As you navigate the publishing process, you will work closely with both your publicity and your marketing teams. This article gives a breakdown of these two essential publishing realms, the differences between them, and how they work to get your book out into the world.
A good rule of thumb is that marketing typically handles paid promotion, while publicity handles earned promotions and events. Of course, those are broad concepts, so let’s delve further into each team’s line of work.
What are the key responsibilities of each team?
The publicity team is responsible for promoting the book. Once the manuscript is written and edited, the publicist’s job is to get the word out about the book and its author. When you see a book reviewed in The New York Times Book Review or included in a roundup in Cosmopolitan, or hear an author talking on Fresh Air or CBS This Morning, that was most likely booked by their publicist. Publicists work closely with authors to refine talking points and brainstorm “off-the-book-page” opportunities like personal essays or excerpts. In a (large) nutshell, a publicist is an author’s strategist, promoter, organizer, media trainer, and cheerleader.
Often, publicists also arrange author events and book tours in appropriate markets—working closely with their colleagues in sales—or design and execute events with our bookselling partners and other nontraditional venues, all in an effort to put both book and author in front of as many different interested audiences as possible. Once an event is confirmed, the publicist will be in constant contact with the teams onsite to make sure they are promoting the author’s appearance with outreach to their customers, local media, and beyond.
The marketing team, on the other hand, is responsible for booking paid media like print or digital advertising and working with booksellers on in-store promotions and merchandising (excluding events), as well as coordinating online promotions, including email marketing and social media, and liaising with our sales team.
Marketers increasingly rely on metadata, consumer insights, and sales trends to meet consumers where they are. They make sure online copy is optimized with the right keywords and metadata, and constantly refine their campaigns by using customer insights from across a variety of data sources to find opportunity audiences and new marketing levers in real time, as books land in the marketplace.. Additionally, marketing teams create swag for bookstores and special market accounts, run Goodreads giveaways, take beautiful #bookstagram photos, and much more.
How does each team interact directly with authors?
Publicists are generally in frequent, direct contact with an author during the period leading up to publication (though this varies depending on the author and genre). The publicist will send regular updates on media outreach. In the days immediately before and right at publication, it is common for a publicist to be in constant contact with an author to share reviews, news, requests, etc.
Marketers work most directly with authors in crafting strategies to get their audiences excited about the book. They help wrangle any contacts an author has outside of traditional media (such as influencers, bloggers, brands, and organizations) and approach them to help promote the book prior to publication. Marketers also maintain communication with authors in the months after publication, strategizing about additional promotional opportunities and other ways authors can continue to drive engagement around their book.
Which team should authors and agents approach with specific questions?
As an author or agent, you may be unsure whether to contact your publicity or your marketing team with a certain question. Here are some types of questions that each team fields regularly and that are related to their respective areas of work.
Publicists often answer the following questions:
- What is my “elevator pitch” for the book?
- Will my book be reviewed by certain media outlets?
- I’d like to do an event at my local independent bookstore. Can you help me arrange that?
- A blogger reached out to me via social media. Can you send them a copy of my book?
- I’d like to attend a book festival. How can I put in my name for consideration?
- How should I position my book to … ?
- There’s a newsworthy section in my book. Can you help me draft some talking points for the media?
Marketers often help with the following questions:
- Can you help me set up social media accounts, increase my social media presence, or provide tips on developing my website?
- I have an idea for a promotional item (bookmarks, branded items, other physical products). Can you help me create this?
- How can I get my book into the hands of book clubs?
- I have questions/suggestions about advertising for my book. Can you help?
- I’d like to run a preorder incentive campaign or offer a free chapter from my book. How would I go about this?
- I have a lead/suggestion for a potential partnership. Can you help me get in touch with them?
Since there is some overlap between marketing and publicity, there are often misconceptions about what each team does.
When it comes to publicity, authors sometimes think that this team deals only with reviews and interviews. While that is a big part of the job, much more than those two things goes into publicizing a book. Publicists are evangelists for the books they are working on—they talk to booksellers, producers, bloggers, and other publicists, as well as post on social media (both personal and imprint facing) about the books that excite them.
In terms of marketing, it’s important to remember that not all marketing campaigns are created equal. A lot of a marketer’s job is making sure to reach the right audience, which means tailoring a campaign carefully to appeal to the right group of readers. Each marketing campaign is created anew, based on the specific needs of a particular book. With that in mind, something that worked for one book or author won’t always be the best decision for another.
Your publicity and marketing teams will work closely together to coordinate their work on behalf of your book. Whether you are in prepublication, the initial on-sale period, or the post-publication stage of the publishing process, these teams are available to help and guide you in whatever ways they can.
Neda Dallal is Associate, Publishing Development and Author Platforms at Penguin Random House.