Media coverage, also called publicity or public relations (PR), is often the first thing that comes to mind when we think of marketing. Publicity is, in essence, the spreading of information. Of course, you hope that readers will enjoy your book so much they’ll spread the word themselves through word-of-mouth. But in the beginning, you’ll need to give that process a jump-start with a media campaign. This is where a team of publicists pitch your book to their contacts in the media to obtain coverage on TV, radio, and podcasts, and in newspapers, magazines, and online publications. Ideally, those viewers, listeners, and readers will buy your book and start spreading your message themselves, creating a publicity snowball effect.
Here’s what you need to know for your media campaign to run smoothly.
Preparing for your media campaign
The first step is to find the right publicist to run your campaign. When you engage a PR firm, they’ll typically start the relationship by interviewing you or having you fill out a questionnaire. Doing so helps them get a feel for what kind of media you’re best suited for, discern the key messages in your book, and understand you better as an author and a client.
They’ll also work with you to develop a press kit, the cornerstone of which is a press release announcing your book. This usually starts with a brainstorming session with you to find newsworthy hooks and strong story angles in your content, generate a list of articles you could write, and distil the key messages that will go out to media. Your publicist may also have you complete an author Q&A, or create top ten tips or other canned content suitable for media to post online or run in print in lieu of an original story. Other elements of your press kit may include excerpts from the book, a book trailer video, and a selection of high-resolution author photos (to be supplied by you).
Once the press kit is complete, your publicist will send your book announcement out to their media list, followed by targeted story pitches to individual journalists and producers.
Preparation might also include media training, which will help you prepare for interviews and appearances by brushing up on your talking points and on-camera skills. This is helpful if you’ve never done any media appearances before, and especially if you have a little stage fright.
If you’re planning a full-scale media campaign, you will probably need Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), also known as galleys. These are early paperback copies of your book, printed on basic paper stock, and intended for media use. ARCs are sometimes printed before the final round of editing has taken place, and they may not be typeset or visually polished in the same way your finished book will be. Your PR team will send these out to important media contacts or warm leads to increase your chances of coverage. ARCs are usually needed about two months before publication for newspapers, and up to five months for magazines.
Once the campaign is underway and the supply of ARCs has been exhausted, you’ll want to have a number of finished copies of your book sent to your PR team so they can continue mailing them out to media as you move toward and beyond your book’s publication date.
During your media campaign
The campaign itself may run for a period between three and nine months, depending on your budget and the scope of your plans. During this time—and particularly during the first weeks and months following publication—you’ll want to coordinate with your PR team to keep your schedule free for interviews and appearances. Don’t throw away a great media opportunity just because you weren’t available on short notice!
Be prepared to write original articles, op-eds, and editorials for placement in online media. Many outlets don’t have enough staff reporters to write an original interview, feature, or book review, but they may place a piece written by you on their website. This is still good coverage. In some cases, a website may accept a piece you’ve prepared ahead of time. In other cases, an editor might direct you to shape your piece to their needs and interests, especially at high-profile media publications such as Forbes or Time. In almost all cases, online media outlets will insist that your piece is exclusive to them before agreeing to run it, so the more placements your PR team procures, the more you will need to write. Planning ahead can make a big difference to your stress and productivity levels during this hectic time.
It requires a lot of preparation for a media campaign to go well. Know your book and your stories like the back of your hand—you’ll want to come across as a confident, engaging expert who knows his or her stuff. Keep your schedule open and your phone switched on so you can commit to interviews and appearances at a moment’s notice; it’s not uncommon to get a last-minute call to appear on a radio show, especially if your subject is tied to current events. Be ready to write an article when asked, or keep an op-ed or two on hand. Finally, don’t be discouraged if your campaign doesn’t return the results you hoped for—just keep plugging away at the other aspects of your marketing plan.
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