Updated Top Ten Tips For Promoting Books and Authors

Last night an author I've been advising had an appearance on one of the cable news programs - and his appearance reminded me of a couple of key things that I'd neglected to include in my original "Top Ten Tips" for promoting books and authors; with that in mind, I've enhanced my original Top Ten list to include several additional - and very important - promotion concepts.

You'll find them embedded below, but here are a couple of hints:

1. If an author is scheduled to appear on any broadcast, get that word out widely, in advance, so interested parties can tune in. I am constantly amazed at the number of regular guests on cable news - authors who have a book to sell (and who also have an e-mailing list of fans at their finger-tips) who do NOT announce their upcoming appearance. The few who do - and my hat's off to all of them - include James Taranto at the WSJ's "Best of the Web," and The Nation magazine's editor, Katrina Vanden Heuvel. They never fail (as far as I know) to let their readers know, in advance, of their scheduled appearances.

2. If an author is scheduled to be interviewed in print format (or on a website), get that word out, too - and if the print interview will be echoed on the publication's website, put that in the announcement (not all of us read the Milwaukee Journal, but all of us can find their website).

3. If the author is interviewed, reviewed or cited in a major media outlet (of the Newsweek caliber - or the equivalent within the author's trade-media niche), put out a press release ... and put that release on the wire, and distribute it to all the talk show hosts/producers and other media decision-makers you can find. This actually works - for reasons beyond the scope of this column, media decision-makers often "run in packs" - one good review or prominent mention in a media leader seems to "validate" the author for other media, and a single break-through in coverage can lead to lots of other successful coverage.

In short, build success on success - do not be afraid to "pile on" and use all the coverage generated to create new waves of additional coverage. Then, like a surfer, ride that wave as far as it will take you.

In adding these three concepts to the Top Ten list, I had a chance to reflect on each of these ten concepts - and in every case, I've found ways to beef up those concepts, adding new dimensions to my initial marketing and promotion suggestions.

So, even if you've read this blog before (in it's earlier version), if you're interested in book/author promotion and marketing, I think you'll want to re-read this.

With that said, if you'd like to see how these ideas integrate into a solid Top Ten list of the best ways to promote a non-fiction book author (either in the mainstream or in a relatively narrow business market niche), please read on.

Because of my passion for promoting books and authors, I put together this Top-Ten list of solid PR- and marketing-related promotion ideas - suited for either a narrow trade/business/professional market niche, but easily adaptable to any book other non-fiction book - and for a good many works of fiction, too.

This advice is based on lots of experience. I first got involved in the publishing industry in '74, and began actively promoting books and authors in '82. Since then - in addition to my own nine published books (7 on PR/marketing/advertising) - I've worked for or with three different publishers (in the VP/Marketing role), I've owned a literary agency and I've promoted several dozen books and authors.

Without further ado, here are my "Barnett's Top Ten Tips for Successfully Promoting A Non-Fiction Book (or author)."

1. In cooperation with the book's publisher, contact the various appropriate print (or even broadcast or online) media outlets - the ones that tie in naturally to the book's topic - (including trade journals, if appropriate) and propose that they "brand" the book. For example, in my guise as literary agent, I sold a book to Simon & Schuster and arranged for Casino Magazine to "brand" it - the book, when published, was released as "Casino Magazine's Play Smart and Win" - and Casino Magazine not only loaned us their name (for free) but actually did a promotion to subscribers to help sales.

1a. If successful, work with this publication to ensure ample pre-publication publicity and promotion, as well as a big splash at the time the book is released.

1b. Also work with the publication to "serialize" part of the book before it's released, to whet the appetite of the publication's audience.

1c. Try to strike the same kinds of deals with the "branding" publication with regard to regular bylined columns (which can continue past the publication date, and give the author a firm position to promote and market this and future books, speaking engagements and other activities).

1d. If successful, be sure to coordinate this with the publisher's own in-house promotion/marketing department.

SUGGESTION: Clearing self-promotion activities involving the book with the publisher is always a good idea - even if they have no right-of-first-refusal on such promotion activities (and - though it's a surprise to many authors, many publishers do have such rights built into their book contracts).

It's also a good idea to always keep the publisher's own in-house promotion/publicity/marketing department in the loop on all planned (and especially all successful) self-promotion activities. Getting them on your bandwagon will generally help open additional doors for successful publicity.

2. Beyond the "branding" publication (#1, above), contact the various other appropriate print and web media (including appropriate trade journals) to propose having the author "serialize" parts of the book (i.e., adapt published chapters or parts of chapters into article format) in their magazines or on their websites.

2a. Depending on the author's publication contract and ownership of the copyright, permission for serialization (and perhaps even fee-splitting) must be cleared with the publisher ... and once approved, be sure to touch base with the publisher's own publicity/marketing department.

3. Contact those same targeted media to propose that the author do a regular bylined column for them, on the topic of the book. Generally, this is seen as a separate business venture, and no permission from the publisher is needed.

NOTE: Regarding 2 and 3 - if the publications which agree are non-competing, there is no good reason to limit the serialization (or the columns) to a single publication or website.

4. Create a website for the book. Then create a blog on the topic(s) covered in the book. Then create a subscription (free or paid, depending on your market and your marketing strategy) e-zine newsletter based on the book and it's topic(s) - and if this proves really successful, you can consider a print newsletter down the road. The goal here is to turn readers into subscribers - as well as vocal advocates for the book - and to ultimately create an affinity group based on the book, the blog and the newsletter. This will be useful in many ways, from boosting book sales to creating markets (and marketers) out of readers.

4a. Create a website press room that includes ALL the reviews (HINT: solicit some pre-publication reviews to aid in publicity), as well as a bio, a book summary, and all the other things a good publicity/PR rep would put into a press kit (the virtue of a website press room is that you don't want to have to pay to have it printed, but the material is still there for reviewers and other media).

4b. Put all the content of the website press room on a CD/ROM disk, and send it out with press releases, review copies, etc.

HINT: The concept of putting a website press room on a CD/ROM disk has played very well among media I've worked with at conventions and trade shows I've participated in over the past two years - you don't need a book to adapt this concept to your other PR activities.

5. If the book involves a business segment, market niche or issue of interest to some segment(s) of the business marketplace, contact the various trade (or special interest) associations (local, state, national) that cover the markets addressed directly or indirectly by the book. Then implement Top Ten Tips #1-3 (above) with as many of these associations as possible. Most targeted associations have member publications and websites (including e-zines) which constantly need new, fresh and appropriate copy of value to their members.

5a. Voice of Experience (I used to be an Association VP/PR-Marketing) In spite of the potential of these markets for all kinds of public relations, associations often receive far less input from writers/contributors/PR folks than do commercial publications. There are HUGE opportunities here.

NOTE: Associations are seldom competitive - if your book crosses topics, you can strike parallel deals with different associations in the same or similar markets without conflict.

5b. Arrange a deal whereby the association becomes a reseller for the book, promoting and selling it to their members - as a former Association VP/PR-Marketing, I know from experience that associations are always hungry for "unrelated income" to help them balance the books while keeping dues and member fees low. If you succeed here, work with the association's PR team to "get the word out" to both members and to the media that covers the association's market niche, as well as to other media on your list.

5c. Arrange for the author to put on a workshop/seminar for/with the association - either as a member service or a revenue-generator for the association. If targeted associations accept this approach, see (and implement) 5b. above, as well - then hold a book-signing at the session. Again, if you succeed here, work with the association's PR team to "get the word out" to both members and to the media that covers the association's market niche, as well as to other media on your own list.

5d. Arrange for the author to be a featured speaker at an association conference, trade show or convention (not a stand-alone workshop, but one of the keynote or working/break-out session presenters); and if so, again see and implement 5b. above. Once again, if you succeed here, work with the association's PR team to "get the word out" to both members and to the media that covers the association's market niche - and to other media that are on your own list.

6. Wherever the author goes (on business trips, vacations, etc.), arrange a B&N or Borders (or related) bookstore book signing - preferably in conjunction with a local business association (or a bunch of them - lawyers and accountants, for instance, aren't generally ashamed to be seen with each other). Chambers of Commerce might also be interested, especially if they can tie in book sales or a member service/revenue-generating program. If you succeed here, work with the book store's (and sponsoring organization's) PR teams to "get the word out" the media that covers the bookstore's and sponsoring organization's market niche - and to other media that are on your own list.

7. Arrange for speaking engagements at big national, regional and state conventions (the kinds that, unlike trade associations, pay their featured speakers - and that don't have speakers bidding for the opportunity to speak for free). Conventions like to have interesting speakers who are only tangentially related. I recall that a healthcare marketing/PR group (part of American Marketing Association) had, at a national convention about a dozen years ago, Joan Borysenko (of Harvard) speaking on her scientific research which validated the efficacy of prayer on hospital patients (we were mostly hospital marketers there). Her talk had nothing to do with PR or marketing, but it was fascinating, and much more relevant than the luncheon speaker they'd had the year before - G. Gordon Liddy! Anyway, the point is, there's a market here, and they pay speakers, and you can also do book signings. If you succeed here, work with the sponsoring organization's PR team to "get the word out" the media that covers the organization's market niche - and to other media that are on your own list. If the event is big enough, let the various radio talk show and cable news program producers know - the event might, in itself, justify them renewing their interest in the author or the book.

7a. Develop a speaker pitch kit - including a video/DVD (also on streaming video on your website) that shows the author as a speaker, plus book reviews and raves from group's s/he's spoken to, etc.

7b. Develop several programs that meet different needs of typical convention. For example, develop a "lunch program" talk on the issues dealt with in the book, but for the "laity" business folks who aren't focused on the "inside" of the trade book's topic. Also develop a "spouse program," using whatever stretch you can make to create a link between the book's topic and the audience's likely interests (insider "war stories" can often work). Be sure to develop a stock "keynoter" address, too.

7c. Pitch the author as an expert who can also talk to non-specialist business people (or other relevant audience group) - and aim broadly, as these target groups will have differing topics/themes and speaker needs.

7d. ALSO - position the author as an ideal "last minute" speaker who can fill in when scheduled speakers drop out (but define "last minute" - a day, a week, a month, etc.).

7e. When it comes to book signings/sales at these speaking engagements, the author have to handle the books without help from the sponsoring group. The author can obtain these books from the publisher, generally on consignment - assuming the author has got that kind of deal with the publisher), or the author can contract with a local bookstore to handle it. I was at a Sean Hannity speaking event last winter and he'd arranged for Waldenbooks to be there and sell books (which he then autographed). He would have made far more money if he'd sold these books himself, but I guess he didn't want the hassle of putting it all together (for his book promotion tour, he spoke to probably 200,000 people over ten weeks, and it could have been a huge hassle - besides, he was charging for the events and making a royalty on the book, so he didn't need to be greedy). The author can work it out that way, or you can take copies of the book on consignment (suggestion - have them drop-shipped to the convention site and arrange to have them delivered to the auditorium right before the event) and sell them yourself. You'll make more money that way, and most conventions will provide access to hourly local staff who can handle the credit card imprints, etc. (i.e., the local worker bees you'll need to pull this off). If you succeed here, work with the book store's PR team to "get the word out" the media that covers the bookstore's market niche - and to other media that are on your own list.

8. When sending out books to be reviewed, ALSO be sure to send out a ready-for-publication book review written (and bylined) by some name-brand expert - a Ph.D. or CPA or college professor or somebody like that who, on the face of it, is obviously an expert. In my status as "adjunct professor" at a couple of universities (in PR at one and Marketing at another), I've written such reviews for my clients or under contract - these reviews then went out with the books, and you might be surprised how often a trade journal or business publication editor will decide to publish the canned review, rather than actually read and review the book. Really, this approach works very well.

8a. Of course, with or without a review copy, you'll also want to have a press release done - and send it out along with a CD/ROM copy of the website press room.

8b. Regarding the press release, consider also "popularized" articles you can put out in a MAT service such as NAPS (http://www.napsnet.com/) or Metro Creative Graphics (http://www.metrocreativegraphics.com/). Those reach and are placed in 700 or so small/mid-market newspapers. From this placement, you'll generate lots of nice clips, and they really do support sales. The cost of this is more than a release sent out on PRNewswire or BusinessWire, but the service costs far less than an ad, and the end result looks like pure editorial (which enhances credibility). Of course, it has to be written in newspaper (not press release) style, but that makes it function even more credibly than a press release. I understand that there is a similar paid-placement news story service for radio (for radio news and radio talk shows), and I imagine that it can also help to generate awareness and stimulate business (though, in point of fact, I've not used one of these).

8c. Don't forget putting out at least one press release on BusinessWire or PRNewswire - shoot for broad distribution, with a 400-word-or-less announcement of the book pegged for the non-trade publications (those you hit directly, of course). This will appear (based on the quality of the release) in dozens-to-hundreds of news outlets, plus on 1,500-plus online databases that capture press releases (topically, or generally).

8d. If the book/author scores big with a prominent review, an interview on a major talk show - or any other kind of impressive, favorable coverage - send out follow-up press releases on these successes. This series of releases creates a "breadcrumbs" trail that members of the media can follow as they research the book and author online - giving them a greater sense of the legitimacy of the book and the author.

NOTE: That (8d) is a strategy that has much broader applications in public relations and marketing - even if you don't "do" books or authors, jot this one down!

8e. When you're thinking "press releases" don't forget the growing market in online web-zines and similar sites that include news/promotion feeds. These are an increasingly important PR market, though the word isn't always "out" there yet among book-promotion PR folks.

9. Once the core book is completed and in the publisher's hands, think about publishing an "executive summary" book - a condensed (think "Reader's Digest") version that boils the key points down for the busy CEO, CFO or self-employed person. Offer it WITH the full-text book in some kind of two-fer, as well as selling it stand-alone. You'll need to work this out with the publisher, but because of the profit potential, publishers are increasingly open to this kind of add-value additions to the core book.

9a. Along with the Executive Summary version, you can do an audio version in cassette and CD, for the busy exec stuck in traffic. Again, the publisher must be involved - but again, the publisher should be open to this added route to sales success. I believe this concept is what "Positioning" innovators Trout and Reis (doesn't that sound like a fancy dinner in New Orleans?) called "line extension" - and handled properly, this approach works well in building both sales and profits.

10. Position the author with all the cable news (business especially, but not exclusively) bookers/producers - and all of the business radio talk show producers, as well. Be sure to prepare appropriate pitch kits for producers.

10a. List with Radio/TV Interview Report (http://www.rtir.com/) and GuestFinder (http://www.guestfinder.com/Index.htm). They both have worked for me.

10b. Do the same (Top Ten Tip #10) for business publications outside the book's core niche, and especially general business publications - you never know when they'll need an expert on the subject of the book.

10c. As noted at the very beginning, every time you score with 10, 10a or 10b, be sure to put the word out in every way you can - let your author's "fans" know when and where to tune in, and let other talk show producers know that your author is "hot." Use great publicity to generate more great publicity.

Here's the bottom line: If you're going to promote or publicize (or market - the terms aren't entirely interchangeable, but there's a lot of cross-over) a book or author, these Top Ten strategies are a good place to start. And even if you're not in the book/author field, these strategies have a lot of bleed-over potential for the markets you do work with.

Obviously, if you need some support (this isn't a pitch, but I'd be a fool not to offer), I'd be glad to help.

Ned Barnett is a 30-plus year veteran of public relations and marketing, much of that involved with publishers, books and authors - a natural, since he's written nine published books on marketing and PR (and taught courses on those subjects at four colleges and universities). But mostly he "does" PR for a variety of high-tech, healthcare, start-up and issues-oriented clients. His site is http://www.barnettmarcom.com and his blog (where this article originally appeared) is http://barnettmarcom.blogspot.com/.


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