A Conversation With Dana Kaye About PR, Harsh Realities of Promo, And 'Your Book, Your Brand'
Book promo is a lot more than copying Amazon links onto Facebook.
It's about building your brand, and focusing your efforts where they'll be effective, and, most importantly, going into the game with realistic expectations. Problem is, there's a lot of noise out there—people who like to tell you they know what they're doing, but really it's just rehashed nonsense.
Which is why I like Your Book, Your Brand so much. Dana Kaye is the founder and owner of Kaye Publicity, and she knows her stuff. This book is pure nuts-and-bolts, and it doesn't matter if you're self-publishing, indie publishing, big publishing—you're going to find useful advice in here.
To mark the release, Dana and I chatted a bit about the ins and outs of promo...
What drove you to write a book? Are you worried that people will be less inclined to buy your services if you're giving away trade secrets? Alternately, do you think it works as an advertising tool for Kaye Publicity?
Fame and fortune, of course! Isn’t that why everyone writes a book?
I’ve always been a writer, from my time in the Fiction Writing department at Columbia College, to my previous career as a freelance writer, and now as a publicist writing social media content, press releases and pitch emails.
We receive a lot of new client inquiries from authors—an average of 12 a week—and we can’t take them all. There are many authors who can’t afford to hire a publicist or are interested in doing a lot of the work themselves. I wanted to find a way to help anyone, regardless of their books, budget, or bandwidth, get the tools necessary to launch their writing career. It can also be a resource for agents and editors who want to play a more active role in the publicity process.
But as I say towards the end of the book, just because you can do it yourself, doesn’t mean you should. I think there will be plenty of people who read this book, and say, “These are all great ideas. But I don’t have the time or desire to execute any of them.” Enter Kaye.
Speaking of promo—what's the biggest misconception you think authors have of the process?
That everyone will care. It sounds harsh, but just because you wrote a book, doesn’t mean everyone you know will buy it, or even care that you wrote one. We get tons of authors who say they know these media people or they’re sure at least 200 people will come to their launch party, and then act surprised when those contacts don’t come through or only 20 people show up to their launch party (because all 200 people they invited didn’t come). Creating an audience takes work, and getting that audience to actually buy the book takes even more. Don’t only rely on the network of people you already have and don’t assume that every newsletter subscriber or Facebook friend is going to get your book on launch day. Make it a priority to build relationships, and in turn, a reader community.
As access points for authors have increased (like self-pub and smaller presses) how has your job gotten easier? And how has it gotten harder?
The more books that are published, the more effort it takes to get my clients’ books to rise above the din, so my job has gotten increasingly harder. There’s a lot of noise out there, my role is to find the quiet corners of readers and spread our message there.
On the flip-side, the harder it is for books to get noticed, the more authors and publishers need outside publicists. So while it’s hard work for campaigns to be successful, our client base continues to grow.
The thing that I really liked about this was it's a clear-eyed look at the nuts and bolts. I've seen a lot of people selling authors on stuff they don't need, because the more you can cram into a course or blog post, the more perceived value there is ("Now I'll show you how to hack Pinterest!").
How do you cut through the noise and know you're getting good advice, or hiring someone who knows what they're doing?
Oh man, I know what you mean. I just saw an e-course on “Marketing Funnels for Authors” and just thought, “When is the author supposed to write their books?” Similar in the way we only use 10 percent of our brains, authors really only need to utilize a small percentage of the tools available to them. Your Book, Your Brand aims to introduce authors to most of the marketing tools at their disposal and help them evaluate the ones that are most useful for them.
When it comes to hiring someone or heeding someone’s advice, it ultimately comes down to your gut. Most people can tell when they’re being sold to in a way that’s more style over substance. If something doesn’t sit right with you, then don’t move forward.
And just like any other potential hire, check their references. If a publicist can’t provide the names of at least three authors that are satisfied with his/her services, then you should be skeptical. If an author is blogging about the secrets to hitting the bestseller list or selling a million copies, but his/her book has never hit a list, then you shouldn’t trust their advice. It seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many authors hire the people who just tell them what they want to hear.
You don't just take on anyone who wants to hire you—you have to be passionate about the book you're selling. What do you look for in a book?
First and foremost, it has to keep me reading. If I’m excited to go home and read every day, that’s saying something. I read a lot of books and there are even more books sitting on my to-be-read pile. So if it’s not taking my attention, then I’m not the right publicist for the project.
I always look for quality writing. There are some genres I’m less enthused about, but I can immediately tell if the writing is strong and if it would appeal to another audience. It also has to have some marketable quality. I love detective fiction, but if it’s just another police procedural, then it’s going to be really hard to market the book and garner attention for it.
You say your favorite genre is detective fiction: What are some of the unique challenges of marketing genre work?
They call it commercial fiction for a reason; genre work is a far easier sell than literary fiction. Genre fiction already has a built in audience, and dedicated genre fans are more likely to take a chance on a new author if they know if falls within the confines of that genre. That being said, it can be far more difficult to "break out" because this requires a wider mainstream audience. Using Dennis Lehane as an example; he had a large, dedicated readership for his Kenzie and Gennaro series, but it wasn't until Mystic River, a book that broke many genre conventions, that he really broke out.
In terms of reaching readers, what do you think is better: Facebook or Twitter? Defend your answer.
Facebook is far more effective for author to reader communication. Most of the world is on Facebook; the percentage of people on Twitter is far less. However, Twitter is where most of the "movers and shakers" hang out. It's the preferred platform of most booksellers, librarians, and media pros. You reach more readers on Facebook, but you reach more influencers on Twitter.
Say you're a new author, just starting out, completely from scratch. What's the one thing you can do right now to put yourself on the right path, in terms of building a brand (besides buying your book)?
Develop an answer to the question of who you are and what you write, create a brand statement, and stick to it. Your brand will inform your online presence, the look of your website, even how you dress when you go to events. Your path to launching your book is like a long road trip. Your first step is to map your route.
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