So you’ve written a marvellous book. Maybe you’ve self-published it; maybe you’ve got a publisher. Either way, the efforts that you as its author make to promote it are critical to its success.
When I was Arts and Life editor at the Vancouver Sun newspaper, I received countless pitches for coverage from book publicists. Most, I ignored. Some leapt out immediately as must-do stories, usually because of the popularity of the author, or the timeliness or local relevance of the subject matter. But occasionally a savvy publicist would come up with an angle so clever that it would trigger a feature that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of assigning. Here are some publicity tips to steal from the pros.
1. Think beyond the Books section.
Most newspapers are cutting back or eliminating their Books sections, so competition for a review or author interview in those pages is fierce. But there are many other parts of the paper in which you could appear, from the business section to health pages, or even the main news section. If you have written a thought-provoking book on modern love, for example, you are much more likely to wind up in the lifestyle pages than in the book review section – and often with better placement. It’s better to be the centrepiece of an 800-word lifestyle feature than to appear in a short blurb on the books pages.
2. Reach out to the right people.
Editors are the decision-makers on which stories get published so it doesn’t hurt to be on their radar, but they’re not necessarily the best place to start. Most story ideas are generated by reporters, especially beat reporters who regularly write on a particular subject. Find out who writes about the topic you cover in your book, and send that person a targeted email and a copy of your book, then follow up with a phone call a week or so later. Reporters – even news reporters – are expected to come up with ideas for features regularly. If you can shed new light on an issue that they regularly write about, they will sell the concept to their editor and presto, you’re in the paper.
3. Piggyback on holidays and events.
Holidays are the bane of journalists everywhere, who must come up with a fresh approach to Christmas, Mothers’ Day and dozens of other old chestnuts year after year. Trust me, it gets old quickly. Make their job easier by angling your pitch to these calendar items. Have you written a book about how to sleep better? Reach out with bedtime tips for parents during back-to-school season. Sex in the senior years for Valentine’s Day, gluten-free cooking for the holidays, or leadership style insights during election season; whatever your specialism, you’ll find opportunities to promote it if you think creatively.
4. Offer yourself up as an expert.
Ever wonder where journalists find people to quote on short notice when news breaks? Often, they have their old faithfuls on speed dial, so if you are an expert on just about anything, from economics to conflict resolution or even party-planning, you want local journalists to know you. Even fleeting current events such a high-profile celebrity bust-up can offer great potential. If Brad and Angelina call it quits, believe me that the person quoted in the pop culture feature the next day will not be a member of the former couple but a local author / relationship expert who can talk about the deleterious effects that fame can have on intimacy. You can be that person. Put yourself on the radar of relevant reporters and editors by introducing yourself by email and following up by phone. It may take them a while to get around to using you, but if they find you credible and pleasant to deal with, they will probably keep your information on file for later. If something happens in the news that’s relevant to your expertise, reach out to those journalists right away to remind them that you are at their disposal. It works.
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