Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Book Publicity 101

Today, I interviewed Sandra Beckwith, a self-described recovering publicist. She tells us about Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz:

Please tell me about yourself.
I’m a recovering publicist. I spent most of my career creating and executing award-winning publicity campaigns but I don’t want to do that anymore. So I write about publicity instead – I’ve written a publicity book for small businesses and another for nonprofits – and teach others how to generate their own media exposure. I especially enjoying teaching my online book publicity course for authors called “Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz” (http://www.buildbookbuzz.com/) because the students are always so smart, motivated and curious.

I don’t have a lot of time for book publicity. How can I make sure I’m putting my effort where it will do me the most good?
The smartest thing you can do is to get a handle on your target customer. Get as specific as you can. Don’t say “it’s everyone who’s in a relationship” – narrow it down. Is it women? What’s the age and income range? Are they urban, suburban or rural or all three, and are you pretty sure about that? You want to have a profile of your best customer in mind so that you do the best job possible of reaching others just like her. Let’s say you’re doing podcasts but frustrated by the results – the effort doesn’t seem to be selling books. I have to wonder if your target customer listens to podcasts. You’ve got to reach them where they’re at – don’t expect them to come looking for you.

What’s the most common mistake authors make when promoting their books?
Too many fiction and nonfiction authors alike forget that they are experts on the topic they’ve written about and can be quoted in the press on that subject for months and years to come. I am always working to get authors to look beyond the book launch and leverage their expert status for long-term success.

I didn’t get a large enough advance for my book to spend a lot on publicity. What are the some of the most cost-effective things I can do myself to help get the word out?
Generating great book buzz is surprisingly affordable and it’s something authors can do for themselves because most of the tools used require solid writing and communication skills, so authors have a head start with that. Here are just a few specific things you can do for yourself – and there are so many:
· Identify the media outlets that are most important to you and start developing relationships with the appropriate journalists at each.
· Develop a list of story ideas and angles from your book to pitch. This is an especially creative exercise for fiction writers, but it can be done.
· Distribute to the media a tip sheet offering tips or advice on a problem related to your areas of expertise. (For tip sheet writing instructions, go to http://www.sandrabeckwith.com/articles/tip-sheet.htm.)
· Ask bloggers who reach your target audience to do a Q&A with you.
· If you’re blogging, link your blog to the AmazonConnect program so you expand your reach where people are making purchasing decisions. If you’re not blogging yet, consider starting with AmazonConnect (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=15700651).

I hear conflicting information about the impact of different types of media outlets – radio, newspaper, etc. Do you think one type is more valuable for book publicity than another?
It all depends on what your target customer reads, watches and listens to. Online exposure is great because it’s often linked to a purchase page at an Internet retailer, but if your customer isn’t online, that won’t help you much. The same goes with radio interviews – they’re fun to do but if your target customer never listens to the radio, what’s the point?

My book didn’t get many book reviews. Is it hopeless?
No! So many books don’t get any reviews and still sell well. Building book buzz is about far more than generating book reviews. It’s about getting the book titled mentioned in the right places over and over and over.

Does a bad review turn people off?
It often depends on how well the reader knows the patterns of the reviewer. I know, for example, that the movie reviewer at The Wall Street Journal doesn’t like much of anything. I’ve also noticed that I often dislike those few movies that he raves about. So a bad review by him might encourage me to see the movie! I think that reviews, whether they’re good or bad, shine a spotlight on a new title. We consumers then use that spotlight to notice the book and make our own decisions about whether it’s worth buying and reading.


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