Big publishers no longer dominate the media landscape. The barriers to media attention for books are coming down and there is more publisher diversity than there has ever been. This doesn’t mean that getting coverage is easy, as there is also more competition for space than ever before. However, an appropriate book that is well pitched to a journalist, producer or editor—regardless of the publisher—is now in with a chance.
Here are some tips to ensure that the books getting coverage in the media are the ones on your publishing list.
1 Train up your authors
We all know that book publicity works best with authors who understand media demands and can talk a good game. But nowhere in the job description of an author does it say that they need to be media savvy. As a result, great writers are often overlooked in favour of showy authors.
Take on that great writer, sit them down with a publicist and a media trainer, and give them the opportunity to learn how to shine. Explain why the media is important in finding their readers (they do want an audience, after all). With a relatively small amount of extra effort you can end up with both the best writers and the best publicity.
2 Capture “real people” reviews
There was a time when all reviews were written by professional critics. But now with Amazon, Goodreads and an almost infinite number of review websites and blogs, we all have the opportunity to have our say about a book. The crowd-sourced, cumulative star rating holds as much sway to the buyer as the literary editor.
Publishers need to actively encourage reader reviews and to get books into the hands of reviewers as quickly as possible once a book is published (or even before). Amazon and other technology-driven businesses such as NetGalley and BookBub offer services designed to help you find the enthusiastic readers who write reviews.
3 Look beyond the book review
When most people think of book publicity, the first thing that comes to mind is book reviews—the kind that you see in the book section of The Times or The Guardian. However reviews comprise only a fraction of the opportunities that books have to get noticed in the media and, while they are undoubtedly prestigious, they are also the most difficult to achieve.
Search your books and authors for feature ideas to pitch to the media: anniversaries of famous events, expert author opinions, previously unknown facts, rare photographs etc. There are no end of possibilities when you think outside of the review and, what’s more, these are the ideas that fire up journalists’ imaginations and lead consumers to purchase books.
4 Local publicity matters
When I’m advising clients about publicity and I mention local media, I often get a disinterested little shrug in return. Local papers are not what they are really interested in achieving and they would like me to move on to the big stuff—the national media. However, while it may not be sexy, local media is extremely effective and can lead to much bigger opportunities. I have seen local stories about books get picked up by the national media again and again.
5 Get to know the media
It takes time, and a lot of evenings out, but it is possible for just about anyone in publishing to build up some decent contacts with media people. Circulate and join organisations such as the Publishers’ Publicity Circle, Byte the Book and the Children’s Book Circle. Go to their events and talk to every journalist that you can find.
When you do, don’t just thrust your book at them. Ask journalists what they are looking for, what kind of stories they personally like and what their editorial direction is at the moment. They are not likely to do you any favours just because they once met you at a party, but they will appreciate a book that is presented to them in a way that is relevant and interesting.
Publicity done well takes a huge amount of time, energy and creative salesmanship. If you feel that you need help, we would love to talk to you about reaching readers.
Ben Cameron is the founder of Cameron Publicity and Marketing Ltd, dynamic book publicity, promotion and marketing for independent publishers and authors.