How to Promote Your Book: Press Releases, Media Pitches, and Promotional Materials

I hate to disillusion you, but promotion and salesmanship have always been part of a writer’s job description—now more than ever. Everyone is trying to build their author platform to sell more books. The good news is that a well-conceived publicity campaign exercises the same creative muscles that make writing so satisfying. And despite how much we writers like to bellyache about our book tours and writer platform building, few experiences are more energizing, gratifying, or fun. GIVEAWAY: Steven is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Tomic communications won.)
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This column is Part 1 of Steve's thoughts on promotion.
Read part II here.

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Congratulations! You’ve just written your first book (or 10th). Now comes the hard part: making sure people know about it and buy it. Perhaps you’re a natural born promoter, in which case, this will come easy. Or perhaps you chose writing because you prefer to deal with the world through the written word and you find the notion of having to sell yourself intimidating or undignified.

I hate to disillusion you, but promotion and salesmanship have always been part of a writer’s job description—now more than ever. Everyone is trying to build their author platform to sell more books. The good news is that a well-conceived publicity campaign exercises the same creative muscles that make writing so satisfying. And despite how much we writers like to bellyache about our book tours and writer platform building, few experiences are more energizing, gratifying, or fun.

Click here for a FREE DOWNLOAD on How to Promote Your Book.

GIVEAWAY: Steven is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Tomic communications won.)

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Steve Raichlen is the author of ISLAND APART, a debut novel
(June 2012, Forge Books) set on Chappaquiddick Island in Martha's
Vineyard. Booklist said of the book, "A sweet grown-up love story ...
Raichlen packs a lot into his first novel … the passages of locally
harvested food and intense cooking are gorgeous ... A beach book
for smart people." Before this novel, Raichlen was a New York Times
best-selling author of several cookbooks. Visit his author website here.

The bad news is that while a good publicist can be a huge help, crafting the pitch and getting the message out, supervising the campaign and being on the road are ultimately up to you.

Publicity is not a spectator sport and the sooner you embrace it and take an active role in it, the more likely your book will be a success.

Make a plan: Good publicity doesn’t generally happen by accident. It’s the result of a carefully conceived plan and a lot of hard work. The plan should include: the message you want to get out about your book, your media list (the reporters and critics you hope will write about your book), the pitch points and documents you or your publicist will use to interest that media, and the venues (bookstores, libraries, museums, book festivals, etc.) where you’d like to appear in public. All this takes time—you should start thinking about your publicity campaign 6 months before publication and be ready to launch the campaign at least 3 months ahead.

Prepare your promotional materials: At very least, you’ll need a press release, up-to-date bio, author photo, synopsis of the book, sample chapters or galleys, and a list of quotes and endorsements. These should be available both in hard copy and in digital form. And of course you’ll need an online presence—web site, possible blog, social media, etc. If you haven’t already done so, open a Facebook and Twitter account. If you’re planning on becoming really famous (and you should), you may want to start a fan page on Facebook so you won’t be limited to 5000 friends.

(Are you interested in writing a cookbook? Find a list of cookbook literary agents.)

Craft your press release: Your press release announces you and your book to the media. The media in turn announces it to the world. Ideally, your publicist will write it, but if he or she doesn’t, that falls to you. (Even if a publicist writes it, you should review and revise it.) The press release should state who you are, what your book is about, what makes it unique, why people should read it, and how it will make the reader’s life better. There are two depressing truths about press releases. The first is that most journalists won’t bother read them. The second is that some journalists will run your release verbatim with their byline on top, which is why it’s so important to have a press release that says what you want. There’s another advantage to writing a really good press release: it helps you focus your message.

Shrink your sound bite. You’ve spent years, perhaps decades researching and writing your masterpiece. Now comes the hard part: distilling all that’s good, worthy, and interesting about your book into a single sizzling sound bite. We live in an age of shortened attention spans—your sound bite may be your best and only chance to grab media attention.

To describe Island Apart, I chose “a story of love, loss, redemption, and really good food.” The first three describe the timeless human dramas in my story—a relationship between two unlikely people, the hurt and loss each suffers, the healing and recovery they experience by coming together. “And really good food” adds a light note and reminds people that the author was (and is) a food writer before he became a novelist.

Hone your pitch. The pitch tells reporters why—of all the hundreds of review copies they receive—they should pick up and promote yours. A good pitch tells what makes you and your book unique. It should convey a sense of urgency: why now is the time to write about /promote this book and why you were the only person who could have written it right. It should have a touch of whimsy: why interviewing this particular book and author will be not only interesting, but fun. In the case of Island Apart, I used three pitches:

  1. Why a man best known as a global grilling authority wrote a novel (and a love story at that)!
  2. A foodie love story set on controversial Chappaquiddick and chic Martha’s Vineyard
  3. A great summer “beach book for smart people” (I had a Booklist review to thank for that)

The first pitch plays on the unexpected: how the author of such international bestselling cookbooks as Planet Barbecue and How to Grill came to write a novel. (With the concurrent paradox of a grill guy showing his kinder, gentler side by writing a love story.)

The second pitch plays to America’s obsession with food and the story’s unique setting: Chappaquiddick Island (site of a political tragedy involving the late Senator Kennedy) and Martha’s Vineyard—stylish vacation spot of celebrities and heads of state.

The third pitch addresses a particular kind of book sought by a broad and timely audience: a great beach read for summer vacationers.

GIVEAWAY: Steven is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Tomic communications won.)

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Don't let your submission be rejected for
improper formatting. The third edition of
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
has more than 100 examples of queries,
synopses, proposals, book text, and more.
Buy it online here at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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