Voted "Best of the Best Publicist" by RWA’s Published Author Network, Nancy Berland is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma School of Journalism. She has served as a newspaper feature writer, restaurant reviewer, national trade association public relations director, corporate public relations consultant, speech and magazine feature writer and romance author.

Nancy and her talented staff at Nancy Berland Public Relations represent romance, women's fiction, mystery, thriller, suspense and non-fiction bestsellers—and newcomers—such as Marie Bostwick, Nancy Bush, Terri DuLong, Louisa Edwards, Sabrina Jeffries, Nicole Jordan, Debbie Macomber, Linda Lael Miller, Carla Neggers, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Wendy Corsi Staub on an ongoing basis. She and her staff of seven also represent many other talented authors on a contract basis, and they work with publishers, too.

It’s All About Balance . . .

by Nancy Berland

A literary agent emailed me a couple of weeks ago with a question prompted by inquiries from what she described as “some younger authors.” Why, she asked, would an author need to hire a publicist or invest in more traditional promotions when she could utilize Twitter and Facebook and make herself a bestseller through these costless social networking tools?

Wellllll, I thought, as I framed my response, for one thing, have you ever heard of hanging chads? Back during the Presidential election of 2000, it appeared that the outcome of the election would be determined by the Florida vote, but thousands of ballots that votes had been cast were disqualified because of a “paper technicality.” That is, the gizmo that was supposed to have punched holes in the ballots to indicate the voter’s choices apparently didn’t function quite right, and the little pieces of paper—they called them “chads”—were hanging from the cards as if by a thread. The ruling: The hanging chads rendered the ballots uncountable, and an uproar ensued, with every local, state and national news outlet focusing on this development exclusively.

As a result, any authors of any stature who were unfortunate enough to be on tour in the aftermath of the election, found their interviews cancelled. All the time, effort and budgets that had been channeled into author tours, with the main goal of securing media to drive book sales, were wasted.

And therein lies one of the main reasons an author should never depend on any one form of promotion to achieve her goals. In the blink of an eye (or the hang of a chad!), an author can be left with a big fat zero on her promo balance sheet.

With social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, there are additional risks in that the whim of the public can change in a heartbeat. Just last week, every major news medium in the country ran stories about hackers compromising Twitter’s integrity. How many Twitter fans do you think that turned off? And then Twitter shut down for a period of time. If, as an author, you were depending on the lightning speed of Twitter to promote a signing, real or virtual, you could have wound up all by your lonesome.

And if Twitter were the be-all, do-all everyone is seeking to gain the public’s undying devotion, do you think GM would be where they are today?

Don’t get me wrong. Twitter and Facebook, with their viral capabilities, offer amazing promotional opportunities to establish your brand and a sense of community with your readers and should be figured into any promotion budget these days. But an author just can’t bank on social networking’s dependability. To avoid the “goose egg” possibility, any promotional plan should incorporate a balance of PR “tools” to reach an author’s targeted audiences: readers, booksellers, librarians, trade media, news media, and your own publishing company. Besides social media, consider advertising, Internet and bookseller promotions, personal appearances, media work and so on.

Moreover, the more successful an author gets in her career, the more is demanded of her time. Stephenie Meyer recently announced that she was shutting down her “bloated” MySpace page. She simply did not have time to keep up with the demands her site had been making on her time.

My take on it is this. As an author, you have three resources: talent, time and money. No one else can write your books for you. The number one thing you can do to advance your career is devote your time and talent to writing more books.

But someone needs to promote those books. You can’t take for granted that your publishing company will invest the resources necessary to make your books successful.

And you can’t bank on one promotional tool to do the job for you.

Make a plan. Apportion your resources, and don’t put all your favorite songs on one iPod.

What’s your strategy? What has worked for you?