Since 1985, veteran publisher Linda F. Radke, owner of Five Star Publications, has been ahead of the game--self-publishing before it was commonplace, partnership publishing before the rest of the world even knew what it was and producing award-winning traditionally and non-traditionally published fiction and nonfiction manuscripts for adults and children.
Radke's odyssey to becoming one of the nation's leading consultants in the areas of book production, marketing, publicity and distribution began simply enough with the desire to print a few books to complement the household employment agency she owned. For Radke, who, on more than one occasion, has been teased about having "printer's ink in her veins," the experience of publishing the books was exhilarating, prompting her to change careers and launch Five Star Publications without looking back.
Eventually, Radke added services and acted as a publishing consultant for other self-publishers, ventured into traditional publishing and pioneered partnership publishing to allow her to publish more authors and make them a more integral part of the creative process of publishing.
Linda is also the award-winning author of The Economical Guide to Self-Publishing: How to Produce and Market Your Book on a Budget (a Writer's Digest Book Club selection) and Promote Like a Pro: Small Budget, Big Show (a Doubleday Executive Program Book Club featured alternative selection). She is a founding member of the Arizona Book Publishing Association and was named Book Marketer of the Year by Book Publicists of Southern California.
We were lucky enough to chat with Linda today about self-promotion for authors! Grab a comfy chair and enjoy tips from a pro.
Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: Your book is called Promote Like a Pro: Small Budget, Big Show. How much should authors be planning to spend on publicity?
Linda: To me the question is not so much about budget, but about how much time the author is willing to devote to getting the job done. Are they willing to devote 15 hours a week to publicity and marketing for the first six months the book is out? If not, they can hire a firm like Five Star Publications to help market and promote the book with two options. The first option is custom publicity that is billed out between $3000 and $4000 per month. We also offer an option for putting together a do-it-yourself kit for a one time fee of $5000. With this option, we create a media kit, a detailed national media database and a website.
They might also want to consider hiring an individual person to help. They may pay anywhere from $25-$75 per hour, but make sure the person being hired has experience in book marketing and publicity. Ask for a few references and check with the local BBB. Be concerned about quality, timing and control and ask for monthly detailed progress reports. Also make sure they know all expenses involved - it's not uncommon to pay for packaging supplies, shipping charges, etc.
WOW: Those are helpful tips. It's great to know what to look for. So, what promotional tool does every author need no matter what their budget?
Linda: The most important promotional tools would be to have a professionally designed website, and next, a media coach.
WOW: I agree, every author should have a professionally designed website. Okay, here's my stupid question of the day but...what is the purpose of publicity? I organize WOW! Blog Tours and most authors want to know "How many books will I sell on this tour?" Is every publicity tool about selling books?
Linda: That is actually a very good question. The purpose of publicity is to gain visibility and credibility. Selling books shouldn't be an expectation, but a bonus. (Some books have a better chance of selling due to publicity, such as cookbooks.) Garnering publicity gives you the tools for marketing your books. Publicity is about visibility, marketing is about sales.
WOW: I'll have to share your quote: "Publicity is about visibility, marketing is about sales." Great advice! Tell us about submitting books for awards, something I never thought of as publicity. Does winning or even being a finalist affect book sales? Where do we find contests? Is it expensive to get your book in the running for awards?
Linda: I would utilize Literary Market Place to research organizations that sponsor book awards. It is not uncommon to pay up to $65 for an entry fee. A red flag should go up if you're asked to pay too much beyond that.
Does winning affect sales? It goes back to being a marketing tool - it's impressive and if your book is being considered for distribution against another book, you might be chosen over the other by the simple fact that your book has won an award. However, you can't always take an award to the bank.
WOW: True, but I'm sure winning an award like that would feel fantastic! Authors might as well try. And like you said, it's impressive. Now, so often, when we think book publicity we think book signings, book reviews, interviews...tell us about a few other overlooked publicity tools that, like book awards, might not immediately pop into our heads when we think publicity.
Linda: Speaking engagements are one of the most overlooked opportunities. What a perfect spot for back-of-the-room sales! Also, writing articles about your subject matter and promoting your book on social networking sites are often overlooked. Social networking sites are a newer tool, but don't get caught up in spending all your time on them.
WOW: I hear that same comment from many authors. It seems that today publicity and marketing are so often the author's responsibility, both with traditional and self publishing. So authors are out there doing a job with no experience. Help us amateurs! What gives an author the appearance of having a well-oiled publicity plan even if it's just the author and a computer file labeled "PR"? What screams "unprofessional" to the PR representatives, journalists, etc. that authors contact?
Linda: They need to make sure they have a newsworthy angle they're pitching. Reporters are not going to write about your book just because you think they should. The book has to relate to current events, especially if it's fiction.
The first thing that screams unprofessional is not having a professionally designed book cover. Also, sending the media to a site that's not professionally designed with the information presented in a boring format is another clue. And let's not forget typos. :)
WOW: Oh yes, the dreaded typos. So what's the most important lesson in Promote Like a Pro: Small Budget, Big Show?
Linda: Do it right or don't do it at all. You have one chance at a first impression. It's like interviewing for a job - you want to be at your best.
WOW: Tell us a little bit about the services you offer at Five Star Publications.
Linda: Whether you're just getting started or are already deeply immersed in your writing project, Five Star Publications is available to help. Ironically, with certain genres the best time to begin developing your publishing and marketing plans are during the writing process so you can "write to sell." Tap into years of experience and award-winning techniques. We can help you avoid the inevitable pitfalls that frustrate or derail the efforts of even the most experienced writers.
We offer consulting in book production, marketing, publicity, and distribution. (One important thing to keep in mind is that even the greatest publicity is a waste money if you don't have a national distribution network in place.)
Learn more by visiting www.FiveStarPublications.com, www.AuthorsandExperts.com and www.SchoolBookings.com
WOW: Thank you, Linda, for taking time to chat with us today! Your tips were very helpful to our authors and aspiring authors. I'm sure they'll want to learn more by visiting your site and seeing what you have to offer. :)