Lisa: We spoke back in 2015, but since then, much has changed.
What’s your current thinking on platform and PR?
Janet: Yes, many things certainly have changed since 2015.
For instance, during a PR campaign, we now employ the use of platforms such as social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), media sharing networks (Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube) and discussion forums (Reddit, Digg, Hive).
With a traditional PR campaign, platforms amplify the visibility and awareness of a brand, book, individual, etc., and play an integral part in public relations. Authors and others can use social media to create stories about their books, brand or product and react immediately to relevant stories.
Social media influencers, micro-influencers, bloggers, and vloggers now assist in shaping brand awareness as well. Journalists now use social media and scan platforms for relevant sources, giving them additional access to press releases. Platforms also allow brands to build trust and quickly engage with their followers.
Platforms and PR are a great combination and should be utilized on all campaigns as they each offer distinct yet synergistic advantages.
What tends to be the most effective PR for book sales?
Janet: There isn’t any one thing that drives sales. What is most important is that you target the right audience for your book.
It’s a combination of book signings, obtaining book reviews, media coverage in magazines and newspapers, TV appearances, radio and podcast interviews, digital outlets, relevant websites, blogs, Amazon reviews, blogger reviews, virtual book tours, an influential book trailer on the author’s website, social media, consistent speaking engagements to target audiences, live videos on Facebook, blog posts to your website and LinkedIn, SEO ranking (i.e., using keywords that your target audience will likely search for) and making sure that the book can be preordered. These are some of the critical factors that will drive book sales!
What are some recent success stories you’d like to share— specifically, what the author did that made their pitches or interviews successful?
Anne Corley Baum is the author of the two books on the right. Her message was clear, concise and to the point, just like her books. There was no rambling because she was prepared for the interview and knew exactly what she wanted to say. No media training was necessary.
Interviews were conducted via Zoom or the phone in the last few years due to the pandemic. Authors who were at ease on camera were most successful in delivering their message on Zoom. Phone interviews are easier because you aren’t visible and can use cue cards to remember your key points.
I provide media training for my clients, develop key message points, and show them how to effectively use body language, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, and other verbal and nonverbal cues. Each of these factors affects how messages are received, and I ensure they are all in sync.
What should authors know about preparing for an interview?
If the author does not have a publicist, they should ask themselves which key points from the book they want to discuss and practice answering the questions in soundbites. They should also practice being on camera—even using a smartphone with someone holding it. Expect random questions and be ready for them. Most importantly, think of the questions you do not want to be asked and how you would respond to them.
What are the biggest mistakes authors tend to make in PR?
Most authors are unaware that reviewers want books in their hands at least three to four months before the publication date. Many authors are so excited to have completed their book that they want to start their PR immediately. However, this does not allow time to get their books into the hands of reviewers and long-lead publications, such as magazines and newspapers. This is one of the biggest mistakes an author can make because it will no doubt derail their opportunity to be reviewed by major media outlets.
Other mistakes include not preparing for their interviews and not having enough reviews or final copies available of their book, which can delay book signings and other personal appearances while they wait for additional books.
What advice do you give authors on their author website?
Make sure you have a book trailer. Make sure the copy is clear and concise, easy to read and the colors used on your website match those of the book cover, if possible. I work on enhancing their website to ensure it is relevant to the book and that they can find the necessary information.
Earlier, you mentioned that social media has become much more important to book promotion than in 2015.
What are some things authors should keep in mind with social media? For example, what is social media most effective for specific types of books?
First and foremost, building your social media platforms is essential because literary agents and publishers look at the author’s social media metrics. It’s about the community you have developed and how many people will buy your book. This is not the only criterion used, but it is advantageous to have a considerable following.
- Post links to interviews and information about where and when the author will speak.
- Research social media sites for books. There are lots of them, and Goodreads is among the most popular.
- Use great visuals.
- Create great content about the book and yourself that will create “buzz.”
- Set up book giveaways on various platforms.
- Post different content on different platforms.
- Use hashtags carefully. Most platforms recommend using only a handful of hashtags.
An author’s success on social media is choosing the right platform and understanding who uses it.
- Books containing many photos and visual elements work well on Instagram.
- LinkedIn and Twitter are best for business books.
- Use both Facebook and Instagram for book giveaways and run contests on Instagram.
- In addition, Instagram and Facebook stories are becoming increasingly popular for authors.
Any funny PR stories?
One that I can think of is the author who made up the name of the town where the story took place without checking to see if there was a town in that state with the same name.
I emailed a pitch to a newspaper in the state where the story took place and received an email back from the editor that the town was not in its coverage area!
The author and I laughed as we wondered how a newspaper’s coverage area would be in a made-up town! It turned out that the name of the town the author thought he created was a real town and existed in that state!
About Janet Appel
Janet Appel’s expertise in public relations includes media relations, new product launches and product promotion, event planning, developing community relations-sponsored programs, new business development, strategic problem solving and crisis management.
She brings over 30 years of experience in public relations. She has worked in various industries including financial services, real estate, staffing/employment, food and beverage, fashion, healthcare, entertainment and the equestrian world.
She has strengthened her clients’ image while enhancing their visibility through the trade and public in national, regional and local print/ broadcast and web media within major markets around the country.
Clients include Harvard Health Publications (a division of Harvard Medical School), The Brain Music Therapy Center, Shopoff Group/Shopoff Realty Investments (REITS), DreamWorks, Snelling Personnel Services and Bacardi.