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The Writing Life: The Publicity Hit Parade, Part 2

2012 August 7
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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 Two. You can find Part One here!

by Linda White (BookMania)

Efforts = Expectations

Once you’ve figured out where you are in the timeline, and you have your angle/news hook/platform, you need to determine what you are willing to do in order to make this happen. Do you want to be the Next Big Thing? Then you’d better be willing to log lots of hours sending emails, making calls, doing research, and basically chasing around to get your book in front of the right people. If you cannot do all that, figure out what you can do yourself and what you can afford to hire someone else to do. Or maybe you don’t want to be the Next Big Thing, but simply want to make a decent showing in your hometown. That requires a different amount of effort, but similar skills. Just keep in mind that you are very unlikely to become the Next Big Thing if you are not willing to put in the effort necessary. In other words, your expectations have to match your effort.

Things You May Need

You will need something to dangle in front of that contact. It may be a press kit, which usually includes some kind of news release, author bio, and most often a Q&A, but mix it up with something fun too — a Top Ten list or some other thing you invent. I recently worked with an author who did character interviews. We distributed them to bloggers. It was lots of fun. For nonfiction, a Table of Contents may be handy in the press kit. Pull out a nice excerpt, too.

Other things that may be handy: bookmarks, postcards, images of your book cover, an author photo, and some kind of small give-away item that relates to your book somehow. You can start handing out bookmarks as soon as your book cover is final. It doesn’t matter if that book won’t hit streets for a year. Get the ball rolling. The thing I have heard authors lamenting most often recently is that they felt they were too stingy with review copies. Print lots, and give them away with boundless enthusiasm.

 Another thing you can do really early — if you haven’t already — is get to know your local book freaks, er, I mean book folks. If you do not know your librarians at your local branch, what are you waiting for? Get over there and introduce yourself. Give them a stack of bookmarks. Same for any indie booksellers. Hey, these guys are your buddies. I read a Writer Unboxed article recently that summed this up pretty well.

No Guarantees

Alas, there are no guarantees in life — and publicity is no different. There is no publicist on the planet who can give you any guarantees. Even if the producer on the Today Show is their mother, they cannot control the winds of the world, and news has a way of happening just when you are scheduled to appear. Something like 60 authors were cancelled on the Today Show after the 9/11 attacks. Tough break.

But you can hedge your bets by doing different things. Mix up your portfolio — do lots of publicity (which means send out lots of review copies, press kits and emails). Do a little advertising in strategic spots. Join a group or two — like a trade association, or a networking group. Schedule some events (the lead time on these is becoming longer, too). Use your personal contacts. Most of all, get yourself out there and take every opportunity that comes your way.

What Publicity Can Do For You

Publicity does not necessarily equal ‘a certain number of books sold.’ But it’s hard for people to buy your book if they don’t know about it. Publicity can help you to get to the top of the attention span of your audience.

Whether you are self-publishing or pursuing the route of traditional publishing, you should know the basics of how publicity operates. Many publishing houses want to see that you have some kind of marketing plan thought out before they will take your work. If you are self-publishing, you have to keep your budget in mind, but be sure to include a line item for publicity. At the very least, budget for review copies and copies of your press kit. Include it in your plan.

Three big pieces of advice: be civil, be patient and move on when you need to. I always say that publicity is equal parts tenacity and patience. Kind of like writing.

You can get lots more info at my upcoming workshop at The Loft on Saturday, August 11, 9am – 1pm.

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