The Beautiful World of Publicity

Free is a very good price. That is one of the key advantages of publicity, as everyone in publishing knows.

Why does this work? Because, as our friend Tom Woll says in Publishing for Profit, book publishers “are information and content providers . . . [who] have the very material that these media outlets need for their own survival” (p. 207).

One recent development in getting free space in newspapers and magazines is (ironically) that they are struggling. Because they are cutting staff (reporters, writers and editors), shortcuts are always welcome. So book publishers who provide, for example, “feature articles” ready to go and at no cost are often quite appealing.

Of course generating publicity is not entirely free to a publisher. An in-house or out-of-house publicist will need to be paid. Even sending out “free” books is not free; the print cost of the book and mailing costs can add up. But generally the reviews and other publicity such mailings generate will be much less expensive than an equivalent amount of paid advertising.

While not everything will be appropriate for every publisher, here are some other ideas from Woll worth considering:

* “The key is to . . . build relationships so you become known as the source of experts who can consistently provide these media outlets with what they need when they need it” (p. 207).

* “Use freelance, or contract, publicists, on a per job basis, and not on a monthly retainer. . . . If things go well you can always extend the project and engagement” (p. 209).

* “If, after a while, you . . . don’t begin to see reviews [published in a particular periodical], don’t be afraid to call the reviewer and ask what’s wrong. It may be as simple as her not getting the books; it may be that she doesn’t like what you’re sending. . . . Don’t become antagonistic toward the reviewer. Establish a dialogue” (p. 214).

* “Without the [author] questionnaire, the publicity effort can be crippled. This is why I recommend the questionnaire be filled out at contract signing, when everyone is enthusiastic . . . and . . . thinking about how best to promote it” (p. 217).

* “If you spend $5,000 to book one large city [for an author tour], you’ll probably have to sell at least that number of books to break even” (p. 221). That’s probably why author tours have largely fallen out of favor in the industry. They are worthwhile for only the very highest-profile authors. But if you do one, you can trim expenses if

–a TV show will pay some or all of the travel expenses
–the author travels a lot on business or for speaking engagements and can cover expenses for media opportunities you arrange
–the author lives in a larger city where local stations provide national feeds

You need the media. The media need you. That’s the beautiful world of publicity.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

4 thoughts on “The Beautiful World of Publicity”

  1. Andy,
    I was sorry to see a story about Zondervan losing jobs yesterday but thought you would want to see it.

    May 28, 2008
    Zondervan Cuts Jobs
    Christian publisher eliminates 18 positions, including several executive spots, in reorganization.
    By Susan Wunderink

    I am glad you all at IVP are not reporting similar things. I enjoy the blog and Behind the Books as well. I have talked with Joel Scandrett a bit at conferences and at Duke.

    I also just wanted to affirm this post about publicity.

    A few comments:

    (1) I am surprised to find that sometimes the information about a book is incorrect at – like no product description. (I sent a note to Zondervan recently about Biblical Greek Survival Kit which I recently noticed had no product description but they have now corrected it). I sometimes send corrections (“update product info” at Amazon) when I notice the author’s name or the subtitle of the book isn’t correct.

    (2) I also affirm that it is relationship. For many of the IVP books, I think it would be worth being in touch with the 80 Top Church Leader Blogs (in my opinion).

    But just sending out books and not knowing whether they will be reviewed is a waste. It is better if the author can personally ask or write a note respectively asking for reviews. Even if reviews are somewhat critical, I think pretty much all publicity is good publicity. Hopefully people will think your book is good but it is worse if they have never even heard of it.

    John Stackhouse of Regent College is a good example of someone who has good relationships with a variety of media people who call him to comment on things. He says, though, that they never ask about his books, only for him to comment about what he thinks will happen in the future. His wife tells him, “You are a better historian than a futurist” but he still tries to help out the reporters.

    I hope you have a books display at the Catalyst Conference (if they allow that kind of thing). They are hippest thing going for influential young church leaders.

    (3) I also agree the publishers and editors tend to produce outstanding content in comparison to the junk produced on the web. I am as web savvy as they get and there is some good stuff published (see my list of the best 80 church leader blogs – most of them are already published) but in general the quality is incredibly low in comparison to what is published. I’m sad to say though that many books never get read and lots of stuff on the internet does. I keep wondering if someone will make available for instance quality commentaries on the web. At an evangelical seminary, there are about 10 outstanding ones per biblical book, and yet on the web people are using the dated (1706-1811) Matthew Henry’s Commentary. Though I give credit to IVP for putting some commentary on Bible Gateway though it is still very weak:
    See my post about Bible Study Tools but no commentaries available at:

    IVP is fortunate to have someone thinking strategically about publishing. May you produce quality books and publicize them wisely and with integrity.

    all the best,


    Andy Rowell
    Doctor of Theology Student
    Duke Divinity School
    Durham, North Carolina

  2. Andy

    Thanks for your extensive and helpful comments. Of course I am biased to think that editors really do help with quality control. The advantage of the web is that it is wide open and hyper-democratic. The disadvantage is that it is difficult to sort find the wheat in the midst of stacks and stacks of chaff. That’s where it is helpful to have a trusted website or blog that can point readers to quality pieces elsewhere on the web.

    Thanks again.


  3. As one of IVP’s in-house publicists, I’d like to affirm this post as well (albeit a little late, but I was busy promoting our authors!). The only point that made me a little nervous was the one about contacting reviewers directly; in my experience one should be very careful in how and when one contacts harried reviewers and editors. While I fully support the authors being proactive, this would be one instance where I would want to ensure that if the author proceeds to do this, it is done in a very tactful, humble and considerate manner. I have known authors to burn bridges with media by their overenthusiastic or unrelenting follow-up.

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