I want to share with my readers a great class I took at the Spring SCBWI WWA conference. The topic was publicity and the speaker was Caroline Sun, the senior publicity manager at HarperCollins Children’s Books.
First, Caroline described for us the difference between publicity and marketing. Publicity involves placement that is free using a variety of resources, including reviews, tours, interviews etc. Marketing is the stuff that is paid for, usually by your publisher.
The first step in publicity is to build the buzz early, at least 6-8 months before the release date. A big step here is getting those ARC’s out to reviewers. Next, find publications that will host your book. Check out magazines and newspapers. Often publications close their issues months in advance, so make sure to get on top of things early.
Regarding online presence, Caroline mentioned that HarperCollins is still trying to figure out how to harness online bloggers in a way that will lead to sales. But, it is definitely a good idea to use social media and get word about the book out through blog tours and reviews.
A few hints were given for mid-level or newbie writers- Join a book tour that already involves accomplished authors. If you write middle grade, be sure to hook up with a well known YA. Also, try to coast on the coat tails of best selling campaigns. The example she gave was Harper Collin’s publicity for the sci-fi dystopian Partials by Dan Wells. They were able to tie in Partials to the already trending campaign of Hunger Games, and receive extra publicity.
The ending point though, was that it is actually hard to measure how well publicity works. Even in the publicity department they wait for the numbers and charts that Amazon puts out. All you can do is try your best.