As more and more writers self-publish or, at least, find themselves pushing their own books more than their publishers do, writers are getting creative about promotion. GalleyCat highlighted some of these means of promotion today, and it sent me looking for the Amazon forum where that blog found lots of good tips. Writers are posting Craigslist ads, doing serious networking on writing and reading sites, paying for targeted ads on sites such as GoodReads, and selling their e-books cheap.
Some are even promoting their books the old-fashioned way – by telling their local newspapers about them. As a very recent graduate of a couple of decades in newspapers, where I did a lot of writing about books, I can say that it’s always a good idea to contact your local newspaper or other media outlet (magazine, TV station, etc.). At the same time, you need to be professional about it. So much of what is self-published is still, let’s face it, bad. Simply presenting yourself professionally, and having a professionally edited and designed book, can set you apart from the guy who waited 50 years to publish his handwritten book of poems about alligators and the woman who has penned a scintillating memoir about washing the dishes.
I have a lot to say on this subject, and I’ve spoken on the topic, but let’s just start with one bullet point: the initial contact. First, make sure you are contacting the right person at the media outlet. It’s OK to send your press release to more than one person, but “spamming” everyone is frowned upon. Call and ask for a newsroom office manager or editorial assistant and find out who writes about books, and who covers the topic your book may concern. For instance, you’ve written a biography of a tennis star. The books editor (if one has survived) and the sports editor, or even a sports columnist, may be interested. A cookbook might be directed to the books writer, a food reporter and the features editor. And anything with a local topic can be directed to the person who covers that beat, too. Have I mentioned that it’s a good idea to have at least looked at the publication first? That’s a wise way to discern your targets.
Make sure your press release – whether sent by e-mail (which most journalists prefer these days) or on paper – has contact information for you or your publicist, including a phone number and an e-mail that you actually check. The e-mail should not have a spam filter that will make the editor fill out a form in order to speak to you. I hated that, especially when I’d taken five precious minutes to pen a response. Also, use spell-check, uppercase when appropriate, and write in full sentences. You are not in an AOL chat room.
As for content, if there is a news hook appropriate to your book (for instance, you’ve written a book on tsunamis, and tsunamis are in the news), make sure you spell it out in the press release. Include a paragraph of biographical information that emphasizes your local ties. And if you can be an expert source on anything relevant to the book, offer yourself up as such. Even if you don’t get a big feature written about you and your book, you may find yourself being called upon to be quoted in an article about your area of expertise – a great way to get a plug for your book and to cultivate a relationship with the editor/writer that will pay off in more mentions or even a feature later on.
Last tip for now: Have an online press kit on your web site. (You have a web site, don’t you?) Include a summary of the book, bio, and good, high-resolution JPG photos of your book cover and you that the editor can download. This doesn’t even have to be a public link (though that would help), as long as you include the link in your press release. Don’t send giant files attached to the e-mailed release. They fill up editors’ mailboxes, and some attachments never get opened because of virus concerns.
That’s just for starters. Then there’s that other trick, finding time to write.