Posted On October 17, 2013 by Print This Post

The Internet and You: Digital Publicity for Genre-Authors with HarperCollins Publicist Caroline Perny

We’re pleased to welcome Caroline Perny to the RU campus! A publicist with Avon Books (HarperCollins), Caroline talks about digital publicity for indie and traditionally published authors. 

Great to have you with us, Caroline!

So, you just sold your first book. Or maybe you decided to self-publish. Or hell, maybe you haven’t even finished writing it yet, but you’re still asking yourself this question: “what next?” It’s a good one; now that the age of the internet is upon us, readers can get their hands on literally any kind of book within seconds…so what’s to make them choose yours? Books don’t sell themselves, and after authors (and editors) go through the Herculean task of writing and polishing up an amazing story, still more work needs to be done to get the right book (yours!) to the readers who will love it.

Caroline PernyI’ve been working in publicity at Avon for a little over a year now. Specifically, my “thing” is digital publicity, especially when it comes to genre-fiction. Genre-fiction has always been my one true love, and actually, genre and digital go hand-in-hand. Something that bears mentioning is that a publicity plan for a literary fiction book might not be such a great fit for a genre fiction book, and vice-versa. As it happens, romance and sci-fi and fantasy and all that good stuff—they have a strong base online.

Blogs and digital communities spring up because they want to discuss which Duke the charming governess should chose to marry, or why bikers make better boyfriends than doctors (or not), or whether it’s sexy when vampires sparkle—and, most importantly, people share. Books, recommendations, tidbits and fun facts about authors, the digital sphere is a mecca of information about what your next read should be, from a sea of reliable, like-minded people (and I’m not talking about Wikipedia).

One of the things I love about digital publicity is that this is something that is available to everyone, no matter whether or not they’re a mega-bestseller, or whether they’re a first-timer going the route of self-publishing. However, now’s the part of post where I give a brief little disclaimer: yes—you can do your own publicity, and you absolutely should. But in order to give a book the PR attention it really needs (and still have time to write your next book and, you know…live), your best course of action is a publicist. They know what’s worth your time and what’s not—and more importantly, that is their job, and thus, they have inside knowledge, important connections, and the work-time to dedicate to you and your book.

Having said that, it’s up to any author to work in tandem with their publicist; with some effort and creativity, you can make the internet your playground. In fact, we’ve already seen this play out: look at New Adult novels. Authors like Molly McAdams and Jay Crownover started out by self-publishing…and they hit the New York Times bestseller lists. Their books are amazing, and compulsively readable, and that’s certainly a part of why they’ve enjoyed so much continued success—but these two ladies absolutely put the work in beforehand by building up their Facebook and Twitter followings, blog hopping and doing some grassroots outreach to get in touch with their fans.

So yes, publicity includes scoring sweet TV and radio interviews, and setting up fabulous tours and signings for authors, getting major review coverage—but you have to walk before you crawl, and the internet is a pretty great place to start cutting your author-teeth (I believe those are located somewhere behind the wisdom teeth…). So keep an eye out for new, trend-setting sites, for new modes of getting a book “out there” that are all the rage (I’m looking at your, cover reveal trend!). Or ask a publicist. Do blog tours, blog stops and blog hops (digital cardio, anyone?), do Q&As, guest posts, and make nice with the community that you’re trying to break into. Skype, e-mail, g-chat—really get to what’s going on in your little world! Once you’ve got a strong base digitally, you can expand upon it. And don’t be afraid to be creative; anything new is worth trying once, because that just may be what sets you aside from your peers.

avon_high_res_pinkOf course, if you have a publicist, they’ll do a lot of this with and for you. While authors need to spend most of their time author-ing, publicists get paid to spend their time publicist-ing—and they also do this for a living, so keeping track of every new trend, coming up with bizarre giveaway ideas and strange blog posts for you to write is not only our bread and butter, it’s yours too. Ultimately, though, my point is that if you know your fan-base, you’ll be able to make the most of your time and energy. Let’s say you don’t like writing blog posts so much, or you’re on a deadline and can only do so many Q&As before your editor starts to get antsy; then it’s for you (or for your publicist, if you have one), to figure out what will get you the most bang for your buck.

Here are some good ways to get started:

  • Blog Tours: These are just about my favorite things, and they can be tailor-made to match your likes and dislikes and particular skills. Each day for as long (or as short) a time period as you want, you can go to a different blog and do a guest post or interview, or have them post a promo and blurb about your book, or an excerpt, or a giveaway, or a playlist, or a…well, you get the idea. Sky’s the limit with these. Your publicist can set one up for you, or you can always reach out to Blog Tour companies—there are a ton of them, each with a different network of bloggers to reach out to.
  • Giveaways: It’s a fact of life that people love free stuff, and while many readers may discover you through more mundane means, many others may simply just see that a giveaway of yours is being hosted on their favorite blog, and the thrill of possibly winning may be all they need to get the idea of your book into their minds—and that’s not a bad thing. Alternately, a devoted fan of yours may be the winner, and isn’t that just a great reward for a super-fan? As for what to giveaway…well, anything, really. E-Readers pre-loaded with your books are a nice safe bet, but I think thematic giveaways are really fun and special. For example. Jennifer Ryan’s new book, Chasing Morgan, involves a heroine who is a psychic. So we’re giving away a reading with a psychic!
  • Social Media: This is a fairly unimaginative thing to say on my part, but it’s an important one. A lot of readers get news about new book releases from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads—the whole lot of ‘em. So build up your presence on these. It’s a slow-and-steady kind of process, but worth it. Through social media, you can interact directly with your readers, and let them see exactly what kind of a person you are. Be warned, though: don’t just talk about yourself and your books. Fans appreciate the reminder that you’ve got a new release in a few days, or that your excited about a new chapter you just wrote…but they also want to see you as more than a vague, writerly concept, all hunched up, typing at the computer furiously. They’d like to get a better idea of who you are, so don’t be shy, and use social media to interact with them!

Really, what I’m saying is, the internet is more than a nice place to watch cat videos and email inappropriate GIFs to your friends while they’re at work; it’s also a great place to find, build, nurture, and expand an amazing base of readers. So go for it, and feel free to ask your questions (or to share your cat videos…I love ‘em too!).

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What digital publicity methods have you used to promote your books and build a readership?  

Author Tracey Devlyn presents ”The Death of a Series? Nah.” on Friday, October 18th. 

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Bio: Caroline Perny is an Assistant Publicist at HarperCollins, where she works with romance, erotica, sci-fi/ fantasy, and everything in between. She’s always loved books, especially the kind where warrior princesses become best friends with dragons and need no rescuing whatsoever…and still fall in love with prince charming. After getting her Masters Degree in Publishing, she decided to work in book publicity, so more people would know all about the books she loves, but mostly so she could hang out with the authors who tell her favorite stories.

 

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15 Responses to “The Internet and You: Digital Publicity for Genre-Authors with HarperCollins Publicist Caroline Perny”

  1. Thank you for your post Caroline! I too am a lover of genre fiction, and am struggling to fit my WIP into a commercial niche. I see that you work with both romance and erotica, and my question is this: when does an historical romance cross the line into erotica? My WIP is a time-travel romance with some steamy sex, but sex is not the central theme of the story.

    Posted by Anne-Marie | October 17, 2013, 8:16 am
    • Thanks, Anne-Marie. I’ll preface this by saying that this is probably more of a question for an editor–however, it is my understanding that, steamy sex aside, it’s not an erotica if sex isn’t a central theme. I think that blurred lines between romance and erotica are a good thing, though, in some cases! Good luck!

      Posted by Caro | October 17, 2013, 9:10 am
  2. Thanks for that. And with Social Media you can get deeper into a niche such as might be required with genre authors. OK, thanks again, Edward Smith.

    Posted by Edward Smith | October 17, 2013, 11:39 am
  3. Thanks so much for a fabulous post, Caroline!

    I have a question about social media. With so many options to choose from now, how do authors decide which will work best for them? There’s always some hot new site popping up, but is there any evidence which ones are most effective for authors?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 17, 2013, 12:06 pm
    • Hi Becke! Thanks so much :)

      There are statistics galore on this, but I think that those shouldn’t be a basis for choosing which platform to adopt. There are pros and cons to all social media platforms, so what it should come down to is, which platform do you have the most affinity for? Do you like the mixed media and longer format permitted by a couple of FB posts a day? Maybe you prefer something brief, speedy, and constant–that would be Twitter. Or perhaps you’re more visual, so Pinterest and/ or Tumblr would do it for you. The more you do, the better (obviously), but I think what’s most important is handling your chosen social media platforms well–that’s what will actually engage your readers.

      Posted by Caro | October 17, 2013, 12:52 pm
  4. “but you have to walk before you crawl,” LOL I thought we crawled, then we walked… Most of us anyway. :)

    I’ve used blog tours, giveaways, review campaigns, and donation drives to share the word about my books. Thanks for all your tips!

    Posted by Beth Barany | October 17, 2013, 1:33 pm
  5. Hi Caroline,

    How big of a role do reviews play in book sales? So many authors complain about one star reviews.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 17, 2013, 2:00 pm
    • Sadly, I don’t think there’s a straight forward answer to this. Good reviews may convince more booksellers to buy the book for their store, but not do anything for actual customers, while a bad review may actually sell more books just because it rouses curiosity about the title. I’ve seen books get fantastic reviews and not sell so well, and vice versa. Reviews are just one piece of the puzzle, and if you have many of them (especially if they’re good), so much the better. If they’re not so hot, well, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Remember, they are matters of opinion, as well. Hope that helps!

      Posted by Caro | October 17, 2013, 4:32 pm
  6. Hi Caroline!

    I’m hitch hiking on Mary Jo’s question. What if an author gets bad reviews? Does the adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” apply? Is there anything an author can do if they find themselves in that position?

    Does Avon send books to sites like Kirkus, RT, and Library Journal for reviews as part of an author’s marketing plan?

    Can you give us a few tips on what to look for when hiring a publicist?

    Thanks for a terrific post. So happy to have you here with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 17, 2013, 3:32 pm
    • Hi Jennifer-

      Thanks for having me, and for the warm reception! Avon absolutely does send books out to these publications, along with others, for reviews.

      I think there is such a thing as bad publicity, but that’s not the same thing as a bad review. If you get one of those, remember, it’s not the end of the world, and no matter how much love and work you’ve put into your book, a review is someone’s opinion, and should be respected (even if its a mean-spirited review). Do not engage, and look at it as an opportunity to develop a thick skin.

      As for hiring a publicist–we’ll whether you’re hiring one on your own, or whether you’re working with a publicist through your publishing company, I think it’s a good idea for you to have a plan that plays to your strengths. If you know that you’re hilarious when you blog or do written Q&A’s, but you freeze up in live situations, you should keep that in mind, and work with your publicist to play to your strengths. Also, keep in mind, whether you’re hiring a publicist or working with one through your publisher, they will have plans and ideas of their own for you, so working with them on that is always a good place to start and get your feet wet. Does that help?

      Posted by Caro | October 17, 2013, 4:39 pm
  7. Evening Caroline!

    Where do you find a publicist? Is there an organization, a website?? I make bookcovers in my spare time, and I get asked that question repeatedly – where can I hire someone to help me with marketing?

    Great post, chock full of information…thanks!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 17, 2013, 7:43 pm
  8. I’d have to agree that working with a publicist is highly recommended! After all, they know the ins and the outs of the industry. Of course there are plenty of things that an author can do on their own too. It’s important to think outside the box and get creative when it comes to promoting your book in the online space.

    Posted by Lee Drugan | November 8, 2013, 1:07 pm

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