Don’t Make Your Book Publicist Play Guessing Games

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Don’t make your book publicist play guessing games when you embark on a book promotion partnership with her. Tell her what you need, when you need it. Your silence can sabotage your chances to let your target readership know about your book. Don’t let that happen! Be straightforward with your book publicist, and get the response you deserve … or walk away from that book publicity firm and find one that can better help you succeed.

When you’re promoting your book, it’s great to have a book publicist on your side. You likely chose one in the right way and with the best intentions. After conducting a chemistry check with the book publicist, you decided the working relationship felt right. Your book publicist’s references checked out. Your book publicist seemed intelligent enough, and she cared about your book, and she supported your mission and the messages you wanted to disseminate.

So you ought to defer to your book publicist and offload all responsibility for your book publicity campaign on her, right?

Wrong.

You know more about your book and your area of expertise than your book publicist could learn in a month of Sundays. Share information with your book publicist — don’t expect her to read your mind or to figure things out for herself. Again: don’t make your book publicist play guessing games.

Your book publicist may notice that an upcoming event, or a breaking news story, ties into your subject matter, and she may see that as a news hook. She may be on top of pitching the media all of the time when she should.

On the other hand, she may not. And, if she doesn’t, then make her aware of the available news hook, and make sure she’s adjusting your book publicity campaign to accommodate the publicity opportunity. In other words, make sure she doesn’t blow it for you!

When you see the news hook, make sure she sees it, too. And don’t hesitate. While you’re silently waiting and hoping your book publicist “gets it,” your competitors are probably finding ways to get their names in front of the media.

If your book publicist truly can’t see the value of a news hook, or she insists on sticking to the book publicity plan (as she conceptualized it before you knew the news hook would present itself), then you may want to reevaluate the effectiveness of your working relationship with your book publicist.

It’s wonderful to partner with your book publicist, and to trust your book publicist to have creative ideas that can form the core of your book publicity campaign. But your book publicist also has to stay open to your idea and respectful of the insights you bring as the subject matter expert. So be comfortable sitting in the director’s chair with your book publicity campaign when the situation calls for it. If your book publicist doesn’t see the PR opportunities, then make sure she’s responsive to the news hooks when you find them for her … and don’t let book publicity opportunities pass you by because you’re too polite to ask for what you need from your book publicist!

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Book Publicity’s True Cost

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

How much should you expect to pay for your book publicity campaign? There are several variables involved, so it’s tough to predict exactly how much you’ll have to spend to promote your book. The cost will vary from one author to another, and it will depend on the specifics of your book publicity campaign. But here are the costs to consider when you’re planning your author publicity budget:

Hiring a Book Publicist. If you’ve hired a book publicist, then your book publicist’s fee is part of the cost of promoting your book. But the cost of a book publicist’s services vary and depend upon the size and scope of your book publicity campaign. You’re not “stuck” with a single cost. Shop around, and find a book publicist who can conduct the author publicity campaign you want to happen … and, once you’ve done a chemistry check (you have to like your book publicist!) and established her credentials (by checking references and asking about her track record), be sure you’re staying within your author publicity campaign budget. Hiring a book publicist is only one of the costs of promoting your book.

Travel. These days, an author publicity campaign seldom includes a multi-city book tour. Technology has come too far, and budgets tend to be tight. Fortunately, there are other ways to promote your book in various major metro areas including pitching phone and Skype interviews, and conducting a virtual blog tour (most book publicists routinely set up virtual blog tours for authors — and, if you’re considering a book publicist who doesn’t know what a virtual blog tour is, then run in the opposite direction as quickly as possible!). But there’s still the possibility that a major media outlet in another city will invite you to be an in-studio guest, and you’ll probably want to accept the offer if the opportunity sounds right for you. That will most likely mean paying your own way, and paying all of the costs associated with your trip (food, lodging, taxis, and the like). That said, travel costs are a nice expense to have. It means you’ve been invited to appear as a guest on a major media outlet. Who doesn’t want that?

Book Web Site. You could have your neighbor’s 11-year-old design your book web site, or you could have your middle school-aged nephew do it, or you do it yourself at one of those web site building sites … but resist the temptation. Your web site often is your first opportunity to be seen by your potential readers and the media. Use that opportunity wisely by investing in a professionally-designed web site by a firm that specializes in creating book web sites.

Free Books. You know those books you’re giving away to the media, bloggers, and readers for free as part of your book publicity campaign? Well, those books are free for the recipients, but they won’t be free for you. You’ll have to purchase them. So factor the cost of those “free” books into the price of your author publicity campaign. And then add extra books just in case your book publicity campaign takes off, and you get far more book requests that you expected. As a side note, you might be able to talk some media decision makers into accepting a copy of your eBook instead of a hard copy of your book. And the day may come when it’s not such a tough sell. But, for now, count on most producers, hosts, editors, and reporters wanting you to send them a copy of what they still consider to be the “real” book. Don’t screen too carefully. The most expensive books are the ones you don’t send because you’re counting pennies too closely, and you turn away a book request from someone who would have given your book a plug.

Postage. And, speaking of sending the media decision makers your book, you have to pay for that, too. Postage costs can vary, too, but make sure to use a mailing vendor and method that provides tracking. You can’t guarantee that the producer, host, editor, or reporter will actually open your package, but you can ensure that he or she received it if you send it via one of the major delivery services. The best idea, as far as this book publicist is concerned, is to use the United States Postal Service’s Priority service. Use the USPS’s Priority packaging, which is free and looks impressive. And not only will you get free tracking with that, but you’ll be able to predict that the book will arrive at its destination in no more than three business days. What a deal!

Does size (of your author publicity budget) really matter? It is, in the sense that you want to spend enough to promote your book effectively and professionally. Certainly you don’t want to conduct a book publicity campaign on such a thin shoestring that your sneakers fall off you’re feet while you’re walking. On the other hand, author publicity isn’t an exact science. You can’t say, with any certainly, that you invest X in your book promotion campaign, you’ll earn Y in return. Book promotion always contains an element of uncertainty. You don’t know what you’ll receive for your investment of money, effort, and time. Will you land a guest spot on a national television show? Will you get a book review in a major daily newspaper? Will you get a chance to join a panel discussion on NPR? No one knows, and because book promotion involves gambling, it’s a good idea to stay within your comfort zone when you plan your book publicity campaign.

Spend thoughtfully, but do spend. Only you can decide how much your book publicity campaign will cost you. Don’t invest more than you can afford, but remember that the most expensive book publicity campaign is the one you don’t conduct at all. The lost potential book sales just can’t be worth the money you may have saved.

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eBook Publishing to Spread the Word

Ebook publishing can be a quick and effective way to disseminate your message.

This morning, a friend let me know that her nonprofit organization had raised $30,000 to provide ten K9 vests to police departments in one year. What a wonderful accomplishment! In congratulating her, I asked my friend whether she would consider writing an eBook about the importance of providing police departments with K9 vests. It would be an honor for me to then conduct an eBook promotion campaign for her nonprofit as long as she’s willing to approve media materials and act as a spokesperson for the organization. It’s easy enough to learn about eBook publishing, I promised her, and I’d handle her eBook’s editing, and the conversion of her Word or PDF file to Kindle’s mobi format (and to Barnes and Noble’s Nook format, too, if she were interested in even wider eBook distribution).

I made the offer automatically because I spontaneously realized that eBook publishing isn’t only for traditional authors anymore. Ebook publishing is now available to everyone who has something to say, and needs a platform to delivery that message.

If my friend wants to become an author, I can make it easy to achieve that goal. I’m already offering coaching for eBook Publishing and eBook promotion services to authors. Why not encourage a friend to tap into my expertise to help outfit as many service dogs with K9 vests as possible? The only thing this book publicist cares more about than family, cooking, friends, and books…is our four-legged companions. I hope we can use eBook publishing to help as many of them as possible!

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Book Discovery and Your Alumni Network

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Whether your book marketing project involves ebook promotion or traditional book publicity, there’s one strategy you’ll want to employ. That’s tapping into your alumni network. Your college alumni network or even your high school alumni network can be persuaded to help you in your book discovery efforts even more easily than the media can. That’s reasonable when you consider the fact that your book marketing successes reflect favorably upon your college, university, or high school. Your positive book publicity is the schools’ positive publicity, and when you’re acting as a publicist for an author — yourself — you’re also acting as a publicist for your alma mater.

For example, as a proud Emerson College alumna (class of 1981, thank you very much!)< I was please to note a wonderful item on Emerson College’s web site this morning.

An Associate Professor at Emerson College (in Boston, Massachusetts), Megan Marshall won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Emerson College let its alumni network know about the professor’s win, and now each member of that network will tell potential book buyers. (Some of us will even blog about it and post a link to the article and the book!) Emerson College looks good, Emerson College’s alumni network feels good, and Megan Marshall enjoys even more book publicity for her already widely-recognized (and deservedly so) book.

You don’t have to win a Pulitzer Prize to persuade your alumni network to put its publicity efforts to work for you. Your book marketing wins are their PR successes, as well. So let your alumni network know about your eBook or your traditional book, and let the book marketing payoffs begin!

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eBook Promotion: More Choices

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

As publicists for authors know, there’s nothing like an author’s appearance on a national television show or syndicated radio show to launch a successful book marketing campaign. Traditional media coverage still sells books. Book publishing obviously has changed in recent years, but as book promotion opportunities have grown for self-published authors, some things have remained the same. Traditional book promotion works — for traditional books, and especially for nonfiction books.

But since most eBook publishing involves authors whose chances of landing traditional media coverage is necessarily limited (for now, anyway), it’s good to know that eBook promotion doesn’t mean fewer book publicity opportunities. eBook promotion actually means more book publicity opportunities.

This book publicist will always be eager to launch traditional nonfiction books (and, sometimes, novels, too) in the mainstream media outlets via old school book publicity campaigns. But we’ve also developed an eBook promotion package that offers a six-week outreach to reviewers, bloggers, and editors who are eager to hear about new eBooks. If you’ve published an eBook, let us know. We’ll provide you with a plan for eBook promotion that can raise your book discovery potential — in just six weeks!

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Book Promotion Opportunities by Hook

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Book promotion opportunities are what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. My apologies to John Lennon, but it’s true. You can plan a book promotion campaign. And you definitely should plan your book promotion campaign so that you have a starting point from which to begin.

On paper, you can create your book promotion deployment timeline. You can decide, down to the hour, when you’re going to implement each book promotion strategy. You can decide which media outlets you’re going to pitch, and which book reviewers you’re going to contact, and which blogs you’re going to approach, and which newspaper editors you’ll solicit, how you’ll maximize your book discovery potential, how you’ll spring from your author platform, and so forth. You’ll figure out which part of your book promotion campaign you’ll conduct, and which book promotion services you’ll need from your book publicist.

And then … while you’re blueprinting all of that … the real magic will happen when you tie your book in with something that’s happening in the news. You’ll tie your expertise into a breaking news event, and your book promotion campaign will get off the ground in a way that you simply can’t plan, because you can’t predict which news hooks will offer themselves up to you. All you can do is look for those news hooks, evaluate them on the basis of how likely they are to be great book promotion opportunities for you, and leverage the right news hooks in a timely and proactive way. Here’s how you can decide which news hooks to leverage for your book promotion successes:

  •  Topic. Does the news story include your book’s topic, or are you an expert in that subject? For example, if someone wins the Powerball jackpot, does your book include the topic of personal finance, or luck, or reaching a crossroads in your life? Or do you have the expertise to talk about one of those issues because of your profession, avocation, education, or life experiences? If so, then the news hook could be a book promotion opportunity waiting to happen.
  • Perspective. Do you have an unusual perspective about the news event?  If your reaction to the news story is the same as everyone else’s, then that won’t help you find book promotion opportunities. Is there a news story about a puppy mill, and is your book about animal rights? Well, remember that the media won’t interview someone whose only contribution to the dialogue is, “Yes, me, too” or “I completely agree with what everyone else is saying.” If you’re going to address the puppy mill story by saying, “That’s tragic, and it needs to be fixed,” then that’s unlikely to help you with book discovery. But, if the pundits have it wrong, or if the experts are missing something — or if you have a unique perspective to share — then that news hook can be book promotion gold.
  • Controversy. If the news story is polarizing the masses, and everyone is taking sides on the issue, and people are buzzing about it — then jump in! Be the voice of reason. Present your point of view, and your conclusions, with integrity, and … if you have the credibility to support it … you’ll find that a controversial news hook can be the best gift of all the book promotion opportunities that come your way.

So, by (news) hook or by crook, you should have a book promotion strategy in place. Then keep an eye on the news, watch for breaking news events, and see how they might tie into your book promotion project … and watch your book discovery opportunities take off!

 

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Author Radio Interviews: The Beginning of Book Publicity

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Congratulations! You’ve done your first radio interview (or you’ve completed your first flurry of radio interviews), and you’re hoping to leverage that accomplishment and build long-term, mutually productive relationships with the radio producers and radio hosts who were gracious enough to invite you to be on the air with them. It’s time to learn, and practice, the art of follow up radio interview etiquette. Here’s what to keep in mind after your author radio interview:

What you want. Of course, you want a copy of your radio interview. Take it from a book publicist who has been in a lot of radio studios over the years: you don’t want to ask for a copy of the interview. The radio interview may have been a peak and important experience for you. For the radio show, you were just one of hundreds of authors and other experts who have appeared on-air. Know your place in the radio food chain. Radio stations are typically understaffed. The producer who booked the interview with you, and the host who interviewed you, doesn’t have time to dub copies of the radio interview. They don’t have flunkies who can do it for them. Don’t ask, and don’t ask your book publicist to ask for you. Be clear about this point: your book publicist isn’t “too shy” to speak up and ask for what you want, and she’s not giving you the brush-off if she refuses. It’s just that your book publicist is wise enough to know that the answer will be (or should be) no, and that asking for a copy of your radio interview would mark the book publicist as a rookie or, worse, as a disrespectful pain in the neck — and not the type of book publicist the producer or host would want to work with again in the future. If your book publicist burns a bridge with a radio station, this doesn’t help you (and it surely doesn’t help your book publicist, either). Your instinct is correct, however. It is a good idea to hear what you sounded like on the air so that, going forward, you can build on what you did best and make adjustments to your weak points. Listening to your radio interview will help you to improve your performance next time. Fortunately, most radio stations do archive some of their radio shows on their web site. Google the show a couple of days after your interview airs, and you might be lucky enough to find your segment online. Otherwise, you can ask your book publicist to ask the producer when, and where, a link to your segment might be available. That’s a way to get what you want without incurring any of the complications of what you definitely don’t want: anything that might hinder your relationships with radio producers and hosts!

Give thanks. It was nice of you to give up your time, and expend your energy, to be a guest on a radio show (or radio newscast). You didn’t get paid for it, and you have a right to expect gratitude for what you did. But the reality is that you’re probably not going to get the thanks you deserve. Just look at it from the radio show’s perspective. You got a chance to plug your book, build your brand, and raise the public’s awareness of who you are. Radio producers and hosts could have given this opportunity to any of your competitors, but they gave it to you, this time. And you want them to choose to give you an opportunity another time, too. So express your gratitude. Your book publicist will have the email addresses of the radio producer and the radio host (and anyone else who was involved in booking the interview). Ask your book publicist for that contact information, and then use it to write sincere thank-you notes to the media people who were kind enough to invite you to be their on-air guest. A little bit of gratitude goes a long way in building relationships with the media. Also, mention your availability to do additional interviews with the host in the future (if you can make yourself available on short notice, mention that, too — it’s a great selling point for many radio shows). Specify some topics that you can address on the air. You’ll get bonus points if you can tie your expertise into upcoming holidays or events that the broadcast or newscast will likely cover. Make your ideas easy to read by formatting them as a bulleted list. The radio producer and host will be best able to digest your pitch if your gratitude begins and ends the email — and if your email is short and to the point. Then put aside your expectations. Don’t be dismayed if you don’t get a response to your email. Understand that time is short for radio folks just as it’s precious for you, and email silence doesn’t mean your email when unnoticed or unappreciated. And don’t let the lack of good manners on the part of some busy radio people dissuade you from thanking the next radio producer and radio host who invite you to join them on the air.

Follow through. If you promised to stay in touch with the radio producers and radio hosts when you wrote them thank-you emails (better still, if they asked you to stay in touch with them while you were on the air or in response to your follow up email to them), then follow through by sending them occasional emails. You might let them know about future projects, or point out your perspective on a breaking news story, or offer a connection between current events and your expertise. Always close with a reminder that you’re available for radio interviews and that you’d like to be considered as a guest if the opportunity arises.

With a small investment of effort, you can turn a one-shot radio interview opportunity into an ongoing dialogue with radio producers who are always willing to listen to your ideas. Be respectful, show your thanks, and making a continual effort to build and then maintain your relationships with radio decision makers … and you can find a single author radio interview turning into a career-long, mutually rewarding relationship.

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Author publicity begins with book discovery

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Book publicity and, ultimately, book sales begin with book discovery. For the media to find your book, and for readers to learn about your book (thus, enabling readers to buy your book), they have to know that your book exists.

In light of the correlation between book promotion and and awareness of your book, every author and publisher (and book publicist) should focus on expanding the book’s footprint. Here’s how:

  • Author interviews. If you want the public to be aware of your book, then talk to the media about your book’s messages. You’re the expert. Let the media know that you’re available to share your expertise. A book publicist will help you pull news hooks from your book and, assuming you have the credibility, can garner opportunities for you to speak to radio and television, and newspaper and magazine reporters, and bloggers. Do this on an ongoing basis, and you’ll raise awareness of your book.
  • Press releases. Although few people in the media want authors, publishers, or book publicists. to just indiscriminately mail or email press releases to them (they just lack the time to read full press releases, and to think about how the information in the press release might relate to a current or breaking news story), the search engines are eager to index the keywords with which you can fill your press releases. And press release banks, such as AuthorPublicity, which exclusively hosts press releases for authors and publishers (and can create press releases for you, too, at a fair price) as well as paid an unpaid online press release distribute services, will help you expand your book discovery potential through Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines.
  •  Articles. If you want the media and readers to know about your book, then create content for your target audience to find. Read published articles to see the format that the blogs, newspapers, and even magazines accept, emulate that style, and submit your own articles to these media outlets. A competent book publicist can help you conduct a bylined article campaign.
  • Blog. Besides submitting articles to blogs, newspapers, and magazines, and hoping these media outlets will publish your articles, remember that creating and maintaining your own blog is a reliable way of calling attention to your keywords and your expertise without having to impress a gatekeeper. Therefore, blogging on a regular basis is one of the best ways to positively expand awareness of your book and ensure that your work is well-positioned for discovery by your target readership. Your book publicist can work with you on the types of keywords and concepts that you might incorporate into your blog entries. This can be particularly helpful as you launch a new blog, and as you look around for topics to help fill it.

Book sales will increase as you focus on book discovery and your book’s online footprint. If you haven’t yet launched a book promotion campaign — which should include both traditional and online book promotion strategies, and you hope to help readers learn about your book, then it’s time to get started. A book publicity firm can be a great asset as you begin the book promotion process.

 

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Book Publicity in the News

By Stacey J. Miller, Book Publicist
S. J. Miller Communications
[email protected]

Your next book publicity opportunity might be waiting for you in the headlines. Here’s what I mean by that. No author or publisher or book publicist — no human being on the planet, for that matter — wants to read or hear bad news. No one is wishing bad news on the world at large, and no one is hoping for catastrophes or disasters to hit our loved ones or ourselves, either. But, sometimes, bad things happen that, as an author, ties into your book.

When that happens — when there’s a convergence between the news and your book — and your expertise can help inform people, that’s the time for you to crank up your book publicity machine. If you’re lucky enough to be working with a book publicist, then your book publicist should see the opportunity, too. In fact, the best book publicists will see the news hook, as it’s called, even before you see it. You might be focusing on the news event itself and, along with the rest of the world, you might be running through the usual reactions ranging from horror to anger to hope.

However, the best book publicists will see that your perspective could help the media report the story. While the news story is on the front burner — that is, while it’s still a breaking news story — or even in the aftermath of a news event, your book publicist will be pitching the media that are certain to be interested in someone with your credentials, background, and expertise.

In other words, your book publicist should be eager to leverage the news event as a book publicity opportunity for you, as an author and as an expert. And, if you happen to be working with a book publicist who doesn’t immediately see the connection between the news story and your book and your expertise, then it’s crucial for you to let your book publicist know that this is the time to pitch you to the media. Book publicists should have the flexibility to depart from their paper book publicity plan, and even from your contractual agreement, when a book publicity opportunity arises. Your book publicist, in fact, is supposed to care about your book publicity project as much as you do.

And, if you’re working with a book publicist who would fails to see a connect between — for example — a stabbing rampage by a student at a Pittsburgh-area high school and your book, The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know, then I’d contend you’re simply working with the wrong book publicist.

Book publicity isn’t only about book reviews, blog tours, sending out press releases, and the like (although, of course, those book publicity strategies can all be effective, as well). Book publicity campaigns also involve book publicists, or authors (or their publishers) who are promoting themselves, looking for news hooks and opportunities to speak in the media (or write op-eds pieces, articles, or blogs) about what’s unfolding all around us.

Do you see the relationship between the news headlines and your book, and your expertise, and your messages, and your book publicity campaign? Hopefully, your book publicist sees that connect, too. And, if he or she does not, then perhaps it’s time to work with a book publicist who does!

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Book promotion means being in the right place.

Book promotion means being in the right place at the right time so that people — by which I mean the media and your potential readers — can find you, the author, and your book. So that means book promotion actually begins before your book is published. That’s when you’re making your plans for how book will be distributed, and how readers will find your book.

To this book publicist, that means working with a print on demand publishing company (such as the big two, CreateSpace and LightningSource) to get your book into the Ingram Books system and to make your book available through the online bookstores. Once you know how your book will be distributed and made available to readers, then it’s time to research book promotion services (such as those I offer through S. J. Miller Communications). Also, if you’re interested in seeking traditional book reviews, you have to start pitching the advance book review media between four and six months before your book’s publication date. There’s little flexibility there — if you want traditional book publicity for your book (which is still nice, even in these days of online book promotion possibilities), you still have to do it the tried-and-true way. The only difference is that you’ll be competing with more books than ever since so many programs, like the one offered through Amazon Publishing, are making self publishing books easier than any author could have imagined just a few years ago.

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