I’ve worked as a publicist going on three years. I worked as a book critic and freelance writer for three years before that. I’ve worked in with books for a long time and have been on both sides of the press kit. From that perspective, I give you:
Top Five Time/Money Wasters
- Elaborate Press Kits – There was an article on Publishing Perspectives that caused some controversy. Peel away a few of the over-the-top claims, and you get to the heart of the issue. Authors and publishers are struggling financially and have to be very wise about where they put their money. Elaborate press kits with folders, knick knacks, and glitter are a waste of time and money. Reviewers want to read the book and form their own opinion. An evidence bag with bullet casings to advertise your crime novel isn’t going to make them pick up the book any sooner. In fact, I’d argue it makes them less inclined to review the book. When I was reviewing, I always assumed lavish press kits were used to compensate for lack of substance contained within the book.
- Mass Mailing Programs – I’ve seen lots of authors waste A LOT of money on marketing/publicity companies that do mass mailings. They say, “We’ll contact 5000 bloggers” or “We reach 1000 libraries” and because of the volume they “reach”, authors pay the premium. Trust me when I say that all these companies do is send out a mass email to lists. If 1000 libraries receive that email, assume 50% delete it, 25% skim it, the rest read it, but only a small handful will actually look into your book. Mass mailings don’t give you the results you need to make an impact.
- Elaborate advertising without the publicity to complement it – I’ve discussed this in previous posts, so I’ll be brief. Advertising only works when there’s media coverage to reinforce the message. Buying a full page ad in your local paper or splurging on dozens of blog ads is a waste of money if that’s all you do. Only purchase advertising if you know the person reading the newspaper/blog is also going to see a review of the book or author profile.
- Writing dozens of guest blogs for blog tours – As an author, you’re paid to write. That’s your job. It’s not to provide free content to another person’s website. I see authors writing (and publicists encouraging their authors to write) dozens of blog posts as part of their “blog tour.” Unfortunately, I don’t believe guest blogs sell books. If the website gets enough traffic, you may increase your website’s traffic. You may increase your twitter followers. But nothing sells a book like a glowing review. And a review doesn’t take any time on your part. Unless the site gets tons of traffic and the blogger agrees to pair your guest post with a review, don’t do it.
- Blindly paying for marketing and promotions – There are a lot of scams out there, some worse than others. There are also a lot of paid-for promotions and marketing “opportunities” that are a waste of money. Even on the smallest of budgets, I see authors throwing away money left and right. While paying for book placement in conference tote bags or giveaways on certain sites has become the status quo, I don’t think it should be done without negotiation and strategy. If you want to market to conference goers, a single book in a tote bag isn’t going to cut it. You need to pair it with placement on a panel, ad in the program book, etc. And if you’re paying for giveaways, you should get something in return: emails list of people who entered, mentions on multiple platforms, etc. I’m not saying that all paid-for promotions are a waste of money, but most of the time, authors participate blindly and without strategy. Without a strategy, all money is wasted.