The Writer’s Ally is so pleased to feature this helpful post explaining how to think about book publicity vs book marketing from expert Nickcole Watkins at Smith Publicity. Wondering which is best for you? Read on.
Book publicity vs book marketing: What’s the difference? You might find yourself asking: aren’t they the same thing? The answer is no—which may be surprising to most authors, as it is one of the most common misconceptions. It’s like saying butter and margarine are the same thing <looks around the room wide-eyed>…which they are not.
Knowing the difference between book publicity and book marketing is important as it allows authors to formalize a plan that is right for their needs and goals. Understanding the unique benefits of each function is vital to an author’s budget, time, energy, and overall success.
How does traditional book publicity differ from book marketing?
Book publicity led by either a professional book publicist or a motivated and savvy author focuses on messaging as it relates to the general public and consumer trends. The ultimate aim of book publicity is to connect with relevant traditional media and book reviewers to drive opportunities for earned editorial coverage. Publicity results are not guaranteed, as it is up to the media to determine which content/experts/influence they’ll incorporate into their editorial schedule. With no guarantee of placement, there is also no predicted formula to determine ROI. That said, when it comes to publicity, having media choose to incorporate an author’s book, message, commentary, expertise, etc. into their coverage schedule brings a level of credibility to which you simply cannot attach a price tag.
On the other hand, book marketing services offer more control over messaging, timing, and placement, and can serve as more of a direct bridge to book sales. The goal of book marketing is to generate awareness of the book to attract the attention of booksellers and readers through avenues such as advertising, industry reviews, newsletters, an author website, social media pages and engagement, and more.
When book publicity and book marketing initiatives are combined into one cohesive plan, authors and publishers can truly customize their approach to reach a wide audience, therefore maximizing the opportunity to spark sales.
What should I expect from book publicity vs book marketing?
This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions we hear at Smith Publicity, the book publicity firm where I work. With book marketing, because it is based on data and statistics, the main guarantee is control… but maybe not in the full sense of the word. It essentially offers a vehicle for directly analyzing cause and effect. For example, being able to track the number of clicks by running an advertisement or seeing the growth of an individual’s network based on social media activity and engagement. Book marketing offers more control because authors and their team can better gauge the ROI and, with the ability to monitor the data more directly, they can adjust where needed to ensure more success in generating the desired outcome (i.e. increase in book sales, followers, etc.).
While a publicist cannot guarantee confirmed media coverage and, subsequently, resulting book sales, they can guarantee consistent communication, relaying details of strategy, sharing media feedback as a step towards refining messaging and approach, providing a breakdown of response and pending coverage opportunities, and more. While ROI is not a guarantee, earned media exposure and the credibility it garners can help add a boost to follow-up initiatives such as:
• Higher paying speaking opportunities
• New business opportunities/Support in growing your network
• Increase in SEO footprint
• Expansion of author/expert brand awareness
These are just a few examples of how media exposure can help amplify an author’s platform, brand, business, etc. which can all lead to sparking more book sales and overall relevancy.
How have book marketing and publicity efforts changed due to the pandemic?
During the pandemic, authors had to adjust their approach to book marketing as the world shifted to a contactless state of existence. However, as things have begun to settle, we’re all finding creative ways to connect with readers and booksellers by switching the computer camera to green. Those authors who began with a more traditional approach, such as in-person speaking engagements, book signings, book events, etc., are now accepting a more digital playing field by incorporating Zoom, Facebook Live, TikTok, and more to bring awareness to their book. These tools—and their digital platforms—aren’t new to the mix, but we’re seeing them play a much larger role than they have in the past. I expect this shift to remain true even when in-person events start up again.
Having an established digital footprint has become an unwavering necessity. Years prior to the pandemic, our team rolled out a new service with our book marketing and author branding consultations and, over the last year and a half, have only increased our focus in this space. The focus of this time, typically prior to the launch of the hands-on publicity engagement, centers largely around the review of authors’ established platforms with advisory support and suggested strategy for the client to bring cohesion across their personal, business, and social network, etc.
So how do I choose which path to take, or both?
It can feel overwhelming to pinpoint the line that differentiates the need for book marketing or book publicity. Talking with an expert (most firms offer a free consultation) is a good place to start. But here are some ways to think about this:
If you are looking for an avenue that will help generate more book sales and distribution that suits all book genres and allows more control and monitoring of ROI throughout the execution, book marketing may be the better fit for you.
The publicity path may suit you better if you are looking to get public exposure to build or broaden your portfolio to attract opportunities for more speaking, workshops, clients, etc. For those considering working with a PR firm, know your worth and don’t invest with just any firm or publicist. Too often authors fail to realize their own value beyond their wallets and signing on the dotted line, but it is crucial to understand you are entering a mutual partnership. This means being willing to ask questions, provide insight and feedback, create content for blogs, by-line articles and expert commentary, etc. that your publicity team can use when pitching.
The bottom line is understanding what book marketing and book publicity are and are not, and, at the end of the day, your decision must come down to your specific needs and goals for launching your book.
After all, it’s important to know which ingredient will make a better batch of cookies (butter…of course).
Nickcole Watkins is a Business Development Associate at Smith Publicity. In her role today, she fosters relationships with publishers, experts, and authors, independent and traditionally published, developing strategic publicity plans and forecasting future marketing opportunities to generate sustained brand awareness. Nickcole specializes in Guerilla Marketing tactics and values the need for impactful publicity approaches that meet partners where they are. Prior to this role, Nickcole worked at Morgan James as Director of Author Support, guiding debut and seasoned authors through pre- and post-publication book marketing tactics. She’s worked with hundreds of authors including several New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.