Guest contributor: Karen McKenzie

Publicity for your book

As a professional book publicist, I love championing the work of the wonderful authors I work alongside. But as an author myself, I completely understand how challenging the promotional side of book publishing can be. So here are a few pointers for first-time self-published authors to consider:

  • Get a professional publicist on board early on. It’s too late when your book is already printed. Most publicists will be talking to media around two months before a book’s release, but good publicists will be booked out many more months in advance.
  • Yes, you do need a professional publicist if you want your book to get the recognition it deserves. You may be able to drum up some publicity with local media, but a publicist will champion you to appropriate media nationwide, and you will reap the benefit of their many years of building relationships with key editors, presenters, and producers. Also, as I discovered myself when I tried to do publicity on one of my books, it’s hard to champion your own I tried, and it was a total failure. Unless you are a national self-promoter, it just doesn’t sit well with most authors.
  • Be realistic about what can be achieved with publicity for your first book. The media landscape is a competitive place, and there are many authors and their books jostling for limited space. But a professional publicist will be able to talk about what you are likely to achieve for your specific book. It’s well worth a conversation!

Karen McKenzie, Publicist
Lighthouse PR

Guest contributor: Sarah Johnson

Some thoughts on publishing your own books

In 2015, I set up my own publishing imprint (Flat Bed Press) and published one of my own books. The Bold Ship Phenomenal is a chapter book for junior readers aged 7/8 to 11/12. I published it as both a hard copy and an e-book.

It seemed to me at the time, and still seems, that self-publishing is a misnomer.

In fact, very little of the publishing was done by me. I did the writing. The rest of the work was done by a host of industry professionals, without whom the book would still be a manuscript.

From the editor to the illustrator, to the designer, to the proof-reader, to the printer (and the print broker), to the distributor, mine has seemed the relatively easy part of the process. I have no doubt that without the involvement of these talented individuals the book would not be as beautiful as I now consider it to be.

What I did get to do, is to have a degree of hands-on involvement in the production of the book that I hadn’t experienced with my previous books, published by a mainstream publisher. I found that involvement to be satisfying to a degree I hadn’t anticipated. It was, from start to finish, a deeply creative act.

Which must be why I am considering doing it again.

I feel the book has been a success. It hasn’t become a bestseller, and it hasn’t made my name as a writer. But it has recovered the financial cost of producing it, and been well-received by the children who have read it, their teachers, librarians and schools. It has also attracted some industry recognition, in the form of an award and a shortlisting.

That’s good enough for me.

I saw publishing the book as an investment in my career as a writer at a time when the publishing industry felt uncertain and constrained. Has that investment been worth it? I think it has, if only for the people I have worked with, and things I have learnt from them, along the way.

Sarah Johnson, Author


Sarah Johnson (second from left) with the other finalists in the junior fiction category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young People 2016; Kate De Goldi (second from right) won the award.

Sarah Johnson (second from left) with the other finalists in the junior fiction category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young People 2016; Kate De Goldi (second from right) won the award.