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How to get exposure for your expertise
Hi Manuscript Workers,
A lot of you are writing scholarly books because you’re an expert on your topic and you want to share your knowledge with other people. You know that people in your field will benefit from learning about your findings and what you have to say about them. You might even hope that sharing what you know can make a material difference in people’s lives beyond the scholarly sphere.
The tricky thing is that just writing the book and getting it published isn’t usually enough to make the impact you want to make. People have to know that you and your book exist, and they have to trust you as an expert they want to learn from before they can even begin to engage with what you share in your book.
If you’ve been an active scholar, you probably already have some kind of platform as an expert. Platform is a word people in publishing use to mean that people know who you are, that you have a reputation for being knowledgable about your subject, and that people are likely to want to read your book when it’s released. As a scholar, if you’ve been publishing pieces of your research in journals, presenting your work at conferences, and being active and visible in your field’s organizations and networks, you’ve already been building your platform. Book publishers will appreciate that when it comes time to pitch your project to them.
But what if you want to gain wider exposure than what you’ve been able to do so far? What if you want people who don’t already know about you and your research to find out that your book exists so they can benefit from your knowledge? How do you find these people and what do you do to make them aware?
That’s where the help of a publicist can come in. A couple weeks ago, this newsletter featured an interview with an in-house university press publicist, offering some advice about how you can work with your publisher to build awareness of your book before and after it’s released.
This week, I’m featuring a guest post from Sarah Russo, a freelance publicist who helps scholarly authors who are interested in expanding their reach even further and want some external support to make the greatest impact possible. (If you need an intro to what freelance book publicists do, I highly recommend Sarah’s blog post, “Five Things to Consider Before You Hire a Freelance Literary Publicist.”)
In today’s newsletter, Sarah shares some information about how freelance publicists like herself can help promote not just your book but yourself and your expertise, resulting in broader media exposure for your ideas and possibly even some income streams beyond your academic work. If that’s something you’ve ever been curious about, read on!
Expert Publicity versus Book Publicity: What Are the Differences?
By Sarah Russo
Hello Manuscript Workers, and thank you to Laura for inviting me to write about a topic I never tire of: the publicity and marketing of books! My name is Sarah Russo and I’m the founder of Page One Media, a boutique publicity and marketing firm based in Brooklyn and with a small but mighty virtual team across the US. We work closely with expert authors and publishers across a multitude of subject areas from science to history to economics to philosophy to politics and more.
I got my start at trade publishing houses—Knopf, Doubleday, FSG—but was lured away to Oxford University Press in 2006 to help their PR team expand its reach into general interest media as their Associate Director of Publicity. It was still early days in what was being called “new media” at the time. OUP had recently launched the OUPblog and the social feeds out of the publicity team. We were engaging audiences in the digital space before most other publishers had even thought about it. All the while, we were expanding our reach in the media space and growing our owned media (the blog, a podcast, and YouTube channel).
In 2019, when I left OUP, after my second tour of duty there as the Global Head of Audience Engagement for trade books, our team was routinely increasing our publicity hits over 100% year-on-year. How could we sustain that level of growth? Because we didn’t think of publicity as a finite thing, limited to books coverage. Every one of our authors was a resource for the press and we became a central space where media could reliably come for an expert in almost any subject area they needed.
This is what I am now in the process of building at Page One Media. In three years our small but growing team has worked with 64 authors on campaigns ranging from book publicity to platform building to expert positioning to marketing campaigns to influencer marketing and sometimes all of them together. It’s work we’re really excited about and that we think few others are providing in a holistic way across the full circle of marketing.
We field a lot of inquiries from authors each week to work on their books. Many authors come to us too late for us to be of service to their book specifically, so we talk about expert publicity campaigns. Here, I will outline the differences between an expert publicity campaign and a book publicity campaign, how to know which is right for you, and when to reach out about working with a publicist on each type. Let’s start with traditional book campaigns.
Book promotion campaigns typically start anywhere from six to twelve months in advance of publication date. During a longer campaign we are building audiences for our authors, especially first-time authors but also authors who want to expand their reach. First, we coordinate the initial stages of building a platform: a website, starting a newsletter, and social media strategy. Once the groundwork is laid for an author’s digital platform, we can start the work of publicity outreach to the media. We like to start this work as early as possible because we’re in direct competition with every other book being published that month (usually about 30,000, yes, really). The earlier we start the more we have a jump on that competition.
Glossy magazines (think: The Atlantic, Harper’s, Fast Company, etc.) start scheduling excerpts and feature coverage eight months or more in advance and book reviews at least six months in advance. If your book is very long, 500 pages plus, or on a complex topic, you must take that into consideration as well. These types of books aren’t read in a night, reviewers will need more time with them, and finding a qualified reviewer for certain topics (hard sciences, economics, philosophy or theory) can be a challenge. We need to give editors and then the reviewers the time to do that work if we want published reviews.
Most publishers have galleys (print or electronic copies of the book before it’s finalized for publication) ready about six to nine months in advance. We like to start drafting materials and building the galley list about three to four weeks in advance of galleys arriving. With all of that in mind, we recommend getting in touch with an outside literary publicist a year or more in advance of your book’s release date. My colleague, Poppy Hatrick, wrote more about the publicity timeline in this post on our website.
Book publicity encompasses the usual book reviews at the trade magazines, newspapers, literary outlets, and online publications. It also reaches radio and, for a lucky few, TV. Podcast interviews are factoring in more and more, and any publicist you hire should have a robust podcast database. Many of our book campaigns also have a complement of influencer marketing with outreach to key book and subject area influencers on Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.
To make this long story short, if you haven’t reached out to a literary publicist eight months or more in advance, you may not be able to choose from the best freelancers out there, whose schedules book up very early.
What can you do if you’ve missed the window to hire a publicist for your book launch? Or what if your book has published already and the campaign didn’t go as you had hoped? You may feel like there is little you can do, but if you are an expert in your field (and we have space in our schedule) we can usually help.
In an expert publicity campaign, we help leverage an author’s expertise to put them in front of the right journalists and producers and gain notice for the author, their work, and their book. We might be aiming for a regular cadence of published op-eds by the author, the author being quoted as an expert in articles and interviews, or even landing a regular column for the author.
Many of our experts also need help drawing both readers and the media to them. There are a number of ways to do this, but the easiest and quickest is blogging. Blogging increases SEO to an author’s website and that is one way producers and journalists can find an excellent source when they go looking for one. To do that you need to be writing in the short form and talking about your work.
Because video is king right now, taking advantage of platforms that prioritize video in their algorithm (we strongly recommend LinkedIn) can help build visibility.
For many years we have recommended Twitter as the best space to get in front of producers, but for anyone who isn’t already there, I wouldn’t recommend trying to start on Twitter until we see how things shake out over there. There are communities on Mastodon for numerous journalist, writer, and academic communities, and LinkedIn is a great place for professionals, media, and academics of all types to connect. If you do a podcast or radio show, place an op-ed or essay, or have contact with a journalist as a source, always follow their social media and connect on LinkedIn. When they share your appearance, you can repost it to help spread the word to your own networks.
What Are the Differences?
The biggest difference between a book publicity campaign and an expert positioning campaign is the timeline. Book work has a very specific timeline and a firm end date (if you head to the Page One Media website and sign up for our newsletter, we’ll give you a free download of our book campaign timeline). Books, even nonfiction books that fit into current events, are considered arts and entertainment coverage and are largely seen as relevant within the first six weeks after publication. It’s a very short window to make some waves in the literary coverage community.
Expert work we can do at any time. Some of our authors stay on with us in a retainer capacity long after their book campaign has finished (some for years). We continue to place opeds and book interviews. We can keep our authors in the public eye between books and help them grow their followings, advise on talks and speaking fees, make arrangements for book sales at those events, read their next book proposal, and advise on the PR and marketing sections. Both book campaigns and expert campaigns run a minimum of six months—we’ve found this to be the time frame in which we can get things running smoothly and consistently and start seeing significant results.
How Do You Decide What You Need?
For nonfiction writers and experts, it is important to start thinking about book promotion early. If you decide you want the support of a freelance publicist, start talking to candidates a year in advance of your publication date and get to know anyone you’re considering hiring. It’s a commitment on both sides and trust is needed along with a lot of hard work from both parties.
I recommend sitting down and writing out your top five goals. What are you hoping to achieve with the publication of this book? Is it a necessity for tenure, do you need to sell enough books to assure your next book deal, are you looking to raise your profile within your industry or university or build a business using your book? Do you want to write full time? What is it you need this book to do for you? Then you can have an informed discussion with a publicist about how they can support you in meeting those goals.
I recently wrote a post on creating your ideal reader avatar, which is a marketing tactic that can benefit anyone selling anything. If you can combine those two things—understanding your goals and understanding your reader—you will have a very strong foundation for starting conversations about promoting your book with both the in-house team and freelance publicists and marketers.
Sarah Russo is the founder of Page One Media. She’s been working in publishing for over twenty years. you can connect with her on Twitter @sarahrusso, Instagram, Mastodon, and LinkedIn. You can follow the work of Page One Media on LinkedIn, @pageonem on Twitter and @pageonem on Instagram.
Thanks for reading! I (Laura) always welcome your questions about scholarly book publishing and editing. Please feel free to reply to this email — I may be able to point you to a previous post that answers your question or even answer it in a future newsletter.
See you next week.