Published Podcast Ep. 12 | All About Book Publicity with Sandy Smith of Smith Publicity

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When authors are getting ready to launch their books, publicity can be a big factor in book sales. The publisher and author create the push that gets the book onto the bookstore shelves, while the publicity team creates the pull that brings consumers in to pick the book up off the bookstore shelf. 

In this episode of Published, we're pleased to welcome Sandy Smith, the President of Smith Publicity, to discuss what authors need to know when working with a book publicist. 

2:00 There's a lot of confusion among authors about what the publicist does. So what does a book publicist do? 

  • We do a lot of author education. Most of our authors are first-time authors and are new to the crazy world of publishing. 
  • What a publicist essentially does is make our authors newsworthy, part of the news. We don't do advertising, but we work closely with the author to get to know their ideas, concepts, passions, etc. and make it so that a media contact is interested enough to cover them. 
  • No one will care that you wrote a book. Our job is try to differentiate the author so that people will be interested in it. 
  • When the book and the author become part of the news, it establishes credibility that you can't buy through advertising. 
  • The fun part of this job is to get to know someone well. So many of our authors come to us from unique, interesting points of view. We get to figure out little bits of their messaging that helps make them stand out and when it works, it's magic.  

8:40 You mentioned that you don't do advertising. What are the other things that book publicists don't do? 

  • Publicists don't track book sales or pitch to retailers. We also don't update listings on Amazon or Author Central. 
  • They also don't provide insight on details of book publishing like trim size or pricing. 

10:50 What about book signings? 

  • How many times have you gone to a bookstore and just sitting there? Book signings are very hard. We do coordinate them for the right person in the right setting. 
  • The best book signings are the ones where authors are bringing in their own tribe of people. They're also interactive, perhaps giving a presentation about content in the book. 
  • They also don't need to be in a bookstore. They can be wherever the book may be appropriate (library, yoga studio, etc.). 
  • When it's the right fit, we'll contact the bookstore 3-6 months before, contact the local media 6 weeks before, and work with the author to help promote it to their own followers. 

13:10 How does an author go about starting the search for a publicist? 

  • If you don't have any recommendations, you can start with Google. But it's better to try to talk to other authors or industry professionals. A large portion of our business comes from referrals. 
  • When you find a potential publicist, do your homework by reading about them and what they offer. Try to find 3-5 different publicists to do a deep dive into them. 

15:00 What kinds of questions should a smart author ask a potential publicist?

  • Authors need to start by understanding their specific goals because that will have an impact on the questions they ask potential publicists. Consider why you are writing a book and what you hope to achieve from in in 6-12 months. 
  • Spend some time really thinking about your target market. Your book isn't for everybody, so think about who it's really for. 
  • Questions for a publicist: 
    • Do you have experience with my genre? 
    • How would you pitch my book to the media? 
    • What do you find unique about this project? 
    • Do you have any testimonials, case studies, endorsements? 
  • Find someone who is enthusiastic about your book and what you do. You want someone who understands your goals, understands your audience, and has a plan for you. 

20:50 When should an author start interviewing a publicist? And when does publicity work start? 

  • Ideally, we'd like to start talking to authors as early as possible, even while writing the book. 
  • Once you know your publishing plan (launch date, publisher selected), we'd like to start talking to you. 
  • We work with some authors after the publication date, but ideally we'd prefer 6 months to a year. 

23:05 Once the campaign begins, how long can an author expect it to continue? 

  • We like to start 4-6 months ahead of the publication date, take a short break after our initial pitch, and then pick back up 1-2 months before the publication date. 
  • There are a lot of factors that can adjust the timeline (budget, pub date, goals, etc.). 

24:50 How much time should an author expect to dedicate to the campaign? 

  • We start with an author questionnaire that can take several hours. 
  • On a week-to-week basis, there will hopefully be requests for interviews, written articles, etc. Byline article writing can take some time, but we love when they're able to write them. 
  • We also provide weekly written updates to our authors, and we like to get the authors on the phone every week to go over the update to understand what we're doing, why we're doing it, and to brainstorm with them. 

28:45 Morning shows, like Good Morning America or TODAY, used to have a huge impact on book sales, but that seems to have changed. Can you speak to the kinds of placements you look for and which ones have the biggest impact?

  • We've had people on the TODAY show and saw very little impact from it. We've also had an author do a radio interview and sell a few thousand books that day. Where we try to pitch authors depends on the genre of the book and the author's goals. 
  • People are finding books through influencers within their niche these days. So we get to know the author, their genre, and where their audience is finding books. 
  • A big placement these days is podcasts, especially because you have an opportunity to go much deeper than in a radio interview. 

35:40 In the sad case that a campaign doesn't succeed, is there a plan B? What happens if you get off to a slow start? 

  • It's been challenging this year. The election made it difficult for some authors to be featured because if it wasn't about politics, the media wasn't interested. 
  • What we do is go back to the drawing board to find different angles and ideas. Is there a connection to the season? Does the author have any other interests or hobbies that we can focus on? We try to uncover different pieces of information, even if it's outside the scope of the book, that may be of interest. 

Sandra (Sandy) Poirier Smith is president of Smith Publicity, Inc., an international book promotion company dedicated to helping authors and publishers create awareness about their books and expertise through media coverage. Smith Publicity has promoted thousands of books since 1997—from household brand New York Times best sellers to first time, independently published titles. Smith Publicity authors have appeared on media outlets worldwide including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlantic, AARP, O, The Oprah Magazine, Forbes, INC, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Parents, People, TIME, Publishers Weekly, The Today Show, Good Morning America, 60 Minutes, NPR, BBC, The Guardian, Toronto Star, HuffingtonPost. Sandy works with clients to create and execute creative and tailored book promotion strategies. She regularly writes about and speaks at book industry events on the topic of book marketing and author/expert promotion. She earned a BS in Art and an MBA from Northeastern University. 

Connect with Sandy email:, Phone: 856-489-8654 x301, Web:, Twitter: @SmithPublicity  @SandyDiaz 

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