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Getting Book Publicity Today — The Critical Elements

An Interview with Book PR Expert Laura Rossi


Laura Rossi

According to book PR expert Laura Rossi, a strong online presence is critical for any author.

Laura Rossi
In the rapidly changing book marketplace, getting publicity can be a challenge — so I asked publicity expert Laura Rossi Totten to weigh in on the best ways authors can navigate the new book publicity landscape.

Laura has over twenty years of experience as a book publishing and public relations professional and digital strategist. She has run successful publicity campaigns at many major publishing houses, and for authors ranging from Stephen King to Paul Krugman, from Wynton Marsalis to Danielle Steel. Today, Laura works with diverse clients including both bestselling and first-time authors of all kinds, bloggers, journalists, celebrities, non-profits and Fortune 500 companies. In addition, she’s an author herself, having contributed to such books as Gina Barreca’s Make Mine a Double.

Laura thanks so much for answering my questions today. Let’s start with the changing book marketplace. What’s different about publicity today? What do book authors have to face that they didn't 10 years ago?
The internet, social media and digital platforms — together, they’ve transformed public relations and book publicity. Ten years ago, publishers were not requiring digital strategies for authors and books, and there wasn’t the huge amount of self-publishing there is currently. Today it’s crucial for every author to have a strong online presence and my publicity campaigns for clients always include online publicity — that was not the case a decade ago.

What are the elements of a robust online publicity campaign?
Pitching for online reviews, offering online giveaways, doing blog book tours and blog hops, writing guest posts, to name the major elements. Over twenty years ago when I started in book publishing at Viking Penguin I never could have imagined so much of book publicity happening on the internet. But now, major publishers hire me to create and implement online book publicity campaigns for authors so frequently that it’s the biggest piece of my business!

What do you think constitutes a strong online presence for an author?
An author should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, as well as an attractive, accessible, easy-to-navigate author web site, a blog and online gigs—for example, I regularly write for Huffington Post; I blog at Moonfrye, Circle of Moms, etc.

So, social media is an important element to an author's public relations campaign?
Hands down, social media is the most important element to author PR today. Facebook and Twitter are the two MUSTS. I also suggest Pinterest for authors with highly visual books or concepts. Authors also need great websites, too.

[For more specifics, read about how authors can best (or better) use Twitter and about the elements of an effective author website.]

What are some of the new tools that authors should be taking advantage of?
There’s Hootsuite and other social media management tools to make postings easy, and several terrific social media tracking programs that provide analytics and data so you can measure impact in real time.

What "common wisdom" should they forget about? Used to be there was a very short window of time to get your book publicity. Today I tell authors don’t give up if it takes longer than you expected to secure reviews or interviews with traditional media. If you can reinvent hooks and lock into the news and trends, your book won’t have an expiration date! The perfect publicity campaign blends new media and old.

[Read more about hooking your book to an event or trend.]

The writing process is so different than the "self-marketing" process — as a blogger and author yourself as well as a public relations consultant, what perspective can you give to authors regarding their own book publicity?
Writing as a creative process is a self-focused journey and it’s solitary. [But if you want others to read your writing] you can’t hide! You have to be your own best publicist and lead your own branding as an author.

Get out there! Now! While you are writing you should be doing as much as you can to connect, network, read, research, comment, blog. Do it all and do it every day -- like your writing, the more you practice, the better at it you’ll become. Investing in your brand and building your author platform are key — brand and platform are by far the most important tools authors have in their promotional toolbox.

For more book publicity wisdom, read Part II of this interview with Laura Rossi Totten, which includes her top five pieces of wisdom; also, check out Laura's Social Media Checklist for Authors. Visit her website at LauraRossiPublicRelations.com and follow her on Twitter @bookPRgirl.

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