The 5 Most Important Things Authors Should Know About Book Publicity and Promotion

The publishing industry is in the midst of a revolution. Thanks to independent publishing, more books than ever are released every day. No longer do a small number of literary gatekeepers at major publishing houses determine what will reach the market. It is indeed the best of times for authors, and yet many encounter frustration and disappointment after their book is written. The main reason: A lack of understanding or appreciation for the challenges of publicity — making people aware of a book.

Writing a book, believe it or not, is often the easy part. Publicity, marketing, and promotion are what make or break an author’s dreams. Here are five of the most important things to understand about book publicity and marketing to make your experience as an author both successful and enjoyable.

1)    Understand What Book Publicity Is

Your book is published, now what? The only guarantee in book marketing is that if you don’t do something to make others aware of your book, you are virtually guaranteed that it well not sell. It’s crucial to understand exactly what publicity is before you promote your book. Here’s a concise definition: Book publicity is the utilization of the media as a conduit to spread word about a book to the general public or special interest segments. It is not advertising.

Publicity, in its purest form, is the classic “you scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours” scenario. If you give a reporter, editor or producer interesting, informative, newsworthy or entertaining material related to your book, they will then reciprocate by “plugging” your book in an article, interview, review or feature story.

2)    Realistic Expectations

The book publicity industry is highly, highly, competitive. The fact that so many new authors can now get their book into print also means the competition for publicity and media coverage is fiercer than ever. The power of publicity to sell books via radio and TV interviews, newspaper and magazine coverage and online coverage is indisputable. But literally tens of thousands of authors are vying for media attention every day, so getting editors and producers to notice you and your book is harder than ever.

Knowing the playing field before you get in the game makes you better prepared and able to handle the inevitable ups and downs of book promotion. The only way authors become successful is because they try, and you must try. Just understand that book marketing is no different than any other very competitive industry.

3) Book Marketing is More Marathon than Sprint

Making others aware of your book and creating word-of-mouth publicity does not happen overnight. It takes time to achieve and sustain promotional momentum, and it typically takes at least two months to see book sales materialize from a promotional campaign.

Authors often spend years crafting a book. The most successful then spend at least a year promoting their book in one way or another.

4) Know Enough to Know What You Don’t Know

A fatal mistake some authors make is believing they can effectively market and publicize a book on their own, with no outside help at all. It’s true—some authors have achieved great success promoting their own work, but most don’t.  Book publicity is a profession, and it takes significant time and resources to do it well. Knowing how to engage media in the appropriate manner takes skill and finesse. A self-promoting author often comes across as amateurish when pitching media. You may be a brilliant author, but chances are you’re an amateur when it comes to publicity.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands of dollars engaging the services of a publicity firm, but you will need help to do it right. Talk to a variety of publicity agencies and find out what you can afford. Professional help, even limited assistance, can dramatically increase your chances of securing media attention.

5)    Don’t Catch the “Oprah Disorder”

Book publicists now joke that their lives are much easier because Oprah is off the air. The first question publicists often used to get from authors was “Can you get me on Oprah?”

The Oprah Disorder is the obsession of wanting only the biggest media opportunities, i.e. national TV, national magazines, etc., and nothing else. This attitude is a recipe for promotional disaster. Every media opportunity is important, from the smallest local newspaper to the tiniest radio show, because you never know who is reading that paper or listening to that show!

Dan Smith is CEO and founder of Smith Publicity, one of the premier book publicity and book marketing firms in the industry. Smith Publicity has implemented over 900 book promotion campaigns and secured placements with virtually every major media outlet. The firm has serviced authors from over 25 countries and has offices in New Jersey, New York, Los Angeles, and London. Website:


  1. vlad says

    “Writing a book, believe it or not, is often the easy part” – So true. And this is not only applicable to writers. In fact, every one of those five steps can be adapted to everything from writing songs, creating software, to everything that implies the process of creation. Yep, it even applies to creating websites and/or blogs.

    Probably #2 Realistic Expectations is the most important part. Instead of competing with the big players maybe it’s best to try and find your own niche, at first anyway.

    Nice write-up BTW.