In 1995, the internet was still in its infancy and many in the publishing industry were trying to ignore it. Fauzia Burke, a tech-savvy publicity and marketing professional, did not. She had such a strong vision of how the internet could help authors, which led her to quit her publishing job and launch FSB Associates, a book publicity firm that she initially operated out of her home in New Jersey.
With the help of Listservs, newsgroups, and dial-up modems, Burke created a proprietary system of online marketing, publicity, and consulting services for authors and publishers. Since then, FSB Associates has promoted such authors as Alan Alda, Mika Brzezinski, Deepak Chopra, Arianna Huffington, and Charles Spencer.
Now based in Carlsbad, Calif., FSB Associates has executed more than 2,000 book publicity campaigns. Today the team includes COO John Burke, Burke’s husband; senior publicity managers Michelle Fitzgerald and Anna Sacca; website manager Syrah Burke and digital marketing manager Aliya Burke, Burke’s daughters; and several assistants. The company works to place stories about its clients in such outlets as the Daily Beast, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, Oprah.com, Salon, USA Today, and Vice. It also places authors on online video shows, podcasts, blogs, and radio shows, and with social media influencers. “We organize book tours and virtual events,” Burke said.
Burke was born in Pakistan and settled with her family in Queens, N.Y., in 1981. After graduating from Queens College with a degree in English, she held positions in marketing and publicity at Springer-Verlag, Wiley, and Henry Holt, where she had her internet epiphany. “Publishing is not exactly a B2C [business-to-consumers] environment; it’s a B2B [business-to-business] one: we sell to bookstores, and bookstores sell to consumers,” she said. “But on the internet, we could reach consumers directly, and we focus our efforts on consumer marketing.”
Burke said she could see how the internet would “totally upend how we market, how we can connect with people, and how our readers and authors can connect with each other.”
Eighteen months after launching FSB, Burke had so many clients—including Greg Hamlin, her former boss at Holt—that she convinced her husband to quit his job as sales director at Springer-Verlag and join the company. In 2014, the Burkes moved to California and focused FSB on online marketing and promotion. “We are a virtual company doing digital marketing, so Covid-19 has had less of an impact on us,” Burke said. “We were already organized to work at home. However, we had to pivot from in-person events to virtual ones using a variety of video conferencing platforms.”
About 98% of FSB’s business is referral based, Burke said. The company places features and secures online exposure for its clients through website editors, bloggers, social media influencers, and podcasters. “From the beginning, our model has been to pitch one person at a time: we’ve worked with editors—some for 10, 20 years—always on a one-to-one basis,” she noted.
Burke also writes for online publications, including the Huffington Post. And in 2016, her book Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide was published by Berrett-Koehler.
In March 2018, FSB launched PubSite, an online platform designed to allow authors to create and maintain their own websites. Burke said FSB built it “from the ground up.” Each author site can display and link to social media pages, offer mailing list sign-ups, launch new blogs or import existing ones, host online author events, and support video, audio, and e-commerce, all for $19.99 per month. By December 2019, PubSite was supporting nearly 200 author websites, split between fiction (48%) and nonfiction authors (44%), with children’s and YA writers accounting for the balance. Among those using the site are the estates of Tom Clancy and Robert Parker, as well as literary agents (McKinnon Literary) and publishers, among them Secant Publishing.
“It’s been exciting to see people in publishing embrace something that we think is a real problem solver,” Fauzia said. “I’m so proud of how we’ve innovated, tried new things, and continued to grow, even during a pandemic.”