Important differences between PR and Marketing

For twenty years, I’ve helped authors find publishers, self-publish, and marketing their books to readers. No matter which pathway authors take, one of the important considerations is how they’re going to reach readers. Often authors look to different companies to help them sell books. There are plenty of great options out there but before you begin looking…and spending your hard-earned money…you must know one important thing: PR and marketing are not the same thing.

Too often the first thing a potential client tells me is that they have already bought “marketing services” or a “marketing package” from the company that will produce their book or an independent publicists…only to discover that what they’re really bought is PR.

PR is public relations. It’s defined as the management of the spread of information. PR services usually include press releases, feature articles, and author interviews. It sounds like the right step: authors want readers to know about their books. PR can alert them to the book’s availability, message, theme, and impact.


PR is a powerful tool. The number of individuals who discover an author and their books can reach hundreds of thousands for a single press release, article or interview. PR is also great for helping authors book public speaking gigs based on the information or themes in their books (and yes, that includes fiction authors). Since public speaking can provide 75% of an author’s income, compared to the 25% earned off book sales for individuals who really emphasize their public appearances, these results are important.

But most authors either aren’t interested in a public speaking career or they don’t have time for all that travel. They want to engage in marketing that moves books. They want their works to be read…and that means selling their books so they are supported financially while writing the next book. They absolutely must understand that PR spreads information.

That’s it. It isn’t intended to spur a purchase. In fact, PR often backfires if the author attempts to drive sales during an appearance.

–Radio and TV show hosts will cut an appearance short if the author presses their books too hard (and you can be sure the hosts will not invite that author back for a second show).

–Media outlets won’t print press releases or assign their reporters to feature articles or interviews when the material they receive is geared toward creating sales.

–The audience will turn away from the show or publication if they think they are being pitched to.

So keep the sales efforts restricted to your marketing.


Marketing is different than PR. Marketing is geared to generate the purchase of one or more of the author’s books. A marketing plan’s approach will vary according to the book’s content, the author’s short-term and long-term goals, and even by the types of distribution channels lined up for the book. Generally, however, marketing aims to generate sales rather than publicity.

So what is marketing and where can you pitch your books? Hundreds of places!

–Social media pages geared toward providing readers with discounted books

–Newsletters geared toward providing readers with discounted books or reviews of books at any price

–Blogs that feature books from specific categories, discounted books, or book reviews

–Any print publication that reviews books

–Email lists that provide libraries with information about books, either with or without reviews

–Distributor catalogues that provide bookstores and libraries with information about books, either with or without reviews

–The algorithms that trigger “you might like” and “buyers also considered” recommendations on internet sales sites

–Consumer reviews

Notice the emphasis in most of these areas on reviews. Be sure your marketing contains a strong and consistent focus on garnering reviews to bolster results.

Most of all, be aware of the fact that very few of the companies that produce self-published books for authors and no publicists offer marketing services. Know the difference before you buy! You’ll make wise decisions that can support your career for years, and many other books, to come.

This article was contributed by Lanine Cunningham.
Laine Cunningham is a ghostwriter and publishing consultant – quoted on CNN and Media Bistro – with twenty years of experience. She is also the author of the award-winning Message Stick, a literary suspense novel, and two paranormal thrillers: Reparation and He Drinks Poison.

You can find more about her work and connect with her in the following places: