The Role of Public Relations in the Publishing Industry

Why, exactly, should folks in the publishing industry care about public relations? Why should authors take the time to familiarize themselves with PR tactics? Can’t writers just worry about writing, and readers just worry about reading?

Well, no. Not really.

Consider how much authors are expected to interact with their public. From the multi-million dollar marketing campaigns for young adult phenomena like Twilight or The Hunger Games, to the shadowy (and powerful) world of fandom; from celebrities-turned-authors, to grassroots self-promotion, the environment of marketing in this industry has shifted dramatically.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Data shows that sales at bookstores are up 1.7 per cent in America from last year, and with more authors than ever on the playing field, the role of public relations in the industry only gets more and more important.

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1. Self-Promotion

It’s a tough time to be an author. Traditional publishers aren’t going to market for you anymore, and there are more books on the market now than there ever have been. So how do you stand out?

If you answered with ‘You self-promote!’, then you’re not alone. Self promotion is a given for authors entering today’s market, but opinions about it abound. You’ve got one blog telling you to spend your whole advance on promoting your own book, then a different blog telling you that self-promotion doesn’t work and is just “throwing more information out into the void.” Yikes.

The reality is that without self-promotion, your book won’t sell. No one is going to do that work for you. But it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. We live in a digital age where all the tools an author needs to succeed are at their finger tips.

Public relations is about storytelling, so authors are already halfway there. As this blog progresses, we’ll look at all the ways that public relations have been used by authors, promoters, marketers, and huge companies to do one thing: sell books.

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2. Self-Protection

One of the main arguments artists have against using public relations tactics is that they feel it infringes on their privacy. But the reality is that public relations is a tool to protect your privacy.

Authors are becoming more and more like celebrities in their own right, and public personas and private lives are destined to collide. Look no further than the unmasking of Elena Ferrante’s identity to see the lengths people will go to to catch a glimpse of their favourite author’s real life. It may be (and actually, indubitably is), a gross intrusion of privacy, but it happens.

Anyone in the public sphere who wants to keep their private life private needs to understand how public relations work. It’s a form of self-protection: how to market yourself without giving up too much of yourself. How to give your audience enough that they won’t feel ignored. Because the fans will find an in — go no further than Ferrante’s case to see evidence of that.

And as the line between public and private continues to blur, the role of public relations only grows. Authors need to have some understanding of modern public relations strategy to walk the fine line between self-promotion and oversharing.

Self-promotion isn’t an option anymore, it is a must. Your book is not going to sell if you don’t self-promote, and if it somehow miraculously does, you’ll be expected to interact with your fan base moving forward, regardless of what you want. Authors need to have a plan in place for public relations, because it’s inevitable.

So here it is. A public relations lens through which you can take a good, hard look at the publishing world. We hope you find it helpful. We’re excited to dig in.

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