In other articles we’ve talked about how to identify what you would consider success for your book - and how to begin developing ideas for promotion and marketing (see the article here - What Is Book Marketing?). In this article, we want to bring you more fully into the world of book marketing and show you how to effectively market your self published book using Press Releases and New Book Announcements.
I come from the traditional publishing world - both working at the largest retail bookstore chain in the world and at the largest book publisher… and I spent years thinking that I (and others like me) knew the best ways to promote and sell books. All it took was tens of thousands of dollars in advertising, a hot spot on radio or TV, and an author who could be presentable in interviews. It wasn’t about the audience, topic, book quality, or even the author.
It wasn’t long before I saw how wrong I was! Boy did I learn some lessons after leaving the safe havens and hallowed halls of traditional publishing (I actually learned a bunch while I was there too). I am convinced that the author is the single most important and effective tool in promoting his or her book. You must promote your book as aggressively as possible. It is your efforts that will make the difference between your book becoming a successful and exciting seller, or collecting dust and mold on damp shelves (those units that don’t get returned.)
Well, then - what to do? How can you go beyond just seeing your words in print, and actually bring to life your dream of being a successful, selling author? It’s always risky to make broad statements about marketing and promoting books - because so often varying audiences and topics have very different needs. BUT - most of the mechanics are the same. Keep in mind the audience for which you wrote your book in the first place. NEVER, EVER forget that it’s far easier to sell your book to someone genuinely interested in your topic!
So we return once again to WHO WILL READ YOUR BOOK? Who is your target audience? Hopefully you’ve spent some time thinking about this - and have written your book with an audience in mind. Now we have to find ways to reach them…
1 - Magazines
One of the first items on the list is to identify the media sources that cater to your audience - look for the magazines that are read by the people who will be reading your book and search the Internet for newsletters. It goes like this - say your are Helen Corey - our author of Healthy Syrian and Lebanese Cooking, then her target magazines include Bon Apetit, Gourmet, and Cuisine magazines. Web sites would be Cooks, Epicurious and others. How about a book on real estate like our recent author Al Chapman - then maybe magazines like REALTOR, but also publications like Smart Money. Try to think outside the box!
But wait - now you need to do some research about each of those magazines! Spend some time identifying the editor that writes reviews about books or other materials - or the editor who is charge of covering your specific topic (ethnic food, or real estate investments for example). It’s far better to contact 50 highly targeted sources than to send 500 blind or blanketed press releases.
Now it’s time to write your press release (or review the one we’ll provide you in our Professional and Masterpiece packages). Two things have to occur for your Press Release to have ANY value - 1) it must truly reflect your book and the target markets needs, and 2) unless it actually gets to the desk of the RIGHT person to write about your book, it’s almost guaranteed that the WRONG person will dump your hard won Release in the wastebasket. What does this all mean? Research, research, research - hit the phones, scour the web sites, and go to the bookstore and read the mastheads and ferret out the name - or names - of the RIGHT person (or persons) at each magazine. Remember this, too - getting a review in a niche publication (think small targeted circulation vs. mainstream like Gourmet) is well worth your effort and time - the people reading and visiting specialty publications are already predisposed to be interested in your book.
2- Newspapers (small and large)
Now it’s time to hit the papers. Here, some additional tricks can help you - and it’s even more important to send your press release to targeted individuals. Practically every paper around the country has an editor for specific topics such as science, health, sports, lifestyle, travel, etc. Get to the right person! But, don’t neglect the Book Reviewer or editor - just remember that there are quite likely many places in the paper that could possibly review your book (or even mention it as a resource for a story!) A “guerilla” marketing approach (if we don’t write your press release) - ask your targeted editor if he or she can recommend someone to write your press release. Many editors “freelance” their services - and it might be a way to get a wonderfully written press release, and a leg up in getting it printed!
3- I want to be a star on the RADIO (and TV)
Both the AM and FM dials are full of talk radio - and this is your target. Hit AM first (since there are so many, the chances of getting on the air are higher) and then follow up with the “big guys” on FM like NPR’s All Things Considered. Email, mail, or fax your Press Release to every single one that seems appropriate. We can assist you in purchasing a database of such stations, or you can hit the internet and look this information up on your own. Several companies make directories of the radio industry - including Gale Research - and many are available in the library. Don’t forget to start local and work outwards - you are more likely to attract attention in your own town than somewhere 500 miles away. While it’s tough to say how often it is successful, make sure to get your information to your local TV stations - quite often a slow news day may come up, or, you might be hitting on a hot and current topic - and you might get a call. Get the names of the producers who set up interviews, or the reporter who covers the subject that you’ve written about. Don’t forget cable television. Then fax AND email your information to them - and my experience is DON’T call… but be persistent with email and faxes every couple of weeks.
As I’ve said, pay particular attention to your local stations and papers - you’ll have a far greater chance of getting on a local show or in a local paper. Another strong outlet is your city’s multitude of “freebie” community newspapers. Most of the time, these outlets have a need for good material - and always love it when that information is free. Remember to contact the ones you wouldn’t normally think of - a book on real estate would be a great “editorial” in the local real estate or “homes for sale” magazine!
Well, I’ve sent all these Press Releases - Don’t I want to send a book, too? NO - for one, it’s VERY expensive; and two - most editors don’t want to read your book, they want to read a nice, short Press Release to get an idea of what your book is about. Your Press Release will be nicely written, one or two pages, and will direct the reader to either contact you or us for review copies, and to set up an interview - pick one or the other. NO editor wants to call two places. Don’t make them do extra work!
4 -National Exposure - the BIG ONES
The Today Show, Regis, Oprah, Good Morning America - all the famous shows. Every single one of them should get a copy of your Press Release. Do your research again and get the names of the producers - watch a show or two and see who produces which segments (or even the ones you think you’ll like) and send them your Press Release. Mention what you liked about one of their shows and why you think you can present something of a similar level of interest to the audience. These shows are long shots for even the most successful of authors - but there are times you’ d be very surprised by who ends up on the air!
These four “Marketing Targets” cover the entire spectrum of media likely to review your book and give you “air time”. Between all these media outlets, the internet, and local interest, there is a very good chance that you’ll end up on at least one. One of the last bits of advice to increase your chances is to make sure the producers and editors understand that you are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many times complete unknowns have vaulted into stardom because of a big name last minute cancellation!
As a last thought - use the relationships you have. Authors MUST be fairly shameless self promoters - but do it with some level of dignity. Everyone you know should know that you have written a book and that you are on the Promotion & Marketing Warpath! Ask friends if they have friends who have friends at any of the above mentioned outlets - you’ll be surprised how close some of these “media makers” are -sometimes desperate reporters, television producers and radio hosts are just looking for guests to pop up out of the woodwork. Let everyone know that you are available.
Finally - promote, promote, promote - saturate the media with Press Releases and Announcements. It is a very rare book indeed that sells purely on it’s own “psychic” draw and no public awareness.