When to Think About Publicity

Posted Wednesday September 29th 2010 by Jen Angel

When most people start working on a book or film, it’s because they are excited about the content or subject of the work. It’s often only as an after thought that they think about how to distribute or how to promote the project.

When I was working in the magazine industry, I often ran into people who had launched new magazines because they were excited about a particular topic or a community, not because they wanted to be business people. I felt like one of the biggest lessons I learned from publishing Clamor for so many years was that you (or your organization) need to spend only half the time focusing on the fun, sexy, exciting content, and need to spend at least the same amount of energy and effort on creating a sustainable business model.

Just like the magazine world, authors and filmmakers need to put a lot of energy into distribution and promotion, and that needs to be incorporated as early as possible – in a best case scenario, from the beginning of the project. Developing a long-term strategy will help you get the most out of your efforts and make sure you don’t miss opportunities.

So really, when do you need to start thinking about publicity & promotions? Um, really early. Like, way earlier than you might think.

Let’s take books as an example – a comprehensive strategy for promoting a book could include such things as book reviews, interviews & features, speaking events at colleges, and book store appearances. Each of these activities has a long lead time. Of course, it is possible to do things at the last minute, but you may miss opportunities, and to effectively create “buzz,” it’s helpful to coordinate your activities so they are all timed close together.

Some examples of lead times are:

  • Book reviews – most publications like to review books in advance of or close to the publication date. This means you need to give people time to actually read the book! Both Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, for example, require that you submit materials three to four months in advance.
  • Bookstore events – many popular bookstores are completely booked 3 to 4 months out. Many also release printed calendars – and you’ll want to make sure your event is listed!
  • College or university events – many departments and student groups allocate the majority of their funds the semester or year before.
  • Magazine articles or interviews – although web sites and radio shows still need time to review the books – they often can book a guest on a short timeline. But, print publications decide their content months in advance – even as many as six months.

What does this all tell us? Plan ahead! While it is possible to book a tour with a month’s notice, you’ll find some venues already booked or out of funds. The bottom line – start planning your promotion strategy at least six months out, but for best results, start thinking about it as soon as you commit to the project.

We’re happy to talk through strategy with anyone, even at early stages – and you can get our guide: Get Noticed: How to Publicize your Book or Film here. Get Noticed! Can help you develop a comprehensive plan that also includes all of the things that don’t have long lead times. We can help you develop that plan, too – read more on our Services page. We’re planning more how-to posts soon - next, more info for filmmakers! And more on how to use Twitter & Facebook to promote your project!