That’s one-half of what you need: publicity. The other half is having a marketable product. With this post, I’ll focus on the publicity side.
How do you get your book discovered when there are millions to choose from?
That’s the million-dollar question, and every author is trying to answer it with two cents. 🙂
Too many authors are hoping for instant publicity, or at least to have someone else create the publicity for them. Shortcuts are hard to come by and even if you do hit the lottery, this kind of short-term publicity often doesn’t bring the success that you’re hoping for.
Let me illustrate this with a specific example:
Indies in their Undies
Just imagine a dozen sexy indies promoting an event called “Indies in their Undies.” Maybe they’re wearing Victoria’s Secret undies. They’re going to do a supermodel sort of walk onto a catwalk, wearing just their sexy undies and each holding up one book during the process.
(You’re ready to sign up, aren’t you?)
Sure, this could get a lot of publicity. But it’s not going to be a magnet for publicity.
If you just go out and do this, do you think the news van is going to happen to pass by, see a group of people walking around in undies holding up books, film it, and show it on the six o’clock news?
No. You have the same problem as getting a great novel discovered. Even though it’s a newsworthy idea, it doesn’t just make the news. You have to go to the media. The media isn’t coming to you.
To make this work, you need to know how to generate publicity for the event.
You see, most authors think this through backwards. Authors intuitively think that if they do something that would intrigue the public, that this will generate publicity for them.
But that’s not how it works.
You do need something that’s newsworthy. Heck, that could just be the release of your book. Whatever the news is, what you really need to do is publicize the news. The news itself isn’t going to get you publicity all by itself.
So if you wanted to make an idea like “Indies in their Undies” work, here’s what you would really need to do:
- Build credibility for the event.
- Create buzz for the event.
- Prepare a press release.
- Distribute the press release to the media.
This will help to get you media coverage. Media can be a professional cameraman for a major newstation, a reporter for a local newspaper, or a blogger with a popular podcast watching from your laptop camera.
Regardless of the form that media takes, you need to prepare a press release and distribute it to the media. That’s the only way you’re going to get the media to help you spread the news (apart from happening to have a personal connection with someone in the media).
If you have something newsworthy, this is a way to go beyond your blog and social media platform to reach new members in your target audience—i.e. if you can get some form of media to help you publicize your news.
Again, your news could just be the release of your book. It doesn’t have to be some wild scheme like “Indies in their Undies.”
Let’s look at another problem with “Indies in their Undies.”
Who’s going to show up for this event? This is very important.
If the news spreads, but the vast majority of people who see, read, or hear the news aren’t in your book’s specific target audience, all this publicity (if you can get it) won’t translate into near the sales that you’re looking for.
How about the few people who watch “Indies in their Undies” who happen to be in your target audience? Do you think they’re going to take you seriously as an author? Do you think they’re interested in your book when they watch this? (Unless maybe your book is an around-the-world photo shoot of sexy writers in their undies.)
If you want your publicity to be effective, keep these things in mind:
- Strive to gain publicity with your specific target audience.
- Strive to be seen as a professional. If the media views you as an amateur, it will deter their interest in you. If your audience views you as an amateur, this will also deter sales.
- Strive to get positive publicity for your book and yourself. Negative publicity isn’t a recipe for long-term success for the vast majority of authors.
What Would Be Better?
The problem isn’t creating news. You already have that. You wrote and published a book. That can be newsworthy.
What you’d really like to do is use this to help generate publicity: an article, a review, an interview, a podcast, etc. You want some entity (or several entities) with a large circulation, viewership, readership, or following to learn about your news and help spread it to your target audience.
Here is what you need to do this:
- Create a marketable book from cover to cover. Ultimately, it’s the perception of professionalism versus amateurish that really counts. Why spread the news about something that seems amateurish (not just the cover; your entire presentation will be scrutinized, and the book, too).
- Build credibility. Experience and qualifications are highly relevant. The more you look like the perfect fit to write the book you wrote, the more you’ll be taken seriously.
- Be factual. If you get a job as a journalist, you’ll learn to think this way: Can this statement be verified? When the media looks at your cover letter and press release, they’re looking for anything that may be false, and anything that can’t be easily fact-checked (e.g. “better than Harry Potter”). Spend time studying how journalists write and try to think like a journalist when you prepare materials that you will submit to the media.
- Learn how to prepare and distribute a press release. There is a specific formula to follow if you want to look professional, and you do. You want to research this formula. (I’ll provide a reference to one such formula in a coming post. It’s not my own formula, so I won’t post it on my blog, but I will help direct you to it. Sorry, you have to wait a couple days, or use a search engine to find one such formula.) In addition to the formula, you’ll want to learn how to distribute your press release to the media.
Remember, media doesn’t have to be the Times or the eight o’clock news. Bloggers are in the media, too, and some have very large followings or widely spread email newsletters.
Indies may find media coverage more challenging, though it isn’t easy for a new author who is traditionally published, either. But it’s not a dead end. In addition to the explanation that follows, see the note at the end of this post.
It’s kind of like bookstores. As an indie, you’re going to find widespread distribution with national chains nearly impossible, but small local bookstores and non-bookstores that happen to sell books tend to be more receptive. The more professional you come across and the more marketable and professional your book, the better your chances. That’s how some indies are getting stocked in big bookstores, maybe not nationally, but on a store-by-store basis in their own regions.
Similarly, the more professional you come across in your press release, cover letter, and presentation and the more marketable and professional your book appears (and qualifications and experience factor into this, too), the better your chances of getting media coverage.
Start small and work your way upward. This gives you experience and confidence as you approach the Big Boys and Girls.
Small local papers often have inches to fill. A small local radio station may have minutes available. You’re local. You have news. It may be a good fit. Check it out, but approach it professionally.
Media that coincides with your target audience may be a good fit. Explore these options.
Don’t just think television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. There are many, many online opportunities, from websites to podcasts to online magazines to bloggers and more. Getting coverage with the most visible channels will be extremely competitive. But there are so many avenues open that you can find a good fit if you have the will to find the way.
You can prepare content that attracts your target audience and the target audience of a website, for example. Instead of simply advertising or reviewing your book, this way the website has something to gain in return for giving you publicity. There are many sites with varying degrees of traffic that have a need for frequently updated content. Publishing an article is an opportunity. You can’t do it if you don’t try.
Looking beyond the release of your book, there may be something unique about you that will help you gain publicity. For example, if you’re lucky enough to be a triplet, that’s newsworthy. Think about yourself in addition to your book.
Whether your news is the release of your book or “Indies in their Undies,” you still need to build credibility, prepare a press release, and distribute it. So an idea like “Indies in their Undies” really isn’t a shortcut to publicity. Maybe it will help a lot, maybe it won’t. Either way, to get publicity for it, you still need to do all the work of publicizing it—really, you could just skip the middleman and focus on publicizing your book.
However, if you have a newsworthy event that relates to your book and would be of interest to your book’s target audience, if you’re having trouble getting media coverage of your book, you may find the media more receptive of your related news. So in this case, an event may create news that attracts the media better than your book does. “Indies in their Undies” doesn’t relate to your book and doesn’t attract the same target audience, so it’s not the best example. But if you’re struggling to get the media attention you desire for your book, another possibility is to think about how to generate news that relates to your book.
Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)