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The Writing Life: The Publicity Hit Parade, Part 1

2012 July 31

Editor’s Note: Linda White is a dear literary friend of ours. As the mind behind BookMania, we asked her for her tips on publicizing books. Today we present The Publicity Hit Parade, Part One. Stay tuned for Part Two next Tuesday!

by Linda White (BookMania)

When Hazel and Wren asked me to write up something about publicity, they suggested a tips list. It is difficult to boil things down to what might be valuable for the whole of Hazel & Wren’s crowd out there, but the following tips are my hit parade — the things that I find myself repeating over and over. So often, in fact, that I started teaching a class at the Loft Literary Center, which of course expands on all of this.

The Mantra

My main mantra is: Early, early, early. You cannot start promoting your book early enough. By promotion, I mean all types of things: coming up with your elevator pitch, having give-away items made, telling people about your book. Publicity, to be clear, is part of promotion. It has to do with getting your message out through any medium, usually for free. (On the other hand, advertising, where you are guaranteed placement and message, costs — lots.)

A year before your book comes out is not too early to start. The basic timeline for promoting a book in the old-school world was pretty much controlled by the NYC publishers. They have loooong lead times, so they have somehow hoodwinked media into thinking that the media needs to have the book 3 to 6 months before the book comes out. And guess what? It has worked. It is very difficult to get coverage for a book after it is already out. Not impossible, but difficult.

If you have a book already published that you want to promote, find a news angle, a holiday or other observance, or some other way to link it to current events — to make it “news-worthy.” The main reason that many publishers want to get their books out early is so that all of those reviews and interviews hit during the launch month. The consumer is bombarded with this book over and over in a short period of time. That’s one of the basic tenets of marketing – repeating the message. So give yourself a new “launch” date and operate accordingly.

Pitching It

Here is the bottom line: Your book has to be something that can be talked about in order to get media coverage. What’s your angle? What’s your platform? Even for a fiction piece, there has got to be something. Maybe it’s the extreme research you did. Maybe it’s the character based on your estranged father and the story of that estrangement, the writing of which resulted in a reconciliation after thirty years (don’t roll your eyes, this happened). Whatever it is, you need to figure it out. The media will not figure it out. Do not — I repeat — do not expect them to read your book and simply want to talk to you because it’s the Best Story Ever. Not gonna happen.

Remember, your relationship with the media is a partnership. You are providing them content for the service they provide. They are not doing you a ‘favor.’ And you are not pitching a book to them — you are pitching a story. Know who you are pitching to — check out their website, and whenever possible, watch or listen to the program, or read the publication. Make sure you know why their audience would care. Give them ideas, and try to be creative. It also helps to be as specific as possible: if you want a review, say so. If you want a profile, say so. If you want an on-air review, ask for that, or if you want an on-air interview, ask for that. Don’t make them guess how they can use you or your book.

… to be continued next Tuesday on The Writing Life!


Linda White is a professional reader. She runs BookMania, which offers editorial and publicity services. She is currently wearing many hats, which makes her very happy. Linda is the Minneapolis Books Examiner, is working on a Book Arts Certificate at the MCBA and recently started reviewing books for Library Journal


4 Responses leave one →
  1. Marisa permalink
    August 2, 2012

    “They have loooong lead times, so they have somehow hoodwinked media into thinking that the media needs to have the book 3 to 6 months before the book comes out.” — what?

    This isn’t a conspiracy. The reality is that magazines take a long time to put together (they have to source articles, place ads, edit, put it through the paces of production, fact-check, etc). It also depends on the specifics of the issue. Most magazines have to start working on their big September issues in May/June, if not earlier. Other issues may not have that long of a lead time.

    I agree with most of your advice, but you don’t seem to have made much of an effort to find out how the publishing world really operates.

    • Hazel permalink
      August 2, 2012

      You’re absolutely right, monthly and bi-monthly magazines work on their content MONTHS in advance. Even weeklies often have things pencilled into the calendar long before the issue comes out.

      I think perhaps Linda’s point in that particular paragraph is that authors need to focus on getting their books to show up in the media a few months before the book is published — that after the book is published, the media won’t be as likely to feature it. We can then conclude that since, as you pointed out, monthlies work on their issues so far in advance, the bottom line is that authors need to start planning WAY earlier than that. Thanks for weighing in!

  2. August 4, 2012

    Boy great ideas, you have been there and done that, I can see. I coach authors how to get on TV and deal with all the issues you bring up. Your advice on promoting fiction is absolutely correct, and it is a great opportunity for a fiction writer to break out of the pack. I hate to say it, but in my case fiction writers just bomb unless they use the right system to promote themselves. OK, thanks, Edward Smith

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