How to Reach Out to Influencers for Book Promotion

Today’s guest post is an excerpt from The 10 Commandments of Author Branding by editor and author Shayla Raquel (@shaylaleeraquel).

An influencer is an individual who has built a reputation for his or her knowledge and expertise on a particular topic and likely uses social media to get that message across. Pat Flynn is a notable influencer in the entrepreneur and podcaster niche, best known for Smart Passive Income. People gravitate toward him because he’s an expert in his field (who happens to have a large following: very important). People listen to influencers’ recommendations because they have credibility. You trust them. Think of some people you follow and trust. Chances are that’s an influencer. Here are some of my favorite influencers in the book world:

  • Joanna Penn
  • Mark Dawson
  • Jerry B. Jenkins
  • David Gaughran

You don’t need an influencer’s clout to make your book and brand successful. But if you want to reach a larger audience and make more sales, then keep reading.

As with many things, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to pitching to influencers and borrowing their tribes. But we are going to cover the basics and some important do’s and don’ts.

Which Influencers Do I Approach?

You start with people you already know or have connected with: notable authors, bloggers, speakers, podcasters, artists, or business people who would be interested in endorsing or promoting your book.

Once you have a list of the notable people you have connections with, it’s time to make a second list. Do you know anyone who is connected to someone notable? Maybe you’ve never met Joyce Meyer, but your cousin helped her with a few details in her latest book or acted as her personal assistant’s assistant during her most recent conference tour. Write down those names! It’s okay that you don’t have BFF bracelets with that person. You have a mutual friend, and that’s a start—but I do recommend having your connected friend write an introduction or the initial pitch, not you.

Your third list: a cold call list. You won’t actually call these people, but you will be emailing them. This one is tricky, and we’ll cover it below—but write down a list of influencers you’d just love to have endorse or promote your book. The sky’s the limit!

How Do I Pitch Influencers?

Flattery never hurts. Tell them not only who you are but why you’re worth their time. Did you practice something they preached? Did you follow their courses with excellent results? Did you write a five-star review of one of their romance novels? (Keep the compliment section brief, though.) Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

  • Do be brief. When I started pitching to influencers, I was one verbose cookie. Thanks to Mike Loomis (literary agent, brand marketer, and author of Your Brand Is Calling), I’ve learned to cut it way down. Remember: Influencers are busy people. They don’t have time to read a novel-length email.
  • Do give influencers plenty of time to say yes or no. If your book has to be finalized for publication by June 1 and you want endorsements in the front matter by then, ask for an endorsement in April (maybe even March). They need time to read and review your book.
  • Don’t be pushy. Hounding them will result in a huge no. It’s okay to email them to check in, but don’t drive them nuts.
  • Do write up five to ten boilerplate endorsements for their use. Bet you didn’t know that authors often write their own endorsements, huh? The influencer can tweak them or add to them—it’s just nice to have a few prewritten endorsements for the influencer’s convenience.
  • Don’t get your feelings hurt when they say no. Thank them for their time. Don’t burn any bridges! Always be grateful.

For tracking down their email addresses, you can try these methods:

  • Go to the influencer’s website and use his or her contact form or use the Find/Search function and type in the @ symbol to scan for an email address.
  • Go to the influencer’s Facebook page, click About, and look under email address.
  • Go to the influencer’s LinkedIn page, ask to connect, and if you get a yes, look under his or her contact information.

Look for press inquiries or publicist inquiries while on the influencer’s website if the first three options don’t work.

When Should I Start Pitching?

Tim Grahl (author of Your First 1,000 Copies and Book Launch Blueprint) recommends starting six months before your release. I’ve started at three months and done fine. However, these are busy people, so it can take much longer to get things moving along with an influencer.

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget: You are an influencer to others and have the power to absolutely make a fan’s day. Some readers out there are obsessed with your books. If they were to meet you in person, they would probably cry or jump up and down. You have touched their very souls, and they love you for that.

For me, this person is Mary Kubica. Once I read The Good Girl and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I did a couple of shout-outs on Instagram, and she responded. I asked her for an interview, got it, and eventually wound up with a signed copy of the book that started it all for me as a book blogger.

I. Went. Bananas.

Image: 10 Commandments of Author Branding book coverTo have this incredibly successful author actually talk to me made my day. My whole week, really. I’ve never forgotten that moment.

And you have the power to make a fan’s day just as Mary did mine.

When fans tag you, say thank you and talk to them. Repost their photos of your book. Retweet the interview someone did with you. Show that you care, and the reader will never forget it. You want to do this author thing forever, right? Then be grateful to the readers who make it happen.

Note from Jane: If you enjoyed this post, check out Shayla Raquel’s new book The 10 Commandments of Author Branding.

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Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion.

An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. A lifelong lover of books, she has edited over 400 books and has launched several Amazon best sellers for her clients. Her award-winning blog teaches new and established authors how to write, publish, and market their books.

She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist, The Suicide Tree, and The 10 Commandments of Author Branding. In her not-so-free time, she acts as organizer for the Yukon Writers’ Society, volunteers at the Oklahoma County Jail, and obsesses over squirrels. She lives in Oklahoma with her dogs, Chanel, Wednesday, and Baker. Learn more at her site.

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Jane Friedman

Thank you, Shayla, and congratulations on an excellent how-to book. I’m delighted to feature it (and you) here.

Gretchen Eberhart Cherington

Just in time advice as I have a strong list of influencers for requesting blurbs for my upcoming memoir Poetic License (August, 2020 She Writes Press)!! Thank you so much!!

Jackie Henrion

Your advice is succinct and substantive, Jane. When I listened to your presentation about the labyrinthine publishing choices for an author, it helped me make the most efficient choice for my first book “Rerooted.” I did not write my book with any audience in mind, I felt it was more of a self-expressive, creative exploration. But even as post-publication and as I start on the next book I can see how Shayla’s pre-publication and influencer recommendations will be another resource I will add to my library for the same reasons. Thank you.

Jane Friedman

Thank you, Jackie! I hope you enjoy Shayla’s work as much as I do.

Marylee MacDonald

Thanks so much for the hints. Cracking the influencer code is truly one of the scariest parts of publishing. You’ve made it seem more doable.

[…] “An influencer is an individual who has built a reputation for his or her knowledge and expertise […]

Claire Stibbe

The advice on how to pitch influencers is so helpful. I would never have known about writing up boilerplate endorsements. Thank you Jane and Shayla. Just what I needed to read today! Always so timely.

Rhonda K Gatlin

As a children’s Author which Author/s would you recommend to reach out to for my niche? I am a new author. I have written 2 books and two in editing now. I tried hybrid route but I just keep paying them with my royalties when my book is returned to their warehouse. I have sent to agents, but nothing yet. I do ok at book signings 10-15 books, but that is slowing down. I revised my first book it will be called “Aggie Loves Counting”, which is the second book in series. “Aggie’s Purple Hands” I’m working on a website,… Read more »

Frank Prem

Thank you for this, Jane.

As a poet aspiring to change perceptions and get into some mainstream consciousness it is so important to connect with influencers and people of some literary significance to get responses and reactions as well as support.

Takes a lot of courage, though, to reach out from the middle of nowhere and hope to make an impression.

Most folk are lovely about being contacted, but it is a leap of faith, every time.

Jane Friedman

It does take courage, especially given the fair amount of rejection or silence that happens in these scenarios. Fortunately, with blogs, social and other forms of online conversation (like this!), I find it’s easier to “warm up” the connection over time before you make a request. Influencers may be more likely to respond well when they recognize your name and see that you’re part of the community.

And I can only be thanked for hosting Shayla – want to make sure to give credit where credit is due! 🙂

Emma Lombard

Truly valuable and actionable advice! Thanks for sharing your wisdom on the topic, Shayla! Your advice on author newsletters on your blog is also what helped me launch mine — with steadily growing success! I look forward to reading your new book!

Jeremie Newcom

This was very informative—thank you

Ned W Overton

Sitting here on a Sunday afternoon researching “how to market a children’s book” and I find this gem of an article with multiple “nuggets”. THANK YOU!!

Jennifer Merz

I’m very grateful for this information, Shayla! And thank you, too, Jane, for your ever-helpful blog! I’m a picture book writer/illustrator, twice published traditionally. My new book is self-published and is due out this summer, so your info is very timely for me. All the best to you both on your literary endeavors. Stay safe and well!