Book Marketing vs Book Publicity: What’s the Difference?

Working in PR, I'm constantly exposed to the misconception of a lot of people that marketing and PR are essentially the same thing. Others will mistakenly tell you that PR is a component of marketing, which is also wrong. While marketing and PR often work towards similar goals, and sometimes make use of similar tools, they're actually two entirely different disciplines. Book publicity would be within the larger Book PR spectrum, while book marketing is a bit different. So if they're not synonyms, what exactly are book marketing and book publicity, what makes them different, and why should you care?

Book Marketing

Book marketing is more of a "hard sell" area, where your marketing efforts are a bit more targeted directly to sales. In marketing, you have more control over how your message gets to your target market (your target buyers / readers in this case), although you'll often have to pay for the exposure that you get.

Maybe you've heard of the "4 Ps of Marketing" - Product, Price, Promotion, and Placement. "Promotion" being included in the marketing mix is very often why people assume PR and publicity are components of marketing, while promotion also isn't really a synonym for either (not directly at least). Here's a basic description of each of the 4 Ps of marketing, to give you a better idea of the various things included in book marketing:


  • As an author, your product is your book or e-book.
  • "Product" also includes how that product is displayed - in your case that could include things such as the cover image, type of binding, quality of print, size of the book or e-book, etc. When dealing with market research for your book, you would take those kinds of things into consideration to create a final product that would appeal to your target market.
  • When it comes to books, you as the author are also essentially a part of the product, because you'll be "selling yourself" as much as you're selling your book.


  • This is obviously the price of your book. Your pricing strategy is actually a marketing function - how you'll price hard covers versus paperback versions, whether you'll offer sales or an introductory price, etc. You have to again go back to your market research to make sure your pricing strategy not only leaves you with a profit, but is realistic given your particular target market.


  • What marketing tactics will you use to get your book in front of the eyes of your target readers?
  • What message do you want to convey?
  • Promotion includes things like advertising, your website, brochures, flyers, seminars, bookmarks, etc. - anything where you can fully control your message.


  • Placement involves the "where" and "how" of selling your book or e-book.
  • Will you sell your book in online bookstores? Offline stores? Just local stores, or major book sellers?
  • If selling your book in bookstores, will you be offering (or paying for) any special displays?
  • Where in the stores would the books be sold? Front of the store, back of the store, upper shelves, lower shelves? (You won't generally have too much control over something like this, but it's important to know, especially with your larger stores.)
  • What other specific books will be located around yours? How will they affect your sales?
  • Will you be selling or giving copies to any libraries? Your local one? Will they feature you as a local author in a special location?
  • Will you sell from your own website?
  • Will you sell through affiliates?

As you can see, book marketing encompasses quite a lot. Now let's get the gist of book publicity:

Book Publicity

In comparison to the more "hard sell" mindframe in marketing, publicity can be viewed as a sort of "soft sell" area. What that means is that your book publicity efforts don't have to lead to quick or immediate sales to be considered a success. Direct sales sometimes aren't even a consideration. Publicity is more about exposure.

When you have massive exposure (through book publicity or author publicity), your name and book become more widely recognized. People start talking about you and your book. Your reputation (hopefully) grows and improves. People (again hopefully) will put more trust and confidence in you and what you have to say. Over time, those people may buy your books, or they may not. Perhaps they'll become subscribers to your newsletter, regular visitors to your website, attendees of your seminars, etc.

Marketing focuses on the book you're selling now. Publicity focuses on the long term more - readers who end up buying your book because of the image you've built will be more likely to buy future books from you than those simply hit with a one-time blitz marketing campaign. Those reached through publicity also don't need to be reached later through often costly marketing tactics, because they already know who you are, trust you, and want to know what you have to say.

In book publicity, you don't have as much control over your message.

Here are a few tools and tactics in a book publicity campaign:

Media Relations

  • Press Releases
  • Media Advisories
  • Op-eds / Letters to the editor
  • Book reviews in the media (a great example of how you lose some control over your message)
  • Media interviews
  • Your Media Kit / Press Kit / Press Room

Author Publicity

  • Publicity Tours
  • Book Signings
  • Your Author Website or Blog
  • News Conferences / Press Conferences

Direct PR

While media relations is one component of public relations, you can also reach your target audience directly without the media as a middleman.

  • Book or Author Blogs (these serve double duty)
  • Guest posts to related blogs
  • Articles published in reputable publications or websites targeting your audience(s).

In book marketing you cater to a target market (people who will buy your book). In book publicity and author publicity you cater to a target audience (includes your target market, but you can have many target audiences in addition to them, like niche groups, specific members of the media, etc.).

As an author promoting your book or e-book, you should do your best to work out a happy balance of book marketing and book publicity efforts, dependent on your marketing and publicity plan you've created based on your market research. The right mix for you will depend on things ranging from your budget to factors and outlets most likely to influence your target groups.

By confusing book marketing and book publicity, you'll do yourself a disservice, because you won't be able to create realistic goals for your marketing and publicity strategies. You'll also then have a more difficult time in the evaluation process in determining which tactics were most effective moving forwards, because you won't be measuring the right factors for each. Always make sure that your tactics can realistically achieve your goals, and work book marketing and book publicity both into your larger promotional plans.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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