Hey readers! Welcome to another thrilling installment of My Thought Monday. A weekly post where I get to rant and/or rave about happenings in the book world. I have received lots of positive feedback from my previous posts and want to keep the momentum going. This week I'll be touching on another topic that's important to all authors and bloggers.
I'd like to offer up my thoughts for discussion among authors, bloggers, readers, and all members of the literary community. I understand that my views may be in the minority on some fronts and would love to hear your thoughts. Please note that while I would love to hear your thoughts, I will not tolerate this as a place of hate and negativity. If you so choose to put forward your thoughts via comment, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc, please do so professionally. I am fully aware that sometimes the bookish world is the last place you want to put your personal thoughts, but I, for one, am tired of being quiet. It's time for me to take a stand on issues that are important to me in this community. It is my belief that, only as a community, can we pull together and make real change in this bookish world we all know and love.
This week's topic:
What I'm Looking for in a Publicity Company
(and what you should look for too!)
So you are an author who has recently finished their novel and are gearing up to hit that shiny 'publish' button. Or maybe you are a blogger looking for content to host on your blog. Either way, you're looking for a publicity company/site/group/etc. Book publicity sites do the hard job of promoting our favorite authors and series. They set up cover reveals, they create blog tours, Tweet/Share/Blurb reviews and author praise. That being said, not all publicity companies are created equal. With so many to choose from, how do you pick the right one for you?
For bloggers, this really isn't a big deal. Bloggers can sign up to be hosts for as many publicity companies as they want. At one time I was exclusive to one company, but over time I branched out and now am a host for nearly a dozen! For an author, it's important to do your research to find the company best suited for your needs. While I am talking specifically about book service websites, all of this should also be taken into consideration when hiring a publicist as well!
These tips come from my personal experience in addition to tips from several fellow bloggers and published authors, let's get down to business!
- Quality Graphics. One of my biggest indicators of how I will feel about a publicity company comes from their graphics. I'm not saying you need to hire a professional graphic designer, but I am very picky about what kind of graphics I will allow on my blog. If a company provides crap graphics and promotional material, I will always pass on them. These things change over time and designers go in and out so the quality may change, but definitely look into this before you start working with them. Seek out their former blog tours, find their promotion graphics and banners, do they look high quality? Could a fifth grader make something better with paint? Unfortunately many publicity companies are at the very bottom of my list for this reason. If you don't take pride in the graphics you produce, how can you expect me to promote them on my own site/Facebook/Twitter? Same goes for you authors. You've written a 300 page manuscript, are those graphics and teasers going to make people want to read your novel?
- Content. This is another big issue I see with publicity and PR groups, they only cater to a certain audience. If you are a strictly romance author, then you definitely want to search for a PR firm that specializes in romance novels. Trust me, this isn't hard. The issue with this comes when said romance-driven PR company acquires a YA novel, for instance, and they try to promote it. It just isn't a good fit. At all. Certain publicity groups work exclusively with certain bloggers for promotion. Always check out the firms 'host bloggers' to better determine if you are the right fit for that company. One of the main reasons I am affiliated with so many companies is that I want to showcase a variety of genres and literature types on my site. Bloggers, don't tie yourself down to one company. Authors, make sure you know who you're working with before you get into bed with them!
- HTML. This one is just a personal issue. If you are going to do your blog hosts the courtesy of providing us with an HTML document, make sure it works. I NEVER used HTMLs in the beginning, but it just got to the point where formatting 10 posts a week was unrealistic feat for me. It's so easy to throw an HTML post up and personalize it. Graphics, banners, links, etc are all included. What's not to love? Now, there is a flip side. I work with two companies that make the most atrocious HTMLs I have ever seen. I have mentioned this to them in the hopes that they change things, but have they? No. I totally understands that not everyone is HTML savvy, and trust me, I'm not either, but if you are looking into a company, ask for a sample HTML, see if their style works for you. It may seem a little strange, but trust me, it'll save you so much time in the long run!
- Timely responses. If I'm on your blog tour and you send me the information at 3AM for a post you want live by 11AM, you better just back off. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Authors and bloggers, engage with your publicity company. Ask them questions, get to know what their response time is like. If they can't get back with you within a reasonable amount of time, you definitely need a new company. Also, this goes for mistakes such as incorrect links as well. If you are constantly getting correction emails, it will hinder your feeling for a company. The last thing I want to have to do is go back and correct a post from 2 weeks ago because they put the wrong purchase link in the media kit. Communication in key. Remember that while we as bloggers aren't paying for their services, the authors sure are and its' our jobs to help hold them accountable.
- Passion. Research your prospective company. Learn about their mission and history. Find out what makes them tick in the book world. If they aren't just as passionate as you are about literature and book promotion, it's time to move on. I've cut ties with companies for this exact reason. While this certainly is a business, there is much more at stake here than just a paycheck.
- Social Engagement (RT/Shares). This is my biggest pet peeve. Bloggers are only as successful as their audience and reach. The way we grow is through promotion. While self-promotion can help, we largely rely on help from authors, publishers, publicity companies, etc to help promote our reviews/interviews/posts/etc. If I am signing up for your blog tour (I'm talking to you publicity company) and you can't even retweet or share my post, then we're going to have a problem. While I have very seldom had problems with an author sharing my reviews or promotional materials, getting the PC to share them is like pulling teeth. This can be very upsetting. It's like seeing where you do all this work and nobody even cares. I love when I get comments on my blog from folks int he industry who work for the PC and are like 'great post, thanks for sharing!'. It definitely makes me feel validated as a blogger. I like when you miss a post and they email you and say 'hey, just checking in. I see where your post isn't up yet, is everything okay?' as a reminder. One company I work with has never mentioned if someone missed or was late with a post. That sucks. Again, it's a two way street, I expect you to be held accountable for the work the author is paying you for. If, as a publicity company, you cannot share the posts of the bloggers who are helping you, then why are you in this business? I have lots of feelings about this topic and could write about it all day long.
- Experience. When researching what publicity company is right for you, check out their portfolio. See some of their recent tours. Contact their bloggers and ask for opinions. Ask other authors who have worked with them! Experience is a big deal when it comes to this part of the book world, so don't shrug it off! A testimonials page can also be very helpful when looking for information. Don't be afraid to ask for credentials! There are people who go to college just for degrees in publicity and PR. Remember that. There are true professionals out there. Im not saying you have to find one of them, but that you should be careful with who you hire/host for.
- Social Reach. This ties back to the sharing posts point. If they only have 200 FB and Twitter followers on their pages, how are they going to help you? As an author you really want to look into this. A good publicity campaign can either make or break you very quickly.
- Referrals. Authors, ask your author friends for referrals. Don't go with some unknown company just because they are cheaper, you get what you pay for. Ask around! Nobody became successful ONLY on their own. Ask your colleagues for tips and advice
- Big name, small impact? This is another really hard hitting point for me. I have worked with some huge deal companies and I've worked with some no name companies. I've learned a lot from each. But the lesson I think is most interesting is that as a blogger I find working with the smaller companies to be so much more fulfilling. Sure they may not have the most high profile clients, but I can promise you that you will reap the benefits in terms of exposure and the relationships you will make. It's a great feeling. I love when I am on a blog tour and I'm the only stop for that day. I get massive traffic from the promotion of the author, the company, and my own promotion. It's a great feeling to you that your blog will be spotlighted for a day. With the big companies, you just don't get that feeling. Nothing drives me more crazy than to see I was recently on the blog tour for a huge deal author and the post got 21 views in a weeks time. That's it. Why? I was only one of 10 tour stops that day. Why should anyone come visit me when there are 55 other bloggers participating? That isn't fair to anyone involved. Sure the author gets much more exposure, but I can testify that overexposure is just as bad as underexposure. I can see the same blog tour advertised 100 times, but if I don't want to see it, I'm not going to see it. End of story. My point here is just don't get suck into the glamour or a big deal publicity company, because more times than not, I end up extremely disappointed with their professionalism and the quality of their works.
- Reasonable Pricing. One author had this to add on the topic of publicity and PR companies: "I think my biggest pet peeve is when I see them charging authors a fortune for doing things they could just do themselves. If I'm going to pay a PR firm, they better be able to improve upon what I'm already doing. I guess it depends on what you need, but $200/hr to set up your Facebook and Twitter pages? For real? I want someone with access to things like Netgalley and tough to reach review sites." Gotta get the best bang for your buck authors. Remember that! Also, if you need help setting up your Twitter account, you're in the wrong business. How hard is 'pick a username' and 'enter your DOB'?
- Exclusive content. A fellow blogger added that when picking a publicity company, she looks are their offerings. If their only tours involve reviews, more and more bloggers are passing. While we love to review, it's a lot of work. On average, my reviews take me anywhere form 90 minutes to two hours to format. That's crazy sauce. Bloggers want something to drive readers to their sites with exclusive content. Interviews, guest posts, excerpts, and above all, GIVEAWAYS. Give the reader a reason to stop by. Don't just tell me to praise the novel, especially seeing as most companies ask you not to post if you review less than 3-stars anyway. Why would any reader want to go through 50 tour stops of 5-star raving. I don't need to read all that to know if I'll buy a book or not.
So as you can plainly see, there's a lot more to book publicity than meets the eye. How can one begin to find the company for them? It's not an easy task, that is for sure! For reference, here are some of the companies I have worked with over the past year (in no particular order). This is by no means a comprehensive list, but just some that came to mind:
Who have you worked with? As you can see I've worked with many, they all have their pros and cons, but each of them bring something different to the table. I am honored to be hosts with all of them and continue to seek out other publicity companies.
I know this was a long post, but I really hope it opens the eyes of some bloggers and authors who are looking for a publicity company to work with. It's interesting to me that bloggers and authors both keep publicity companies in the business so in we all share our own very special roles in promoting the works of our favorite authors!
The above points are only a few that have came from my experiences as well as from fellow bloggers and authors. If you have any to add, sound off in the comments below!
Until next time, Happy Reading!
Also, while you are there, cast your votes for some of my all-time favorite authors! If you have questions, please don't hesitate to shoot me a message! Voting is open until Thursday 5/21! Don't forget to vote! Share with your friends and get the word out! There are some incredible nominees this year and I cannot wait to see who walks home with an award!
I cannot thank you all enough for your constant support over the past year! God Bless and Happy Reading (and Voting)!
**Follow the link below to cast your vote**