You’ve spent crazy hours researching and writing your book. You found a publisher or decided to independently publish (also known as self-publish). You sent drafts to a professional editor, picked cover art, and wow—you realize you’re about eight months from publication. It’s time to start publicizing your work.

You thought you’d be home-free after your book was printed, right? You didn’t think you’d have to deal with publicity until your masterpiece was bound and in your hands?

Well, you know the “publicity is a marathon, not a sprint” thing you practice when you coach public relations clients. The same goes for book publicity. Maybe more so. Months before publication, you want to be sure to reacquaint and reengage with key audiences, outline a social media agenda, contact general and niche media, and ask people who influence your genre for testimonials.

It Takes a Team

Book publicity is a team sport, and you’re the general manager. You might get help from a publisher’s publicity specialist if there’s still one on staff, but you’re ultimately in charge. In the best-case scenario, you hire an outside publicist who coordinates outreach activities with whomever the publisher provides. If you self-publish—and even with some traditional publishers—it’s you and your independently hired publicist.

Prepare for Publicity While You Write

Experienced and promotional-minded authors start their book’s publicity while they write. They double-check branches that extend from their main topic, especially if the book is business-focused. They mix in keywords liberally (but not nauseatingly) for quick searches, compose easy-to-understand thoughts, and write transitions with skimmers in mind. They also brainstorm how to morph their story into events and media pitch angles. 

Mind Your Media Kit

Authors, you must have a website and stock it with media information! If we’ve learned anything from third-party platforms, you need your own space. Like a business, your website is your storefront, no matter how many places sell it. It’s where the contents of your media kit lives.

An author’s website resembles a well-crafted business site but with tweaks to attract readers and media. Each menu item has a role.

Here’s the minimum to include:

  • Contact information.
  • Book cover art (jpg for sizing).
  • Author bio – a short and long version.
  • Author headshot and working photo.
  • Synopsis of your book; bonus if you add a sample chapter.
  • Social media and newsletter links.
  • Q&A and list of possible story angles.
  • Testimonials, endorsements.
  • Contact information.

Notice I listed contact information twice. It blows my mind how people who want media attention too often don’t highlight how to reach them. That, or it might be buried somewhere on the website, which is of little value. Reporters are busy and they have good reason to move on if they can’t find what they need within a few seconds.

You don’t need individual pages for each media list item but it’s helpful. However you map your site, make elements easy to find. 

Social Media Matters

Social media platforms are funky places to be these days. Ever-changing algorithms make credible information hard to find, but if you post eye-popping visuals where your readers and audiences hang out, people will pay attention. You know you’re trustworthy. So does the community you’ve already built. You must be aggressive on those sites to allow others to learn that, too.

In addition to bolstering buzz for your book months before publication, creative, informative, and engaging social posts may help you land invitations and media requests. 

What to Post When

I encourage authors to pen separate social media calendars to note topics they want to highlight and when. Use them symbiotically with other media outreach. 

Social media is still a place to engage, so be sure to publish what resonates and educates, and encourages you to communicate with readers. Ask questions, offer tips, endorse other authors and kindly answer queries. The success of your book depends on the time you take to build and foster relationships. 

Speaking of Timing…It’s Everything

Like so much in life, timing is everything. 

Plan for a book’s release when the rest of the world is focused on something else, and you’ll be lucky to get your pet hamster to notice it. A steamy beach read will be a tough sell during the December holidays. On the other hand, a slow sports news stretch practically begs for meaningful and fun sports-related stories before a slate of games. Be cognizant of season-specific dates and other calendar events so you don’t schedule pitches and releases that collide with them.

Book Publicity at Work

I’ve been fortunate to work with authors from biographers to children’s book writers. Here are a few examples of how publicity propelled their stories beyond cookie-cutter releases.

  • A book with sweet and colorful art is doing double duty as a message to kids of color. It shares that when times are tough, they’re not alone. The book encourages them to find joy in little things and be brave when the world looks bonkers. The book’s author has inspired marketing partnerships with literary, health, and parent groups that have used the book as a catalyst for complementary events.
  • I’ve had the good fortune to work on two books that each serve as handbooks of sorts, along with their individual stories. Different authors, different backgrounds. One is about the physical and emotional challenges of being a caregiver and the other is about growing up in foster care. Chapters in both books educate and inform, providing proverbial roadmaps to help readers with similar situations. Tables of contents provide pinpoint media angles.
  • The primary character in the novel is a sports official who fixed games during one of the biggest events of the year. The book was released before a real-life tournament that mirrored the fictional one, and the conversation surrounding the book stayed hot throughout as people compared the two.
  • A mystery incorporated vividly described food and meals as suspense unfolded. Readers were guided to recipes at the end of the book so they could recreate dishes on their own. This allowed for media angles that ranged from a schoolteacher-turned-novelist to foodies.

Value Lies Within the Book

Sorry to be so blunt, but no one cares that you wrote a book except your mother and maybe that pet hamster I mentioned earlier. It’s what’s in your book—its messages, information, and links to stories that grip readers that matter.

Each of the books I’ve publicized is special. What’s in them is what provided a potpourri of publicity opportunities, even when their authors were brands on their own.

With the right timing, a meaningful message, or a provocative platform, book publicity can help you grow your tribe, create new ones, and keep you in the public eye for months or years.

Gail Sideman

Gail Sideman's gpublicity combines legacy, earned and owned media to communicate messages truthfully, consistently and succinctly. Work in sports and media and helping authors get known guides Gail’s gpublicity clients to thrive in the public eye with a no-B.S. approach.

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