Publicist Offers Tailored Advice for Indies, Part I

Julie Schoerke

Julie Schoerke is the founder of JKSCommunications, which specializes in book publicity campaigns that integrate traditional and new media, and in managing comprehensive publicity campaigns. A PR expert for more than 25 years, Schoerke built her business with a variety of corporate clients and high-profile individual clients and events before focusing on literary publicity. This is the first of a two-part interview during which Julie took time out to answer questions important to self-published authors.

Indie authors have limited time to promote their books. What are three ideas that will give them the most bang for their buck?

JS – Actually, in today’s environment, Indie authors aren’t much different than most mid-range or debut authors with big houses. Promotion, to a great degree, is on the backs of the authors no matter who their publisher is.

The three ways to most efficiently create a platform for yourself at low or no cost and with limited time commitment:

Jump into social media! Have a Facebook fan page, LinkedIn Page, Goodreads Author page, Twitter account

Do not use your personal FB page and lock down your personal page before you create a “public” page. Keep your personal life private.

Set a timer for 20 minutes a day – or whatever amount of time you allot yourself – maybe 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night if you can spare it – and then become a “citizen” of those outlets by commenting, retweeting, and “liking” other’s posts. 75% of what you post should be in getting to know others – not pushing your book.

Connect with those in the book world – bloggers, bookstores and other authors.

Create the very best website you can possibly have and be sure that it’s optimized for search engines.People searching for you or the title of your book – perhaps the topic of your book if it’s non-fiction or a fiction genre – should be able to find you easily on the internet, but you need a qualified web designer who knows how to optimize.

Get out and meet the people who can sell your book.

Make sure you’re a “good neighbor” to local bookstores – that they know you as a customer and member of the community as well as a soon-to-be-published author.

Speaking of bucks, should Indies invest in ads, and if so, on what sites have you found ads to be most effective?

JS – Often, the reason that books with big publishing houses get “ink” in traditional print media is that those houses have an accumulated record of supporting the media outlet with advertising dollars. Like it or not, it’s how the world works. And “blockbuster” books with big publishing houses have even more dollars behind them.

So, it’s not really, from a financial standpoint, that surprising that indie books don’t get the same kind of coverage. Print media is a business; while they love books and that’s their focus, they have to stay in business.

Advertise where your target demographics are. There’s not a “one size fits all” answer to where an author should put advertising dollars. Figure out what your budget is. That determines where you can advertise! Some considerations:

Do you want to hit the “trade”? Do you want your book picked up in bookstores or by libraries? If so, advertise beforeyour book comes out in trade publications – there are many, but here is a list of a few you can explore: Shelf Awareness; GalleyCat/Media Bistro; BookPage; Publisher’s Weekly

Do you want to hit the readers who may purchase your book? Try traditional media outlets that cater to the people interested in your topic. If you can’t afford a print ad, find out how much traffic the media outlet’s blog or website gets and if it makes sense, consider a banner ad. On-line advertising can be very effective too. You may want to do highly targeted advertising on Facebook or Google ads, Goodreads, the Shelf Awareness reader edition newsletter or a blogger site that will be especially supportive of your book, or websites that cater to book clubs

Lots of firms have sprung up anxious to promote Indies. How do you tell the good ones from the shady ones, and what should the author expect in terms of good customer service?

JS– There are several ways to “vet” publicity firms. Check out the publicity firm’s website, see who their clients are, then Google several books/clients and see how much is online. You can tell if they are effective if the book gets legitimate reviews (not just “free PR” posts). Email and request a call to interview the publicity firm’s leader. See if the person will take time with you and you are comfortable with their style and what they tell you. A clear sign of a good publicity firm is if they are honest up front and explain that they cannot promise you the moon. If anyone tells you that they can get you on a specific major television program, that’s a pretty good indication that there may issues on down the line. The media is fickle and capricious – they call the shots and no publicity firm has a major television program in their back pocket – but we have to love ‘em.

Also, decide if you’d like a formulaic approach – for a publicity firm to give you a set menu of how it lays out each of it’s publicity campaigns, or if you’d like something that is a little more flexible. This is a very personal choice with no right or wrong answer. In our case, the JKSCommunications team has found that when we create a publicity campaign that is specific to the author’s lifestyle, family considerations, budget, and the areas the author is most comfortable spending time (writing guest posts vs. public appearances for example), then our clients are more enthusiastic to do what they need to in order for their campaign to be successful.

Is it better for an Indie author to sell 800 books at $9.99 a copy, or 5,000 books for .99 cents a copy, and what is your reasoning?

Although it seems like every author would have the same goal – to sell as many books as possible – when it comes right down to it, when I talk with authors, every single person has a different, specific goal. Sometimes they don’t realize it until we’ve talked for a while.

Most authors want their books to be as widely read as possible, so common sense says that 5,000 books at $.99/ eBook format would be the most appealing. But, there are various reasons that some authors would rather sell fewer books but at a higher price. Of course, this is assuming that we’re talking about eBook format. If we’re talking about physical books, one of the most obvious reasons for selling at the higher price is that an author shouldn’t lose money by selling a book that is less expensive than it takes to produce.

Julie tackles more questions in Part II. Meanwhile, do any writers have additional questions or comments?

14 Comments so far »

  1. M L Sawyer said,

    Wrote on January 5, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    Interesting post. What is your opinion of paid reviews? I’m part of a forum where this question has just come up. Personally I don’t like the idea of paying for a review and even though it costs me a significant amount of time contacting bloggers, doing the social media, good reads giveaways and so on, the possibility of paying a company for ‘x’ amount of reviews still doesn’t seem right to me and I would think could possibly have more negative effects as opposed to positive ones.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Great question, ML. Julie’s answer:

    I’ll try to answer this the best I can. There isn’t a “one size fits all” response for this question. The reasoning for paid review vary greatly depending on what the goals are of the author. There are some paid reviews that make sense if you are wanting high-profile literary publications with on-line presence to review your book.

    Publications are in the business to make money – the vehicle is through grabbing the attention of readers who will subscribe, which increases their readership statistics, which sells advertising to keep them in business – since independently published or self-published authors don’t have big ad budgets to support the editorial content generated for that media outlet – some media outlets are trying paid reviews. Major publishers are major advertisers in those same publications, and that is why their books are reviewed consistently. They are going to be around (hopefully) for a long time and providing the income for the reviewers who are paid to review the books that are submitted – including theirs.

    As a former journalist, myself, paid reviews drove me to distraction when they first were introduced – they blurred the line between editorial and advertising. But in this Brave New World of on-line content, the rules have been bent and changed…and in fact, although it’s not obvious, television morning shows and talk shows often have paid content that appears to be programming. When you see a guest come on a tv talk show to introduce “hot new products” – the network programs will sometimes take payment for segments by the manufacturers. Yet, it appears the hosts are excited about something new on the market – not exactly so.

    So, I’ve accepted that there are circumstances in which paid reviews make sense. I don’t recommend them often to our clients, but sometimes I highly recommend them. Reasons to choose to do it include:
    • The outlet is prestigious and publishing houses seek out these reviews to use for blurbs and then you can use them also
    • If they are reasonably priced
    • The review guidelines include what will happen if the review is going to be bad. Some highly respected literary publications take the fee and agree that if it is not going to be a book that they deem a good fit for a review (ie: the book will get a bad review), they will return the money and no review will be written
    Just in the past week trade publications have been printing stories about the initial decision to print paid reviews is being reversed.

    I do not recommend paying for blog reviews. I do recommend supporting bloggers that support you by purchasing banner ads if they are reasonably priced or consider other promotions they are running. Bloggers do have a right to make money as they often put a great deal of effort into their work and receive no other compensation than “free” ARCs. Of course, consider blog traffic when deciding where to spend your advertising dollars.


  2. Collette Scott said,

    Wrote on January 5, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

    Wow, what great tips, Julie and Steve. Thank you for sharing your experiences and advice.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Collette, please stay tuned for Part II. Julie has a lot more to share!


  3. JD Mader said,

    Wrote on January 5, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

    Thanks for the insights!


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Sure thing, JD; Julie weighs in on several more issues in Part II. Please watch for it.


  4. Lizzy Ford said,

    Wrote on January 5, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    I have to admit – I was impressed by this article. We took this approach to build my online platform – which includes optimizing my website. That small piece of information is lost on most people, just as checking a sites traffic ranking is lost on folks who are shelling out money for ad space.

    I look forward to part two. I’d be interested in hearing Julie’s opinion on:

    – the effectiveness of online press releases
    – whether they’re worth doing if they aren’t picked up by say, google syndicated news
    – and which press release sites are best (assuming they’re worth the effort!)

    Lizzy 🙂


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Here’s Julie’s response, Lizzy:
    Thank you for this thoughtful question! Our team agrees that there is marginal success in using free on-line sites to post press releases. It may slightly improve SEO. Our campaigns do have a great track record in using paid services such as PRWire and Businesswire to improve SEO. But it’s expensive for most authors. If you have a book that is non-fiction and you want your website and your information to rise to the top in on-line searches, this is a great way to go. But if you have a novel that doesn’t have a highly searchable tag word that fits a cause you are furthering, it may not make sense.


  5. Debbie A. Heaton said,

    Wrote on January 6, 2012 @ 1:09 am

    Very informative post. I can’t wait for Part II.


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks for checking in, Debbie. Look for Part II this weekend.


  6. Julie said,

    Wrote on January 6, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

    Thank you everybody for all of your kind and thoughtful comments! I am really enjoying reading your feedback!


  7. Jenny Milchman said,

    Wrote on January 7, 2012 @ 4:13 am

    Steve, Julie is one of my absolute favorite people in the publicity world–the book world actually–and I am not surprised you two would be connected. Thanks for the tips, Julie, and the post, Steve!


    Steve Piacente Reply:

    If I were building a writing and publicity team from scratch, Jenny and Julie would be among my top draft picks. Thanks for dropping by, Jenny!


  8. Julie said,

    Wrote on January 7, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    Jenny, thanks for stopping by! You’re too kind! I should have known that two of my favorite authors and people would know each other!


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