Book PR and Publicity for Self-Published Authors

So you’ve written a book and now you wonder, what do I do with it?

Someone asked me what we recommend to authors who have self-published.  While we are a PR firm, we specialize in business and professional organization PR. We’ve worked with a few authors, but do not anymore because it is such a specialized area. 

To answer my friend’s question, we developed a list of basic and recommended activities for her.

Book publicity is its own animal.

There are specialist public relations people who help authors promote themselves. That being said, getting into a bookstore is not always the fastest key to success. 

Many authors self-publish these days, and the book distribution system is set up primarily for people who are published by recognized publishing houses. The authors that I have known who have had success have taken steps to get an ISBN number when they publish, and then network with independent booksellers to get those independent bookstores to carry the books. 

Years ago book publishers would do lots of PR for authors. That simply doesn’t happen anymore. If you’re a big-name you get some of that, but even if you’re a big name you still end up coordinating all your own book tours, signings, and promotional activity. The most successful authors are the ones who build up and utilize their social media channels in a very strategic way aligned around the topics that they write about.

If you’re going to invest money in the publicity and promotion of your book, be sure that you choose someone who has an established track record. Working with a publicist to does not have a strong track record is like throwing money down a rabbit hole.

You need the following basics to start your book promotion:

  1. Digital media kit: to include initial press release about your book; fact sheet. This can all be hosted on your website. (Read our article about digital media kits.)
    1. Your publicist should pitch local journalists who report on the book world.
  2. Book Trailer: A short video which introduces your book and you to your potential readers.
  3. Presentation: Talk that you can give at local events: 
  4. Reviews of your book: get people to read the book and leave reviews on Amazon and on GoodReads.com
  5. Local reading/signing events: Connect with local bookshops and libraries around the community and get yourself scheduled in to read passages from your book and sign books. Attend a few at area bookshops to get a feel for how these work.
  6. Regional and Statewide reading and signing events: Focus on the larger cities in your region.
  7. Ramp up your social media to connect with readers who care about your topic.
  8. Special promotions of your book on Amazon: These are special time-bounded events where you promote your book and let people download it for free or reduced price. This is to get the book into the hands of more people and to get more readers and especially reviews!
  9. Book bloggers: You’ll need to identify and connect with book bloggers who review books and share their thoughts across their social channels.

This by no means an exhaustive list of activities and materials. This is a list of fundamentals which you may be able to do on your own to get started with your self-promotion.

Q & A with Public Relations Industry Disrupter Jason Kintzler

Sheryl Crow is right: A Change Will Do You Good

Jason KintzlerChange is the only constant. You’ve heard this so many times, that your brain glosses over the real power in this aphorism. There is power in change.

But hey, I know, many of us don’t like change. It’s scary. Change equals the unknown. I get it. However, those who ride the wave of change, getting there first, disrupt. They lead. They embolden. They slice through the water of change. In fact, without change, they have no power.

Jason Kintzler is one of the wave riders of change. He has surfed the public relations world, bringing an obverse perspective. In 2008, he disrupted the PR world with Pitchengine, a set of new tools that give power to brands.

When you talk with someone like Jason, you realize the ability to do some blue sky thinking is a great talent to have.  Read Jason’s responses to seven questions about public relations, its future, and the bad practices that ought to be avoided.

The TLDR summary of Jason’s thoughts,

  • Give journalists and influencers something exclusive
  • News jacking, using ideas in the forefront of public attention as the hooks for your PR, is just plain lazy.
  • Be conversational; lose the official, AP format, “this is how it’s done” mentality.
  • Empathy is the key to success, but laziness tends to trump empathy as press releases continue to ooze pomp and circumstance.
  • PR is being democratized. It is going to be disrupted and tools will give power to small businesses.
  • Create a real relationship with a small group of influencers and it will grow organically.
  • Don’t look for automation or easy buttons, that’s just being lazy!

PR industry leader’s wisdom on the state of PR today

Q: Jason, tell me about your background and how you got into PR.

“My first career was as a television news anchor. I spent about five years working all sides of the newsroom and all parts of the desk – news, sports, weather. I left TV to join a brand in the outdoor industry and become their marketing and eventually, brand manager. We leveraged PR heavily as a marketing mechanism and developed several innovative ways of growing our brand through PR.

Having been on both sides of the PR coin, I recognized some serious holes in the process. Like for example, brands had resources, journalists didn’t. We spent a lot to generate PR materials — photo shoots, copywriting, product innovation, etc., Publications were eager to take whatever we could supply them.

Not only that, social media was just starting to be adopted by brands and there really wasn’t a mechanism to leverage these platforms at the time. So, in 2009, I created Pitchengine. By 2010, it was my full time job.

Q: As the owner of Pitchengine, how did your various products evolve and grow to fit the needs of PR pros and businesses?

“I believe for the last 10 years, we have been the innovation engine for the industry. From pioneering the social media release platform back in 2009, to creating the first Facebook newsroom, Twitter Pitch and then on to things like Compressor and Tiny Pitch which has received industry awards and called, “A killer product” by Entrepreneur.

We have more than 50,000 users, but to this day, Pitchengine isn’t for everyone. There’s still a majority of the industry that’s going through the motions. Spam distribution with meaningless analytics technology seem to be the easy decision for people.

But when it comes to our users, they are some of the best in the industry — and around the edges of the PR industry. They are creative, content-focused and understand that in many cases, 140 characters can be much more powerful than a formal press release with the best grammar imaginable. Times have changed, and we enable the creators to change with them.

Q: What’s different today than it was 5 years ago? 3 years ago?

“We’ve been tackling this question over the past couple of years actually. Social media ripped the carpet out from under traditional media as it relates to reaching people. Unfortunately, I don’t think PR did a very good job owning the idea of PR direct-to-consumers. But, if you fast forward to today, we’ve come almost full circle. The promise of “free” has gone away as Facebook and other platforms make it pay-to-play. This means PR isn’t as easy as we thought it was going to be.

What’s more, news in general has become commoditized. PR content isn’t special anymore because it’s just more content that everyone has access to. So, we’ve been creating the next iteration of PR software that’s going to return the power back to the brands. To give journalists and influencers something exclusive and to put one-to-one communication back in play.

Q: How has press agentry (defined by PRSA as “Creating newsworthy stories and events to attract media attention and gain public notice (although not all this attention may be positive)” changed in practice?

“It’s off the charts pandering at this point. Whatever’s trending in culture seems to be open play for brands. The trouble is, by the time this is the narrative in the media, people are already done with it. It’s just plain lazy. It has to be so sensational to stand out that it’s really not a positive for the long game that is branding.

Q: Let’s talk about the evolution of controlled communication channels. PRSA notes: Examples include paid advertising, newsletters, brochures, some types of emails, organizational websites and blogs, leaflets, organizational broadcasts and podcasts, intranets, teleconferences and videoconferences, meetings, speeches and position papers.

“I’ve been beating this drum for 10 years I think — the formality is gone. You have to be conversational and lose the official, AP format, “this is how it’s done” mentality.

Back in high school, my dad would leave a ripped piece of paper under my windshield wiper with the name of the restaurant where he wanted me to meet him for dinner after practice. No fluff, just the info i need to make a decision and move on. That’s what every communicator must remember. Empathy is the key to success, but laziness tends to trump empathy as press releases continue to ooze pomp and circumstance.

Q: If you had a crystal ball, where do you think PR is going in the coming 3-5 years?

“It’s going to continue to be democratized. Small businesses and new brands will keep adopting PR practices themselves and platforms, not PR agencies, will power it. Things that we’ve been so focused on — like SEO, media databases, and analytics will begin to vanish. At some point, things have to get real. I anticipate it will happen fast as technology begins to seriously disrupt other stalwart industries like banking, etc., PR is not immune and it’s in our best interest to get real or move on.

Q: What would you say to a small biz owner who wants to take on their own PR efforts? What’s the most important thing for them to understand?

“Have a plan. Think outside the box in terms of what’s going to move the needle for your business from a sales perspective. Who is your Marketing Persona and where do they put their attention? Because it’s no longer about impressions and audience numbers, it’s about efficiency and effectiveness. Five genuine customers are better than 100 eyeballs. Create a real relationship with a small group of influencers and it will grow organically. Don’t look for automation or easy buttons, that’s just being lazy!”

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Is your press release like a message in a bottle?

This evergreen post was published on our blog in 2009. We have updated it for today.

When to use press releases

Is a press release any good anymore?

Depends.

If you are pitching a national story with strong news interest and relevance, you can use a release to make sure select outlets and journalists you interact with have all the information they need. However, if you are just using it like a message in a bottle, casting it out on the water just to see who answers; not so much.

Press releases have evolved

The use of press releases has evolved. Releases are a great tool for reaching prospective customers if you publish them to your own website. Self-publishing them to your blog or newsroom first is critical. Avoid putting them on multiple free press release sites as these move traffic away from your own site and this tactic has sailed like a ghost ship over the horizon. Google even may mark your website as spam if you post press releases to non-relevant sites. The reality is that releases can help you deepen content on your website and are great when optimized well to bring interested customers to your site.

The days of mass blasting of a news release are gone. Or they should be. If your public relations consultant says this is what you should do, run! What is imperative is a carefully crafted pitch to bloggers, social media followers and interested journalists with whom you’ve developed relationships. Get to know journalists in your field first. With bloggers, seek permission to send a release or know that they are open to receiving your release before you send it. And for all outlets and journalists, make sure to deliver your press release in the manner that they request. Some reporters and editors no longer wish to receive press releases via e-mail and have returned to the days of snail mail.

Relationships come first

Don’t wait to get to know bloggers and journalists; develop your relationship with them over the course of time. Follow them on social media. Reading and following their writing, interacting with them on social media and commenting on their work. Create value and become a known source and then when you have a story to pitch or news to share, they frequently are much more open to receiving it.

If you need help attracting attention for newsworthy stories from your business, give us a call. We’d love to provide our counsel to your business.