In my last post, I talked about Garth Stein‘s talk about grass-roots book marketing. I incorrectly tweeted his quote as “All Writers Should Hire Publicists,” and he corrected me, saying “My next sentence was, “Or hire yourself as a publicist if you can’t pay one.” It got me thinking about what a publicist was and how I could be my own. In the last post, I quoted Daniel Grant in the Huffington Post who wrote:
“The job of a publicist is to not only to tout some person or object to the world but also to “position” the client in the world, establishing that individual’s or thing’s uniqueness. To Shannon Wilkinson, getting a lot of attention earns a person a “buzz,” and other people think it “cool” to be around that individual or what the person creates.”
He goes on to talk about publicists who charge $25,OOO monthly retaining fees. A little out of your budget you say?
So…. Who better to establish your uniqueness and position in the world than you? But where to start?
Before you begin, you need to establish a baseline of your unique presence in the online world. This is the new reality of book marketing and publicity.
I am going to assume you have the following:
1. At least 1,000 followers on Twitter
2. A Facebook author page
3. A Google+ author page
4. An author website and hopefully an accompanying blog that you update at least once a week
Keeping all of these more or less up-to-date will begin the road to establishing your online platform and presence. What? You want to write your book too? We’re not done yet…
Next comes the brainstorming:
1. Create a list of markets for your book. In my case, I wrote a book for widows, so I might look for different areas on social media such as military widows, widowers, widow blogs, widow organizations and look for ways to tell them about my book.
2. Identify a list of potential reviewers or beta readers. I had an established blog, so I was able to post a call for Beta readers. I sent them all a Word doc of my manuscript and a list of questions I was looking for answers for. Within a few weeks I had some amazing reviews rolling in. I asked them all to post reviews on Amazon when my book is published.
3. Look for other bloggers who write about the same subject or a similar subject and ask to guest blog for them.
And now the real work of being your own publicist:
1. You are a brand now. Everything you do, particularly what you do online is developing that brand, so make it good. Don’t post (too many) silly pictures of yourself or over Tweet about your breakfast. Give your brand substance by feeding your social media outlets quality, whole foods.
2. According to Garth, establishing connections with libraries and independent bookstores is key. Call them directly and set up readings. Make friends. Bring swag (aka tchotchkes, gifts, promo items) and distribute freely.
3. Ask your friends to help you. They can share your posts, write reviews, distribute your swag. But don’t overburden them too much or they won’t be your friends anymore.
4. Keep a mailing list, but don’t abuse it. Every card you pick up, fan email you receive, new person you meet who seems remotely interested in your book and is willing to sign up for your mailing list should be on it. Communicate with them and let them know about your upcoming talks or books, but don’t go emailing them once a week, or they will get mad and not be your friend anymore.
5. Create a media kit: a press release, author photo, author bio, book cover PDF, book blurbs, review blurbs, and book excerpts. It saves you time to keep this stuff available on your website, otherwise keep it together in one folder so it’s handy when you are asked to provide it.
6. Cultivate contacts that you make as you publicize your book and do readings and get out there (media contacts, bookstore owners, librarians, etc). You never know when, down the road you might find yourself wanting to look them up again.
7. Write a press release. Try to figure out a unique angle to your book or your personal story that media outlets would be interested in and gear it to each media outlet you are targeting by making it relevant to their audience.
8. Write pitches. Offer to write a shot blog post for a targeted blog. Come up with a list of topics you can speak about and flush out full descriptions of your talks and post them on your website.
9. Keep track of it all. Spreadsheets work for some. Make sure you record every request you have sent so that you can track it and follow up on it.
OK, honestly, a $25,000 publicist retainer is not sounding so bad. When does an author get to write anymore?
An article I used as a reference in writing this article: Being My Own Book Publicist by Kelly Kathleen Ferguson
Abigail Carter is the Seattle-based author of The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow’s Transformation and Co-Founder of Writer.ly, an online marketplace where writers can find the people they need to publish successfully. She can be found on Facebook and on Twitter (@abigailcarter) and on her blog, abigailcarter.com