Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Book Marketing Landscape For First-Time Authors

      I participated on a panel this past weekend at the Sarah Lawrence College 5th Annual Publish & Promote Your Book Conference and had a ball mingling with scores of writers. Here is what I shared with them:   

Seeking to write a book and becoming a published author is a very challenging and rewarding pursuit.  But none of it compares to what’s involved in promoting your book, marketing your brand, and seeking fame and fortune for your unique way of stringing thousands of words together.  If writing a book is like giving birth to a baby, book marketing successfully is like having triplets.

We write books out of a deep passion, to share our ideas, views, experiences, or stories.  It’s a therapeutic if not cathartic process, one that can change or influence lives, including an author’s.  Books help shape the society we live in, while archiving who we are and forecasting where we may go.  Books can inspire, educate, enlighten, and/or entertain us.  To promote and market a book will not only help you sell books, it will also get your impactful message out, assuage your ego, or position you for bigger things like a movie deal or a career shift.

So how will you break through the clutter, where paid and free content comes from all directions – blogs, newspapers, radio, magazines, movies, music, plays, podcasts, television – competing with the 3,000 new books released every single day, on top of the millions of books that never go out of print, as well as other distractions from Twitter, sports, video games, etc.?

One needs to publicize themselves before, a book is published and then he or she will have to sustain a continual marketing effort for a lifetime.

Now, that’s not meant to overwhelm or scare you.  I tell you this – based on nearly three decades of experience in working directly with over 1,000 authors on their publicity and marketing – to help you get in the proper frame of mind if you are hoping to be a successful author.

Here are a few dozen tips on how to achieve greater brand recognition, book sales, and career achievement as the author of books:

  1. As much as you love to write books – and perhaps other forms of content – you have to plan for some of your day to promote and market yourself.  Beyond your household chores, personal obligations, and professional demands, carve some time to promote your writings.

  1. When writing your book, take into account the elements of your story or information that could be a selling point to consumers and the news media.  Think about what people want, like, or need in addition to you seeking to write the book that you feel drawn to pen.

  1. Understand that book marketing is not a one-time thing – it’s an everyday, all-the-time thing.  It can’t be left in the hands of a publisher, should you land one, and it can’t be performed only when you have a book out.  You are always building your writing and book marketing -- resume.

  1. Get a grasp on the book marketing landscape.  It breaks down as follows:
·         Traditional Media – TV, radio and print (interviews, reviews, feature stories, byline articles).
·         Digital Media – coverage by bloggers, podcasters, media websites, online book reviews.
·         Social Media – think Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Instagram, Linked In, Pinterest.
·         Non-media – such as speaking appearances and events.
·         Advertising – paying for ad space, reviews, or access to influencers.
·         Sales – bookstores, affiliate marketing, libraries, businesses, groups, schools, book clubs.

  1. You’ll need to budget time and money for your book marketing and you may need to get training in areas where you lack skills, such as website design, media coaching, or understanding how to fully utilize social media.

  1. Understand the timeline that revolves around a book.  Once you know when a book is being launched (its official release date is listed in Books in Print), work backwards from there.  Let’s say your book is coming out May 1.  Four months prior to that – January 1 – you’ll send out advance review copies (galleys) to major book review media such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, and NYT Book Review, as well as long-lead magazines (magazines like Time, Glamour, Fast Company, and Parents that work way in advance, and the morning TV shows (Today, GMA, CBS This Morning, Fox & Friends).  Prior to that, other things must take place, such as book cover design, printing the galleys, creating press kit materials, developing your media list, designing and posting your website, and setting up your social media account profiles.

  1. The key window of time to get publicity for your book starts about a month before the book’s release, through the first three months from its launch date.  After that, your shelf life, in the eyes of the media is essentially over.  Though some books can remain relevant (about terrorism or how to recover from cancer), they only make the news down the road when something is making headlines that you can connect to.  If a terror attack takes place seven months after your book was released, you can still be quoted as an expert and as the author of a book on terrorism.

  1. One of your best information assets for marketing and publicity, aside from publications like Publishers Weekly, Writers Digest, or The Writer, are trade groups such as ASJA, Authors Guild, PEN, National Writers Union, and IBPA.

  1. Other writers can be supportive and helpful too.  Join the professional group of your genre, from Romance Writers of America to Society of American Travel Writers.  Meet writers at conferences and book fairs.  Befriend them online through FB or LI Groups.

  1. Follow writers that you emulate and find to be leaders in your genre.  Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.  See what they are saying and doing and copy what you can while incorporating your own style and voice.

  1. Here are the things you will need to get up:
·         Website for you/your book.
·         Social media profiles, author sites you plan to be active on.
·         Develop press kit materials.
·         A blog-post on it at least weekly.
·         Profile page on Amazon’s author central.
·         Business cards.

  1. You need to think of your author brand – how do you express yourself when discussing who you are, what you write about, your writing style, and your unique voice or views.  Come up with a 20-second elevator speech, a tagline, and an image that represents you --  it’s not just a book cover or author photo, but more of a logo.

  1. Look at the news media as an investment portfolio.  Just as you divide your wealth into various areas – real estate, stocks, gold, bonds, etc. -- and then further subdivide within each investment class, see media the same way. Devise a plan for securing coverage with:

·         TV – national, local, regional, international.
·         Radio – national, regional, local, international.
·         Print – newspapers, magazines, news wire, trade journals, newsletters, airline publications, community publications (national, local, regional, international)
·         Digital – podcasters, bloggers, sites of traditional media, websites, online book reviewers.

  1. Then think about which specific media outlets would you approach, and at each outlet who should you contact?  For instance, under print, you might select newspapers, then USA Today, then a specific book editor, columnist or reporter.  A good media list is half the game here.

  1. Think like the media.  What do they need, want, or desire?  What are their demographics – whom do they try to appeal to for advertising and readership?  What would that specific reporter be interested in, based on prior coverage, personal details of the reporter, and the demographics of the media outlet?

  1. Be ready to help create a story.  Can you deliver facts, stats, video, photos, documents, and other resources to help the media craft a timely, relevant, and unique story?

  1. What will your message be to the media?  It can’t just be “I wrote a book.”  Will you offer a benefit, expose a secret, say something new, discuss a famous person, help us feel inspired or emotional, make a claim, issue a challenge, raise a question, lobby for an issue, spark a debate, or be controversial?  Will you appeal to key topics that move us: sex, religion, politics, wealth, health, kids, death, or celebrity?

  1. he key to improving one’s efforts to promote a book to its maximum potential, ultimately  rests on the following: Timing -- doing what’s needed when it should be done. News Cycle -- your book needs to tie into what’s in the news, on the calendar, or an honorary day/anniversary. Luck – sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time. Word-of-Mouth – your book, if it’s really good, once in the hands of a few hundred or thousand people can get word-of-mouth traction. Great Testimonials – they alone don’t sell a book but they add to the positive impression needed to influence others. Persistence – push daily and never giving up or get discouraged. Confidence – act with the belief you will succeed. Planning – strategizing and executing go hand in hand. Local to National – start locally and regionally and then branch out nationally.
  2. Give Yourself A PR Audit. Examine your past and see what the media might find noteworthy. Look at the experiences you have had and see if any are worth discussing. Think of the connections you have and the people you know – can you drop names to the media? Identify what is in your book that the media will find of interest?

  1. Avoid Mistakes By Authors Who: Wait too long to start thinking about publicity; Mistakenly think they can do it all; Wrongly assume they will succeed without PR; Falsely believe the media will cover them with little effort; Think PR is a one-time thing but really it’s an ongoing, perpetual thing.

  1. What’s Today’s Media Landscape? There are more media outlets and opportunities exist than ever before. Their value, individually, is more diluted than ever before. You will need a certain quantity of quality media placements. Most media coverage can take place by phone and email -- it’s becoming rarer that an author needs to travel or take to a road tour.

  1. How You Talk About What You Wrote Matters.  Are you the most qualified to write your book? Sound like it. Find a way to summarize without the details. Can you compare your work with other known writers? Sell the action, the dilemma, the characters, the words. How do you describe your book in the context of your life? Can you genuinely speak with passion, confidence, and conviction? You should visualize your press release headline as you write your book. Find a way to succinctly put your book or story into perspective and relevance. Express it in a way that serves a need, fulfills a desire, or feeds a want – and sounds interesting.

  1. What Helps You Get Media? Localize or regionalize the book. Media coverage begets media coverage.  Get buy-ins early to create traction.  Build buzz by getting early reviews. Have the backing of a group. Try to ride the coattails of others or be linked by association to big things, people or events. Tie into something that is on the calendar – a relevant holiday, an anniversary, an honorary day. Think of your life – create a matrix of people, events and experiences and think of how to call upon your past – ask for specific favors. Exploit personal experience: overcoming addiction, abuse, poverty, loss, disability, arrest. Create a resume: don’t lie, but shape it to tell a story = develop your media persona. Channel your energy, resources and creativity not just towards your writing, but to your PR efforts. Use your gift – your ability to communicate with words and images – to promote your work.   

  1. What Else Can You Do? Meet deadlines and work in advance to handle potential setbacks. Poll others to test out ideas.  Anticipate – don’t just follow – trends. Get used to talking about things in a way that is more hype than substance, more extreme than modest, more sensational and not so ordinary. Copy what works for others – but only the important traits. Coincide your media pitches and efforts with upcoming events, holidays, anniversaries, honorary days, and timely news hooks

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.”

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