Guest Post by Katie Andrews, project consultant, Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists
“Hello, Phenix & Phenix–how can I help you?”
“Hi. My book has been out on the market for a few months and not much is happening—I’m thinking about developing a publicity plan. What should I do?”
You’re way too smart to wait until the book comes out to begin thinking about publicity, right? Absolutely. But, do you know that you should be thinking about the publicity process even as you write your book?
Of course, the best advice I can offer you is to write a dynamite book that the media will be itching to cover. However, as you write your how-to blockbuster or great American novel, get to know how the media covers topics related to your book so you can plant the seeds for a media success.
Here are some publicity ideas to consider at this early stage:
1. Have an audience in mind from the beginning. Imagine someone reading your book (someone NOT related to you) and think of reasons they would seek out your title on bookshelves as opposed to the competition. Work those items into your book.
2. Become part of a bigger issue. Even novelists who are associated with a non-profit group or other organization will have credibility over authors who are not part of a bigger picture.
3. Look through the newspaper and notice when authors are quoted: how often might you have been appropriate for that quote or story? Do your writing and credentials provide something unique to media outlets that your competition has overlooked? If not, it is not too late to differentiate yourself and your book.
4. Become a news junkie. Know what sets the media abuzz. Consume as much media as possible on issues related to your book. Novelists, don’t think you can slack here. Just because you’re not a Ph.D. doesn’t mean that you haven’t done the research to write from a great perspective on heavy nonfiction issues like domestic abuse, substance dependency or other issues. Your publicist will likely look to connect your message beyond the book page, so follow how the leading issues in your book are covered.
5. Build relationships before you need them. Start following blogs that cover your topic. Comment and get to know the blogger. Same goes with local and national media focused on your issue. If you read an article that you like, send the journalist a note saying “nice work!” That early work can pay off in spades when your book comes out.
Let’s fast-forward to about six months before your book is due to be released. You’re at the stage where you need to begin getting serious about spreading the word about your book. You’re probably wondering how.
Your publicist will spend a good deal of time strategizing for the campaign before they begin media contact. They will look at the upcoming news cycle, competitive titles, recent trends, anniversaries and dates relating to the book and other items of interest to the media. If you’re handling your own publicity efforts, you should strongly consider following suit. You wouldn’t go on a cross country trip without peeking at a map, would you? It’s the same principle here. A well-defined strategic plan will serve as a valuable road map for the campaign months ahead.
A good strategic plan identifies multi-level audiences, angles, market conditions, competitive titles, strengths, weaknesses, objectives and media targets. There are some things you can do to contribute to your publicist’s strategic plan or start fashioning your own:
1. Goals – Have a clear picture in your mind of what you want the campaign to look like from the beginning. What do you want or hope to achieve during this golden window of media opportunity? Having a goal to make it on Oprah is wonderful – and lofty – and for a select few, it does happen. But you need to think beyond Oprah: think long term, steady growth. Remember, media breeds media.
2. Competitive titles/market research/target audiences – Football coaches will spend hours watching film of their opponents in advance of upcoming games. It helps them figure out the opposing team’s weaknesses, strengths and tendencies. Before you start promoting your book check out your competition. For example, For Boys Only by Marc Aronson was meant to compete with the wildly successful Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden. Spend time at your local bookstore checking out the titles within your genre and determine what sets you apart. Surf the web to find out what kind of press your competing titles are getting and where. It will help you differentiate yourself from the pack, and determine potential media targets and craft more tactical pitches for your audience.
3. Become a news & pop culture fiend – If you’ve never been especially interested in what’s hot or trendy, now is the time to pay attention. Yes, your book is important, but media members beyond long lead print reviewers are interested in how your book can benefit or interest their audience. We publicists often pitch authors for expert source opportunities or contributed pieces that tangentially relate to the book. When our team promoted Wendy Walker’s novel, Four Wives, last year, we created a pitch on “opt-out moms” that related to a character in the novel, but also to Walker’s personal narrative. The book gained attention with mommy bloggers and women’s interest and career-related media. What’s going on with the media right now (or what news cycle will be hot when your book is published) that can relate to your title?
If you can get a good grasp on the three items above, your publicist will love you, and you’ll be on the path of an effective publicity campaign.
Remember: think ahead. By planning well in advance of publication, you’ll set yourself up to reap more rewards later on.
Today’s extra credit is found over at the Phenix & Phenix blog:
Learn more about building relationships with the media with Your Media Relationships: publicity from the media’s perspective