By Janae Marks
On Saturday, November 17th, the SCBWI Westchester chapter hosted award-winning children’s/YA author and former publicist Susanna Reich for an informative workshop at the First Baptist Church in White Plains. Both published and pre-published writers and illustrators benefited from the information Susanna shared about how to market your book and work with a publicist. Even if you don’t have a book deal yet, there are things you can do right now to prepare for when you do.
Marketing Vs. Publicity
First, Susanna shared the difference between marketing and publicity. Marketing is a general term for the process of bringing a book to the marketplace. Publicity is everything that authors/illustrators and their publishers can do to bring attention to the book. That includes media coverage like TV, blogs, magazines, articles, and interviews. Publishers usually assign a publicist to each book six months before the publication date.
What do publishers do? They are responsible for submitting advanced copies of your book to reviewers, trade journals, and for award consideration; promoting the book on social media; arranging bookstore signings, pitching you for interviews; and more. They might also prepare a teaching guide for your book, advertise your book in trade magazines, and if you’re lucky, send you on a book tour.
Susanna’s most important piece of advice is to have a conversation with your publicist, and make sure you always coordinate with them before promoting your book on your own.
Prepping for Publicity
What sort of things can you, the author or illustrator, do, even before a book deal? First, you should establish an online presence by creating a website. You can also start engaging with potential readers by joining a few social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
And what can you do once you have a book deal? Susanna suggests focusing your marketing and publicity efforts on the six months prior to publication. Make sure your Amazon author page is complete. You can also prepare a pitch letter and press release, and use them to reach out to local, alumni, or niche media that your publicist may not contact. Susanna shared a couple of press release examples with workshop attendees, but you can also find examples online. The most important part is to have a catchy headline with buzzwords that are more likely to be picked up by media. Think of what makes your particular book newsworthy.
At the end of the workshop, Susanna had attendees practice writing a 2-3 sentence description of their book that can be used to quickly pitch to interviewers. Next, she asked attendees to practice writing a press release headline.
As a veteran author, Susanna had a wealth of invaluable information to share with attendees. If you were not able to attend, don’t fret! You can find some helpful resources and links on her website at http://www.susannareich.com/links.html.
Janae Marks is a middle grade author who lives in Connecticut. Her debut novel FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON will be published in early 2020 with HarperCollins Katherine Tegen Books. You can visit her at www.janaemarks.com, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @janaemarksbooks.