Back in August, we featured a guest post by Amy Collins of New Shelves Books on Wooing Book Buyers to Get Your Books Into Stores. Amy has years of experience both as a book buyer herself and working with buyers to get her clients books into stores and library shelves. We thought this was the kind of insider information that indie authors could really benefit from, so we invited Amy to join our Team as our Retail Book Sales Expert. To our delight, she graciously accepted! In her follow-up post, she expands on the advice she ended her first post with, so catch up on that if you missed it. Look for more from Amy in her bi-monthly posts for the BookWorks blog. Welcome, Amy!
In my last post, I had the privilege of giving you some ideas on how to impress bookstores and convince them to stock your books. One of the ideas included making sure that you had a strong marketing and book publicity plan. Great advice (if I do say so myself), but HOW? Getting press and having a constant promotional presence IS vital, but how does an author with no PR experience go about getting that presence?
Enter Joan Stewart, aka "the Publicity Hound". Joan and I have worked together for many years helping authors and publishers learn the ins and outs of PR and marketing. Joan has over 30 years experience in the media and knows what doesn’t work and what does.
SO to start, here is a short list of things Joan and I have seen authors and publishers do that do NOT work...
Book Publicity Don'ts:
1. Going for the “Big Hit.”
Every author is hoping for a call from NPR’s Terry Gross or the producers of Good Morning America. Perhaps they are pitching for a cover story at USA Today. Spending more than a small amount of time and money on these Top Tier Media outlets is not a great idea. There is a VERY small chance of getting in (especially if you are an indie author.) On top of that, if you DO get a Big Hit, it is a general media outlet going to a general audience; it is virtually impossible to focus on your message. Getting a Top Tier media appearance is fabulous to build credibility but does not usually sell books the way you think it will.
2. Sending out press releases and expecting that the editors and press will contact you.
Press releases are simply announcements. They are very different from story or interview idea PITCHES to the writers and editors. (See our earlier post on pitching your book.)
3. Sending out mass emails to thousands of reporters on a list. (“Spray and Pray”)
Lists are a great way to get started and a very useful tool, but mass mailing a form letter to the list will not get you anywhere NEAR the results a crafted email will. Take the time to personalize each email. You will gather FAR more media and press successes if you do.
What Does Work:
1. Penetrate your local community where people know you.
WHY: Local media frequently views local authors as celebrities and local media are incredibly easy to get into comparatively to national media stations—especially local papers. Newspapers and weekly papers need local news, and you need items in the press on a regular basis.
Pat Morgan, author of The Concrete Killing Fields, penetrated the local Memphis area when she launched her book. She got a full page article in the local paper and a big write up in the Memphis Flyer and appeared on local TV stations. Yes, she had plans for a national press appearance and ended up in larger markets, but those local press appearances helped her sell a TON of books in Memphis and got her on a local bestseller list for TWO YEARS.
2. Springboard from an event.
If you are appearing at a function or speaking for an organization, offer to write an article for that organization's newsletter. Or ask if they will send an email to their entire mailing list about you and your book. Then, get the organization to help you pitch the media in their industry and geographic area. Program coordinators are looking for interesting speakers, but they also know ALL the media folks because they have to promote their events. Remember, only a small percentage of a group’s membership will attend an event. Reaching the rest of the membership and getting online and print exposure is a great way to optimize your appearance.
Steve Snyder, author of Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth, (a BookWorks Book of the Week) sold over 2000 books in eight months mostly by targeting museums that had anything to do with aviation. WWII groups, retirement communities, and senior living mobile home parks and RV clubs.
Mara Purl, author of The Milford-Haven Novels, now speaks for the American Heart Association about taking care of your heart and life by being kind to yourself. She is not a medical professional; she is a novelist who writes heartwarming love stories! The American Heart Association buys copies of her book to give to folks who attend the events so that they can relax with a book. She put bookplates for the non-profit organization in the book. The organizations love it and she has sold thousands of additional books with this idea.
4. Getting your book into Holiday Gift Guides.
Holiday Gift Guides in newspapers and online are easier to get into than national magazines. National magazines start planning their holiday content many months in advance. Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother’s Day, Graduation, Father’s Day, hunting season—you name it—print publications, websites, and podcasters all have gift guides. If you are interested in being considered for a seasonal promotion, I suggest you approach your target venue four months before the holiday month. Newspapers usually don’t need that much time, but magazines do. Better safe than sorry!
5. Pitching the New Product sections of magazines, (especially niche magazines!)
While Real Simple and Martha Stewart are great, go with niche and smaller publications to start. They are always looking for new products, and a book IS a product. There are always websites and newsletters happy to suggest new products that could help their readership. Let your fingers do the Googling! TIP: Make a high-res jpg (300 dpi) of your cover available on your website so that journalists and editors can download a high-resolution photo with no trouble. Also, have a 50-word, a 100-word, and a 200-word description ready for cut and pasting as well. Editors LOVE to work with folks that make their jobs easier.
We'd love to hear what kinds of book publicity strategies you've used to get noticed in the comments section below—what worked, and what didn't.
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