7 Tips on Book Publicity

I recently attended “Publishing Books, Memoirs, and Other Creative Nonfiction,” at Harvard Medical School. Rusty Shelton, managing director of Phenix and Phenix Literary Publicists, gave a great talk on book publicity.  Here are seven of my favorite tips.

Guest column by Livia Blackburne, an MIT
neuroscientist by day and a YA writer by night.
In her blog, A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing,
she studies writing from a neuroscientist’s
analytical perspective.

1. Media is changing. Before the Internet era, the media landscape was like a classroom. The teacher (i.e., The New York Times or the Washington Post) stood at the podium and disseminated information. Now, with social media, the students are passing notes amongst themselves. Plus, if a note gets very popular, the teacher picks it up and reads it to the class.

2. Your website is not about selling your book. Many authors  mistakenly think their website is about selling their book. But in that case, people would have no reason to visit your website except to buy your book. Instead, make your website useful to people so they keep coming back. Keep a blog so there’s always fresh information. Then, you start building up a base of followers who may not only buy this book, but future books as well.

3. It’s more important than ever to write a good book. With the old media landscape, you might have been able to trick people into buying a bad book with advertising or a high-profile review. But now with social media, people are sharing information, and people trust their friends more than they trust professional book reviewers.

4. Don’t be a media snob. There is an urban legend about an author who went to New York City for a book signing. He couldn’t book many venues, but he was offered an interview in a small upstate New York radio station. A NY Times reporter was driving through, heard his story, and write a feature story on him. The moral of the story? You never know who’s watching or listening.

5. Not everyone can benefit from a publicist. If you are super niche, a publicist may not be able to help you. The same is true if you’re self-published and your book is only available online. Your book needs to be in stores if you want to benefit from a publicist.

6. On choosing a publicist: Look at their recent media bookings to see what kind of media contacts they have. Also, be wary if the publicist agrees to take you on without even looking at your book. The publicist should be interviewing you the same way an agent does so he can make an educated decision about whether he can help you.

7. The media outlet’s priority during interviews is to entertain and inform their audience, not to sell your book. Don’t be “that guy” who plugs his book every other sentence. It’s annoying. Also, research the outlet beforehand so you make your responses relevant to their audience.  Remember that if you give a good interview, the reporter might invite you back in the future.

“Publishing Books, Memoirs, and Other Creative Nonfiction” is a three day course covering the entire publishing process from writing to submission, publication, and publicity. For other helpful tidbits from the conference, see Livia’s post about it here.

If you need some book
marketing tips, check out
Author 101: Bestselling Book Publicity


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