Book publicity can be defined in one sentence: it is using the media as a conduit to spread word of an author and book to general and/or target audiences. It really is, in its simplest form, a “you scratch their back, they scratch yours” scenario. You, the author, offer great material or ideas for a story, article, broadcast interview, podcast, etc., and the host or editor “plugs” your book. Here are 15 important tips to consider when you’re trying to get media attention and coverage to promote your book.
The book publicity process is an indication of whether your hard work writing your book will translate into success. Common mistakes self-published authors make include going into the process under-educated, underestimating the time required to promote your book well, and not following the generally accepted rules of engagement when reaching out to media.
Is there a secret formula publicists employ to secure media coverage for authors and books? Not really. While there is no single, proven approach, book publicity is indeed a craft—with tactics, strategies, and professional standards. Whether you hire a professional or not, authors still play a large role in a successful book publicity campaign, starting with the below.
1. It's Not Always About Your Book
Book promotion, for both non-fiction and fiction, is often more about the author than the book. Keep in mind that much of the time you’re marketing yourself as an expert/author to the media. When it comes to trying to get radio and TV interviews, remember—no one interviews a book! It’s about you and the meaningful information you can provide or discussion you can spark. Exposure for you equates to exposure for your book. This step is so important, IngramSpark offers a free course to learn how to build your author platform.
2. Understand What a Media Pitch Actually Is
A media pitch is a brief note (typically an email or letter) that explains why you would be a great guest on a specific show, a subject for a feature story or article in a magazine or newspaper, a source for expert commentary, etc. A good pitch is succinct and direct. It’s all about persuasion. Put yourself in the shoes of an editor or producer, and think about what would make you interested in someone.
3. Remember, The Media Needs You
Editors and producers really do need and want you. Without book publicists and self-promoting (or self-published) authors, their jobs would be much harder. Keep this in mind when promoting your book. If you approach media appropriately, you aren't some annoying self-published author—you’re gold to them. Maybe in an initial response an editor or producer won't respond, but don't let that discourage you. Change your mindset. Tell yourself that you are someone media need. Instead of promoting yourself, you’re selling yourself, and you’ll decide who to engage. This may sound simple, but it’s something all good book publicists do. Act important because you are important, and you’ll be seen as important.
4. Know Your Audience
You’re using the media to reach people who should be interested in your book, so you need to approach the right media—the outlets that cater to your end-user, i.e. readers. No book is right for everyone, for media or readers. Clearly define your audience so that you’re approaching the right media that cater to that audience.
5. Offer Giveaways
For interviews on radio, television, and podcasts—offer book giveaways. Guest bookers and producers love to use guests who will give some books away as part of their interview. Giveaways prompt call-ins to shows, spark listener questions, and they’re a great way to generate interest in your book. Giving away books to people who call in to a show often makes others believe the book must be special.
6. Craft a Quality Press Release
Although many things have changed in the publicity and media industries, press releases are still important. A press release is the foundation of your promotional platform. Learn how the pros do it, and follow that style.
Amateurish press releases do one thing very well: They announce that an author is indeed an amateur. Media contacts do not like dealing with amateurs; they expect a professional presentation and quality information. Don't assume you know how to write a press release simply because you’re a good writer. Press releases follow industry-accepted formats and styles. Learn them!
If you personalize, they will respond. When reaching out to journalists you believe should be interested in your book, take a few minutes to research what they’ve recently written about. If you say, “I know you covered ________ topic recently, so you might be interested in ________,” you dramatically increase your chances of getting a response. It shows the journalist you’re serious and you took the time to research them, and they will appreciate this.
8. Be Creative in Your Media Outreach
The competition for media attention is fierce. Make your book stand out from the crowd by accentuating what makes it unique, different, and newsworthy. Virtually every book has an angle that should resonate with some media, and many authors have backgrounds that make them interesting and newsworthy. Find what makes your book and/or you unique, and run with it!
9. Put Yourself in the Position of a Producer or Editor
Think about the kind of pitches, guests and story ideas they’re looking for. If you make their job easier, media contacts will respond to your outreach.
A quick tip if you’re seeking TV interviews: Watch one of the national morning news shows, and listen for the segues before commercials. Example: “Coming up after the break, five surprising things your handshake says about you.” These segues are pitches! Watch, listen, and learn.
10. Use Google Alerts Related to Your Book Topic and Your Expertise
Identify keywords and phrases so you get alerted when a topic related to your book is in the news. News begets news; if a topic has been covered, chances are other outlets will cover it, and many editors, reporters, and producers like to do follow-up stories and interviews.
11. Stay on Top of Current Events and Trending Stories
12. Be Patient and Persistent
Book publicity is more marathon than sprint. Media coverage is not a one-and-done proposition—it must be sustained to spark book sales and generate other opportunities. You will inevitably hear “no” more than “yes” when trying to secure media coverage. Every self-published author does. Every professional publicist does. It’s the nature of book publicity.
13. Go Old School
There are other forms of communication than email—a fact many of us forget. The average editor or producer gets hundreds of emails a day from book publicists and self-published authors. Like most of us, unless something jumps out at them, the delete button is immediately employed to get down to a manageable number.
But what if you actually mailed a letter, and hand addressed it? How many hand-addressed letters do you think the average producer or editor gets a day? Probably not many. A hand-addressed envelope is very likely to be opened, and your pitch may actually be read!
Here’s another insider tip: instead of mailing a copy of your book to media, send it via FedEx or UPS. Almost everyone opens these.
14. Set Realistic Expectations
Every author wants to sell tens of thousands or millions of books. The reality is, very few do. But this doesn't mean you can’t achieve good book sales over time with a sustained and strategic media outreach and book marketing plan. Good things can, and do, happen to authors every day. Set reasonable expectations and goals, and you’ll set yourself up for success.
15. Enjoy the Ride
Remember: You may never pass this way again, so enjoy the ride. Yes, you want book sales and you want to make money. But there’s an interesting aspect to book publicity and media coverage that is too often forgotten—it can be a lot of fun! Being interviewed and written about by others can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Enjoy the journey. Relish it. It’s business, but it really can be a blast.