PR Tips

Book Marketing Myths

You are working on your first book, and to your delight have net a contract with a royalty publisher. Hurray!

However, you may be puzzled about what  marketing efforts you can expect from that publisher.  Here are a few misconceptions to get rid of, for starters:

Myth: My publisher will do all my book PR for me.

While self-published authors must do all their own publicity, the truth is that even authors who are contracted with a traditional publishing house must do a great deal on their own, especially emerging authors. You may be may be blessed enough to have a publicist assigned to you. I was fortunate with my own books to have had an enthusiastic team which included a print publicist and radio publicist. Also, a traditional publisher will get your book distributed in ways that you can’t easily implement yourself, at least without expense.

But don’t think you can simply hand your publisher the reins, then sit back hoping for exposure and sales. You must actively get involved to help readers find your book and benefit from it.

Myth: My publisher will promote my book as long as it is in print.

Well, yes–if by “promote” you mean include among backlisted titles in their catalog. But the reality is that the strongest marketing push from your publisher will most likely be 3-6 months before your book’s release, and then for about three months afterward. In fact, a Spring book may be old news by Summer, by publishing standards! Ouch! This was a discouragement to me personally, when my book released in April, and a mere three months later was already considered “too old” to be featured at one international book convention.  I did find creative ways to get around that, however, some which I described in a magazine article in Writers Digest, ” Think Outside the Book”.  (I’ll include tips from that article in future posts.)

Myth: The bigger the publishing house, the more promotion I’ll get.

There is some truth to this. Major publishers are better networked and can be more prestigious, generating more respect for you as an author. You may get interviewed on radio stations simply because you are published by that house. And your book may end up with international distribution (as my book on play has) simply because all books distributed by that house follow those channels.

HOWEVER at the same time “your” publicists at a big house are working on other projects as well. Most efforts are likely to be devoted towards big-name authors who have commanded huge advances, and the publisher must devote more marketing dollars and time to them, not you. Being published in a catalog alongside big-name authors can be a mixed blessing, in that respect.

The good news is that you can utilize the resources of your publishing house by developing your own marketing plan, and sharing that with your publisher. Most critical is for you to develop a plan to reach your targeted audience, which may not be entirely reached by the channels your publisher usually follows. Your publicists may be delighted to have you lead them in new and exciting directions, which may help them sell not just your book but also other books they publish in the same genre.

Myth: Book marketing starts the day my book is released.

Wrong! I suggest that you begin to develop your book marketing plan as early as when you are writing your original book proposal. In fact, the more detailed that plan is before you start the book, the better–it may even net you a higher royalty advance. But if nothing else, this will help you be ready to implement your PR plans long before the book is released instead of scrambling at the last minute, perhaps when you are also trying to write your next book.

You can still do some implementing years after your book is out–but the best efforts will ride on those tactics implemented earlier in the game. Besides, why wait for years to help stimulate sales and publicity, potentially even risking having your book go out of print during its first year? (Yes, that can happen.)

I recall one moment of panic when a few very effective marketing efforts, which I’d begun a little late (seven months after my book was released), suddenly began to bear fruit a full year after the book was out. My idea was to familiarize MOPS moms (Mothers of Preschoolers) with my book The Power of Parent-Child Play by linking with that organization. Finally, to my delight, a two-page spread was scheduled to be sent to 98,000 homes . . . the same month my book suddenly appeared to be “Out of Stock” in many online bookstores! Aack! Thankfully that problem was corrected due to additional PR efforts, but I was reminded that it is never too early to connect with organizations or a magazine that may be interested in your book, even your book-to-be.

Among books listed in my Amazon aStore, Laurie’s Lists, you will find books that include many creative ideas for book PR. The key is to figure out where best to focus your time, efforts and dollars.

You might focus, for instance, on free ways to get publicity that can potentially reach thousands, perhaps millions of people as opposed to directing all your efforts towards a local book party.  One way is to write articles for print magazines with a byline that includes your book title. However, you must consider editorial timelines, which often require submission of material 4-6 months in advance.  Book reviewers that reach thousands of people may only accept galleys (a pre-publication version of your book): only available during a small window of time before the book is released into bookstores.

You will want to do all you can to catch, at its peak, the wave of publicity your publisher creates at the release of your book, then ride that wave as long as you can.

  • Give quick run through a batch of books on book marketing to get a feel for what publishers can do versus what you can do.
  • List or highlight the best tactics for you and your particular book, and prioritize those tactics.
  • Check with your publisher to see what they plan to do, versus what you can do.
  • Begin developing a tentative calendar for those items you know you can practically implement.


Thank your publishing staff (author-relations person, publicists, and editors) for all their efforts. Remember that you are the one who gets the recognition, as does your book, while their names never reach the public eye. They deserve your appreciation.

© 2004 Laurie Winslow Sargent

Disclosure of Material Connection in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”:  If you click on  links to Sargent’s Amazon a-Store and purchase a book, she will receive a small affiliate commission. However, she only recommends books that she is personally familiar with and believes will benefit her readers and students.

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