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Beginning your book's publicity plan

By Theresa Meyers
President, Blue Moon Communications

firstwriter.com – Saturday April 29, 2006

Whether your book is published by a large publisher, a small press, or is self-published, having a publicity plan for promoting your work is vital for its success. Before you begin developing your publicity plan, however, you need to be clear on your "message points".

Why should you have your message points first? Because frankly, I'm not into doing double the work or double the expense and I don't think you are either.

If you craft everything you do in your promotion to build around your message points in one fashion or another, you are going to be much farther ahead than many of the authors who have a full staff of in-house publicists behind them at the houses in New York.

Most of these folks are great at setting up events and knowing who to send out review copies to, but they are not in the business of setting up interviews that might have controversial aspects to them, nor are they familiar with using branding message points that focus on the author brand rather than just the book. They are paid simply to tell people that your book is wonderful and available. That is not going to cut it with today's media.

Your publicity plan

Your publicity plan is going to be based on your book's release date, but also go much farther than that. First, based on your message points you need to decide who the best audience is going to be for your book. If your message points lean towards censorship you'll be able to talk to political talks shows and write editorial opinion pieces to be submitted to newspapers. If the subject is censorship of child's material then you can also work with parenting magazines, teacher and librarian publications and general interest talk shows that deal with family related issues, like Oprah. I hope you are kind of seeing how the message points allow you to expand outward who you can touch and impact.

Second, you'll organise your media into those that have long lead times (4–6 months), medium lead times (2–3 months) and short lead (2–4 weeks). Based on when people need information, send it out in that order to meet their deadlines.

Third, you'll decide if there are other avenues to best reach your various publics with your brand such as conferences, speaking opportunities, community events, etc. and work into your plan those that will give you the best return for your time and money. Return should not just be measured in sales. For example: the point of a book signing is not to sell books. Shocked? Don't be. It's the equivalent of kissing babies and shaking hands in politics. People may not be voting on the spot at that moment, but your presence makes an impression with them. Same at the book signing. You have an opportunity to meet with fans and more importantly make friends with the bookseller and their staff so that they will hand sell your product and help you build word of mouth.

Last, review your plan and then budget it out. This is the best way to see what you can cut without eliminating vital processes. If all you can afford is $50 a month, then you might be best off going for one or two big hits in the media with very targeted pitches to large shows or print media where you'll be seen by thousands. Radio interviews are marvelous for getting you big attention for small dollars. If you must, save up that $50 a month for six to ten months in advance to be able to accomplish the most important parts of your publicity plan.

Finding media contacts

Once you have determined which types of media you plan to go after, you can locate information about editors, producers and reporters in several ways. You can find details for magazines at www.firstwriter.com/magazines. For other contacts, the easiest (but more costly) way is to order them through www.bacons.com. They cost about a dollar a contact, with a minimum $100 order. The advantage of this resource is that they are updating media contacts on a daily basis so you know you'll always have the information sent to the best person.

The second way you can glean the information is to go to the library and look up the information in Bacons printed directories. It tends to be a little more dated, and you will have to call each media outlet to ensure the information is correct before you send out a pitch or press kit, but it is free.

The third way to reach a media outlet is to find the information on the internet, in a phone book or, for magazines, look in the front where they have the one or two columns listing all the editors, sales staff, etc. They usually have a phone number listed there where you can call for the address if it isn't listed.

If the prospect of asking someone for information seems daunting, you can always use my favourite trick. Play dumb. Honestly. I've gotten more information from a receptionist who figured I was some dumb blonde who wouldn't have a clue what to do with the information once I wrote it down, than in acting like I knew what I was doing and asking to be put through to the editor. Once you have the contact information you'll need to figure out which message point and one of the three hooks (point to an opportunity, offer a solution, explode a myth) that you want to work your way into an interview.

What to send

Now, what do you send them? Usually the first contact is going to be a pitch letter or e-mail. Sometimes, but rarely, a phone call. In a single page you are going to hook them in the first paragraph with a statistic, a comment, a stunning idea and then in the second paragraph follow it up with how this would fit their publication / show and how you are suited to be interviewed for it. It's like query letter for your book, only slanted for an interview pitching you as an interview possibility instead of the book for sale.

Interview sheets (pitch letters) will differ in presentation, depending on the media. Those for newspapers are going to be less graphic oriented since print is preferred by print and visual by broadcast media.

A lot of the time I find my job as a publicist is to figure out what the journalist does for a job and then do it for them and hand it to them. The better I do their job for them, the better my success rate is.

Once you've sent a pitch letter via fax or mail, give it about a week to two weeks. Then call the editor/producer and follow up.

This is important.

If you don't follow up, they won't know you are serious and may probably file the pitch in the trash. In general, publicity is a numbers game. It takes often 20–30 pitches to get one media hit.

Okay, say you get a hit. You've hooked a producer at the morning news show for your local area and they want you to send a press kit and a copy of your book.

At this point I'm going to walk you through building your press kit and incorporating your message points into each of the pieces in your press kit.

Your Press Kit

A press kit should include:

  • Cover letter: Remind them that they requested it and why you are sending it and keep it to one page. Let them know you'll be contacting them to see about their interest in setting up and interview. And please include how they can contact you! This is vital and often missed!
  • Photo: Prefer 5x7 or 8x10 with an inset caption at the base that gives your name and website, email and phone number.
  • Biography: Keep it to one page, insert your photo and write just the highlights of how you got where you were and why you write, where you live generally speaking (this is important when pulling the hometown kid angle with an editor/producer).
  • FAQ: Also called "frequently asked questions" in a question/answer format that gives them some of the details that you get asked all the time by people who don't write ("What's your typical work schedule?"; "Where do you get your ideas?"; "Have you ever put someone you know in your books?"; "Do you make a lot of money writing books?"; "How did you get started?" etc.)
  • Title sheet: If you only have one book then this will feature the back cover blurb of your book and a photo of the front cover. Also include relevant information a journalist would need like publisher, publication date, type of book (genre and format like hardcover, trade, mass market, disk) ISBN, and cover price. Give complete information on all works published in lesser detail for as many pages as necessary.
  • Statistics: Journalists love statistics. It doesn't matter where you pull them from as long as you can attribute the source for them. They can be about anything related to your topic or industry. These go a long way in making the journalist feel like you've helped them out, which in turn makes them more interested in you.

You may also include things like quotes from other people on a page, a page listing your awards if you have them, or an excerpt of the book. All of these items need a uniform look with the same colour scheme and accents throughout. Don't be switching into different fonts on each piece or make them on coloured paper. Clean black and white with small accents of color, if necessary are always best. The only exception to this is when you are mailing out pitch letters to radio or TV for a guest appearance and want to grab their attention as soon as they open the envelope. Then coloured papers are appropriate.

How do you incorporate your message points? Think about what you are writing in your cover letter, pitch letter, bio and FAQ page. How does it link back to your message points. How are you connected to them? How is your work connected to them?

I hope I've given you some things to think about.

Need more help promoting your book? Check out Blue Moon Communications' Ultimate Book Promotions Class. For full details, or to sign up, click here.

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