Britney Spears’ memoir and Richard Osman’s latest crime novel are boosting Christmas book sales, according to WH Smith.

But behind every bestseller is a public relations firm whose work helps to drive awareness and sales. We covered five of the top companies here, including Palamedes PR. In this Q&A, we speak to its senior publicist Anthony Harvison to find out more about what the ‘Rolls Royce’ of book marketing companies does and the role of PR in today’s competitive publishing industry.

Q: How important is publicity in the launch of new books or emerging authors?

Anthony Harvison (A): In today’s saturated literary market, media coverage is arguably more important than ever.  A good PR campaign can contribute significantly to the overall success of a book launch and the author's career.

Q: What factors do you consider when taking on a book for promotion?

A: Most people assume that we only represent books that we love personally or that we think have real literary merit. In fact, the decision about what books we take on is based on an objective test of newsworthiness – that is, whether they are likely to generate considerable media interest. We’re also governed by our size; as a small company, we only have the manpower to represent a handful of new clients each month.


Q: What are the key steps a publicist will take when promoting a new book?

(A): We start by understanding the book, its market and audience, and the core objective(s). Some authors are 100% focused on book sales whereas others are more interested in disseminating a key point, message or call to action. Once we know the goals, we’re able to determine what media platforms – whether TV, radio, national press or something else – would work best and what editorial services are needed to interest them.

Q: How important is timing in book promotion, and how far in advance do you typically begin planning for a book launch?

A: In an ideal world, we’ll have two-three months to prepare the groundwork before a launch. This is especially important in the build-up to Christmas and other key dates when the competition is fiercer. Much of this time will be spent identifying news angles, obtaining commissions, and drafting editorial content. But it’s not at all uncommon that we’re called on at the last minute and have only a day or two at our disposal.

Senior publicist Anthony Harvison has served as campaign director at the ‘Rolls Royce’ of book marketing companies, Palamedes PR, for many years.
Senior publicist Anthony Harvison has served as campaign director at the ‘Rolls Royce’ of book marketing companies, Palamedes PR, for many years.

Q: Are there any common misconceptions authors have about book promotion that you frequently encounter?

A: By far the most common misconception is that PR is a silver bullet which, when fired, will make every book an international bestseller. Yes, an effective PR campaign will draw horses to water but, as the saying goes, it can’t make them drink. There are dozens of factors that determine product sales, almost all of which are well outside of a publicist’s control and remit. I’m afraid that books with poor covers, shoddy websites, exorbitant price points, or zero market appeal are never going to sell well, regardless of how much publicity they obtain or how well they’re written.

Q: Is pre-launch buzz important for a new book?

A: in the real world, the term ‘pre-launch buzz’ really means pre-launch orders, and for most publishers this is a critical part of their business model. Pre-orders contribute to overall sales figures, so the more pre-orders a book receives the higher it is ranked on bestseller lists and, in the case of Amazon, the more visible it becomes. Books with high pre-orders are usually allocated a more prominent space in bookstores, too. National newspaper coverage and radio interviews are a tried and tested way of building awareness and contributing to healthy pre-orders.

Q: Is it true that Palamedes doesn’t recommend book launch events?

A: Events are normally a means to an end – publicity – so if authors and publishers can avoid the expense and obtain media coverage without them, then our advice is to do so. We would always recommend that authors consider the other options, of which there are many, first.

Q: Which is harder to promote – fiction or non-fiction?

A: Promoting non-fiction books in the national press and on broadcast platforms is relatively straightforward because they will typically draw on new research or revelations of some kind. Generating national press exposure and broadcast interviews for works of fiction, on the other hand, tends to be trickier because the material at our disposal is, by definition, fictional.

Q: What would you consider to be a successful campaign?

A: It will come down to the principal objectives of the campaign, but generally speaking a successful book marketing campaign from our point of view would comprise national and international print and digital newspaper coverage, and numerous radio and/or TV interviews.

Q: Palamedes has represented everything and everyone from the Winter Olympics to A-list celebrities and world leaders but is, as you say, a small business. How so?

A: We’re a team of former journalists, not businessmen, so we’ve never been especially commercial in our thinking. Some might see this as a failing but to us it’s liberating. Agencies that are growth-focused (which is most of them) need to take on more and more new clients each month to reach those financial targets. This reduces the amount of time, personal attention, and media coverage that those clients receive. Palamedes, on the other hand, has always been about quality, not quantity.

For more information about Palamedes PR and its book marketing services, go to or call 0208 1036883