily, I had a wonderful mentor, Livy Traczyk, who showed me the ins and outs. After my internship at Consortium, I interviewed for and was offered the position at Scarletta. Currently, I manage advertising, marketing campaigns, publicity, events, galley mailings, trade shows, and award submissions; and I am the mediator between Scarletta and our distributor, Publishers Group West.
What do you feel are the top ways authors can get their names and books out in the public eye?
There are so many ways authors can publicize their books. Some of the items I will list are usually performed by a publishing company on behalf of an author; but self-published authors can also follow these steps. Join organizations like SCBWI that provide networking and publicity opportunities. Submit your book to state and national awards and book festivals. Submit press releases with story ideas (either about yourself or your book) to print, digital, and broadcast media outlets (both local and national), to book review publications, and to book bloggers. Awards and testimonials bring attention to your book, and also grab the attention of teachers, librarians, and parents. Develop your own website and start a blog that not only discusses your life and books, but other topics of interest to entice a wider audience. Contact everyone you know! Yes, everyone! Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. Perhaps your friends or family members know someone who works at a newspaper, a television station, an advertising company, etc. These personal contacts can help you with publicity and advertising. Try partnering with other authors for joint signings at bookstores, or contact other authors to offer publicity quotes on each other’s books. Hold a book giveaway on Goodreads. Who doesn’t like free books? Develop something special to go along with your book: a craft activity, a toy, activity sheets, a presentation. Event venues are more likely to have you read when you have something else to offer. Above all, make yourself stand out. Be bold! Be creative!
What would be the best time spent when it comes to visits? Schools, libraries, bookstores?
The two best seasons to visit event venues are spring and fall. Fall is the busiest time for bookstores, due to the number of book releases. Be sure to line up as many readings and signings at bookstores as possible during the Fall. You cannot go wrong visiting a plethora of bookstores. Get to know the owners and plan far in advance—ideally 60-90 days before your book publishes. Bookstores do not take kindly to last-minute phone calls for a signing. I would recommend visiting a few schools in the fall, and a few in the spring. Schools help with word-of-mouth sales. And if you are a great public speaker, schedule even more school visits. Whole classrooms buying your book means more sales. You can also ask the school librarian to provide a testimonial quote for your book, to use when planning future events. Finally, while libraries are not at the top of the list, they are essential to a well-rounded book tour. Visits to libraries allow authors to connect to their communities, receive feedback from well-read librarians, and to promote their book on the library website.
Are there any places, generally speaking, where an author could plan a visit that he or she would normally not think of?
Always think outside the box. An author could hold an event at a restaurant, a park, a music festival, a Renaissance fair, a museum, a zoo, an aquarium, a planetarium, a theme park, a mall, a science center, and so many others. The possibilities are endless. For many of these venues, an author would need to sell books directly. For others, you can arrange a bookstore to carry the books.
Do you think social media, like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest is worth the effort? Or does the message get lost in a sea of noise?
Sometimes it feels like social media messages are drops in a very large bucket of water. But I am a strong advocate of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook because they allow authors to publicize their events and get their names out there. Again, don’t just tweet or Facebook event information. Try to be creative and outrageous. Maybe your main character takes over your Twitter site for a day. Maybe you lead your neighborhood in a book treasure hunt and post pictures on Facebook as it progresses. Pay attention to what is trending and current. For example, the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks is a hot trending topic right now in the book industry. If your book features a diverse character, use that hashtag and get involved in discussions with other authors, publishers, and booksellers.
Are there any emerging social media sites worth publicizing on?
Flickr is a photo-based site that is quite popular. Tumblr is another social media site that targets a youth demographic, like Twitter. Authors can upload photos and blog posts to Tumblr. Other popular sites for authors are Instagram, LibraryThing, Goodreads, and Shelfari.
Does an author need a blog?
In my opinion, authors absolutely need a blog. A blog gives an author a voice to the digital community. A blog is free advertising, publicity, and news. And the more you write on your blog, the more potential it has to be noticed. This is the beauty of the Internet. Complete strangers can find and fall in love with your work.
Any other last trade secrets about publicity you would like to share?
I think partnerships are still an untapped resource for authors. Try partnering with a local restaurant for an event. You offer the entertainment and they offer the snacks; it’s free and a win-win for both parties. If you want to pay for advertising in a book publication, make sure you ask about digital and print bundle deals. Advertisers will often cut down the price if you want to place several ads. Try interviewing your main character and post this on your blog. When you pitch to media outlets, link to your blog interview to demonstrate your interview abilities. And whenever you pitch a story idea, make sure it is a unique and creative idea—something topical, funny, inspiring, or bold. To conclude this publicity discussion, I would like to end with a comforting reminder: publicity takes time and hard work. When I call venues to schedule readings and signings, I am rejected over and over again. For every fifty calls I make, maybe one comes to fruition. What I would say to authors is: don’t be discouraged. Keep trying. Those phone calls you make are just another means of getting your name out there. And eventually, people will start calling you back.
Thank you Sammy that was great insight into an area where I know I am clueless about! Now get back to work I have books to sell!
Scarletta now is accepting open submissions in the areas of picture books, and middle grade that has potential for a series. Their submission guidelines can be found here.
Let the Marketing Begin by Carol Ekster
Finding Your Other Markets by Joyce Audy Zarins
Pinterest for Authors and Illustrators by Carol Ekster
Interview with Josh Plattner, Editor at Scarletta by Paul Czajak
Interview with Publisher Nancy Tuminelly by Paul Czajak