The Roles of Marketing and Publicity in Publishing


As a publicist for authors I frequently confront confusion about the role of marketing in the publishing business. It comes from the general association of marketing with sales, which is erroneous. Anyone who has worked in marketing knows that when you apply for a marketing position with many firms the entry level job is in sales. Sure, a little front line experience in the trenches is good for rounding out a marketing professional’s understanding of how the complete picture of a business culminates in an actual transaction. But marketing is a strategic exercise while sales is completely tactical execution

With regard to books, marketing is a strategic phase of promoting a book through many different channels. As a publicist I am involved in some planning in the development of a marketing plan. Publicity is definitely a part of the larger picture of getting the word out about a book. Some of that involves pitching events and scheduling interviews. But most publicists are involved in finding wrinkles in the promotional landscape that can be exploited to gain singular attention for the author he or she represents. Often that involves thinking outside of the box and going well beyond what is usually considered in a marketing plan.

You see, most marketing people receive the same kind of training whether at college or in the field. Strategic decisions about promotion, presentation, packaging and pricing are the major part of that. Promotion includes advertising and public relations aspects of communication with and through the media. In the publishing world these days there are millions of new authors vying for attention in exactly he same way through the exact same channels. To the press it must seem like everyone on Earth has just written a new novel. The publicists task in all that is finding some way to make noise of present his or her author in a way that draws maximum attention.

Sometimes authors gain attention for the wrong reasons and publicists get involved in spinning the event in some way to minimize the damage or, in a few cases, turning it into an benefit. For example, if an author makes a controversial statement or gets involved in some newsworthy event in a negative way. But for the most part authors don’t seem to gather much attention or focus without some assistance.

In order to gain the attention of electronic and print media a publicist much find some way to present his or her author in a way attractive for making a story. Some question to consider are:

What is it about a particular author that stands out?
What are his or her personal interests or hobbies?
What causes does he or she support?
Besides writing, is he or she an expert in any other field?

More directly, what else does he or she do besides writing?

A publicist may work for a publisher on behalf of an author or he or she may be contracted directly by the author. In either case a publicist creates opportunities for the author to promote his or her author’s brand. The actual sale depends on a culmination of all marketing strategies int he final transition, selling the book – which is completely an interaction that is in some way always part of the connection established directly between the author and the reader.


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