Book publicity: trade vs. academic publishing

This is a guest post by Mollie Broad. Mollie is a PR Assistant at SAGE Publications, a leading independent publisher of journals, books and digital media.

The publishing industry encompasses hundreds of different roles within countless disciplines and subjects. Across the industry, PR works to draw attention to the respective publishing programme. However, when generating publicity for books, it is in the approach where the differences between academic and trade publishing lie.

A skill central to the role of PR is in identifying your key demographic; the fundamental audience who you want to engage with your title. Once this has been ascertained you must ensure that you tailor your press outreach to target this specific audience.

Where trade publishing, in many cases, seeks to reach the public as whole, academic book publishing is concerned with addressing the needs of the scholarly community and therefore targets students and academics specifically. This often means developing new platforms so that the content is accessible in a form most useful to them, increasingly in interactive and digital forms. As a PR Assistant working for a global academic publisher, I have to ensure that our press outreach for our academic titles is aligned with the interests of the academic community. Below I have highlighted the 3 ways our PR activities differ in approach to trade:

  1. PR campaigns are often more specific and niche, focusing on pitching to publications of interest to the academic community as opposed to trade publications that, for example, often target national newspapers to feature and review their books.
  2. Book launches are rarer within the academic publishing world and if they do take place they are often held within the authors university or institution, focusing on the key debates of the text and addressing the new theories that challenge existing thoughts within the field.
  3. As academic titles are of interest to the academic community we would look to get reviews from the authors’ peers within the field, as opposed to media outlets with trade publications.

Publicity is an important part of the publishing industry and a creative and well thought-out PR campaign can make all the difference in the success of the title and, as outlined above, success is found when you target the right audience.

Where they are of course differences between trade and academic publishing in our approaches to publicising our titles, what underpins our efforts is the aim to support our publications in the way most fitting to the individual title.

I for one love helping to support the work of academic authors and thinking imaginatively about the audience of the specific work, the key messages of the title, who within the academic community would be most interested and ensuring that we tailor our outreach to address these factors.