Impressions vs. Connections

Liz Johnson
graduated from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public
relations and works as an editorial and marketing manager at a Christian
publisher. She is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist, and A Promise to Protect is her fourth novel
with Love Inspired Suspense. Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she
enjoys theater, exploring the local music scene, and making frequent trips to
Arizona to dote on her two nephews and three nieces. She loves stories of true
love with happy endings. Keep up with Liz’s adventures in writing at, Twitter
@LizJohnsonBooks, or

NR: Leave a comment for Liz and be entered in a drawing for her book. Continental U.S. residents only, please.

Impressions vs. Connections
I applied for my
first job in Christian publishing when I was twenty-one, just about to graduate
from college. I didn’t get that job. Or the next one. Or the next. But about
the time I turned twenty-five I was offered my first gig in my dream industry
as a publicist. I accepted it in a heartbeat.
Never mind that
I didn’t really know what a book publicist did.
During my first
week at that job, someone explained to me the difference between marketing and
publicity. In the simplest terms marketing was paid for and publicity wasn’t.
At that time, at that publisher, marketing equated to paid advertising and
publicity was any other coverage that a book might get—interviews, reviews,
Publicity and
marketing had clearly defined parameters, easily stated goals, and measurable
results. Separating them was clean and simple. And as such, many publishers
were set up with publicity teams separate from their marketing teams. Sure,
they were often referred to together. “Let’s hear from marketing and
publicity.” But the teams mostly worked independent of one another.
Seven years later,
I’m still in Christian publishing, now as a marketing manager for a nonfiction
group. And, boy howdy, how the times have changed!
In early 2006
blogs were the new thing, Facebook was still only available to limited
colleges, and Twitter hadn’t even been launched. Tumblr wouldn’t show up for
more than a year and the initial closed beta launch of Pinterest wouldn’t
happen until March 2010.
The digital
explosion has changed the way that publishers and authors reach out to readers
in more ways than I could cover in one blog post. So let’s just talk about a
new definition of marketing and publicity specifically for novels and what
those definitions mean for novelists.
At a recent ACFW
conference, someone (and I can’t remember who, so please forgive me if I’m
stealing this from you) said, “Marketing
is about impressions. Publicity is about connections.”
That may be the most
succinct and accurate definition I’ve heard in this new era of publishing.
Let’s unpack
this for a second. Impressions—if you’re not familiar with advertising
lingo—are the number of people exposed to the product you’re trying to sell or
the brand you’re communicating. Classic print, television, online, and radio
advertising fall into this category. So every time I see an ad in my Entertainment Weekly, I’m an impression
to their marketing team. Regardless of my choice to buy the product, I count as
a pair of eyes that have seen a book cover or new dvd.
that seems pretty self-explanatory.
But is it? Are
you talking at your audience? Or with them? Are you opening a dialogue or
sending a message?
Connections are
opportunities for readers to hear from the heart of an author. That may not
always be a two-way conversation, but it’s deeper than a book sale or jacket
copy. It’s a chance for writers to express why they feel so strongly about
their topic or why stories and struggles mean so much to them. It’s an
opportunity to build a rapport with readers that isn’t easily broken.
As I’ve
considered the idea of connecting with readers, I’ve pondered promotions that
could be either an impression or a connection. Take a blog post for example. In
the early days of blogs, an author’s posts were considered publicity. Without
question. But what about posts that are clearly sales copy and sent out to the
ether without any follow up? Aren’t those just gaining impressions? How do they
differ from posts where the author responds to every comment? Those
conversations are building connections.
What about a
booksigning? Historically they’ve been considered publicity and usually
organized by a publicist. For the authors who stop and talk with each person
who comes through the line, connections are formed. But what about the
best-selling author who doesn’t even look up as the line moves along.
Katie, a friend
of mine, was planning a trip to Mississippi several months back. She heard that
a famous author would be in the area while she was there, so Katie stood in
line at a small bookstore to meet the author and get a book signed. Imagine
Katie’s dismay when the author never acknowledged her or even stopped talking
with a personal friend. Katie walked away with a scribbled signature and a bad
taste in her mouth. Is that a connection?
What about
bookmarks? Marketing teams are usually responsible for these. And if they’re
left on a table somewhere with no follow up from the author, they’re collecting
impressions. But what if a simple bookmark was used to open a dialogue? If a
scrap of cardstock has both the cover of Nicole Quigley’s Like Moonlight at Low Tide and an invitation to join an online
conversation with the author about bullying, has it become publicity?
If readers are
discovering our books, it doesn’t really matter whether a promotion is labeled as marketing or publicity. And
publishers are realizing this. Some are even integrating their teams to the
point that one team member is responsible for both publicity and marketing for
an author.
So what does
this mean for us as novelists?
1. Both
impressions and connections are important. They go hand in hand. Some readers
will buy a book just based on a cover and concept they like. Others want to
really know the author before spending their hard-earned money. Great
promotions often include both.
2. Connections
aren’t a guarantee. They take effort and planning.
3. How you
choose to connect with readers should fit your strengths. If you’re a visual
person, maybe you’re pinning on Pinterest. Maybe you love to keep it short and
sweet. Try twitter. If you’re long-winded like me, blog posts may be your
wheelhouse. You don’t have to do it all. Figure out what works for you and
connect that way.
4. Connecting
doesn’t always mean starting the conversation. If you can add value to a
discussion already going, don’t miss the chance just because you didn’t
initiate it.
5. Be open to
connections that can become impressions and vice versa. I recently took a
handful of my newest book to my dentist’s office. I was there for a regular
visit and planned to leave a few on the table in the waiting room for other
office visitors. But when I showed the books to the staff, their eyes lit up. I
ended up giving every copy I had with me to the hygienists and front desk team
and chatting with them about reading, writing, and books in general. I hoped
for impressions and instead got four connections and a promise that they’d look
up my previous titles, too.
6. Gaining
impressions isn’t just up to publishers anymore. Years ago publishers may have
been responsible for gaining all of a book’s impressions through advertising,
but that’s no longer the case. Authors have the opportunity to offer giveaways
on or swap book ads on blogs with friends. And that’s just a
couple ideas.
As always, I
recommend working with your publisher’s team. Every publisher has its own
strategy, so ask how you can be involved and bring your own ideas to the table.
If you’re not
yet published, it’s never too early to begin making connections, discovering
the outlets that you feel most comfortable with, and building your network.
Then when it’s time to bring your book into the discussion, you’ve got a head
Do you struggle
with consistently making connections and impressions? Which do you find easier?
Are you more apt to be swayed by an impression or a connection? What’s worked
best for you to reach readers?
Promise to Protect
Navy SEAL Matt
Waterstone knows about keeping people safe. When his best friend’s sister is
attacked, Matt promises no harm will come to Ashley Sawyer-not on his watch.
But Matt’s not the only protective one. Ashley will do anything to safeguard
the residents of the battered women’s shelter she runs. She’s sure she can
handle the threats she gets in return. What she can’t handle is the way Matt
scales the walls around her heart. Yet when she falls prey to a crime web more
sinister than she’d realized, trusting Matt could be the only way to survive.