In an increasingly commercial and competitive media-sphere, getting media coverage for ‘difficult books’—books not written by established authors and not published by well-known publishers—might strike independent authors as mission impossible. However, many creative ways can be found to reach your desired audience.
A Few Golden Rules of PR
Publicising a book is about communicating a message clearly and succinctly, and persuading your target media to cover it. In order to persuade you must know your target and what they want. So, be familiar with the magazines (or any other media) you plan to contact; know their different sections, their style, what they cover, etc. Not only this will avoid you pitching irrelevant ideas, but it will also give you more ideas to pitch, beyond the standard book review.
As you plan your PR campaign you must be aware of magazines’ lead-times (when they start planning their next issue). Often monthlies start planning an issue at least 2 months in advance, while lifestyle/women’s magazine might have a lead-time of up to 4 months. Some websites might also plan their content a few weeks ahead.
Be clear but not anodyne, express yourself in a personal, engaging style–stand out from the crowd without appearing contrived. For example: If you’re announcing the forthcoming publication of a romance, don’t head your email with ‘New Great Romance Novel Out Now’—do you know how many great romances are published daily? Try something like, ‘Love, Death, Hope: new romance weaves eternal themes of life’.
Common interest groups and relevant audiences
The author-publisher and the publishing industry:
It’s important to keep informed about the publishing industry—its trends, developments, which publishers publish your genre, which authors write in your field. This will give you a better understanding of how the industry works and of how your book fits within it.
The main publishing trade publications and e-zines such as Publishing Perspectives (international slant), The Bookseller and bookbrunch (UK), and Publishers Weekly (USA), all offer at least some content for free.
Team up with your peers—widen your horizons:
You might find useful to belong to professional organisations for independent authors in general, or for authors interested in a specific genre in particular. These organisations are often national and sometime international which means that you’ll be able to meet many people with a wealth of experience previously beyond your reach. Moreover, in addition to introducing you to like-minded people, these organisations will announce forthcoming events, awards, and grants—all invaluable information.
Reading groups or creative writing groups are also a good way to network, exchange opinions, and grow professionally.
Your local community too is likely to play an important role in reaching interested readers. Local newspapers or local broadcast might be interested in mentioning a local author.
Your local bookshop might help in promoting your work by organising a book launch or a talk around your book. As with all PR, developing a relationship with your local bookshop won’t happen overnight and is likely to require patience and determination. If you’re on good terms with your local bookshop, why not suggest they dedicate a shelf to local authors if they don’t have it already?
While promoting a book, don’t just look at all the angles in your book, but also consider your own ‘history’. For example, your University or school are likely to have magazines or e-zines announcing former students’ news. Also, do you belong to some club, or to some professional association, who might want to invite you to talk about your book, or even to feature the news on their site? For example, if you are an electrical engineer writing sci-fi, perhaps many members of your professional organisation might be interested?
All the PR rules about sending a clear, targeted, well-timed message, apply to social networks too. These networks can be very useful to find special interest groups. Facebook allows you to refine a search for a specific topic by ‘Groups’ and ‘Events’. Linked In enables you to search groups in a given field. Don’t join groups for the sake of it, do so if you’re really interested, and become an active member if possible. This will allow you to get noticed and to develop some useful professional contacts.
To blog or not to blog?
Lastly, many of my authors ask me if it’s worth setting up a Blog or a personal website. As you know, there are many companies like WordPress allowing you to set up a blog for free (they also offer more sophisticated options for a fee). Claire Gillman, a published author whose books include How NOT to Get Published: 50 Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Get Published, suggests that if you employ someone to set up your website, you should make sure it’s easy to update, to save on up-keep fees.
Last but not least:
Never forget humour—personally, I find this vital to survive as a PR professional as it reminds me that it’s just a job and that a book, well, it’s just a book (no matter how wonderful and worthwhile books are!). I’ll close with a cautionary word; if you see some PR offers which sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because they are. Your own efforts are likely to pay off and to save you several hundred dollars.
About the Author:
Martha Halford-Fumagalli is a UK-based PR specialising in getting coverage for difficult books by difficult authors. She started her career 15 years ago promoting business & management books and getting them regularly into the national media and beyond. Several years later she set up her own communication consultancy, Martha Halford PR, @MarthaHalfordPR