Self-Promotion is the Name of the Game in 2012

I’ve been doing PR and marketing for both authors and small companies for over a decade now.  I have learned a lot from every campaign and every new venture I have taken on. When I think back to my most successful campaigns, they were the ones in which my clients were active participants in both the brainstorming stage and the execution. They were the ones that were ready to put their names and faces out there.  It is impossible to raise an author’s brand recognition and boost sales of books without the author being fully ready to catapult him/herself into the spotlight.

Business here at RTC is growing. It’s a combination of doing good work and getting valued referrals and the fact that there is a higher demand for the work I do. In September 2010, Alice Jackson guest blogged for me. She started her post with this statistic: 

“The need for public relations professionals is expected to increase by 24 percent, a greater increase than any other profession, until 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.” 

I believed it at the time but now I am seeing it in action. I will speak specifically to the publishing industry even though this fact can be applied to just about any field in need of good representation.  When I started at Penguin in 2001, there were so many campaigns on my plate.  I quickly noticed the ones that garnered the best results were the ones with authors who politely spoke up—offered their ideas and wish lists – the authors who were the most engaged.  While many say the industry has been in crisis for years (at least as long as I’ve been marketing books) claiming that there are more books and authors than media outlets for coverage, I no longer think that is true.  What we are seeing now is actually progress. There ARE even more authors than before, but finally the avenues to promote them seem equal to the challenge.  In 2001, blogs were not around.  Social media was a glimmer in innovators minds. Now we have all of this and we need qualified professionals dedicated to managing all the mediums for marketing authors’ great work.

Traditionally published, indie authors, e-book authors and self-published authors are all finally on even playing field. The leg up for anyone is having a team in place to market—which is when they often come to me. Going it alone is not recommended.  Until the author makes the conscious decision to self-promote, it can be overwhelming to think about. Often, authors are introverts. Creative minds that like to spend their time writing, which is generally best accomplished, you guessed it: alone.  To be a good writer and a good promoter is often a dichotomy that can be hard to bridge. This is why having a marketing team or a PR specialist is so important.  BUT, the best results will be achieved if the author is engaged and willing to promote him or herself.  Once that decision is made, there is a very exciting period, filled with limitless possibility. But the work is really just beginning. It is my job to open opportunities for my authors but it is up to them to seize these opportunities and close the deal.

In October I went to the Novelists, Inc, conference. It was filled with mostly big house multi-published authors.  Some authors had 20 or more books under their belt but were just learning about self-promotion.  It was a packed 5 days of marketing knowhow. By the time my panel arrived that Saturday, the authors were overwhelmed.  They had no doubt learned a lot in a very short period of time. But as I always say, it’s important to keep learning, keep your mind agile and open to new possibilities in order to have the best chance at true success.

My trip toChicagoin February was so rewarding. I hosted a happy hour with all myChicagoclients new and old and met with them one on one. What made it so great was to feel the excitement! Many of my authors are investing in self-promotion for the first time. They have lots of questions. The key to success for an author is:  to learn about the service you are paying for, be engaged in the process and have patience. I believe in ROI (Return on Investment). However, the formula for book sales is different for each book. It takes trying a lot of things to get a winning combo.  Sometimes I see results right away and sometimes it can take as long as a year for a campaign to bear fruit. But there is always a break if we keep our eye on the goal.

I hope you are reading this because you have entered the world of self-promotion or are thinking of doing so. It’s an exciting ride. One I love being the tour guide for.  I will be hosting more happy hours and getting to know many of you this year.  I can’t wait!

I would like to leave you with some homework. Before hiring a publicist, marketer or put a full marketing team in place, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Are you overwhelmed on the ins and outs of social marketing, blog outreach and traditional PR? Do you see more opportunities than you have time for?
  • Are you scratching your head at the 3 terms I just asked you about?
  • Do you need guidance navigating this new world?
  • Are you looking to garner more book sales? A bigger advance? More name recognition?
  • Has your work been well received but you feel there are more readers to reach?
  • Has someone told you branding is essential to success?
  • Do you want to tap into the e-book market?
  • Are you willing to invest in the short term for long term success?
  • Are you patient?
  • Are you ready for the work that will be created by an active campaign?

This blog post is dedicated to two of my best self-promoters:

1)      Tina Folsom who came to me with a lot of self-promotion under her belt and takes a brainstorming session very seriously. She certainly doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet!

2)      Sam Reaves who made the leap to hire me in January. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed he came to the Chicago happy hour interested in learning the ins and outs of Facebook.  We couldn’t tackle it that night but now he’s on the right track!


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“I was Limited by Genre”

Back in November I was in Chicago visiting family. As you know from previous blog pots, my niece Shea, is a big reader who puts even the consummate bookworms, my sister and me, to shame. I usually find her engrossed in very thick books more appropriate for a high-school-er than a third-grader!

One night after dinner, homework time arrived. Shea was working on a book report. She waltzed out of her bedroom with a book and it looked quite lean for my niece’s taste. I said, “Shea, isn’t that book a little too thin for you?” Her response, “I have to write a book report and I was limited by genre.” The book was The Mystery of Lilac Inn. Apparently more advanced mysteries are not appropriate for her 8-year old malleable mind.

“I was limited by genre.” Does that not make you laugh? First, I was shocked at the seriousness of her tone and then, knowing youth today, I was shocked that the term “genre” was in her vocabulary even though I use the word on a daily basis! Hey, maybe she’ll grow up to be a book publicist! An aunt can dream!

And it got me thinking, do we all limit ourselves by genre?  Would you categorize yourself as a reader of thrillers, crime fiction, romance or literary novels only, please? If you are an author do you stick to one genre or are you able to write each new novel with fresh eyes and limitless creativity?  I am always fascinated by authors that seem to be able to effortlessly straddle the genre lines. Their voice is apparent in each new novel, though the subject matter and genre may vary wildly!  How do they do that?

As many of you know, I recently did a promotion for Kent Harrington, Libby Fischer Hellmann and Pascal Marco for a free Kindle Fire. Contestants were required to read one book by each author and post reviews on Amazon of each title. All three are thriller authors-yet all very unique. Some contestants couldn’t get enough and read other works by these three stars. Some of those readers I would categorize them as “thriller readers” and some more as “literary.” A few readers/contestants didn’t like the books – didn’t take to them, and I could only speculate that these folks were “limited by genre”- i.e. they’re not your average thriller reader – or at least not as open to that genre as others.  I consider all three titles to be high quality pieces of work so perhaps, as Shea so eloquently put it, they were “limited by genre.” 

It is important to reach the reader. And when discussing genre, authors (and publicists) must try to reach the ones that DO like their specific genre. That said, we also must spend time trying to reach new readers – those who don’t limit themselves by genre and take after Shea who is bright-eyed and bushy tailed and has an open mind to each new book, as if each is a new adventure. 

What’s Shea Reading?

Since then Shea has read The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, War Horse  by Michael Morporgo (apparently the movie is not appropriate for an 8 year old but the book is) and The Horse and his Boy (Narnia) by C.S. Lewis. My sister might have the highest book expense bill in a 100 mile radius of her home. Sometimes the library doesn’t cut it.



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Public Relations Myth Busters 101

Today I’d like to answer (publicly) a question I have received countless times throughout the 10+ years I’ve been in this business. When brainstorming ideas for this month’s newsletter topic, I thought now was as good a time as any to put it out there! I am sure it is something you have all come across over your own careers. Knowing the answer will make you even savvier and save a lot of frustration for your marketing team.

It is something that’s come up in both book and non-book related PR and publicity. Here’s the scenario: a story is broken in a media outlet like CNN. The story pertains to client A. Client A then comes to me and asks THE question: “Can you take this, circulate it to the media and get me more coverage?” Answer: No. It simply does not work that way. Especially when we are working with outlets that compete for certain coverage. It simply is not good business for the publicist to be the one circulating the story. Media players (reporters, editors and producers) are constantly reading, watching and listening to other media outlets. It is how they get leads for their own stories. The hope is they find out about your story and seek me out (or whoever is handling your media) to do the story for their media outlet and not vice-versa. Bottom-line—getting coverage on one media outlet is not enough for me to issue a breaking news press release. Past coverage IS important and we can highlight it on future press materials but it is not cause to suddenly reach out to the media.

Now, that does not mean getting a story on one media channel does not help you get more coverage—it does. What is beautiful in 2011 is that we have all these social marketing channels available to us to circulate the good news! This is a huge megaphone of a media outlet available to you for free! If you have active and vibrant social media profiles (on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter etc.) and you have a good following, you can help a story go viral with the goal of a media player taking note and getting in touch for your latest feature or review. Even if you don’t get additional press coverage in another media outlet, the story has reached potentially thousands of more people through your own (small) effort. Which is no (small) feat.

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THE E-BOOK ERA: A Memoir, sneak peek by Rebecca T. Crowley

I am a book publishing industry insider, and I survived the dawn of the e-book era.  How?  By staying calm! Imagine that! So many have been surrounded by chaos and panic, but not me.  And I’ll tell you why.  But first, please note the picture. This is my niece, Shea, reading at a recent family dinner in Illinois.  She’s reading a printed book. She has not yet converted to an e-reader though she does enjoy my sister’s Nook Color. Do note, despite the huge soda in front of her—her concentration is not shattered in the middle of a family function. This shows that people are still reading and it’s a warm fuzzy feeling to see a child read with such intensity, pleasure and concentration.

Today's young reader

Now, surviving the dawn of the e-reader: I have read it countless times: The printed book will not die.  It cannot die.  And despite my love of the printed book, I know that they will be on their way out – eventually – as the world becomes more and more digital.   It will not happen overnight, nothing does, but the digital era is here and future generations will know the e-reader as their “go to.”  They’ll “borrow” from libraries by downloading the library’s books to their e-reader.  College students won’t have to buy textbooks and stand in line at their book store – they’ll simply download the necessary texts from a website. In fact, some are already doing it!  The statement: “the printed book will not die” is made out of fear – that books – stories, tales, information – will somehow disappear just because the e-book era is upon us.  But I disagree.

Life is all about change.  My senior thesis in college was on the history of the printed book. You don’t see anyone pulling out a scroll made of parchment or deer hide on the subway, do you? But they remain in museums and historical libraries all over the world for the “bookies” among us to enjoy.  Similar with ancient books and texts.  Has anyone read The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks?  This novel traces the ownership and origin of a book through history and reminds us that books will always be with us.  Despite the change in format, one constant remains: people are still reading, still loving books, still sharing the love of reading and favorite authors with others.

As a voracious reader and lover of books, those are my thoughts.  Now to speak as the publicist I am. I made a vow,  perhaps a proclamation, sometime back in 2010 that I would blaze the trail on e-book promotion. I had watched the various stages unfold and felt I was a witnessing history. I told a few supporters of my company, RTC Publicity (often just referred to as “RTC”) and some authors that I’d be the one to define what e-book promotion was in the new digital era.  The time has come and my faithful clients and confidants held me to it.  So here I am sharing with you my journey.

I approached Foreword in 2010 to write an article on e-book promotion though it didn’t run because they felt I didn’t give enough away. It’s a competitive world out there and while everyone is panicking I am staying calm, doing my research, collaborating with phenomenal authors and publishing professionals—and keeping all my e-book proprietary knowledge under lock and key until now because I know it’s valuable. The traditional PR route and the traditional publishing route are out the window. I chose not to hang on to the past.  I chose to be part of history and be a part of raising sales for my clients in this new uncertain time.  In my upcoming book on the dawn of the e-book (to be available in print and e-reader versions!), I will share with you some cases studies. The beginnings of what were/are the first formal e-book marketing campaigns.

I have watched too many authors get chewed up and spit out by the traditional publishing machine. That’s two-fold. Simply put, it’s the legacy publishers being understaffed and not able to serve the promotion needs of authors. At the same time, selfishly, they aren’t advising them to go elsewhere—they aren’t letting them know there are people like me out there to help (for not a lot of money either in terms of ROI!).  Beyond the big six there are countless small houses putting out truly amazing and quality work. These publishers and their barebones staff and contractors are trying innovative things and making their mark. Many authors are making their name at small houses—or even self-publishing! (Bet you didn’t think that would happen either).  However, these small houses don’t have large promotional budgets, and often times are backed by investors-or looking for investors to fund their dreams. They may not have much money, but they have HEART and I am a big believer that heart and passion can take you a very long way.

One of the biggest problems with e-book promotion that I’ve been tackling is that there is a huge disconnect between when e-books come out and when promotion can happen.  With e-books coming out so fast, there is not enough time to book the promotion to coincide with the pub date as we do with the printed book. Does that make any sense? In the promotional world it does not. LEAD TIME is necessary. The outlets that promote e-books do not lend themselves to that. Furthermore, there are a LOT of e-books being published and compared to outlets that review printed books; comparatively there are only a handful of e-book review sites.  This is a second problem with e-book promotion but one I hope that the e-reading industry is already seeking to fix. I see many authors collectively working themselves to fix this problem.

Take it a step further. Amazon is the #8 site in the world for EVERYTHING. Think about how that affects books.  Essentially we’re dealing with a monopoly. And with more neighborhood bookstores closing, people are turning Amazon. In my own home town of Hoboken (right across the Hudson!), Barnes & Noble shut down. There is no book store within walking distance of my home aside from a used bookstore that unfortunately does not meet my needs.  Further, the majority of the sites that review e-books are Kindle specific. Kindle Nation Daily and Kindle Boards being the 2 biggest. So, in order to sell books, I have to go against my training of keeping all the booksellers happy and promote the Kindle edition of any given e-book. In order to purchase a promotion on these sites you need a special number: the ASIN number. Publishers do not get that number until the book drops on Amazon. So here we have the chicken and the egg theory. Book is out, we have the ASIN and NOW we can promote. Makes zero sense.

It’s making it harder and harder for authors to do things on their own with any kind of organization. It’s forcing authors to hire out. I have “ins” at these review sites. They’ll hold a spot for me without the ASIN. This, just by me giving them repeat business, gives us the opportunity to have some lead time to play with. A solution for now, but in the long term there will need to be significant realignment.

That’s all for now – but I will continue to share my adventures in the e-book era. Stay tuned!  I hope all you book lovers out there will consider reading more when my book is out. And so I leave you with a quote (or it just wouldn’t be me):

“The world must be all f*cked up when men travel first class and literature goes as freight.” – Catalan bookstore owner in Macondo in 100 Years of Solitude  

Let’s change that together!


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From Reader to Writer

It is said that a good writer must be “well read.” In order for an author to find his or her place in the industry, they must know what they like. I am an insatiable reader, as you all know. I read for work and pleasure and can often be found reading multiple books at once. I carry around a big cloth tote bag, filled with books I may be in the mood to read at any given moment and of course with many manuscripts on my Sony e-reader, always right in tow. I have the “well read” part covered.

I have a small, yet loyal (thank you!) readership here on the RTC Publicity blog. I value that tremendously but have never considered myself as a writer, per se. The blog has evolved over the years. It started with a few spontaneous postings back in mid-2009. Sometime in 2010 I became more dedicated to the blog, and began posting more regularly. In looking back, I’ve been able to see my writing mature over time—and I know it will continue to be refined, honed and matured as I continue to write – really finding my voice both in style and content. And in case you think I’m being a bit too self-aware, other close RTC supporters regularly request a sneak peak of my next piece, be it for this blog or a guest spot I have recently attained. And my loyal following, week after week, gives me feedback, usually positive. A hey “Thanks for writing this. I’ll send it along.” Best compliment you can get—that a reader found it worthy of sharing with someone else. That said, perhaps the biggest compliment I’ve ever received was when an author used my first blog post on the crisis of traditional publishing to spur discussion in a university class he was teaching. So slowly I have realized people are reading what I am writing. Maybe it’s my style, maybe it’s my content or maybe it’s simply everyone’s loyalty to me, but people are reading what I write and that is rewarding!

I am good at writing short pieces, and summarizing longer reads. I write short, punchy pieces – for my blog, for other outlets and for my work: I read novels and sum them up in one page to entice the media. It’s an acquired, unique, but a necessary skill. I never thought of engaging in “writing” much past that, even after the blog started to take off and other organizations approached me to write for them. Then I joined the International Women’s Writers Guild (IWWG) and attended their writers’ conference at Yale as a one-day commuter on June 25th after the urging of a close friend. I thought I would meet more authors, meet some of the women of IWWG, maybe do some networking for future work and call it a day. What I found was something very different. Immediately when I walked in to registration on Yale’s beautiful, world-renowned campus, I felt at home with these women – felt a part of something bigger than me. I was introduced to a few people as I researched which workshops I’d be attending and then a miraculous thing happened, simply miraculous.

I introduced myself for the first time ever as a writer: “I’m Rebecca Crowley, yes, I’m a writer.” I don’t know even where it came from, it seemed unbidden – unprompted – it just was true, and therefore came out! I felt something click on in that moment. I know this may sound “new agey” but I truly believe that life is a journey, and wherever my path may lead, this is a moment I will not so soon forget. It felt insanely freeing. A different part of my identity revealed.

Some of you already know this – I already am working on a book – a memoir on the e-book era. I’ve been sort of stuck although what I have on paper so far is pretty good. All my closest advisors have said it just has to be a memoir. It’s too soon for anyone to be an expert in the realm of e-books. So many things are being tested. HOWEVER, my experience in the e-book era is singular and unique and I have an interesting story to share of my ten years in the book industry. After attending the writers’ conference and taking a memoir writing workshop called “Shimmering Images” by Lisa Dale Norton, I realized there is a specific process to this format. Now I know and I can continue on with my work.

What I found at the IWWG conference were a lot of eager women writers without big egos genuinely looking to help each other out and genuinely dedicated to improving their own craft of writing. It’s a journey, not a destination and we must always be aware of that. There is always room for improvement. The camaraderie at this conference reminded me why I do what I do. I love authors and creative spirits—and I know it takes work. It is not easy to create a work of fine art from scratch, let alone get it published. I have tremendous respect for anyone who tries and I’ve met so many that come to me ready to take it to the next level. And for that, my friends and readers, I am grateful every day.

And I’m humbled. I’m humbled by the moment I said “I’m Rebecca Crowley, a writer.” Not quite ready to assume the “author” title but enjoying the sojourn. Furthermore, I’d have nothing to write if I have not had a chance to reflect on what I have read. Hence, the title “reader turned writer.”

I would love to hear stories of your own path. There must be a moment for everyone throughout his or her career where that switch is turned on and a new identity is formed. Please share it here, so others (and I) can be further inspired!


Filed under Publishing, Reading and Writing

From Ulcers to Audio by Libby Fischer Hellmann

I was diagnosed with ulcers in February, and I know the exact day they started to form. It was the day I realized the entire way I’d been marketing my books over the past 10 years had, in the digital e-book age, had become obsolete. I remember realizing that I’d have to learn a totally new way of promoting:  all online, all “soft” marketing, all very time-consuming.

Not the thing a hard-charging, results-oriented former PR person wants to hear.

Four months later, the ulcers are – thankfully –gone, and I’m feeling better about marketing, too. I went “back to school” (metaphorically) to learn the ABCs of e-book promotion. I teamed up with a couple of writers’ groups to share the load; started keeping tabs and submitting my books to new websites and blogs like Daily Cheap Reads and Kindle Nation Daily, as well as other emerging gatekeeper sites; polished my Facebook fan page; started using Twitter more; joined a couple of blogs; plus a hundred other things that, by trial and error, I’m either continuing to do or I have abandoned it.

While without a doubt surviving in the digital age requires a lot more effort and has significantly slashed my writing productivity (at least for now), there are other perks. There is no question that the Digital Age has presented authors with opportunities that used to be only a dream.

Like producing an audiobook.

I am in the midst of producing the audio of SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, my seventh novel, and I’m having more fun than I’ve had in years—mostly because I used to be a video producer.  I worked in both corporate and broadcasting jobs – in fact, my first “real” job was at KYW news radio in Philadelphia. For me audio is “theater of the mind.” You have the voices, the effects, and the words, but you get to visualize the characters – the way they look, their expressions, their body language. It’s the bridge between reading and film, and it’s a medium I’ve always cherished. There’s just nothing like closing your eyes (as long as you’re not driving) and letting your imagination wander.

So far two of my novels and four short stories have been produced on audio. However, in each case, I’ve had to wait years for them to become available.

No more.

Now, with everything digital and online, it’s possible to produce an audiobook quickly, at a reasonable cost, and still have a professional product.  This is exactly what I am doing. No, I’m not voicing it myself – I’m not that crazy. But I have a friend – a published writer herself – who’s also an actress and whose voice is a writer’s dream come true. When she started reading a sample chapter, she read it exactly the way I wrote it, which is a testament to her talent. She changes her modulation, her volume, and her tone, depending on the character. And she does perfect accents.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I knew enough to realize that recording the book is in some ways the easiest part. The trick is to hook up with a distributor who can get it on the most popular audio download sites. While that market has coalesced – Audible, iTunes, and Amazon are the major distributors today – there are smaller venues that I wouldn’t know. However, a distributor does.  So even before we started recording I Googled “audio distributors.”: Imagine my surprise when a familiar name popped up: the wife of a friend who used to work at Mystery Bookstore of Los Angeles (RIP).

I immediately emailed my friend.

“Is this YOUR wife?” I asked.

“It is,” he said.

“How did I not know she was into audio books?” I said.
“You never asked,” he said. “She’s been doing this for years.”

We immediately connected and I emailed her a sample MP3. At the time I thought I’d be able to record on my Mac with a Snowball mic. Unfortunately, she emailed back that the quality wasn’t professional enough. Too much “noise.”

So I called an old friend who owns a video studio near my house, worked out a reasonable rate, and we started recording. We’re over half way through. The best part is that I can bring home the tape, import it into Audacity and edit each chapter. Did I ever tell you how much I love editing? Whether I’m editing words, audio, or video, I love the process of assembling raw footage, sound, or words, and creating a compelling story. What’s more, compared to film, audio is easy. Audacity makes it simple. Essentially, it’s a word processing program for sound. It even has the same commands as Word. (It’s also free, BTW). I’m able to make cuts and splices, eliminate breaths and sibilants, extend pauses, and take out unexplained clicks and clacks. It’s a very satisfying process.

We have about three weeks left to go. Then we will do a final mix with a sound engineer who’s done audio books before. After that, I’ll email the final product to my distributor who will do her thing. With luck it will available by fall.

I waited two years for the audio to EASY INNOCENCE. It will be three years for A PICTURE OF GUILT. But SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE came out last winter. Barely eight months later, it will be available as an audio book.

There are times I love technology.  This is one of those times.


Libby Fischer Hellmann is the award-winning author of the Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis mystery series, and NICE GIRL DOES NOIR, a two volume short story collection. She also edited the highly praised crime fiction anthology CHICAGO BLUES. She has lived in the Chicago area over thirty years.


Feel free to contact Libby at


See more of Libby’s work on the Outfit


Filed under Publishing, Reading and Writing

Promoting the Self-Published Author in 2011

This blog post appeared today on Lindsay Downs’ blog. Thank you to her for hosting me!

As my frequent readers know, I’ve been in the publishing industry, as both a publicist and marketer, for more than a decade.  When I first arrived on the scene as a young publicist in 2001 the term “self-published” did not exist as far as I can remember. If you wanted to get published, the traditional route was the only route. Write manuscript, get agent, sell book. Endlessly promote.  Things have changed a lot—except the “endlessly promote part.”

In 2011, we live in a world where we’ve seen people make big names for themselves through self-publishing, whether using POD, a distributor or going straight to the e-book. We’ve even seen many big name in-house authors go out on their own, realizing they can make more money if they self-publish in a world where advances are dwindling and royalties for e-books are at stake.

In July 2004, I went off on my own and did PR for a wide array of things, mostly in the lifestyle arena. But authors were always a part of my portfolio/client base. Many a self-published author, knowing my experience, came to me asking for my help and I gladly oblige.  Being a lover of books, a lover of stories and a lover of a “self-made” person, I simply had to!   Though these authors were not my clients, they were my friends and I wanted to help them promote their work.   In 2004, social marketing had not yet taken off.  Reviewers wanted no part in it. And to my surprise and chagrin “self-published” was a bad word, a one way ticket to isolating yourself as an author.

My, how times have changed! When I officially re-launched my company, RTC Publicity, in January 2010 as a book publicity firm, I was still isolated by my support of the self-published author in a field of old-school, traditional book PR thinking.  I used my big house skills, gained at Penguin and other houses, and expertise to help out small publishers.  I also began working with authors directly. As the fall of 2010 grew near, I was getting approached by more and more self-published authors realizing that “one thing” that hasn’t changed: endlessly promote and you have a winner.

When I first started at Penguin back in 2001, traditional publishing was already in crisis. There was not yet debate about the e-book but publishers were publishing more books than in the past, albeit with lower print runs, to cover their bases and make profit with bare bones staff, leaving many in the industry handling more titles than ever before in the history of publishing or the history of their careers. That crisis still remains—only now it’s being blamed on the lack of predictability of e-book sales or determining exactly what the promotion is that goes into publicizing an e-book.

In looking back at my history, in-house, out-of-house, on my own and as a voracious reader, it struck me last year. Self-published or not, the key really is to write a good book. The playing ground has evened out and those authors—of any category—those authors that realized it was up to them to take promotion in their own hands have prevailed.  I consider myself a good publicist with unique experience but in order to be successful myself, it takes a client deciding that investing in promotion is the way to go. The smart ones do.

There is talk in the industry about gate-keepers. It used to be agents, editors and publishers.  Now, in many ways we are all gate keepers. With the click of a mouse we can choose what we read and sales is the real answer.   As a company owner, I am responsible for establishing and maintaining the RTC brand. I, as marketer, have become a gatekeeper in the industry. Before I sign any new client, self-published or not, I read the book and make my own decision if there is a market for it. What I publicize I put my name behind and in the fall of 2010 I, after much soul searching on an industry in crisis, took on my first self-published work of this new era. A non-fiction book and I made a rule: I would do non-fiction self-published only where the self-published author was already gaining credibility and had somewhat of a presence. THEN in the spring of 2011 more fiction self-published authors were approaching me and I realized—actually, it’s all fair game.  A good book is a good book and regardless of who publishes it – the truth is, it’s still a matter of promotion: Public Relations: getting people to read that book.

There is one frustrating stumbling block – a hold-over from the more traditional PR/old-school thinking: reviewers will not review self-published fiction. I’ve had the conversations, it’s not because they don’t believe a self-published book can be good. There’s simply too much being published, they have to draw a line somewhere to save shelf space and keep their book pages going.  Ergo, for the self-published author the traditional route is not the way to go. The way to go is social marketing, endless hours logged. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, Shelfari, Library Thing. They’re all free and properly used, very effective in creating buzz.

We have been given a great gift in the latter years: the immediacy of social marketing and direct access to the reader. In this new era, in 2011, the reader is the real gate keeper. The reader is the one that determines your book sales so it’s MORE than time to engage them in conversation. The dedicated self-published author realizes that one thing that hasn’t changed: promotion rules. They either hire a professional or learn the game themselves.

There is no cookie cutter promotion approach for the self-published author-or any author for that matter. What is important is that we reach the reader—in as many ways as possible and give them a choice. Have faith in the work and put it out there.

I actually think that’s a beautiful thing, don’t you? The gatekeeper of publishing in 2011 is the reader. Isn’t that how it should always have been?


Filed under Media, Public Relations, Publishing, Reading and Writing

PR 2.0. Official Definition by RTC Publicity

On May 11, 2011 I celebrated my 10th anniversary as a New Yorker.  With not much more than dreams of a career in PR in the Big City, those ten years ago, I took a one-way flight from Chicago O-Hare to Laguardia and honestly, I’ve never looked back. Despite ups and downs, difficulties, transitions and more, I have never wanted anything else but to be successful in PR in the Big Apple.  I thought at this milestone, a decade into my career, I’d take stock:  reflect on where I am today—and where the industry is that I have come to know and love so well.

Last week Brenda Krueger Huffman of Axcess News messaged me on Linked-In to tell me the article she interviewed me for on “PR 2.0” in January of this year is the #1 article for social marketing—most read–of the year for this category so far on the site!  I was thrilled!  After all, Axcess News is a popular news site here in the US.   Despite taking pleasure in this accomplishment I was also a bit stumped: how could an article on PR go main stream and be of such interest?  It dawned on me that perhaps this topic needed some re-visiting.  If the general public is so interested in PR 2.0 then surely clients and prospective clients could benefit from more information on the topic – what the state of PR is in 2011 and what works and does not.

Back at the end of 2010, I had approached Brenda about doing an article on how to make it in a tough economy. She said it wasn’t juicy enough – it had already been done.  Adjusting and expanding my thinking, I took a leap of faith and pitched an article on the place of Public Relations in today’s marketplace which I named “PR 2.0” or “New PR.”  To me PR 2.0 is a combination of traditional PR as we’ve known it for decades, combined with a focus on social marketing and other multi-media, multi-faceted and “new” platforms for PR.  She was immediately taken by the idea, we did a couple interviews, she found other sources and it was a “go.”

The idea of PR 2.0 was something that had been percolating for a while. As someone who has learned everything on the fly, ideas often come from untraditional places.  In this case, in a September 27, 2010 blog post by guest Alice Jackson, she reported that “the need for public relations professionals is expected to increase by 24 percent, a greater increase than any other profession, until 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.”  I wondered, “is this the allure to the main stream media on a career usually known to be a ‘behind the scenes’ career?”  What follows are several ideas central to my definition of PR 2.0.

1) Attention to client and Aggressive, Inventive PR: On November 30, 2010, I blogged that we needed PR for PR which was meant as a rejoinder to the frustration felt by so many out there who had been burned, at one time or another, by a PR firm or publishing house that dropped the ball or minimized the importance of their needs. While there are no guaranteed results in PR, so investing in it is always somewhat of a gamble almost always the failure is not on the part of the author or client, but on the PR specialist who felt their work wasn’t a priority – didn’t listen to the client and didn’t give the client an adequate chance. They didn’t work aggressively or pursue various leads zealously on behalf of the client.  An approach, that I do not think is too much to ask of someone being paid for promoting work that they believe in, with no guarantees of return on their investment!

2) Attention to Media Outlets: we must no longer spam the media. A personalized approach across the board is necessary. No more blasting emails. I’ve said many times, I’d rather send 20 quality pitches out a day than blast 250 (or whatever figure you want to put here).  More pitches do not equal more press – they often mean no press!  Further, there are more outlets than ever: blogs, for instance – who require a different personalized approach than an outlet like The New York Times.  To continue this example, Bloggers want to know that you’ve read their work, not that they are just another name on a list.  Yes, it’s true that they have also been burnt by publicists, and are tired of impersonal, robotic telephone and email pitches.

3) There’s no such thing as a “social media expert” – Just as I was conceiving this blog post, I received a call from my client Greg Schwem. He emailed me this piece on how there is no such things as a social media expert.  He wanted my opinion on it.  I completely agreed. Too many people have taken advantage of companies and people simply by saying they are expert at social marketing simply because they know how to use the new technology in Web 2.0.  A foundation in traditional PR and marketing is necessary, as is knowledge of how to use Web 2.0 technology, in order to be successful in properly marketing anything – via any outlet – at all.  PR 2.0 is an integration of skill sets and knowledge.

Folks, as PR specialists, we are no longer just delivering messages to as many people as possible, as many in the field have been trained to do.  Claiming social marketing expertise demands both a background in traditional PR and an awareness and appreciation of all the new outlets in which to market for our clients.   In the “PR 2.0” we are engaging audiences, clients and the media.   We are coming at them in a million directions. In the end we want them to read our book, comment on our blog, interact with us on Facebook, connect with us on Linked-In and re-tweet our precious thoughts.  We are working to market our clients in every outlet appropriate.  And we are personalizing our pitches and making them relevant to the media audiences we hope will report on our “product”.  It seems basic to me – how about you?

I’d love to hear your comments on this topic. Why do you think it is Axcess News’ #1 social marketing article of the year?


Filed under Branding, Discovering Technology, Public Relations, Social Marketing

The State of the Traditional Publishing Industry Part II by Rebecca Crowley of RTC Publicity

Being in the “book biz,” each day I have conversations with authors, publishers, agents and others.  Daily I read newsletters, books, articles and other industry publications. I hear from countless sources and perspectives, and essentially spend my time developing my expertise, learning as much as I can, and brainstorming and thinking of ways to best assist my clients in achieving their dreams and goals in terms of their books. I am an author advocate to the bone. Whether working on the “inside” at Penguin, or having struck out on my own to found RTC Publicity, this has always been my M.O.   In 2011, I think it is safe to say that the woes and confusion of my authors are many and I spend my time not only determining how to best market their books but also, figuring ways I can help make their lives easier, and to help them navigate the unchartered and unpredictable waters of what is traditional publishing in spring 2011: an industry in crisis.

Last time I wrote about this on my blog I had just come back from the Love is Murder mystery Conference in Chicago back in February (I  also wrote about it in October 2010 on the Novelists Inc. blog). A couple of weeks ago I attended the Malice Mystery Convention in Bethesda, MD. At both I met with authors of mine, old and new clients. I also had many conversations—with fans, industry insiders, authors and others. I came back and found my experience and the way I had been operating had been validated. Authors need help navigating the muddy waters of the industry—published or not. Houses are supposed to be the leaders—and we look to the Big 6 but we’re finding that either they don’t have the answers or they aren’t sharing it with those that need it.  Authors, small houses – they need some guidance as to what outlets to pursue –the field is saturated – how do you best spend limited resources to get your book into the hands of as many as possible?

Another phenomenon I’d been sensing was also concretized after these conferences: Everyone in this industry is panicking. “E-books are killing traditional books!  Ack! We’re all going down! Oh the book is dying.” THIS IS NOT THE CASE.  Let me repeat that- “THIS IS NOT THE CASE.” Those that are panicking and not thinking—they are the ones in serious crisis. Those that stay calm, come up with a plan with trusted advisors, and recognize the variety of opportunities to reach new readers that e-books present – they will rise to the top. There are many opportunities to be had. It’s time to research, assess, plan and take advantage.  Seize the day!  Carpe diem!

I was particularly struck by this when working on a project for author Kent Harrington. Together his team and I are working on the marketing and PR for a 5 book e-book series he’s releasing with Diversion. Together we have developed a multi-faceted/multi-channel marketing plan which I believe has set him up for success. In our pre-campaign work, and brainstorming, the first question I asked myself is “who is reviewing e-books right now?”  Thinking that information would be crucial to have I took the natural next step…I asked the reviewers.  I chose my top 204 reviewers from both traditional outlets and blogs and sent them a quick survey to determine if they were reviewing e-books along with a few other questions I had for them as to their role in this rapidly evolving and growing area of publishing.

What did I found out? It seems, based on the responses, which were NUMEROUS, that no other house, agent, publicist, author—anyone whose job it is to promote books-had stopped and asked them this simple question! I was dumbfounded. I have a master spreadsheet that I am keeping under lock and key because I truly believe that this information is going to prove invaluable over the next 6 months. The majority haven’t switched over. But I’d say that whilst only 10% of reviewers have begun to review e-Books, roughly 30% have plans to do so.  This information will be incredibly valuable as the e-Book market grows and develops –the industry will have to respond by building it into their plans.  Reviewers will miss the boat if they close themselves off to this market.  And I feel as though Kent is one step ahead of the game by already knowing the 10% that are reviewing – and having this valuable information in our pocket.

What I have learned from all of this? We don’t have to be in crisis if we don’t want to be. Ask the questions to the right people. Don’t be afraid. There are answers to be had if you are persistent. My exercise with the reviewers furthered my belief that the information we crave is out there. We’ll never know it is until we search for it. Be ACTIVE, not PASSIVE.

And as always—don’t be afraid to dream big. Those that can envision their success often reach their goals. Maybe not overnight but the greatest victories came from a series of small steps forward.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”—Mark Twain


Filed under Public Relations, Publishing, Reading and Writing

Toni is as popular as ever

Caught up with Toni L. P. Kelner

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Filed under Publishing