Planning PR

Publicity and marketing departments are being crunched with demands from all sides to generate sales, secure columns, tweet all night and run sell-out events. The nature of the job has completely changed. Once, an outdoor campaign would run itself for a fortnight. Now, content plans cover the pre-publication weeks and the post-publication months, with new content needing to be generated, tweaked and probably tweeted about on a daily basis.

It is becoming clearer than ever that not every book will have a full campaign and the undivided attention of a publicist or marketeer, so communication can be vague—particularly for midlist books. Authors and agents risk being left slightly in the dark, thinking: “What exactly is happening for my book?”

Now could be the time for a new spirit of openness between publishers and authors as to how much promotional time and effort their book will really get. Should a timetable be drawn up for every author so that they know what to expect at every stage? Imagine if there was open discussion around activity—covering everything from media pitches, promoted tweets, blogs, Facebook posts, events, school tours—so that after acquisition, the author and agent agree on the plan.

The goal is the same for everyone—sell books—so why not share the plan? They could agree that for some titles all efforts should be devoted to the media, with events saved for the paperback (let’s face it, sales of hardbacks at school events are a struggle); or with a début author, time should be used for events training, sitting in on an experienced author’s events, or choreographing a local tour.

Publishers could go further and openly offer authors campaign credits that could be allocated to a spectacular social media stunt, rather than a launch party. Or, if an author needs postcards or materials to mail to schools, they could be bought with extra credits. If a book is bought on the basis that it will not have an extensive PR campaign, both sides must understand this, so the author can seek freelance help if they wish.

It is important for publishers and authors to work together on this. Reputations matter more now that communities can chat openly on social media about their experiences, and authors and agents will walk from publishers that do not deliver on their side of the bargain.

Clare Hall-Craggs is a freelance publicist