Want to Be Your Own Book Publicist? — Here’s a 10-Step Do-It-Yourself Process for Authors

by Karen Jonson

From a Good Plan to Tracking Your Progress, Authors Can Do Their Own Publicity — If They Are Organized and Professional

For publicity, there are two avenues for book authors: Hire a publicist or do-it-yourself. If you have unlimited funds or are marketing your book to build your name in an industry, then perhaps you can afford a publicist. Otherwise, follow these tips to do-it-yourself professionally.

For book publicity, there are two avenues for authors: Hire a publicist or do-it-yourself. If you have unlimited funds or are marketing your book to build your name in an industry, then perhaps you can afford a publicist. Otherwise, follow these tips to do-it-yourself professionally.

Editor’s Note: This article is Part 2 in a two-part series about book publicity. Part 1 provided the perspective of a book publicist. Part 2 will provide how-to information on doing publicity yourself.

Publicity has always been considered the core element of any book marketing campaign — and that is still true today.

Now the only question is: Do you hire someone to help you conduct your book’s publicity campaign or do you do-it-yourself?

In the last post, we covered the many reasons to hire a publicist from the perspective of a book publicist. No one can dispute that that is the ideal choice.

However, the question of cost is a big issue, considering the average price of a publicist in the U.S. is $2,000 to $5,000 per month with a three-month minimum contract.

You don’t have to let a lack of funds keep you from doing book publicity. You can do it yourself.

Here are the 10 main steps in a successful book publicity plan.

1. Create a Publicity Plan.

As the saying goes, you need to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there before embarking on a journey.

The smartest first step you can take before embarking on your book’s publicity campaign is to create a publicity roadmap.

While creating your plan, you’ll want to consider these two primary questions: Who are your target publications, reporters, and bloggers? What topics or angles can you pitch each of them?

2. Create an Online Media Kit.

An online media kit is a place on your website or blog where reporters and bloggers can get all the important information they need about your book to write an article or obtain background information on you, the author.

Some ideas for content in your online media kit are:

  • Press release
  • Book blurb
  • Photos of you and your book
  • Your biography
  • Notable reviews about your book
  • Excerpts from your book
  • Links to where your book is available for sales

3. Create a Custom Media List.

There are several benefits to creating your own custom media list, which can include both journalists and bloggers:

  • You can target specific reporters and bloggers who you think would be interested in your topic.
  • You can customize your releases and pitches for specific reporters and mediums.
  • The act of building a media list allows you to think about who will be receiving your news, and how you might approach each individual differently to ensure they see value in covering it.
  • A media list is a handy reference for follow-up purposes, or subsequent related campaigns.
  • Use the list whenever you have news to share, and pick and choose whom to send it to.
  • Use the list to pitch timely stories ideas to individual journalists and bloggers.
  • Begin building relationships with journalists who are important to your topic.
  • Add new media and blog sources over time as you discover them.

4. Study Your Main Media Targets.

You should have a solid understanding of each of the media you plan to pitch for articles or interviews.

It’s easy to do. Simply read several issues of the publication or blog. For TV and radio, watch and listen to the stations.

While you’re researching them, start brainstorming unique angles about your book that you can pitch them.

5. Write Press Releases.

Press releases are the workhorse of publicity. For decades they have been, and remain today, the principal way to get your news in front of the media.

When sending press releases to the media, you must have something new or different to say. At the same time, reporters and editors want information that’s relevant to their specific readers.

What makes news? Here is a basic list of newsworthiness:

  • Timing – is it really new?
  • Subject of news – is a particular media interested in this topic?
  • Innovation – is the new thing different in some way from what already exists?
  • Significance – is the new thing significant in some way to a particular group of people?

Press releases follow a standard format. You should follow this basic structure if you want to be taken seriously by the media.

6. Send Press Releases.

There are three ways to get your press releases to the media:

  1. Use a paid PR service – a dependable way to send press releases, but does come with a fee.
  2. Use a free PR service – this sounds good on the surface, but beware: not all free services are reliable and some of them put you on multiple emailing lists.
  3. Create your own emailing list and send them yourself – this is the most direct way.

7. Hire a Blog Tour Service.

I got this tip from an established self-published author. She said that a reputable blog tour company is worth their fee, because they know all the ins and outs of approaching bloggers, many of whom have been burned by working directly with authors, who may or may not be professional. I’m planning to do more research about this point soon.

8. Write Pitches for Guest Posts.

A pitch is simply a brief email that is written specifically to entice the media outlet to either to interview you or receive a by-lined article from you about a specific issue.

Pitches are short, punchy, and to the point. Here’s an example of a pitch.

Dear (magazine editor or blogger),
Several of your recent ‘Pet Training’ columns have focused on the tried-and-true aspects of pet training. As a dog trainer for television and author I meet many owners with poorly trained dogs that have the potential to be the best behaved dogs. I want to write a 750-word article for your ‘Pet Training’ column that details for pet owners some less-well-known aspects of training pet that will make them and their pets happier.
Sincerely,
John Doe

9. Follow Up — Professionally.

Wait one or two weeks after you send your pitch and, if there’s been no reply, send a follow-up e-mail.

Just a brief reminder will do such as: “Just wanted to check and see if you had a chance to look at a pitch I sent you on May 25th.” Also, include the whole pitch to make it easy on the reporter or blogger to remember what you pitched.

Don’t be pushy when you do follow up. Be professional. Remember that editors, reporters, and bloggers are not obligated to respond to any of your pitches.

The point is to stay persistent without being overly aggressive.

10. Track Your Progress.

Choose your tracking method. You’ll want to track who you sent pitches to, what pitches you sent then, when you sent the pitch, and when you follow up.

This will keep you focused and make sure you don’t miss any opportunities along the way to promoting your book.

What are your thoughts on a do-it-yourself book publicity program? Could you do this alone?

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Learn more about the Indie Book Marketing Workshop.

NOTE: The Indie Book Marketing Workshop covers how to execute each of these book publicity steps in detail, so you can market your books like a pro — and sell more books.

 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Philippa Rees May 21, 2013 at 10:41 am

I had intended to do all publicity, and I think these guidelines above are excellent and eminently do-able…but there is one thing that a paid publicist brings to the table ( I hope!) and that is their own reputation, their insiders knowledge, their personal contacts, which might give a book an initial ‘credibility’. An author working alone finds this much harder, once the work gains traction or reviews it should become easier. I very reluctantly realised that for my book credibility was all!

Reply

Karen Jonson May 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Hi Phillippa,

Thank you for your kind words.

I totally agree you you about hiring a professional — those issues were mentioned in Part One of the two-part series. And it’s all very true.

The problem is that many authors simply cannot afford a publicist. I know I can’t. So, in those cases, we are just going to have to do it ourselves. It can be done. It’s just a bit harder and will take longer.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue.

Best
Karen

Reply

Kristen Zuray May 23, 2013 at 10:24 pm

How do you get book reviews?

Reply

Karen Jonson May 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Hi Kristen,

There are a number of ways. I’ll try to cover this in an upcoming blog post. Just to give you an idea: on Amazon, through media who review books, and through bloggers who review books.

Best,
Karen

Reply

Marilyn Levinson May 28, 2013 at 9:17 am

Great suggestions. I never considered hiring a blog tour service, but I’m running out of time and energy. I will seriously consider this for my two new books that are coming out soon.

Reply

Karen Jonson May 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Hi Marilyn,

Thank you. I just covered the topic of blog tours in-depth in the Indie Book Marketing Workshop. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there for the right book and the right author — if they do the proper preparation and find the right blog tour company.

Best,
Karen

Reply

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