JKS Communications, a book publicity firm that has been working with books for 20 years, has recently launched two new companies under its brand: Books Forward and Books Fluent. Read on for an interview with Marissa DeCuir, president and partner.
Q: After 20 years of doing book publicity, what inspired the launch of Books Forward and Books Fluent?
A: We made this move so our authors would have the best chance at success, and the now-formalized Books Fluent will continue that work. In recent years, we’ve noticed so many pop-up organizations claiming to act as a publisher without really educating authors on the realities of the industry: what it means to meet industry standards, why that’s important and—most significantly—if they are choosing to indie publish, they can choose to actually retain rights to their work.
When we began 20 years ago, the book business was so different compared to today. As we’ve grown and matured over the years, we have crystalized the values we hold dear that have helped our 1,300+ books and 800+ authors become discovered and loved by readers. Transparency, integrity, tenacity, and accountability steer the way we work with publishers, authors, and media, and it guides our ultimate vision to move good books forward. We believe in the power of the written word (and now audible!) and how that can empower, educate, inspire, and change the lives of readers.
Our new names reflect our optimism, new look, and services: Books Forward is offering the same winning publicity to elevate voices and break barriers.
We have been incredibly fortunate to work with such a variety of accomplished writers and thinkers over the past two decades—authors from all over the world with important, meaningful and engaging stories to tell. We wanted a name that reflected our company’s mission to promote authors and books that empower, inspire, and move the world forward.
And we also wanted to formally introduce our indie publishing arm, as well. While we represent traditionally published authors and publishing houses, we also have a passion for helping promote and introducing readers to independently published authors. As such, we naturally began helping those indie authors with proper professional editing and design so we could conduct the most effective book publicity campaign.
Q: How will Books Forward help indie authors?
A: Our company was built on our founder’s belief that everyone’s story deserves to be heard at least once. That simple yet powerful belief has driven our company over the past two decades, and it’s our mission to help people tell their stories.
Our expertise in publicity is backed by our experience as journalists who understand how to deliver a message to tastemakers and readers so they will listen and engage. We intimately understand the challenges of being on the other side of the desks and how to present to those professionals what they need to do their job. This fuels our efforts to find and help readers connect with stories that elevate voices and break barriers.
Because we represent both traditionally and independently published authors, as well as literary organizations and companies throughout the world, we have developed a wide-ranging network that gives our indie-published authors as equal an opportunity as traditionally published authors to creatively and professionally rise above the millions of other books published each year. We insist that our indie-published books be of equal or higher quality as traditionally published books, and we design publicity campaigns that have the components to level the playing field.
We create exposure for the book through various forms of media coverage including newspapers, magazines, bloggers, radio and television programs, social media influencers, and more. Our team members have previously worked in each of these realms and bring that knowledge to the table in terms of how best to break through the noise of hundreds of other pitches each week. We also manage author events, coordinate strategic digital marketing, develop author websites, and much, much more.
Q: How will Books Fluent help authors?
A: Our team’s background in journalism has instilled a code of ethics to our company that is really important to us—for both publicity campaigns and indie publishing support. We want to be one of the good guys in a sea of pop-ups that don’t have authors’ best interests at heart and don’t set the right expectations for their success. Transparency is incredibly important to us.
Books Fluent consists of a team of people with varied industry experience, from traditional publishing houses to agencies to book distribution companies to trade publications. Along with following a code of ethics derived from our journalism background, we help authors who choose to go beyond self-publishing. They work with us to develop an indie publishing imprint for themselves and meet or exceed industry standards of editing and design. And perhaps, most importantly, we set up their book through proper distribution channels so they can reach readers offline as much as online. We are a champion of independent bookstores and libraries and see them as a crucial part of our society, often partnering with regional bookseller associations and local library branches. For instance, we helped author Jenny Milchman coordinate what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour,” and we represent the annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Holiday that just celebrated its 10th year.
Q: How do you find authors to work with? (Or how to authors find you?)
A: We are fortunate that most of our business comes from referrals or word of mouth. As we as a company has grown, we have had the luxury of bringing in top professionals who go through our special training, providing enhanced campaigns that are creatively competitive. With that greater capacity to manage more campaigns, it’s important for us to actively seek out authors who wouldn’t think of doing publicity for themselves. There are many important stories out there waiting to be told, and we hope we can find more of them through our hashtag #booksforward on social media and at the various conferences and other book events we participate in throughout the year.
Q: What types of books do you work best with/prefer? Any advice for aspiring writers?
A: Years ago, we chose to develop a team of publicists and marketing experts with interests in different genres. We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves in one genre, as there are beautiful stories to be told in so many different ways—whether it’s through popular genre fiction, niche sub genres, or nonfiction.
The former journalists on our team specialize in promoting our nonfiction authors, while our former industry insiders (and some of them current Bookstagrammers and book club members) bring a flair to our fiction campaigns.
We represent every genre under the sun: mystery/thrillers, young adult, children’s, middle grade, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, memoirs, business, self help, and other inspirational, message-driven books. We carefully review each query that comes our way, and we decide if we feel passionate about the book and story and if we have the expertise to really provide a value to the author. A book is an author’s baby, and we want to help take good care of them.
If you are an aspiring author, be mindful that there are many challenges and hurdles in this unique industry, but do your homework and find experts who have your best interests at heart and understand how to most effectively overcome those challenges or find other paths for you to reach readers.
Q: Congrats on the launch of both Books Forward and Books Fluent! To celebrate, you’ll be offering prizes throughout the year. What sorts of prizes and opportunities will you be offering?
A: Thank you so much! We are most excited about our contest for a free book publicity campaign, to be awarded to an author with a story that inspires and uplifts. Authors can enter here: https://booksforward.com/win-a-free-campaign-with-books-forward/.
And we’re also inviting readers to join our Books Forward Friends influencers squad. We have a welcome gift and will be doing monthly surprises for our BFFs. We believe books don’t just create readers—they create the changemakers who are shaping our world. Changemakers can join here: https://booksforward.com/bffs/.
We will be announcing more throughout the year, some already planned and some we’re still yet to work up. We truly want to celebrate the authors and readers who are moving this world forward.