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A book launch can be a daunting process, and many authors wonder how hiring a publicist can help the process. Learn more in this interview with independent publicist and social media strategist Celina De Leon — and see below for more about Celina.
What value can a communications expert, whether a publicist or social media strategist, bring to an author and his/her book?
For new authors, first impressions go a long way. A communications expert can ensure that you put your right foot forward with a professional-looking website, consistent messaging, and a budding digital brand.
For longtime authors, fresh looks go a long way. A digital makeover or promotion boost can help you reconnect with your target audiences.
As many of you probably know, promotion is hard work, and it is time consuming. Just one hour on social media can suck your energy and distract you from the plotline of your current project. A publicist or social media strategist can dedicate their time to promoting you and your new book while you write the next.
How much can an author expect to spend when working with a publicist or social media strategist?
Rates for communications experts vary based on the scope of the project. Publicists and social media strategists associated with a firm often charge higher rates than small firms or independent communications experts. Some publicists offer a discounted rate for independent authors and artists, as I do.
Ideally, when should an author approach a publicist for help with his/her book?
The earlier the better, but at least six months before your book is set to release. This gives your publicist time to develop a media and blog contact list for possible book reviews and interviews and pitch your book to these media outlets and bloggers. As a social media strategist, I also use this time to set up or update an author’s website and create a social media campaign to announce the book’s release and sustain the excitement after the book publishes.
If an author has no social media presence, it is best to begin as soon as possible to identify and develop the best digital and social media promotion strategy.
How can a communications expert help authors when their books have been out for a year or more?
The proverb, “out of sight, out of mind,” still rings true – especially today with 24/7 information-sharing. A publicist can help ensure an author’s book is not forgotten. Whether it’s through newsworthy articles or timely social media campaigns, a publicist can help maintain the relevancy of your book and its visibility.
Much of our decision making relies on word-of-mouth recommendations from people we trust. Today the people we trust includes family and friends as well as influencers we follow on social media. What this ultimately means is that social media mentions of your book are crucial. A publicist can help ensure that your book is seen by your target audiences and influencers and shared on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and elsewhere.
What is the author’s role when working with a communications expert?
S/he is your professional cheerleader. But s/he is only able to keep cheering you on if s/he knows what you’re up to. Keep your publicist or social media strategist informed of your writing plans, book release dates, and readings. Also tell them about any trips or events you may be attending. The more information the better because it gives us the information we need to promote you in real-time and to take advantage of timely promotional opportunities and campaigns on social media.
What questions should an author ask a communications expert he/she is considering working with?
Ask for a sample client list to see if your interests match any of the clients listed. Ask for the length of their longest-serving client. You ideally want to pick someone who is interested in working with you for the long haul and is invested in your publishing future. Ask about their flexibility in rates and payments. If you don’t have a big budget, ask if you can pay in installments that work for you.
Overall, your relationship with your publicist or social media strategist is a special one. It is a professional relationship as well as a personal one. Not everyone likes to be in the limelight, but a good communications expert will help lessen the stress so you can focus on what you most enjoy: writing. A good publicist or social media strategist will learn what you like and dislike to best promote you as an author and ultimately as a person.
Do you have any success stories you’d like to share?
One of my favorite clients is prolific author and cartoonist Paige Braddock. I was reminded of her work a couple of years ago after seeing a tweet on Twitter of a Q&A she did with Lambda Literary. At that point I had no idea she was still creating her breakthrough comic series Jane’s World, the first gay-themed work to receive online distribution by a U.S. national media syndicate. After reading the Q&A, I immediately Googled her. I found her website and social media presence, but I found it difficult to find information about her and her latest works. I worked with Braddock to make sure her books were easy to find online. We enhanced her website and streamlined her social media profiles to create a cohesive digital brand for her and her books. Consistency goes a long way!
In addition, by aligning her social media channels with best practices, we increased Braddock’s visibility and the reach of her books and freed up time for her to work on creating more books. She has a new Jane’s World book out now, the first novel inspired by the comic series; she launched a lesbian romance series of books under the pen name Missouri Vaun; and she spearheaded a line of graphic novels with an ecological and environmental message called Stinky Cecil. I help promote her new books, sustain their momentum, and keep her in the loop on the latest book news related to her expanding genres and interests.
For the past ten years, independent publicist and social media strategist Celina De Leon has been earning press and social media attention for authors, artists, and public health and higher education experts across the country. She especially loves getting the word out about authors with an important message about our world. Check out her website here, and you can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.