Your Six-Month Timeline for Successful Book Publicity
You’ve spent months toiling away in front of your keyboard. You’ve survived hard drive crashes and grueling rounds of edits, but the day has finally arrived: your publication date.
...so, why aren’t readers buying your book?
Unfortunately, if you’ve coasted to pub date on an “If I build it, they will come” mentality, then you aren’t likely to have high sales figures out of the gate.
As a book publicist who has experience working with self-published and traditionally published authors – often landing them in nationally circulated publications – I’d like to offer you some advice on promoting a book with earned media**, in order to accompany and supplement any paid advertising or marketing campaigns you may be doing.
** = Though I will write about post-publication marketing techniques very soon, this article is for those authors with a pub date 6+ months from the time they are reading.
There are so many ways to publicize a book that the only wrong one is believing in one-size-fits-all publicity. My best advice to you is to start early and to think creatively.
Book Blurbs: 6-8 Months before Publication
About 6-8 months before publication, generate early buzz for your book. You can do this by submitting a bound galley, also known as a printer's proof, to the following publishing industry outlets for review. Most should also be receptive to a digital copy of the galley:
A starred review can go a long way towards impressing journalists who may cover your story, so be on the lookout for a review of your title within these publications and on these websites. Add any and all favorable reviews to your press release and landing pages.
Extra Credit. If you know any writers of influence – we’re talking household names, or at least names that are well-known in your industry – send them a copy with a polite, friendly request for a blurb. If they follow up, don't forget to thank them!
Brainstorming Your Pitch Letter: 6 Months before Publication
While you’re waiting to hear back from those book review outlets, take some time to brainstorm your press release and pitch letter. These are the elements you’ll send out, either electronically or in a mailer, to newspapers, TV shows, and websites in hopes of garnering some earned media for your book.
To do this, first brainstorm a list of every angle related to your book. For example, if you wrote a book about how you founded a Fortune 100 company while battling cervical cancer, then business interests, cancer awareness, and media outlets geared towards career women might be angles to explore.
Next, make a list of every media outlet you can think of that would have an interest in those topics. Keep different media formats in mind: magazines, newspapers, digital publications, TV, radio shows, podcasts, blogs, etc.
Use any personal connections you may have to build some press. At the very least, your local newspaper and/or your college’s alumni magazine may have interest in promoting your book.
Pitching Your Story: 4-6 Months or 1-2 Months before Publication (depending on lead time)
This is the part where many authors get cold feet. You shouldn’t worry, though. As long as you approach each individual reporter with a respectful, tailored pitch, you’ll be fine. After all, the worst they can say is no!
When you pitch, send the following items:
- an advanced reader's copy (ARC) of your book, with the release date and your contact info written on an attached white label;
- a press release;
- any relevant news clippings.
A good press release will briefly summarize the book and explain why it is important. It will also include an "About the Author" section that highlights your achievements related to the book.
Pitch long-lead outlets, like magazines and other monthly/quarterly formats, 4-6 months in advance (i.e. now). Pitch short-lead outlets, like TV, newspapers, blogs, 1-2 months in advance. Don’t pitch to the generic “info” email address listed on the publication’s contact page. Instead, do some digging. Find the outlet’s masthead, then find the name and contact information of the editor most closely aligned with your subject matter.
Don’t blast the same generic mail merge to 200 journalists! Even a cub reporter can sniff out this BS a mile away. Instead, a personalized introductory note will work wonders. Bonus points if you can mention a recent article they've written that ties into your requested interview/review.
Don't forget to follow up! As you know, inboxes get very full, and you wouldn't want to write off a possible interview just because your first email was accidentally deleted or your first call went to voicemail.
Following Up as Pub Date Approaches: 2 Months or Fewer before Publication
Create Google Alerts related to your topics, including your name and book title. Even after the book is out, if something timely happens, I would pitch relevant outlets again. In the earlier example, the author of the business memoir might consider pitching herself as a guest on a morning show during January, which is designated as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
If your book is being self-published or published by a lesser-known press, I would recommend that you start small and then work your way up as your clippings file grows. Any TV producer or magazine editor will tell you: if you can prove that there is interest in your book (and therefore an audience for any feature the media outlet may produce), you're more likely to get a yes.
A launch event in your hometown can be a fun way to garner local press, but I would shy away from a book tour unless you already plan to be in a particular city or cities after your book comes out. Publishers don't pay for anyone but the biggest names to go on tours anymore, and they can be a loss for you and the bookstore owner if there isn't a big crowd.
There are so many things you can do to promote your book that it can all feel overwhelming very easily.
Not to worry. That’s why I’m writing this.
If you have any questions, concerns, or even pitch letters you’d like for me to review, I hope you’ll contact me here. Together, I’m certain we can find a way to bring readers to your book.