What You Need To Know About Book Promotion & Marketing
The three topics we will cover today:
- Booking Yourself on Radio and Television Network
- Creating A Press Release
- Getting Book Reviews
One of the most effective and inexpensive means to garner publicity for your book is through radio or television interviews. While a great number of methods and approaches can be employed, here are some basic steps for you to follow.
The first and most important step is to contact the correct people. In radio and TV, producers and hosts—the people in charge of booking—are always changing positions and jobs. So make sure your contact list is up-to-date. If you don’t have a reliable source, simply call the station’s main line and verify your contact.
Next, know your audience. If your book covers politics, the standard Howard Stern-type “zoo” radio program is clearly not as appropriate as a topical National Public Radio show. Or, if you’ve written a small mystery novel, you might try your local TV station rather than banking on a Good Morning America interview. There are great books at the library that list all of the different radio and TV shows around the nation. Use these books for research, create a contact list, and base your promotion efforts around this list.
Once your contacts are selected, this is how to approach them.
Don’t just send the producers or hosts a standard press release about the book with a “the author is available for interviews” note. Think about what you can successfully discuss about the catchiest and most appealing aspects of the book. Put together a letter or “interview advisory” with a prominent headline and let the producer know what the author has to offer. A good advisory should explain everything your contact needs to know about you and your book at-a-glance. One effective approach is to use bullet points. Line up information in a sharp and easily accessible way (eliminating the potential loss of key points while a producer “scans” a paragraph). Finally, make sure to prominently display your contact information—let them know how to contact you. If they contact you, be lively and lucid on the phone. This is often a preinterview, a test as to what kind of guest you will be. Remember, they are booking you, not the book.
The next question is when to send. Most broadcast publicity is centered near a book’s publication date, but different producers work on different lead times. Keeping these facts in mind, you should always send your advisory as early as possible. In general, mailing four weeks in advance is a good bet. And, if budget allows, it’s a good idea to send the book with the press material to TV outlets. The nature of TV requires more preparation, and sending the book can speed up the process.
Finally, you should follow up. Call the producers. Only call the host if there is no producer for that particular show. Ask whether they have received the materials and are interested. Many times, an unforeseen opportunity will arise in this conversation, allowing you to add a piece of information that opens the door to book the interview on the spot. For example, if the author was born in the station’s city, the producer will many times have more incentive to book the interview.
Your ability to book a radio interview or TV appearance depends on how well you’re able to sell yourself. Leave no stone unturned, but never, never hound your contacts. And don’t waste their time! If they don’t get back to you after three attempts, write them off and concentrate on your other outlets.
Create a Press Release
A good press release can make the difference between an editor reading the first page of your book or throwing it in the slush pile. Besides the book jacket, the press release is often the first thing editors see. In its crudest form, a press release is a piece of paper—either one-sided or two—that includes a brief synopsis of the book, biographical information about the author, the publisher’s name and address, an ISBN, the publication date, the price, plus how to contact the author (or publicist) to schedule an interview. While the press release needs to incorporate all of this information, its first job is to catch an editor’s or producer’s eye.
So you need a hook.
The hook needs to be at the top of the page in plain view. Don’t save your big guns until the end of the release. An editor might never make it that far. Instead, make your headline as intriguing as possible, and make sure the opening paragraph follows up the sizzle of your headline with the meat of your release.
If the book can be tied to a news story, then by all means, play up the connection. At Cambridge University Press, I worked for an author who published a book on the Holocaust, which was released during the recent war in Yugoslavia. Her hook was: “Ethnic Cleansing—It’s Happening Again!” Stay topical; it will definitely help. Here are some other variations that should help you get the idea:
- Uncut! Uncensored! The Movies Hollywood Didn’t Want You to See!
- Ethnic Cleansing—It’s Happening Again!
- The Winner of a 1997 James Beard Award!
Just below your hook should be the title of the book—in large font, boldface type, and centered—with the name of the author below it in a smaller font. If you have any reviews to blurb, either from this book or from a previous title you published, or even a testimonial from anyone you believe might help your cause, include the best lines here. Don’t be afraid to include only the most flattering lines, such as “buoyant amusement—effervescent entertainment.” And always credit the publication or person the quotation came from.
Like the hook, the first line of your press release should be a winner. Here are some great ones I recently came across. “It was the environmental success story of the decade …,” “There’s a war raging right now in America …,” “Just as the runaway best seller Listening to Prozac intrigued a generation, so too will …”
You get the drift.
Now, fluidly lead into the synopsis. If your book is a novel, recap the storyline in 3 to 4 crisp paragraphs. If it’s a business book, bullets might work better than paragraphs to get your points across. Whatever the case, make your prose crisp and lively.
Now, depending what kind of book you’ve written and what kind of budget you’re on, making a nice press kit definitely has its rewards. Besides drawing an editor in, items in a press kit can serve as a springboard of ideas for editors to work from. The easier you make their job, the better chance you have of getting results. And remember that most TV and radio hosts don’t have time to read the book before every interview. So the more information you can provide, the better the shot you’ll have at landing that interview.
What else should the press kit include?
If you’ve got extra blurbs that didn’t fit on the press release, you might want to toss in an extra quote sheet. A brief (no more than two pages) Q&A with yourself is also a good idea. Or try slipping in a copy of an article clipped from a magazine or newspaper that relates to your story in some way, especially if your book is a novel. This makes your novel more than just another piece of fiction. Even better is a copy of a glowing review or story about your book. Short quizzes are always fun, as are lists of interesting facts, statistics, or even charts. And if you’re planning a book tour, make sure to list the dates and locations. Just remember that the ideas I’ve noted here are only a handful of the possibilities. What is essential, however, is to get creative, get topical, be concise, and use a good hook.
Get Your Book Reviewed
Congratulations! You wrote and published a book. Now you can outline the sequel, right?
Now it’s time to get your book some ink.
iUniverse author Robin Westmiller has found it difficult to collect traditional print reviews for her book, Red Wine for Breakfast, which has sold hundreds of copies. “Mainstream editors are not reviewing iUniverse books,” she says.
What, then, has propelled Westmiller’s book toward successful sales? Smart use of other publicity arenas. “It’s received seven excellent reviews, including two five-star reviews, and is getting excellent coverage in cyberspace,” she says. “Almost all of the reviews were from romance reviewers.”
Westmiller has also been quick to take advantage of book festival and conference speaking engagements and talk radio interviews. “Print on demand (POD) is big news,” she says. “And I’m willing to talk about it.”
PublicityForum.com CEO and author of Trash Proof News Releases, Paul J. Krupin agrees the Internet holds great promise. But he’s not willing to concede when it comes to traditional publishing. “Ninety-five percent of my clients are self-published authors or small-press publishers who POD,” he says. “[Getting ink] really depends on the release you send. Editors are content-based decision-makers. All they care about is news and whether it sells subscriptions or keeps people listening or watching.”
Krupin’s philosophy: give the editors a reason to write about your book, and they will give you the publicity you desire. But reviews, according to Krupin, are not a writer’s best print option.
“Reviews don’t sell books,” Krupin says. “Feature articles do. So you don’t aim for book reviews, you aim for features—full-blown, in-depth, revealing, highly personal feature articles, with color pictures. These types of articles capture people’s attention and make them remember you. These articles sell books.”
To get a feature article, Krupin offers these four directives:
- Write a great book that is a really great book. Don’t expect anything less than professional to generate any professional interest.
- Know who your customers are and ask yourself what they read, what they watch, and what they listen to so you can identify the categories of media and create the right custom-targeted media lists.
- Write a news release that’s designed to catch your audience’s attention, teach them something, and make sure they understand what it is and why it’s more important than anything else they have before them.
- Tell me a story, give me a local news angle, touch my heart (make me laugh or cry), hit me in my pocketbook, or make my stomach turn over. Do this as many times as possible in a one-page news release in 30 seconds or less, and you will succeed in getting publicity.
- Finally, follow up, follow up, follow up, and follow up some more. Start calling. Keep calling. Calling five to ten people a day is a must, or do what you can. Learn what media want by asking them to tell you what they want, and get that information to them. If you learn what the media want and give the media what they want, they’ll give you what you want—free publicity. Don’t expect it to come to you; go out and make it happen. Act—Do it. Do it. Do it some more. And don’t ever stop doing it.
Internet editor Dana Schwartz of Bookreporter.com backs up Krupin. “The first thing you need to do is write a press release,” she says. “Next, think carefully about your book’s audience—who do you intend to read your book? Do research at bookstores, newsstands, and on the Web to see where your book would be best placed.”
According to Schwartz, Bacon’s Reference, an extensive guide to magazines and newspapers (available at larger libraries and directly from Bacon via 1-800-621-0561) can “help you decide what publications to send your books to since they are organized by type and location.”
For traditional book reviews, most magazines and newspapers require lengthy lead-time. “Meaning they usually need your book about three to four months in advance,” Schwartz says. “Weekly magazines and newspapers have shorter lead times of three to four weeks. Online sites vary, but often have very short and flexible lead times. Online sites are usually the least rigid, since they can put up almost unlimited content and change it easily and quickly.”
Schwartz agrees with Westmiller on her assessment of online reviews. “Internet sites are a wonderful place for first-time or lesser-known authors because there is so much more room online. Web sites can review more books than the average magazine or newspaper. So browse the Web aggressively and send your press release to as many sites as possible via e-mail.”
Follow-up is important, Schwartz says, but walk softly. “Be gracious, polite, and persistent, but don’t hound the reviewer. Call to make sure the reviewer received the book and ask how and when future contacts should be made.”
Horn Book Publications Editor-in-Chief Roger Sutton agrees. “In the happy rush of completing a book and having it published, writers can forget that theirs is just one of thousands of books delivered [to reviewers] each year.”
Be patient, Sutton says. And remember, “Reviewers don’t write negative reviews to make authors feel bad. At the same time, we don’t write starred reviews to make authors happy. Ideally, the author doesn’t come into it at all, and each book is allowed to stand or fall on its own merit.”
A reviewer’s obligation is to the book reader. A feature editor’s first priority is timely, distinctive news. Your goal—give both everything they need to heartily welcome your book into the newsprint fold. Because once your book is seen, sales will soon follow.
Kelly Milner Halls is a full-time freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her articles and book reviews regularly appear in Booklist, Book Links, BookPage, Book Magazine, BookReporter.com, the Denver Post, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Chicago Tribune, Writer’s Digest, and dozens of other publications.