Tag s | Book Business

Four Questions About Publicity

Publicity is the art of telling the world about you and your book. We recently received a few questions about publicity.

1. When should a writer hire a publicist?
I think an author should wait to see what their publisher will provide in this area. If you do hire a publicist, make sure they coordinate with your publisher so as to not duplicate efforts. (Don’t aggravate your local TV station with multiple PR contacts.)

But the question was “when” not “should.” So let me reanswer.

If you are on your own with regard to your PR, you should hire a firm six to nine months prior to the release date of your book. The PR firm will be handicapped if you wait too long. They need lead time especially in the area of getting reviews for your book. Few review outlets are interested in a book after it has already been released.

The booking for radio, TV, and podcasts usually happens about a month before the actual interview.

Seth Godin says that book marketing needs to start three years before publication date! (Read the linked article to see what he means by that.)

2. What can a writer expect from a publicist?
A good publicist is all about communication, both to you and to your publisher and the media.

A good publicist will respect your schedule and try not to book an interview at 6 a.m EST (when you live on the West coast).

A good publicist will know how to convert time zones. (I don’t know how many times an author has complained about this issue when making booking mistakes.)

A good publicist will be a champion for your book and help you figure out the best media-friendly talking points.

3. What is the best type of book to promote on the radio or television?
Nonfiction topics lend themselves best. This is critical for the novelist to understand. If a novelist is to be attractive to media, they must find a nonfiction issue or topic on which they can comment as it relates to their novel.

At the same time, even a nonfiction author needs to be careful that their book is front and center in the talking points for the interview. Those talking points are critical. Sometimes your interview will be only a couple minutes. If you blather about the weather, you’ve lost your opportunity.

Hopefully, you have a website that is easily remembered after hearing the interview or a book title that does the same. For example, if I were on the air I would have to be careful since my last name is pronounced “lobby” but spelled “laube.” Which is why I own the domain name “stevelobby.com,” so if someone types in my last name phonetically they still get to the right spot.

4. How important is PR in relation to book sales?

This is a tough question to answer definitively. If the only radio interview you do is aired at 2 a.m. in Eastern Wyoming, it is unlikely to affect sales. But there is always benefit of getting the word out about your book. One principle of all marketing is making multiple impressions. If someone hears about your book on a podcast, then sees a review on a blog, and then sees it again online, they are more likely to be curious. PR is one piece of the whole.

But it is not the whole. Many authors get frustrated with a lack of booking by a publicist, whether it is the one they hired or the one from their publishing company. Remember, they can only ask for the interview. If your book or pitch isn’t of interest, you won’t be asked to be a guest. If it is the wrong time of year, you can get sideswiped.

I know of an author who flew at their own expense to a city to be on a live, local morning show. That morning Michael Jackson’s death was all anyone wanted to talk about. The author was also bumped later in the show due to news of a pileup on the local freeway. The interview was “lost” in the noise of the day.

Another could not get a single interview for their new book because the release was the day of the U.S. Presidential Election.

Therefore, show some grace with your publicist. Set your expectations appropriately.

Are there any other questions you might have?


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What Are Average Book Sales?

by Steve Laube

We recently received the following question:

“What does the average book sell today? An industry veteran at a writers conference recently said 5,000. What??? I know it all depends….but … nowhere near 5K, right?”

My simple answer?

It’s complicated.
It depends.


Average is a difficult thing to define. And each house defines success differently. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at one publisher they celebrate and have steak dinners. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at another publisher you find staff members fearing for their jobs and in total despair.

Let me give you some real numbers but not revealing the author name (and there is a wide variety of publishers represented):

Author 1: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 8,300

Author 2: novelist – 12 books – avg. sale = 19,756

Author 3: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 7,000

Author 4: novelist – 7 books – avg. sale = 5,300 (Two different publishers)

Author 5: non-fiction devotional – 5 books – avg. sale 10,900

Author 6: non-fiction – 2 books – avg. sale = 5,300

Author 7: novelist – 4 books – avg. sale = 29,400

Author 8: non-fiction – 3 books – avg. sale = 18,900

Author 9: fiction – 7 books – avg. sale = 12,900

Author 10: non-fiction – 5 books – avg. sale = 6,800 (three different publishers)

So you can see it DOES depend. Depends on the author and publisher and topic or genre.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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That Conference Appointment

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations.

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Who Gets Paid in Publishing?

With all the talk about Independent publishing vs. Traditional publishing and the talk about how writers can get rich if they follow a certain plan…I got to thinking. Maybe we should do a quick look at the Economics of Publishing to see if anyone is making off like a bandit. Sorry for you non-numbers people, but it is critical to understand the infrastructure (i.e. the lifeblood) that keeps your ideas in print.

The detective in the movie says “Follow the money,” so we shall. But first a disclaimer. These models are estimates based on years of reading contracts, profit and loss sheets, spreadsheets, and royalty statements. Your mileage may vary.

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Writers Expect Good News

Writers expect good news…any day now. Is it the curse of eternal optimism?There is this hope within each writer that it will be their manuscript that is chosen for publication. And the money will rain on them like a spring shower.

Despite the odds.

Despite the competition.

Despite the cynical, horrible, no-good, very-bad agents who review them.


Are these expectations realistic? Of course they are. It is the essence of hope. For without hope there is no reason to continue the pursuit of the craft. You have to believe that you have what it takes.

Are these expectations practical? Of course not. Who said the writing profession was “practical?”

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Checked Your Copyright Lately?

Have you checked your copyright lately? I mean, have you actually gone to the US Copyright Office web site and searched for your registration? You might be surprised at what you won’t find. Here is the link to start your search.

Most publishing contracts have a clause that requires the publisher to register the copyright, in the name of the author, with the US Copyright Office. This is supposed to be done as part of the in-house paperwork process.

If you do not find your book, don’t panic.

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Many Happy (?) Returns!

by Steve Laube

Every first-time author is confronted by the reality of “Reserves Against Returns” as part of publishing economics. It is usually a shock and elicits a phone call to their agent crying “What happened to my money?”

Did you realize that book publishing is the only “hard goods” industry where the product sold by the supplier to a vendor can be returned? This does not happen with electronics, clothing, shoes, handbags, cars, tires…you name it. If it is a durable good the vendor who buys it, owns it (which is why there are Outlet Malls – to sell the remaining inventory). Except for books. Somewhere along the line the publishers agreed to allow stores to return unsold inventory for credit. In one sense, publishers are selling their books on consignment. Bargain books are actually resold by the publisher (after getting returns or to reduce overprinted inventory) to a new specialty bargain bookseller or division of a chain (which buys the bargain books non-returnable).

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So You Want to Be In Pictures? (The Sequel)

To simulate how the book-to-film process really works, I waited five years to write this sequel to my original post on books and films. Experiences with book-to-film connections are a very real box of chocolates for authors ever since the opportunity to connect the two media debuted a hundred years …

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Four Myths about Agents

I was amused when I recently received a note from an author who had decided I’m a human rather than an infallible goddess. Not sure if I should be glad or disappointed! Since many authors don’t interact with agents, let me dispel a few myths about us: 1)  Myth: Authors …

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