There are two ways to go about getting attention in the media: one is to hire experts to help you reach the media, and the other is to do the legwork yourself.
I’ll be honest: publicity is not rocket science. If you are committed to the process, you can do it yourself. It will take you longer, and you will certainly spend many hours chasing opportunities, but you’ll save money. When you hire a PR expert, you are hiring them for their time, expertise, and contacts. Unfortunately, results are not guaranteed. Trust me—that fact is as frustrating for us in the field as it is for you.
There’s another thing to consider, and this may be difficult to hear: if you are self-publishing your book, you will probably get fewer reviews than if you were published by an established publisher. This is simply the truth. I totally understand the reasons to self-publish, but it’s important to be aware of the implications of that decision on your publicity prospects. It definitely means that you’ll have to focus more time on guest blogging and interviews.
Focus on Online Opportunities
If you decide you want to do the publicity work yourself, focus on the internet. Traditional media (newspapers, magazines, TV, radio) require great contacts and long lead times. It’s easy to make mistakes, and you certainly want to avoid those when it comes to publicity.
For busy authors, online publicity will be a lot more effective. Online publicity, however, is not for everyone. It takes patience and a thick skin, since you may face rejection and silence.
What Online Opportunities Are Best?
Authors often ask me what the top website for generating sales is. It’s a legitimate question, but the answer is not necessarily obvious. In my experience, there is no single site that generates sales for every kind of book. Because the web is so segmented, different sites impact different books, so it all depends on your audience. One of our clients asked us to reach out to sushi sites to help promote his novel. When I asked him why, he said, “Because the main character loves sushi.” Now that may seem reasonable, but have you ever seen a sushi site featuring a novel just because the main character liked sushi? Probably not.
Another client asked us to get his book featured on the homepage of Gap.com. “The Gap.com? The people who make jeans?” I asked, confused. He said, “Yes, because their customer is my demographic.” This may seem like a creative idea, but have you ever seen a book on the homepage of Gap.com? Probably not.
Your time is limited and the internet is vast, so try to manage your expectations. If something has never been done before, it’s probably a long shot.
How to Find the Best Opportunities for Your Book
When authors come to me and say, “I want to reach book bloggers” or “I want to reach mommy bloggers,” I often have to tell them that bloggers have more specific tastes than they may realize. For example, when reaching out to mommy bloggers, it is really important to know the age of their kids. Pitching a teen parenting book to a mommy blogger with a baby won’t get you far. Pitching a sci-fi novel to a blogger who loves historical romances won’t work either. Sending a World War II book to a blogger who covers the Civil War will make for a cranky blogger, and sending a press release to the wrong person may actually get you blacklisted. So if you want to take on this work, please approach it carefully and diligently. A misstep can be damaging for your brand, and unfortunately Google has a long memory.
- Search for blogs. If you are looking for bloggers to review your book, look for the ones who have already reviewed books. One of the ways you can narrow your search is by doing a Google search for a competing book. If you only search for the name or title, too many things will come up and it will be a chore to figure out which ones are reviews. However, you can do a Google search for the author’s name or book title in quotes and the phrase “book review” or “interview,” and you will get much more refined search results—for example: “Brene Brown” “Daring Greatly” “book review.”
- Know their beat. The best piece of advice to any author trying to build a relationship with bloggers is to build that relationship through mutual respect, trust, and consistency. Make sure you know the blogger’s focus and area of interest.
- Work with a range of bloggers. It’s good to know how much traffic a blog has, but don’t dismiss bloggers with less traffic. It is important to look at the full reach of a blogger. Sometimes blog features from smaller blogs can generate more chatter on social networks. It’s a good idea to follow them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, and check out their social networks, like Goodreads. Some bloggers post reviews on multiple sites, so they can be more valuable for that reason alone.
- Make things easier. Understanding the needs of bloggers and online editors will help you work with them. Make note of the type of coverage they specialize in. Do they like to interview authors, review books, do raffles, or post guest blogs? Then make sure you send them the materials they need in a timely fashion. If you promise them a review copy of a book, send it quickly.
- Approach bloggers one at a time. Every time I say that, people either roll their eyes in disbelief or try to sell me on the benefits of mail-merge mass email. But here’s the honest truth: you are better off reaching out to 50 bloggers one at a time than to 500 via a mass email. You’ll actually get better results. Is it time-consuming and labor-intensive? You bet. Is it worth it? Yes!
- Follow up, but don’t push. Without follow-up nothing will come of your pitching, so you need to find time to follow up and develop skills in asking without being pushy or rude. Every good publicist masters the delicate art of begging.
- Represent good content. Don’t send out press releases, articles, or op-eds that are not written well. Make sure the content that leaves your hands always looks professional and does not have spelling or grammatical mistakes.
Keep Detailed Notes on What Happens
All of these tips are fine, but unless you keep track of your research they’ll be difficult to implement. At my firm, we have several fields in our custom-designed database that help us develop relationships with bloggers. We record when the contact was added, by whom, and any notes about their likes and dislikes. We also keep track of all the books sent to every blogger and which bloggers then featured our books. This practice allows us to learn more about the blogger with every interaction and send them only the books they would be inclined to cover. You can use a spreadsheet or database to keep track of your PR work. It’s a good idea to keep thorough notes so you don’t get confused about whom you’ve contacted and what the results were.
If you are doing your own publicity, consider developing an ongoing dialogue and relationship with the bloggers. Share their information and be generous. Everyone appreciates a digital nod these days. Help them before you need their help.
Craft Personalized Pitches, Wait, Follow Up, Repeat
I know it’s counterintuitive, but I hate press releases. They never really work for my publicity firm. I find that having a conversation is a much better way to get the attention of the person on the other end. If you have done your research, it will be a lot easier to pitch the blogger and editor with something specific. It’s better to pitch fewer people individually than to pitch hundreds of people in one mass email.
Once you have searched for bloggers and pitched your book, you will need to wait for responses. If editors/bloggers request the book, your pitch is working. If not, you’ll have to use another pitch. Try connecting your book to something in the news or a new study. When you do get a response, pounce on it. Attention is fleeting, and you don’t want to wait. If the editor/blogger asks for a book or an interview, accommodate them right away.
Then in a couple of weeks follow up and make sure they got the book and ask if there is anything you can do to help. That’s the cycle. It’s not difficult. It’s not rocket science. However, it requires lots of time and patience. Contacts with the media are worth so much because a publicist’s relationship with an editor will boost your chances of getting a feature. If you are willing to put in the work, you can build the same contacts and relationships within your niche. It will just take some time.
Research Tools and Other Resources
If you’re having a difficult time identifying the right blogs or websites for your pitch, here are some research tools that my firm uses. New tools show up all the time, and if I find a cool new one I will post it at FauziaBurke.com.
- Social Mention. This site allows you to search an author, company, or topic across the web. You can get results from 100 social media sites in one place. My favorite part is that it gives you sentiment (positive, neutral, or negative) of the mentions all over the web, along with top keywords and top hashtags. It’s handy.
- TweetReach. This is one of my favorite sites. It allows you to search a topic, author, handle, or name and see how many people were reached by those tweets. You can also see who sent the tweets and how many followers they have. This is a helpful tool to search for people who have influence.
- Twitter Counter. I love this site. It allows you to see the Twitter stats for any handle. You can see if the trend is for gaining followers or losing them. It also shows you how many tweets are made every day by any handle. TwitterCounter is useful for research and for monitoring the success of your Twitter feeds, especially if you have multiple accounts.
- Google Trends. If you are working on a news topic, this is an excellent source because it gives you insights into the amount of traffic and geographic visit patterns.
- Twazzup. This site allows you to filter news from live Twitter content. It’s helpful to see trending topics and influencers for a given subject. It’s better for searching topics than for searching for an author’s name.
- Klout. One of the most popular Twitter research tools, Klout measures influence rather than just the number of followers. It’s not without controversy, however, since many believe its metrics aren’t accurate.
- Alltop. This site has top stories and blogs on every topic imaginable. Pick the topics that relate to your book and check out curated information.
- PR Daily from Ragan’s. They have a great newsletter called PR Daily with tips and ideas.
- HARO. Help a Reporter Out connects journalists on deadline with expert sources. It’s a good idea to sign up for the free newsletter and then pounce on any opportunities you can. We have gotten some good hits from it.