Being Your Own Publicist

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Being your own publicist

It's no longer easy to avoid self-promotion in the publishing world, and writers in small and large presses are all being encouraged to build their platform.

This is another way of saying that authors must now take charge of how visible they are to readers, how their expertise on a subject is noticed, who their audience is, and what kind of impact they make.

Nobody has full control over any of these things but taking the idea of platform-building seriously will help you in the long run to sell more books and find new fans.

You cannot do everything and each outlet works in a different way. Take time to become familiar with the ones you want to work with.

Being your own publicist is about interaction, sharing useful information, being part of a community, and personal recommendation.

How do you choose?

It's partly personal preference and familiarity, and partly answering this important question: where are your readers?

Demographics show that Pinterest users are mostly women in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Are they your readers? If so, consider sharing photos there.

Is your target market the businesspeople in corporate circles? Get on LinkedIn.

One of our authors got noticed by the editor of the LinkedIn homepage and now every time an article of his is published on the homepage, there is a spike in sales.

And remember to focus on what you enjoy doing – that generally works best too.

Successful authors treat their marketing seriously

Our top-selling authors promote their books consistently, way beyond publication, for days, months, and even years.

Sadly, some authors have little motivation or patience to promote their own book and expect people to just magically discover it. They won’t!

Your publicist will put energy, skill and passion into your campaign, but they only have a finite amount of time to focus on your title.

You must utilize what you have at your disposal to promote your work yourself.

With the right focus, the right work ethic and an abundance of motivation, the rewards can be fruitful.

When should I start marketing my book?

We suggest once your final, copyedited manuscript has been approved by you and uploaded back to us. This is when we send out our Starting to Market (Key Points) notification.

This is roughly a year before your book comes out.

16 ways to be your own publicist

Chase endorsements

Find and chase endorsements. They are so important when it comes to creating a powerful first impression.

Announce the release date

When the release date arrives, announce it to your networks! This is an exciting event!

Organize signings

When you have your publication date, organize a book signing. These are a fantastic opportunity to present your book at a grassroots level, build a relationship with a local retailer and for your publicists to work a localized media campaign (press, radio, local book groups etc.) supporting the event.

Some of the larger chains like Barnes and Noble and Waterstones ask that you pop into your local store and ask directly. Most bookstores require a minimum of two to three months' notice, so start contacting them early. Source as many signings as you can – if possible, make it a full-on book tour, including book-signing events, local talks, and appearances at book festivals and book fayres.

For every book signing you arrange add it to the Sales to Trade forum and one of our helpful and friendly sales team will contact the store and help them with the ordering process.

Create an author website if you don’t have one

A website – this is discussed more fully in Author Branding.

Encourage your readers to pre-order!

This will aid the efforts of the reps and boost visibility; the best time to elicit pre-orders is in the two or three months running up to publication day.

Always include buy links

Always include buy links on your promotional material (use pre-order links if it is before publication date – your book is usually available to pre-order on Amazon about nine months before publication date).

Organize interviews

If you are happy for your publicist to try and source radio and podcast interviews for you then add eight talking points/questions that they can use in pitching your interview to in Promotional Plan.

Remember, there are tens of thousands of authors and publicists in the world sourcing interviews, so really highlight areas that will make you stand out. For example, human interest stories often make a difference. Did something happen that prompted you to write this book? Podcasting, T.V., web and radio show hosts and producers are less interested in the writing process and more in YOU and the story behind your book.

Join Amazon Author Central

Once you see your book is listed on Amazon (usually around nine months before publication) you can join Amazon Author Central. This is a fantastic resource for helping build your profile and promote your book.

Start your social media early!

Now is the time to really find the social networks that suit your voice and skills the best. Don't expect to be able to waltz into relevant communities where you have no presence and have people want to buy your book – the social part of social media is really important.

Start blogging early

Research blogs that are relevant to your title, and consider pitching to them.

Make sure you join your relevant JHP Author Facebook Group

Get to know the JHP Author Facebook Groups. Socialize. You could organize a review swap with another author(s). Co-operation always outsells competition.

Research awards your book might be eligible for

Add relevant Awards which we don’t have to the Contacts Database.

Contact yourself where you can, or ask us via the Author Forum if it has to come from the publisher.

Get involved with online book groups:

We have researched a number of them.

Use the right keywords in your copy

Think about the words associated with your book that will draw the attention of the most applicable reader for it. We are talking keywords and metadata. Words that easily portray what your book is about and who it will appeal to. Make sure you’ve filled the Keywords section on your Marketing page to the best of your ability. We ask you to provide keywords here and we will edit these to ensure you have the most appropriate. We suggest that you use these in all communication about the book.

All of these will benefit your Search Engine Optimization and increase the chance of people finding you via organic search

Pitch articles to build your profile

These can be:

Stand-alone ideas for one-off articles, based on any aspect of your book.

Offers of an extract from your book that standalone as an article.

For non-fiction, this seems more obvious, but it can be too for fiction, you just need to think more creatively.

Recently our author Nigel Jay Cooper was promoting his book Beat the Rain, and women’s magazine (Female First) picked up on the fact that Nigel had written from both a male and female perspective in his book. They asked him to write about just that.

Many print magazines now have an online presence, so if you don’t make the print version, stay open to publishing the same piece online with them.

Put yourself forward for interviews

There are so many options for you to try. National and International exposure is at the very top of this, through to local radio, and with Blog Talk radio shows and YouTube channels thrown in for good measure. Interviews can be conducted in person (rare, but possible), by phone and via internet services like Skype.

Let your publicist know about what you do!

And make sure you let your publicist know by adding what you do as a Marketing Activity.

How to encourage book reviews on Amazon and beyond

Your publicist will encourage industry and media reviewers to read and review your title. You can contribute significantly too by encouraging your friends, family and social media contacts to leave as many reviews on Amazon as possible around your publication date.

Never be shy for asking for support. If your friends opened a restaurant or shop you would no doubt support them. Your book is a fantastic achievement and something to take pride in and asking for support will really help your book succeed.

The rules around Amazon reviews are tricky and Amazon changes its mind on who can leave reviews regularly.

The important thing is that you solicit reviews honorably.

Amazon has a stringent policy about honest reviews, actively seeking out and deleting reviews it deems to be from, for example, people with “a close personal relationship” to the author.

How they work this out, isn’t clear. Check their Customer Review Guidelines (UK here, US here), they change frequently.

Amazon will allow book reviews on publication day, however. The more engagement (sales, reviews, wishlist requests) Amazon has, the more its algorithm will promote your book to readers of similar titles and the more sales you can potentially make.

Publicity expert, Tim Grahl, suggests 25 good reviews at book launch is a good target to aim for, what follows below is inspired by his article on Amazon reviews.

A plan to generate reviews on launch day

  1. Make a (long) list of your contacts/fans who might be happy to read the manuscript/PDF and, if they feel so inspired, leave a review.
  2. Take into account that only 20–25% of your acquaintances will do it. If you want 10 reviews then you should ask 50 people.
  3. Write acquaintances a polite note telling them you’re about to publish your book and asking them to be part of your launch team and that, if they feel inspired to, you would like them to leave an honest review on Amazon.
  4. Give them clear instructions – encourage them to acknowledge that they received the book from you for free, but not to say that it was “in exchange” for a review.
  5. Offer them a PDF and review-by window (this has to be either side of the launch day) – send them the manuscript a month or so in advance. You can go one step further and use an online converter and create a zip file MOBI, EPUB and PDF, this covers all possible devices. Calibre is a free software that converts PDFs and EPUBs to a variety of formats for different readers and for both Mac and PC. Instructions are easy to follow.
  6. Two weeks before, send a polite and enthusiastic reminder, with examples of short and nice reviews (not necessarily of your own book) and some tips on writing a review (see below).
  7. Two days before launch date, send them another excited email, thanking them for having read your book and reminding them of the upcoming launch date.
  8. Launch date – write a last email thanking those who posted the review already and reminding them the next week is the best time to post their reviews. Only 20–25% will do so, but it still gives your book visibility on amazon and some reviews to get it going.
  9. Multiple reviews aid sales of your book, which then increases the reviews, creating a virtuous circle.

Tips on writing a great review on Amazon

These are from Amazon itself.

  1. Include the "why": The best reviews include not only whether you liked or disliked a product, but also why. Feel free to talk about related products and how this item compares to them.
  2. Be specific: Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. For video reviews, we recommend that you write a brief introduction.
  3. Not too short, not too long: The ideal length is 75 to 500 words. Video reviews have a 10-minute limit, but we recommend 2 to 5 minutes to keep your audience engaged.
  4. Be sincere: We welcome your honest opinion about the product – positive or negative. We do not remove reviews because they are critical. We believe all helpful information can inform our customers’ buying decisions.
  5. Full disclosure: If you received a free product in exchange for your review, please clearly and conspicuously disclose that that you received the product free of charge. Reviews from the Amazon Vine™ program are already labelled, so additional disclosure is not necessary.

Author and Publicist Daniela Norris was advised to do this for her novel and she noted this: “20-25% of the acquaintances who say they'll read a book and review it do so, if you want 10 reviews after publication day, you should ask roughly 50 people.... you might get lucky and get more than 10 reviews”.

For some email pro-formas, and more advice on this, check out Tim Grahl’s article on the subject.

How do I get my cover and PDF book to send to people?

Cover

  • Go to the Production page, scroll down to [ - ] FINAL FILES choose High Res Cover - 300ppi.

PDF review copy, AI Tipsheet.

  • Go to the Marketing page, scroll down to [ - ] PUBLICITY choose either PDF Review Copy, AI Tipsheet or Press Release.

Download the file and use this for PR.

How to make your publicity emails get results

  • Target individuals with similar interests to your own.
  • Make use of personal contacts.
  • Put the hook in the subject line. Don't lead with the book. Lead with the hook or the story, what that book will do for people.
  • Keep it short. 200 words max.
  • Your approach should be personalized, relevant to that particular contact. Look at their website and see what topics they cover and tailor your email accordingly. If you mail merge, it will show.
  • Get to the point. Be upfront about what you are asking for straight away.
  • The other person will be busy. What’s in it for them?
  • Be careful with the salutation. Do not mush it in with the rest of the email. Be polite and respectful – “Dear Joe…” Don’t use “Hi” and never use “To whom it may concern.” Do not CC: contacts.
  • Remember to mention your book(s) and include a short biography and the metadata e.g. format, ISBN and price. Send your own photo or book-cover picture when it is requested. Include your phone number, address and any website/blog.
  • Don't request a read receipt.
  • Don't type in capitals.
  • Check before sending.
  • Don't use URGENT or IMPORTANT.
  • If something comes of it, send a thank-you note.

It’s a difficult area for us, as unsolicited emails counter current European legislation – you are not supposed to send someone a sales email unless they have specifically said they want to receive it. Rules in the USA are less severe, but if we get blocked on one email address in an organization, we’re likely to be blocked on all of them, and it’s easy for servers to get “spam-blocked” so nothing at all can go out.

How to not get blocked for spamming

  • Don’t send to to too many people at the same time. Our own limit, with VPOP3, if we are sending to non-subscribers, is 50.
  • Keep your emails simple. Anything too complex in different text fonts and with pictures might not get through.
  • Do not send an attachment with your email – most people will not open it because of the risk of a virus. And if it is too bulky, it takes too long to download.
  • Avoid using too many hyperlinks.
  • Mail handlers use a points system to determine whether an email is spam or not. They scan the body of the email and points are assigned for certain keywords, and above a certain number, the email will go straight to spam. "Free", for instance, will send the email to spam.
  • By all means use a JHP newsletter or AI sheet as a guide for your own. Cut and paste the body of the text into your email and then modify it to suit your contact.
  • Keep emails to one page. Do add important details about your books, e.g. the relevant distributor in your country, and relevant wholesalers, e.g. in the USA, Ingrams, Baker & Taylor, etc.
  • Do not email links to files (such as the ePub files) to external parties. Files stored in the JHP system are only accessible from within the system. This is to protect your content.
  • But any general advice on spam goes out of date quickly and isn't universal. Best to google. e.g. How to Avoid Spam Filters