Today’s post is brought to you by Rusty Shelton of Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists
You’ve invested so much time and energy into your book and now you think you’re done. Not so fast; it’s time to get the word out! We hear many authors say, “I thought writing the book was the hard part, but promoting it seems even more difficult.” Step back, take a deep breath, we’re here to help.
First, let’s talk about why publicity is so important for authors at the beginning of their careers:
It establishes third-party credibility.
Generally speaking, an author doesn’t obtain academic credentials or media recognition in one fell swoop. Gaining credibility as an author is a steady, uphill climb and with hundreds of thousands of books published each year you can be sure that there will be some competition. However, when the media recognizes your book as a credible source amidst this vast sea of information, it gives your book third-party credibility from an unbiased and unpaid source. This is imperative for a new author. Someone who has a respected opinion (as major media does) vouching for the book raises an author from unknown to up-and-coming.
It sets your book apart.
When people are interested in buying a book on a certain topic, they have countless choices. Still, according to the Book Industry Study Group, 59% of customers have a specific book in mind when they enter the store. That means that you have to reach them before they get to a bookstore and publicity is a great way to do that. Though impulse buys do happen, the best option is to set your product apart through media attention before consumers even set foot in a bookstore. Through media exposure, customers will enter bookstores with your book already in mind.
It gives you a platform to reach a large amount of people.
For many authors, publicity is about much more than just book sales—publicity increases speaking opportunities, provides an opportunity to promote a company, and gives the author the chance to spread a message that can truly benefit an audience. Therefore, a publicist’s goal is to book authors on programs that reach a relevant market so as to communicate with people interested in the author’s message. Each media outlet that does interviews or feature articles has an established circulation or viewing audience that will get information from that medium no matter what is being covered. Publicity allows authors to tap into the platform that the media has already established to reach a large number of people.
It gives your book media exposure through different mediums besides book reviews.
While traditional book reviews are an excellent way to gain media exposure, if you have been watching the headlines over the past few years you know that stand-alone reviews are disappearing from newspapers around the country. You should go into your publicity campaign with goals of reaching media across all four forms—TV, radio, online and print—and develop a strategy that allows you to do that effectively.
But, what if you’re still writing?
Many authors put off thinking about publicity until their book is almost out on the market. Bad idea. Trust us—there are many things you can be doing now to set yourself up for publicity success later on. Authors should begin thinking about promoting their books the day they sit down to write them. If you’re in the middle of perfecting your manuscript, it’s good to start adding to your publicity and media knowledge.
Here are a few tips if you’re still writing:
Have an audience in mind from the beginning. Imagine someone reading your book (someone NOT related to you) and think of reasons they would seek out your title on bookshelves, as opposed to the competition. Now is the time to start thinking about ways to differentiate yourself and your book from the crowd.
Include a table of contents. This sounds basic, but it’s important. It’s especially important if your book is non-fiction. Chapters allow media outlets to quickly reference appropriate sections that might apply during an interview. If each chapter stands alone, it helps producers and editors glean important nuggets of information without doing much more than a quick skim, which is usually all they have time for. In these beginning stages, it’s also a great way to stay on track and organized with your writing.
Become part of a bigger issue. Fiction authors who are associated with a non-profit group or other types of organizations will have credibility over authors who are not actively participating in the bigger picture. So, what academic degrees do you have? Which companies have you worked for? Which parts of your personal life inspired your writing? Are you involved in any charitable organizations? Have you been speaking to local groups? How does it all relate back to your book?
Solicit frank feedback. The key word here is “frank.” If you ask your spouse or any other loved one to read your manuscript, chances are they’re probably going to sugarcoat their comments just a little. The best thing you can do as you’re writing your book is solicit honest feedback. I’m talking about an honest critique of your work. People who can say things like: “I didn’t like that transition. Make it smoother,” or “This doesn’t make sense in the context of what you said in Chapter 2,” or “Make the ending better; you’ve left out a bunch of characters.” Large, established writers’ groups are great venues to solicit this kind of feedback. Look for some in your area. And don’t be offended at receiving this honest feedback—even blockbuster authors have editors.
Become a news junkie. You are more likely to be used as a source if you know what the media is talking about. Put Google Alerts on topics related to your book and start to watch how the media is covering them. By gaining more knowledge about how the media covers your topic before your book is out, you’ll have a leg up during your publicity campaign. So, tune in to what the media is talking about and consider how your credentials relate to a trend or news cycle.
Start getting web savvy. Online promotion has exploded in the last five years and the options for media hits are seemingly endless. Before your book even hits the shelves, it’s a great idea to have your website in place. Be sure to include an online newsroom and calendar of events. Also, consider starting a blog. A blog is a great way for an author to begin building a web presence, show off their writing and get readers invested in their book.
The key thing to remember is: don’t wait to think about publicity until your book is almost out on the market. Absorb as much as you can from the headlines, keep an eye on the trends, brush up your credentials and design your book with the media in mind. Have fun and good luck!
Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top literary publicity firms and works with authors and publishing houses around the country to garner major media for their titles. Find P&P on the web at www.phenixpublicity.com, www.phenixpublicity.blogspot.com or www.twitter.com/phenixandphenix.