In this episode (my first on a fortnightly basis), I talk to veteran book publicist, Ben Cameron about using a book publicist to promote your book.
Tim Lewis: [00:00:27] In this show I talked to Ben Cameron who runs Cameron Publicity and Marketing which is a book publicity company. They’re very much from the traditional idea of book publicity which is mainly PR-based function.
Tim Lewis: [00:00:43] But it’s started to take on a little bit of the social media side of things. So these are guys who are used to publicising books and that’s basically what they do for a living.
Tim Lewis: [00:00:51] It’s a very different take to what we heard in Tyler Anderson’s Interview. In fact I actually asked the same question as in which books would he prefer to publicise and I get a very different answer to in that show.
Tim Lewis: [00:01:04] So now over to the interview. Hi Ben welcome to the show.
Ben Cameron: [00:01:08] Hi Tim.
Why use a Book Publicist?
Tim Lewis: [00:01:08] So you’re obviously a book publicist, why do you think it is a good idea for authors to use a book publicity service?
Ben Cameron: [00:01:16] The first thing is that obviously authors need to do something to get their books known and seen, make them stand out at the pack and publicists do do that.
Ben Cameron: [00:01:26] So mainly what we do is outreach to media, media contacts, but we do lots of other things as well. But what we have is a certain level of skill and a certain level of time that we put into promoting your book that you might not be able to do.
Ben Cameron: [00:01:39] So we’ve got contacts and people that we know well and we work with all the time and we know what sort of content they’re after. So we can take your books or something about you into that content whether it’s in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio or online.
Ben Cameron: [00:01:56] But we try to match up authors and books with what the media has to offer and that’s really a skill. It’s about selling ideas. It’s salesmanship but it’s not a the thing that we are selling it’s ideas: were selling what you have to offer.
Ben Cameron: [00:02:09] And authors often struggle to do that sort of thing themselves. It’s difficult for people to talk about themselves oftentimes. They often don’t want to spend the time doing that. The other thing I’d say about why to hire a publicist is that publicity isn’t just about sales.
Ben Cameron: [00:02:28] Often when an author is looking at promoting a book or doing any activity towards a book they’ve got they’ve got the cost and they’ve got the number of books that they need to sell in order to make that money back. Publicity just doesn’t work like that is really hard to pin down the amount of sales you’ll get in response.
Ben Cameron: [00:02:47] And often when you’re looking at it in that sort of way you miss the big picture, the real opportunities there can come of it. So we have authors who sell books as a result of a publicity campaign. But we also have authors who get an agent because they did something in a publicity campaign that got them noticed or they get a publisher if it’s an author who does want a traditional publishing contract.
Ben Cameron: [00:03:13] We have worked with plenty of authors who have gotten that as a result of a publicity campaign. Or they may become known as an expert in the media and be asked back time and time again and get paid for those sort of appearances. They might write an article for a newspaper and that’s something that obviously looks good on your CV and is good for you moving forward as well.
Ben Cameron: [00:03:34] So there are a lot of different things that can come of a publicity campaign and I just caution anybody who’s just looking at the bottom line, the money, to really consider that it is about putting yourself out there, risking being known and lots of things can come to you.
When should you contact a Book Publicist?
Tim Lewis: [00:03:54] How long before a book is going to be released is what would you suggest the best time for an author to be contacting a publicist?
Ben Cameron: [00:04:02] Yeah it’s a good question. People all the time who come to us and two weeks after publication and say you know why isn’t my book selling, I just realised I need to do something, we can work with them to some degree even then.
Ben Cameron: [00:04:15] But really what you do is be in touch with somebody you know a good six months before your book is completed or edited and find out what the opportunities are, what the cost is crucially, you need a budget that in and then when it comes to actually doing publicity some media work very far in advance and other media don’t work far in advance.
Ben Cameron: [00:04:35] So things like glossy monthly magazines. If you have a book that would be relevant to a monthly magazine, or a quarterly magazine even, you need to be approaching them, or a publicist has to be approaching them, five or six months in advance.
Ben Cameron: [00:04:51] So they’re going to be working on Christmas issues quite soon whereas other media like radio interviews can range something you know possibly for the week after. So then we very quickly. So taking all that into account you know get in touch with the publicist as early as he can even if it’s just a fact finding and then take some advice from them on when the campaign should actually run.
Ben Cameron: [00:05:14] It might be something that we do often is split campaigns so we may have do two weeks of a campaign three or four five months ahead of publication day and then do the rest of a right up to the publication date.
What does a Book Publicist do?
Tim Lewis: [00:05:27] OK, you obviously mentioned a bit about PR and radio interviews. What kind of activity should a good publicist be doing for an author?
Ben Cameron: [00:05:36] So make sure you talk to your publicist and you really get a feel for what they do and it can vary from publicist to publicist. For us the first thing we would do is write a press release.
Ben Cameron: [00:05:48] We are then contacting contacts in the media. So like I said across TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and online media and that’s including bloggers as well. We do some social media services as part of our publicity campaign so we’ll tweet, we’ll post on Facebook from our accounts when there’s coverage, and encourage you to do so as well.
Ben Cameron: [00:06:09] But we can also we also have other extra social media services we can help you get set up and train you in social media if you don’t know anything about it. Social media is quite important and it’s generally important that the author does it themselves so that it’s authentic and comes from them so we don’t want to be doing people’s social media long term.
Ben Cameron: [00:06:27] But were more than happy to get people up and running and make sure that they understand what they’re doing. So in the course of a campaign there might be interviews. Hopefully there will be interviews and we’ll arrange those. We’ll give an author advice on how to do them and what to expect, hold hands through it.
Ben Cameron: [00:06:43] Usually if it’s somewhere we can get to fairly easily, we’ll go along even if it’s the first interview just to make sure that they’re comfortable that they know what they’re doing.
Ben Cameron: [00:06:51] We also have advertising services so we can do online advertising. That’s something that we’ve just recently started doing. But it’s big now and it’s getting quite important for authors to consider that as a way of going. We can also do trailers, we can run NetGalley campaigns, all sorts of things that we do.
Ben Cameron: [00:07:09] It’s probably worth saying as well what we don’t do because a couple things may surprise people. We don’t organise launch parties, some publicity companies might but we don’t but what we can do is invite people to launch parties so we don’t get involved in the sort of caterers are or where it should be.
Ben Cameron: [00:07:30] And usually authors are perfectly comfortable going down to the local bookshop or wherever and arranging it themselves.
Ben Cameron: [00:07:35] But we can invite the media, so we can send invitations out to you know local media or any relevant media and try to get them to come in the other things that we don’t do are awards and festivals.
Ben Cameron: [00:07:48] And the reason we don’t do awards and festivals is because the date for submitting authors and books for those can be six, eight, 10, 12 months ahead of when things actually occur.
Ben Cameron: [00:08:01] So you know the time that we’re working on an author probably isn’t going to coincide with when they need to submit for those things.
Ben Cameron: [00:08:08] But if you’re working with an author and they need to do a festival we can certainly give them the contacts and get them everything that they need to know to get in touch with that person.
How can an author help?
Tim Lewis: [00:08:17] So obviously we’ve done what a good publicist should be doing. What should an author be doing to get the most out of a publicist. How should the authors themselves be acting?
Ben Cameron: [00:08:27] It’s really important that authors understand that they are an integral part of their campaign. It’s not just a button that you push. You know you don’t just give somebody some money and they go away and do it and it has nothing to do with you.
Ben Cameron: [00:08:43] You need to be a part of the campaign and you need to really make sure that you can work with the person that you’re hiring, so get to know them, get to know what their services are, get to know what they are like.
Ben Cameron: [00:08:56] Make sure that they’re going to give you updates, regular updates and you are always going to what’s going on. So you should always have a general idea of what kinds of things that they’re pitching at any time.
Ben Cameron: [00:09:08] So it might be this week I am going to be pitching to radio stations. I’m going to be pitching at the sort of angle to radio stations and next week it might be newspapers.
Ben Cameron: [00:09:18] Make sure you’re working with somebody who’s going to keep you informed. Also make sure they understand your goals and your expectations and that they say if they don’t think your goals and expectations are realistic.
Ben Cameron: [00:09:31] So you know if your goal is to be on the front page of the Times and then they don’t say that’s really difficult or that’s impossible then you need to be concerned because you know you don’t want somebody who’s just going to tell you everything you want to hear and then go away and not do any of it.
Ben Cameron: [00:09:47] What you want to somebody who’s going to work with you to come up with the angles to achieve as much as possible.
Ben Cameron: [00:09:52] Be really nice to publicists. I always tell everybody, it’s really important you are really nice to them but be a little bit pushy as well. So just make sure that they’re that they’re working on things that you agreed. Push them along a little bit if you need to but be really nice about it.
Ben Cameron: [00:10:09] Another important thing is often publicists will ask you for any contacts or any media recommendations that you have you know any place that you think may be relevant. And the immediate thought of most authors is that isn’t that your job and it absolutely is. But we just want to make sure we don’t miss anything out.
Ben Cameron: [00:10:28] So we’ve got lots of contacts and all sorts of areas. Yeah. Pretty much any subject matter. We have worked with people in that area. But if there’s something, each book has an a special story and there’s some media, let’s say a podcast that you listen to all the time that you really love for example, it’s your dream to be on that makes you say.
Ben Cameron: [00:10:48] We will do everything that we can do to achieve that. And then at the end of the publicity campaign just make sure that you understand what the publicist has achieved. What ongoing things need to be looked after, what they’re going to do in the future because most queries for publicity often don’t come in the first few weeks of the campaign, they can come in well after our campaign is over, so what are they going to do when somebody asks about the book six months from now and that happens often.
Ben Cameron: [00:11:20] So make sure they’re going to either take care of it or they’re going to pass along to you. And in a way that you know what to do with it.
Tim Lewis: [00:11:27] So yeah I think you deal with both traditionally published and self-published authors. Have you noticed any differences between the attitudes of self-published authors and the traditionally published authors?
Ben Cameron: [00:11:40] It’s tempting to say that self-published others are more demanding because they pay the bill. They know the clock is ticking in a way they’re traditionally published authors aren’t.
Ben Cameron: [00:11:52] For a traditionally published author we are an extension of their publisher and is just something that kind of happens automatically with them. With a self-published author it’s something that we worked out specifically for them and then there’s a price and there’s an amount of time and they’re always aware of that.
Ben Cameron: [00:12:11] But you know that doesn’t tend to work out so much like that because the personality of the author matters so much more about how you know how easy it is to work with somebody and how willing they are to do things. How able they are to do things interviews and things like that. So it can vary so much from campaign to campaign that it is difficult to make a distinction.
Genres and Publicity
Tim Lewis: [00:12:33] And obviously you’ve been doing this for a while now. How much does genre and books subject affect how you publicise a book? I mean does it vary a lot between genres?
Ben Cameron: [00:12:44] Yeah that is everything in fact. So the way we would publicise a science fiction novel is completely different with the way we publicise a book by a sex therapist, for example.
Ben Cameron: [00:12:55] You know one would be aimed more at blogs and more aired than fansites and specific reviewers who review genre fiction and then the other would be aimed at more like television programs like This Morning.
Ben Cameron: [00:13:09] I use the example of this sex therapist because we had one who is this and This Morning a few months ago and she was asked back a couple of times since then. So that’s a very different sort of campaign.
Ben Cameron: [00:13:20] The key is that before you get started that your publicist should have worked out you know what sort of targets they’re going to have for you and what they think they can achieve for you and what they don’t think they can achieve for you.
Best and worst genres to promote
Tim Lewis: [00:13:35] I’m going to spring a surprise question on you! If somebody came into your offices and they were basically holding a proof copy of a book that they are going to publish in three months. What would be the book that you would think “Great, this is this be the easiest book to publicise in the world” and what would be the worst kind of book for you in terms of what would be most work for you to publicise?
Ben Cameron: [00:14:03] Well the most work for us to publicise would be something very niche, poetry for example, we don’t generally cover poetry or something that’s a non-fiction book about a very small subject area.
Ben Cameron: [00:14:18] It needs to be something that can break out into more mainstream media for us to be really be able to do it otherwise all of our activity is aimed at just a few outlets that’s really difficult because if somebody says no that’s your campaign.
Ben Cameron: [00:14:34] Whereas if it’s a more general book if it appeals to lots of different kinds of outlets then there’s so many opportunities and when you’re running a campaign you don’t really know what’s going to take off and what isn’t.
Ben Cameron: [00:14:45] So you may be running a campaign that’s sort of a travel book about skiing for example. So you pitch it to travel editors, you can also be pitching it to skiing magazines.
Ben Cameron: [00:14:54] And you might find that the ski magazines aren’t that interested but the travel editors are really interested. You adjust what you’re doing to aim more to towards the travel people and that’s what you’re doing during a campaign.
Ben Cameron: [00:15:06] So the more different kind of opportunity, the more different kinds of subject areas or media types that we can pitch the book at the better, the more we can do with it.
Finding out about Ben…
Tim Lewis: [00:15:17] So I think just about covered the the fundamentals. How can people find out about Ben Cameron and Cameron Publicity and Marketing?
Ben Cameron: [00:15:25] So Cameron Publicity and Marketing is a small agency. There are five of us. I’m in charge and you can reach us at a website www.CameronPM.co.uk or you can reach us by phone and 0207 9179812 or you can email me directly. My email address is Ben@CameronPM.co.uk.
Ben Cameron: [00:15:54] Also if I could give a shout out to one event that we have coming up in September: it’s self publishing masterclass. More information about that is www.selfpublishingmasterclass.org.
Ben Cameron: [00:16:06] It is an event where I am speaking amongst other people. So the other speakers are Jessica Bell, Roz Morris and Robin Cutler who cover design and lay out, editing and production.
Ben Cameron: [00:16:17] And between us we’re going to talk people throughout the entire self-publishing process so it’s ideal for beginners.
Ben Cameron: [00:16:23] It’s on September 23rd and you can if you go to the website you can find out more about.
Tim Lewis: [00:16:28] That and your telephone number are London based aren’t they?
Ben Cameron: [00:16:32] Yeah we are UK-based. We run publicity campaigns in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and English language media throughout Europe. If you are interested in publicity in other places we can certainly recommend people : we are publishing partners who can do things in the US for example, in Canada and India and Australia so do get in touch.
Ben Cameron: [00:16:51] But our focus is the UK.
Tim Lewis: [00:16:53] Because I’ve got quite a large number of U.S. listeners so I thought I’d ask before they try ringing the number and end up with some pizza place in Kentucky!
Ben Cameron: [00:17:02] That’s right. I mean it’s worth saying we do work with a lot of American writers who want publicity in the U.K. It may be that a book has relevance or its place they have an affinity to for some reason and often we work with British authors who want to publicise their books in the US and Canada in which case we we introduced them to other partners.
Ben Cameron: [00:17:23] So don’t dismiss the UK as an outlet. It’s a big publicity outlet.
Tim Lewis: [00:17:28] Well it’s great to have you on the show today, Ben.
Ben Cameron: [00:17:30] Great to talk to you Tim.
If you liked this interview then you might like Book Publicity with Janet Murray, Hiring a Social Media Marketing Agency with Tyler Anderson and Getting to Number 1 in Amazon with Adam Croft