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Why a book is not a PR tool

Amber Daines | 24 April, 2024


Most nonfiction books are expensive business cards. They open doors, and you may sell some for income, but they are not usually about serious income for many new authors. From my self-publishing experience, I know it is an incredible thrill to see your original words and ideas come to life and be born into the literary world. It is also not always the best PR tool.

At last count, I have around two huge bookshelves of business and personal fiction books in my office, most of which are mailed to me by prospective podcast guests or clients. There must be around three books arriving, all crisp and presented with enthusiasm from authors who have spent many months writing, editing, and now promoting their wordsmithing. I read every book that comes to me, and I am always open about why one book will work for my podcast audience and others that are too similar or personal a story for us to showcase in that 30-minute interview format.

While a book with a catchy title or an “of the moment” trend can indirectly contribute to public relations (PR) efforts, it is not inherently a PR tool. Here’s why:

  1. What is your purpose? The primary purpose of authoring a new book is typically not PR miles but rather to convey real information, entertain, educate, or persuade readers about a particular topic, story, or viewpoint. Long-term PR, on the other hand, is primarily focused on managing the public image and reputation of a person, organisation, or brand. A book is usually only a slither of that. Be aware of being two-dimensional in your book publicity and suddenly being known for only one aspect of who you are and what you do.
  2. Control over Message: In PR campaigns, there is often a need for careful control over messaging, ducking up and around thornier issues, and a sense of your business or image projection. While an author has control over the content of their book, once it’s published, it can be interpreted and reviewed by readers in various ways, some of which may not align with the author’s intended PR message.
  3. Limited Reach: While books can have a significant impact, they may not reach as broad of an audience or target specific demographics as effectively as other PR tools such as social media campaigns, press releases, or events. Books require readers to actively seek them out – and buy them, whereas PR efforts can be more directly targeted.
  4. Long-term vs. Short-term Impact: PR campaigns often aim for immediate impact and response, whereas the effects of a book may unfold gradually over time as it gains readership and recognition.
  5. Measurement and Evaluation: Solid PR campaigns typically have specific metrics for measuring success, such as the sharing of new or positive messages, media mentions, audience engagement, or brand sentiment. It can be challenging to measure the effectiveness of a book as a PR tool in the same way. Book reviews are sometimes overlooked as mates plugging you, or one or two bad ones with, say, a 1-star do tend to derail your PR efforts. That is the court of public opinion.

I love books and admire authors. A book authored by an individual or a group can indirectly contribute to your overall PR efforts and make you a winner. For example, it can enhance your expertise and credibility, establish thought leadership, provide content for new media interviews or speaking engagements, and generate publicity through book launches or related events.

However, it’s essential to recognise that a book is just one component of a broader PR strategy. And it has a shelf life (see what I did there?) – usually a year maximum.

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