How to Publicize Your Book
By Randa Handler
You’ve spent years writing your book and it’s finally ready. Whether you’ve landed a publisher or are self-publishing it, you still need to find readers. Hopefully you’ve remembered during the writing process to craft a presence online. You cannot contemplate the release of any book without it. Unless, you’re a celebrity, have a following, have friends in book clubs or are in the media yourself. The publishing industry has changed drastically and social media plays a big part in it. The social community alone can help you create a buzz around your new book release. There are many wonderful communities of bloggers, book reviewers and writers that help each other with visibility.
Ebooks and self-publishing have hurt and helped in that visibility. Easy access to online distributors and low production costs created a huge inventory. This explosion has affected quality standards and made some reporters and reviewers shy away from self-published titles. On the other hand, self-publishing being such a fast process has given first-time authors a promotional vehicle. Such visibility was only available to traditionally published authors. Considering many known celebrities and authors are self-publishing, it is giving a renewed advantage. So when enough buzz is created around your book, self-published or traditionally published, you will get a mainstream journalist to listen. The idea is to still follow the traditional steps of publishing and not cut any corners. Please work with editors and professionals at every step of the process. Research author and editorial services and I’m sure you’ll find a reasonable and reputable one.
Is there a way to make your book stand out? Yes, there is always a way. Who cares if there are millions of new titles that surface every year, you should be concerned with one. Yours! You were driven to do this and there must have been a reason. You should be able to plotline yours in 140 characters. Yes, in about a tweet.
Here’s a basic check list:
- know all your characters and their traits. The good, bad and ugly.
- know where the story arched and why.
- know what your ultimate message and why.
When all is in focus, your promotional campaign will be easy to devise and follow. And, that’s where publicity and marketing will play a key role in your visibility. Now, it is always better to have someone else tout your horn. But, if hiring a publicist is not in your budget. Average book launch public relations’ retainers are very steep (About 2K a month) and results are never 100% guaranteed. I’ve heard of authors invest 25k in a launch without it translating into bestseller sales. So, if promotional and advertising budgets are not an option, you can try and do it yourself. Here are a few things to remember. When you decide to contact media outlets, it’s important to research their individual timetables and their submission guidelines. And, most importantly plan ahead.
The guidelines of Contacting Media:
- Even though social media and digital access changed the way we access news, some of the PR etiquette is still the same. Here are a few rights and wrongs!
- Newspapers still want 2 to 3 weeks advance notice for any releases or events you might send them. Obviously, it’s different if it’s ‘a breaking news,’ story.
- Monthly publications and magazines require 2 to 3 months advance notice.
- Radio stations require 1 to 2 weeks advance notice. Again, not for breaking-news.
- Television stations require a couple of days to a week advance notice.
- Check all submission guidelines as some prefer email submission to mail or fax.
When emailing a pitch, try and follow these steps to make yours stand out:
- Include a brief story teaser in subject line (about 5 words or less).
- Individualize each pitch. It is always nice as a journalist to feel that an email is written especially for you. Research a little and get the name of the appropriate assignment desk or editor. You want to target the one who covers your type of story.
- Try and see if your pitch can tie-in to a breaking news story.
- Try to think like a journalist and erase any reference to publicity in your news.
- Send a brief follow-up email. If you decide to call, try and be brief too and remember to check best times with a journalist’s deadlines. Some say that mid-afternoons are best. I think it depends on the journalist and the deadlines.
Do press-releases follow a format? Yes. Enter into any online search engine, ‘free press-release template’ and download a couple. But here’s a basic structure:
- A catchy headline
- Book Summary, AKA ‘teaser’ about 1-3 sentences. The briefer the better.
- [Your City, State] — [Date] – The opening paragraph answers the questions of who, what, when, where, and why. Here you’re trying to suggest a newsy aspect to your release.
- Second paragraph-Explain unique angle of book and why a journalist should choose to review.
- Third paragraph- Here you can include a couple of early reviews or a quote from a known reviewer, an author or a respectable industry or publishing authority.
- Fourth paragraph-Here you can include upcoming events or book signings.
- Fifth paragraph-AKA ‘call to action.’ Here you can provide bookstore or online links.
- Last paragraph is a super brief bio about the author. Make sure you end the release with contact Information: Publicist’s name, your name or an associate if DIY, publisher, phone, website and contact email. And you sign off with either -30- or ### which signifies the end of your press-release.
- Try and fit all in one page if possible.
Who gets your press-release? There are some paid press release distribution companies and some free access ones. As a journalist, I used to just check the wire feeds and read the alerts and blurbs to see what’s new but things are different now. You can still check AP and other wire-services but the digital age has made access so diverse and has specialized so many. There are free and paid syndication companies that would upload your press-release. Some you have to register and join first. Some newspaper, radio & television assignment desks will let you upload a press-release too.
Here are some free press-release distribution outlets:
And here are a few top paid distribution ones: (price range from $100 to $300)
I hope the above is helpful and I do wish you the best of luck. As an author I love to see other authors succeed. May you sell tons of books!
Free Book Marketing Tips
CAN YOU MARKET A BOOK ON A SHOE STRING BUDGET?
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Congratulations on getting published! Your work has just started! Getting published is only half the equation; the other half, just as important, is letting people know about you and your book. That is accomplished through a well targeted all-media effort that encompasses marketing, public relations and advertising. A book doesn’t sell itself. A publisher will help with some of these efforts for a limited amount of time, but ultimately it is your responsibility. Costs have made it a rarity for a publisher to devote money and effort to an author who is not a household name. Even then, a new book is usually allocated about 6 months of concentrated tailor-made efforts. If you’re not a hot ‘in’ celebrity and do not have a corporate or licensing tie-in, you need to roll up your sleeves and get to work. You need to allocate time, effort and money for the proper marketing and publicity. A true marketing and public relations campaign sometimes takes years until an author becomes a household name and his or her book becomes a bestseller.
Ideally, as a new author you’ve set aside enough of a budget to hire a publicist or a book marketing expert for at least one year to help with the publisher’s efforts. But, keep in mind that no publicist will have your knowledge about you and your book and the reasons why you’ve written it. And most importantly no publicist is going to do for your book what you’re not going to be willing to do. You can pay someone to convey enthusiasm and passion but if you do not feel and convey it yourself, your book will fail. So, take a deep breath, get set and go full speed ahead with confidence!
Expert publicists know how to garner attention, from writing key powerful press releases to calling upon their list of contacts in all areas, from reviewers to media. But, if your budget hasn’t allocated for that cost, below are some tips on how to help promote your book at little or no cost.
SET A PLAN OF ACTION, this should encompass a book tour, local and national promotional efforts and a “to do” list.
The internet is a great asset and gives you a worldwide audience. Cause some kind of reaction. Create some kind of traffic either to your site or to your publisher’s site.
Email campaigns. They can be a great way to garner attention. A targeted email campaign can function like a tidal wave. Put on your thinking cap and determine why your book should be bought and by whom. Go after that audience.
Email campaign to friends and family and ask them to spread the word about your book. Email reviews, no matter how small, and ask them to forward them to their friends and so on.
Print announcement flyers with key review quotes and ask friends and family to forward on to their friends and organizations that might be interested in what you have to say. Ask them to spread the word about you and your book.
Google search the topic of your book, and read similar books or articles and see who reviewed those titles or talked about them. Find their contact information and try to get them interested in your book.
Google search all topics mentioned in your book, whether your book is fiction or non-fiction. Are you making a political statement? A social one? Are you speaking about one section of the population, a race or a minority? Then, research all relative organizations, contact them for help and see if they would be interested in helping spread the word about you and your book.
If fiction, are your characters a minority? Are they dealing with a cause?
If non-fiction, contact topic related associations, governmental organizations, schools and universities.
Visit your local libraries and ask them if they would like you speak.
Google search local groups and associations that might have you give a brief talk.
Carry copies with you at all times, whether in the trunk of your car, briefcase or purse.
Call your old schools, colleges or universities and ask them to either do an article on you in the school paper. Get them to highlight it in bulletins, newsletter, and alumni circulars. Can the university or school bookstore host a book-signing?
If you don’t have a publicist or cannot afford one. Ask the publisher for a copy of their press-release. Even if that’s not available, ask a friend who knows public relations to help you write a press-release or flyer. Keep copies with you. Update them at all times with new review quotes and new reviews. Or announcements of a review or article.
Always have extra copies of your press-release with you or flyers.
If you have a website, use it. Try to cause traffic to your website by going to chat-rooms and seeing if similar topics are being discussed. Ask organizations or high traffic educational web sites to link to your website if their interest is similar to the topic in your book.
Visit as many local bookstores as you can and leave some flyers on their free shelf.
Call talk radio shows, they are always looking for guests and see if they would have you on especially if their topics usually deal with whatever your book is dealing with. Sometimes you can be a show caller and use that to your advantage by mentioning your book.
Visit your local churches, synagogues, temples and join in gatherings and announce your book. Sometimes they are willing to include a blurb in a newsletter if the topic is of interest.
Network with people whose affiliations are similar to yours and ask them to spread the word. Join open civic organizations meetings and try to have them recommend your book.
While food shopping, check out your supermarket’s bulletin board and see if they will let you post a flyer.
Pick up all the free weekly throwaway newspapers in your area and see if they would run a free story on you. Sometimes they do.
The Pennysaver publication can be tested with very cheap advertising.
Think of the different sections of the classifieds in your local paper where a small ad about your book might get noticed. Try to think about the different sections that could make a good fit with what you have to say.
If these cheap classified ads are successful, repeat them until they stop earning their cost in books sold.
The internet has many areas that can be utilized to generate attention, from blogging your area of interest, attaching to major newspaper blogs, sending on-line letters to the editors, emailing campaigns, watching for surveys and votes where you can add a thought with a mention of the book…
Small local newspapers are usually friendlier than the national ones and it doesn’t hurt to befriend the assistant editors and try to see if a themed article or an upcoming story can encompass you and your title.
Remember to milk whatever attention you get. A mention in a newspaper or an article can be emailed and snail-mailed to all family members, friends and contacts but it can also be pitched to other hometown papers, starting with your parents’ hometown…without forgetting to point out the connection.
Check out other authors in the area or neighboring towns and pitch a panel on a cumulative subject matter, from public access to local news segments.
The same author group if meeting with success can be pitched to make appearances—cross promotional interest—at schools, libraries, churches, congregations…
Go to coffee hang-outs, from local Starbucks to donut shops and ask if they have community bulletin boards and place a few flyers.
If your titles are children’s titles ask your illustrator to create fun, coloring books type flyers and see if local non-bookstores will help you place them on colorful stands, next to a few copies of the book.
Many non-bookstores are sometimes receptive to featuring a few titles especially if it is done on a mere consignment basis.
If your book is teaching something or is quoting surveys, charts or stats…sometimes chapters or sections can be tailored into articles and offered to local, even national newspapers and publications.
Release dates: Before any release dates are considered, tour dates are decided. You must consider the lead time needed to get the books into stores and out onto shelves — chains and independents. It is crucial to get your lead time right and work with your publisher. There is no need to accelerate the publication just to meet some deadline you had set. The most important one to keep in mind is the one that is required by your largest book retailers. Remember that if you insist on a one month lead time for instance you might not see your book on the shelves.
The big Christmas release misconception: First time authors always think that a Christmas release is a guarantee of sales. Sometimes that can work against you as major releases with major promotional budgets can bury your title.
Here are some standards that some distributors swear by:
Book Genre - Best months - Worst Months
Children - July/August - November
Business - Jan/Dec - May
Entertainment - Jan, July - May
Academia - Dec/OCT - July
Educational - Dec/Oct - May
Fiction - July/August/Sept - Feb/November
Non fiction - Sept/OCT - May
Hobbies - Jan/July - November
Self-Help - Dec/Jan - Feb/November
One thing is for sure, a “name authored” fiction will sell more than a non-fiction. But, general fiction can be released throughout the year, while for some reason non-fiction has a few poor release months as with May, June, July and August and that can have something to do with summer vacations and easy reading materials for trips and plane rides.
Merchandising and tie-ins: If you’re not a name author and you are lucky enough to have interest from a manufacturing company or even a retail store; that can be a great jumping off point.
Celebrity endorsements: The rule of thumb, considering the high cost associated with traditional publishing is to either be a name or have celebrity endorsements. Remember, attention sells books. And, so if you don’t have either, think of ways to get that attention and build on it.
Below are a few suggestions:
Send a copy of your book to your congressperson and your senator. When you receive a reply, use it whenever you can. Write a letter to the editor or an opinion piece, and list your book as credit.
You can email a pitch to as many smaller newspaper as sometimes slow news days mean a need for story fillers and yours might just fit the bill.
If you have other books to sell, include an order form on the back of the book (if you’re planning to self-publish) otherwise you can ask your publisher to announce the other titles.
Bookstore catalogs: You can ask your local bookstore about the possibility of being included and how much that would cost then offer to give them a few autographed copies.
Seasonal tie-ins: Sometimes subject matter ties in with holidays or other openings or launches. Keep an eye open as to what and when something is hitting the market. If your book deals either with the Veterans, the Fourth of July or Christmas, find out about special positioning that your book could have on the shelves around that time. Granted you have to understand that top positioning might go with a higher recognition item, whether it’s a name author or a name publisher. But, you can still use some creative maneuvering to get your own attention. Do you make any statements in your book that either contradict or agree with a title that’s causing some attention? State it and get some mileage out of it.
Seminars are a good way to generate attention and sometimes cash as well. Especially if your book is educational, offering a spin on a controversial topic, or is an academic release. Many authors have built their audience with that and have gone on to be best sellers.
Clipping services are good and essential but can be costly. If you know you’re going to be doing a few national Talk radio or television shows than they are worth getting. Sometimes publishers provide this service and sometimes they don’t. Find out if they do or not and accordingly check them out for a few months at time.
Co-promotional events. Call your local bookstore and ask if there are any upcoming promotional events that might coincide with the subject matter of your title. Ask if you can join in and offer to drop by and sign a few copies.
If your title is of the academic genre and you see it possibly used in conjunction with college or university courses, you need to include in your promotional budget the mailing of many copies to colleges and universities. Call 3 to 6 weeks later and see if the instructor or professor you sent the book to plans to use it in his class or not. Depending on response, additional mailings can be done or not.
If your academic title is used in a curriculum, you might want to start a speaking circuit and begin by calling the schools and offer yourself as a keynote speaker.
Depending on promotional and marketing budgets, mailers can be planned. A specialized book may have great potential in direct-mail. It is always best to hire an expert in direct mail than attempt to purchase lists and try to doing it yourself. An expert has stats to look at and can interpret the market better than you can.
Finally the internet is a great tool and if used wisely, it can generate the buzz that every author needs to get his/her book notices. Remember that every author out there thinks that his/her book is a best seller in the making and needs to be featured by OPRAH, THE VIEW, GMA…and be reviewed by all the major newspapers from the NY Times, to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE but the reality is it is up to you to make that or not a possibility. So do the leg-work first and establish truly whether your book its topic is truly of interest to the masses and why before you approach anyone connected with any highly rated Television or Radio show.
It is always best to poll interest with your book with strangers to truly determine appeal and sometimes target audience.
Finally, if things look promising and mass interest has been deemed a possibility see if you can interest a professional publicist to take your book on. He/she would know how to get you there. And good luck.