The Importance of International Publicity

Talking to Andrew Lownie , publicist Sandy Goroff reveals why international publicity is so important and how best it can be arranged.

AL: What sort of books can be publicized and how does it vary depending upon the type of book and its international appeal?

SG: Authors seek publicity for a number of reasons. For some, it is a matter of selling more books and for others (many) it is building a brand, increasing their name recognition and visbility or establishing themselves as an expert in a particular field. For many, the book is a platform with which to launch other projects, advance an agenda or to help achieve additional personal and career goals.

All books and all authors benefit from targeted promotional efforts -- big and small. Some genres and some subjects are more promotable than others for a variety of reasons. This is especially so with non-fiction if the author, for instance, is an expert in an issue, place, subject or controversy in the news. In these instances, the window opens and closes very quickly. Timing is very important. If you are an expert in terrorism, the economy, or the Middle East, you are going to be in demand if you make yourself known and available. We live in a truly global society; media and readers are interested in expanding their worldview. Thus, I do believe that international authors are indeed very promotable in the states and in other parts of the world. Specialty subjects can be targeted more easily than others which means again non-fiction tends to be easier to promote than fiction.

AL: Can authors really be branded and is that important?

SG: You are your brand. Each book and each interview helps to build your brand. Your brand is your name recognition, your visibility, your genre. Yes, authors can and should be aware of branding themselves. Branding can be achieved through traditional promotional methods (interviews, reviews, items, and other placements)and through a consistent, ongoing online presence. Today having a strong brand will encourage booksellers to position your book on the front tale or cash register, stimulate media coverage and send readers to the store and online to purchase your book. It also stimulates interest from within. Strong brands energize and motivate internal sales, marketing and pr people within the publisher to ramp up efforts on your behalf, add money to your book's budget and more actively market it in the trade and in the stores.

AL: What are the constituent parts of a formal media campaign? How important is publicity via print as opposed to broadcast media?

SG: A formal media campaign is composed of a number of elements. For the publishing house, it may include advertising (paid advertising in selected venues), marketing, in-store displays, point of purchase materials, online stimulus and publicity. It may also include a tour -- though touring has become somewhat passe for financial reasons and because media has changed so. Today one can sit in a single studio and conduct what is called a satellite radio or television tour, reaching multiple markets in a one morning session. One can also do a single wire service interview and end up appearing in hundreds or even thousands of newspapers around the country or around the world. I do think that international authors who seek publicity in the states should come to the U.S. when possible to conduct interviews. Distribution in the US is a key factor. Where is your book being published and distributed? Market and publicize in these places.

I am a strong proponent of print publicity believing that people who read, read. Print works best for international placement as well. The wire services I just referenced are what I like to call "publicity grease," spreading the word and generating interest from other media sources and producing multiple placements. The best campaign is a mix of print, broadcast and online media so one is seen, heard and read multiple times. The particular subject of a book also lends itself naturally to one medium vs another. For instance, a book about art is visual and lends itself to print and television but not generally to radio. Print can notoriously distort your intent or even misquote you but it is the most powerful venue in my opinion. Radio is the most pleasant because it usually allows time for an explanation, thoughtful discussion, exchange of ideas, caller participation vs the need for sound bites that the quick pace of television forces.

AL: Can you talk about book signings?

SG: Here we raise a sensitive subject. I am much less inclined to set up a standard book signing for an author unless there is a really good reason. I prefer having a bookstore supply books at a special author appearance before an interested audience in a select location. It is very hard to bring people into the stores these days and I hate to have one of my clients sit alone with a new pen and no visitors. Independent bookstores tend to promote their events better than the chains. Smaller markets can also do a better job.

AL: Is blogging effective? How has the Internet changed the nature of publicity and marketing:

SG: An online presence is almost essential today. I do encourage my clients to have a website (a good one)and yes, blogging has become a very effective promotional tool. Experts I work with in this area stress the importance of consistency and relevance. Learn how to tag so your blogs appear via online search engines. Your publisher will also have a site. I suggest working with them and linking to their site and vice versa. Perhaps you can participate in their blog.

I still believe traditional publicity and marketing is essential (cannot promote a book without it) but I also believe that becoming Internet savvy is no longer an option. Make it part of your overall promotional plan. You simply have no choice. Follow the "cheese." Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool. Doing those things that stimulate it produces the best results.

AL: What can authors do themselves to increase their profile and marketability?

SG: Blog, blog blog. Have a website. Learn to tag. Learn to link. Work cooperatively with the in-house publicity team at the publisher. Make yourself available to media. Take advantage of the news. Participate in local events, use your contacts, make new ones, introduce yourself to booksellers at the store (only once), offer to sign stock, network with other groups and authors. Use your network -- expand upon it.

AL: Is it financially worth hiring a publicist and in what circumstances? Does publicity lead to increased sales and does the nature of that publicity determine the sales?

SG: The reality is that in-house publicists are inundated, juggling many book projects at the same time. Unless you are a big best-selling author it is unlikely your assigned in house publicist will have the time to devote to your book that you want and need. In some instances, they are only able to send out a single release and a limited number of review copies. The key is follow-up. It is the areas of expertise, media access, time and personal attention that lead authors to consider employing an outside publicist. As for the finances, outside publicists do not come cheaply; they are a commitment of time and money. Like anything else, this can be a matter of chemistry -- choose one you feel comfortable with, someone who gets your subject and can be an effective messenger on your behalf. Because publicity is not an exact science, results cannot be predicted with a l00% degree of accuracy. If your subject is promotable, if you find the right publicist, by all means such an arrangement (and investment) can be enormously helpful. Have realistic expectations (this is a hard one). An outside publicist works for you but interacts cooperatively with the in-house team so that efforts are coordinated.

Authors ask me all the time whether the publisher will be upset if they hire an outside publicist, afraid to offend the in-house team. In almost all instances, the publisher welcomes and appreciates the outside help.

Sandy Goroff spent eleven years as a publicist at Houghton Mifflin, where she promoted authors such as John Kenneth Galbraith and former President Jimmy Carter, before setting up her own Boston-based publicity firm Sandra Goroff-Mailly & Associates in 1994 ( where her clients now include Judith Miller; a regular on the BBC’s Antique Road Show.