by Leann Garms
How do you make news with your book, beyond a book review or a book-signing event? That’s really the question and the challenge. The answer is actually simple. You see, it’s not about you or your book. It’s about NEWS.
Book Publicity. PR. Media Relations. Working with the media to get that coveted review, news story, radio interview, magazine feature article or even radio and TV interviews.
I come from a traditional media relations background, not only literary PR. I have been working with journalists, producers, and editors to get news coverage for a variety of clients for more than 30 years. I know what it takes to make news. Now that I work exclusively with authors and small publishers, I see not only the missteps many authors/publishers make, but the opportunity as well.
PR is one of the most effective, cost-effective, and quickest ways to raise your visibility and credibility as an author; build on your brand; and sell books. However, I believe we are missing the mark in the publishing industry where publicity is concerned. With the onus of book marketing squarely on an author’s shoulders today, regardless of how you are published, I’m surprised we don’t see more focus on this valuable and accessible tool. Perhaps one reason is lack of true understanding of the value, the cost, and how to do it right.
This is the motivation for starting our Author Education series with free webinars and small online classes: to help authors and publishers become clear on the why and how of book publicity so that you don’t waste time and money. Our next free publicity webinar is September 3.
I’ll share a little of what we discuss in our workshops about the “why” of PR.
Getting news coverage for your books—beyond the review—is one of the quickest ways to establish credibility for you as an author and for your book. Any journalist who writes about you or interviews you on the air is giving you an implied endorsement, plus you get the reach of their audience. The Dallas NPR show, Think, which focuses mostly on authors, has thousands of live listeners and even more—over 200,000 digital downloads—after the fact. Think about having even half of one percent of those listeners buying your book.
Putting clips of your news coverage in your press kit shows that you’re newsworthy. It’s evidence from an objective third party. In fact, just having a press room and press kit makes you look newsworthy!
It’s much easier today to have a broad media reach online. Any pick-up or interview you get— including bloggers—gives you the reach of their audience. Most media outlets—radio, TV, and print publications—have online versions, so if you get a feature story in a national magazine, your story might be online for several days or weeks, and then there’s the SEO (search engine optimization) that online coverage gives you, and you get to put that in your press kit. (TIP: Please put your website URL in the first paragraph of your press releases and give the reader a reason to go to your site… a quiz, a free tip sheet, a free ebook for limited time, even).
PR Has Staying Power
Ads and tweets, are short-lived. Press releases don’t go away. If you publish a press release online (PRWeb, PR.com) the release helps with SEO and it will continue to show up even years later. And it looks impressive in your press room, even if it was months ago.
Control Your message
When you reach out to the media with your press releases and you’ve done a good job of creating your online press room with your bios, book synopsis, feature story ideas, interview Q&A, etc., you are in control of how you and your book are positioned in the marketplace. Clear messaging and compelling “hooks” for the media are key. This is where a seasoned PR professional can be invaluable: strategy.
So if you’re convinced that you need a PR strategy, how do you do it?
I hear this in my consulting sessions a lot: “I sent out a press release and it didn’t work,” “I hired a publicist and I didn’t get on that TV show,” or “I bought a PR package from my ‘publisher’ (actually an upsell from an unethical subsidy/vanity press, but that’s another story) and the results were nil.”
My response: I’m not surprised. That’s because, to be successful in using publicity to create buzz for your book, you have to get outside of yourself and your book and think like a journalist. You must give them news. For their audience. And you must do it professionally.
It takes a long-term, professional effort to see true impactful results. A one-time shotgun approach is not effective. Why? Because media builds on media. The small community newspaper is a great start, as is the local radio show. And keep in mind that no significant radio or TV producer wants to be the first to interview you because their reputation is on the line. One of our clients now gets calls from the producer of the ABC affiliate in Houston, because we got her two interviews last year and they know she’s good. (I recommend that you have media training for your first interviews.)
At some point, preferably before you’ve tried to DIY, you’ll need professional help. And, if you’re a serious author who’s trying to create a business with your writing, your expertise, and/or speaking, you’ll want to invest in a four- to twelve-month PR campaign at minimum. Yes, this can be costly at $3K to $5K per month on average, but there are some things you can do up front to save time and money.
Before You Start
Before you embark on any concerted publicity effort, whether it’s with a freelance publicist, a PR agency, or starting small and doing it yourself, have these key pieces in place:
- A solid author brand and online presence.
- Clear positioning and messaging in the market. This is where the strategy is key, with hooks and media angles, current news tie-ins, etc.
- Targeted audience. Be clear about who you are trying to reach and where to find them, or you will waste resources.
- A robust website with a blog. Not just a blog site. This is “YOU central.” The first thing journalists do is Google you. If you’re not there with a professional website, they’ll move on.
- A press room that spoon-feeds the media. It includes your press kit with a series of topics/angles, media coverage, your media coverage as you get it, hi-res graphics, etc.
- Social media engagement on your top two platforms. Pick two and do them well. Facebook, Twitter to reach journalists, LinkedIn, and Instagram work well for a lot of our authors.
- An email list (give something away in exchange for email addresses. Don’t ask anyone to sign up for a newsletter). Your ultimate goal for a publicity effort is to build your audience, so make sure any interview drives them to your website so you can capture email addresses.
A good PR firm can help you with all of these essentials. But the more you can do up front, the more money you’ll save. They can hit the ground running if you’re packaged and positioned professionally.
To that end, we now offer a PR starter kit that includes several of these pieces, including the critical strategy session. And Spawn members can get a $50 discount.
Once you have a few things in place, it’s time to call in the professionals. And be realistic about what they can and can’t do. Making news with your book is possible, regardless of whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. PR is not rocket science, but there is an art to it. You’ll need to educate yourself about what makes sense for your books and find professionals that fit your goals and budget.