Skip to main content

7 Tips on Book Publicity

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.

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.

Image placeholder title

Guest column byLivia 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.

Image placeholder title

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


Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Here are the top live streams, podcasts, and YouTube channels as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

You might have heard the term, especially if you’re in online fandoms, but what exactly is fan fiction? Managing Editor Moriah Richard explains.

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

Short story writing can be a gateway to writing your novel—but they’re also fun and worthy stories in their own right. Here, author Dallas Woodburn shares 5 ways to use short stories to grow as a writer.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.