Newspapers are one of the key sources of publicity for authors. However, very few writers take the time to understand the types of content that make up a newspaper (either the printed or the online version). If you understand what kinds of stories make up a newspaper, you can see where your book might fit in and how to position it to optimise your opportunities.
So, let’s take apart a newspaper and see what makes it tick! Get one and play along if you can—preferably a printed newspaper as it is easier to see everything at once. And the bigger the better, ideally something along the lines of The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post or the UK’s Sunday Times.
There are book publicity possibilities that all newspapers, big national newspapers or small local ones, have in common. Larger newspapers have more opportunities, sure, but there is also more competition for that space and a greater need to ensure that you are pitching the right ideas to the right people.
First, you will find throughout the paper that there are three main types of coverage—news, features, and reviews.
As you know, news is all about the things that are happening now and news can be local, regional, national or international. The fact that you are publishing a book is not news, but it is possible to get a mention for a book or you as an expert/author in the news section of a newspaper if your book or personal expertise relates to a newsworthy topic.
Even something like the anniversary of an event that is related to your book can get you into a news story. For example, 2018 is the anniversary of the end of the first World War. If you have a book about the Great War and have done a great deal of research about it then you need to put yourself forward as an expert. You may find yourself quoted in the news.
Some larger papers also have a separate ‘news review’ section. The articles here are still news-related but can be longer and more subjective. If you are an ‘expert’ with an opinion, you can possibly contribute articles or provide in-depth analysis and quotes for pieces in this area of the paper.
Features are articles about a person, place, or topic that can contain more depth, emotion or humour than news articles. This includes interviews, personality profiles, topic-related pieces and even photographic features. Features can be long, lasting several pages, or very short ‘sidebar’ formats that appear in every issue with a different person or topic each time.
Features are ideal for a book or an author with a backstory or a topic that readers will find interesting. While feature writers may cover many subject areas, sidebars are great for opportunities as you can easily see what the journalist is looking for before you contact them.
Turn to the book section of the paper and you will generally see two types of book review. The first are solo reviews where each review is about a single book, usually a major title by an already-known author or expert. These reviews are usually detailed, aimed at people who are already interested in the author or subject and can be quite long.
The other kind of review that you will often find are combined reviews—shorter reviews of 2-6 books about a similar subject or genre in a single article. These reviews have less impact in terms of sales but can sometimes get you that stand-out quote that can help you to sell your book and your future books for many years to come.
Sections of the Newspaper
The three types of articles—news, reviews, and features—permeate the entire paper, so each section of the paper can contain any or all of them. For example, in business you will most likely find news (the latest company events), features (profiles of people or businesses) and reviews (resources for business people, including business books). The same goes for travel, sports, and other sections.
Be sure to have a look at each section of the newspaper and think about how your book may fit in. In a large newspaper you will more or less find the following topics:
- Business (companies, management, careers and money/personal finance)
- Culture (movies, art, books, television, music, theatre)
- Fashion and Style
- Home (cooking, gardening, interiors, buying and selling houses)
- And often a magazine (Usually a couple of columns, some long feature articles, and a few short features)
These topics are included in smaller local newspapers as well, even if they do not have their own special areas.
There are far more book publicity opportunities than you would expect in a newspaper. If you are creative and have a good understanding of what journalists and editors are after you may well get your book in places that you never thought that you would. Creativity and understanding in your media approaches are the key to making your book stand out from the competition.