Zoe Grams is founder and principal of ZG Communications: a marketing agency working with authors and publishing houses across North America. Catch her in person at the Book Publishing Boot Camp on March 6, where she’ll share publicity and PR advice for new authors on a panel about modern book marketing.

What was the motivation behind you launching your PR firm, ZG Communications?

Our company tagline begins “Stories change the world.” ZG launched because we believe that: stories told in powerful, savvy ways have changed our society for millennia—often for the better. We’re a team of bibliophiles and word geeks but—more than that—we believe that original ideas, clearly told, are the best method for generating positive social change. ZG’s role is to shape and share those stories.

Public relations is an often misunderstood subject. What’s a common misconception that authors have about PR?

Book PR is, in many ways, a strange part of the industry with unintuitive details and strategies. It’s understandable that there are common misconceptions about PR! One of them is that PR can happen after a book launches. It’s incredibly difficult to garner interest once your book has already been published. We recommend authors begin conversations with PR firms at least three months prior, and ideally six months prior, to their publication date.

Another misconception is that hiring a PR company guarantees you national or extensive coverage—or that you will receive reviews. With an ever-shrinking media base, coverage is hard won with a combination of honed pitches, long-standing contacts and tenacity. Media hits are never guaranteed, even with a crackerjack PR team. And reviews, especially for self-published books, are very rare. Finding the right PR team for you is even more essential as a result.

What should an author look for when choosing a PR firm?

Good question. Authors take a leap of faith with PR. A campaign requires you to believe that a stranger will not only understand your book but work hard to promote it. Above all, it’s essential to trust who you work with. Their work behind the scenes is often invisible. Choose a firm you feel good about; listen to your gut.

Other questions to consider are:

  • Has the firm worked on book PR before? This is very different than campaigns for products or shows and is a niche area.
  • Does the firm have clients who are similar to you or demonstrate an in-depth understanding of your area of expertise?
  • How will the firm bill? By the hour or with a flat price? If by the hour, what do they guarantee they will produce—or do on your behalf—within the scope proposed?
  • Can the firm provide an extensive list of testimonials from recent campaigns?

What has been your most successful PR campaign for a nonfiction title?

This is a difficult question to answer! We have been privileged to work on dozens of PR campaigns, many of them for BC or national bestsellers. We adore working with internationally bestselling authors such as Cory Doctorow and Johann Hari. We thrived working on a sold-out national tour and accompanying bestseller status for Wade Davis’ first photography book. Seeing the work of a talented young visionary celebrated with widespread national media coverage for Canada 150 Women—also a bestseller—was an honour. What’s the most successful? It depends on how you judge it: by sales, by client satisfaction, by the number of hits. For us, success is often most rewarding in the form of client feedback, excitement and success stories they share with us, whether in sales or increased profile.

You’re involved with lots of publishing organizations and authors. Can you tell us about any exciting new projects that you’re working on now?

That’s like asking me what my favourite book is! We’re thrilled to be in the midst of supporting thirty-two titles from publishers in the US and Canada this spring. It’s an exciting, busy season! Hits this week include coverage for Cait Flanders’ The Year of Less—already a bestseller in North America; 21 Things You Didn’t Know About The Indian Act by Indigenous relations trainer, Bob Joseph; Talking About Death Won’t Kill You by Kathy Kortes-Miller; and One Hundred Years of Struggle, a history of women’s suffrage in Canada. We truly feel very lucky to work with such passionate, inspired authors.

The Book Publishing Boot Camp is sponsored by LifeTree Media and Pink Velvet Couch.

Find out more about how to write, publish and market a nonfiction book that can showcase your expertise and expand your brand at the Book Publishing Boot Camp on March 6.