Write Your Next Book With The Media In Mind
Here is what I know and think about making your book more promotable.
The world of book publishing has changed immensely over the past decade --and certainly over the past three years, thanks to Amazon, Apple, tablets, e-books, Borders, and social media.
The role of book publicity has not changed, though the methods have been altered.
PR is needed to give a book a chance at succeeding in an overcrowded marketplace and a noisy media landscape. With more books being published than ever before, and more media outlets around than ever before, there is a lot of competition to get a diluted piece of the pie.
Technology has no doubt impacted many industries, including: publishing, retail, the news media, and even the way books are written. As a result, readers and consumers have been changed as well.
It may seem like everyone:
· Has plastic surgery
· Eats organic food
· Watches TV on a smartphone
· Spends more time tweeting than talking to others
.... but such phenomena show we are a changing and diverse nation.
Not everyone is doing these things I just mentioned but the world certainly is in transition. Writers are changing, too. They are morphing into hybrids - - they are writers and they are promoters.
I understand what it is like for today’s author to be confronted with the new publishing landscape.
I have been in publishing and PR since 1989, back when we used to fax media pitches. I have worked for publishers as an editor and a publicist and for the past 14 years have served as the marketing director for the nation’s largest book promoter, Media Connect, formerly known as Planned Television Arts. I have also had a book published and learned how challenging it was to promote it.
And for the last two years I have posted at least 800 times on my blog, writing the equivalent of three full-length books, about all aspects of book publishing, publicity, marketing, advertising, writing, and the fate of the industry.
See, a promoter never stops promoting!
It used to be that the publisher would take care of the publicity for a book, though it didn’t always do a great job. Then authors started to supplement the publisher’s efforts. Now authors are the publishers.
Today, authors team up with publicists that they hire and maybe also get help from their publisher, if they have a publisher, if they offer to help. It takes a village to promote a book.
Many refer to their book as their baby. Well consider the PR campaign the way you would when paying for your kid’s college. You hope there is a payoff to it, but you wouldn’t dare choose to not send your kids to college.
There is no way of getting around it. To embrace PR as an author is to embrace your future. The good news is there is plenty that you can and should do, to promote your book.
You Need To:
· Think like the media and about their needs
· Create a book with promotable content
· Change your attitude about your PR role
· Realize it is up to you and in your hands to grow as a writer
So How Do You Write A Book That Will Be Promotable?
· Do you have to kill someone – or write about a murderer?
· Do you have to confess to a sexual addiction to a celebrity?
· Do you need to have the name on the book cover say JK Rowling or EL James?
· Does your book need to be published by a big New York house?
Sure, these things would help, but I have promoted books by unknown, first-time, self-published authors and have seen them succeed.
· Something that is promotable
· An interesting background
· Confidence, conviction, and personality
· A willingness to do whatever it takes to get attention
· Put in the time and effort that is necessary
· Taken a creative approach to the media
· Been lucky
Of Course, Authors Can Be Promotable But It Doesn’t Always Yield Sales
What makes a book sell is not necessarily the same thing that makes it news worthy or promotable. Today we are talking purely about publicity and the news media – not marketing, not sales, not advertising -- though they are all closely linked to one another.
I See So Many Mistakes Made By Authors. They:
· Wait too long to start thinking about publicity
· Mistakenly think they can do it all
· Mistakenly think 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
Too Many Authors Have Hang-Ups About PR
- They don’t believe they are promotable
- They aren’t comfortable promoting their book
- They don’t want to spend money on a publicist
- They think their publisher takes care of everything – or they fear stepping on the publisher’s toes
- They don’t want to sound like they are begging or bragging
- They lack the time or resources to execute a PR campaign
- They don’t know how to talk about themselves
- They are shy or fear rejection
- They feel uneasy talking to the media
- They lack confidence in their appearance or voice
- The PR process seems murky or unfamiliar to them
All legitimate things, but all are excuses. You need to take ownership of your book and that means quarterbacking your PR campaign.
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?
· What is in your book that the media will find of interest?
Think About What It Is That You May Want to Accomplish With Your PR
· Branding your name to help your career
· Building a media resume
· Establishing your voice
· Selling a current or upcoming book
· Influencing others
· Conveying a strong message
· Selling backlist or non-book products/services
· To stroke your ego
· Helping you get a book deal or better terms – or to get the eyes of Hollywood on you
· Leading you to being hired as a consultant or employee
· To land paid speaking gigs
What Are You Willing To Do?
· Pour your time into it
· Devote the necessary money and resources
· Get help
· Willing to experiment and diversify your approach to PR
· Going out of your comfort zone to do what is needed
The Books That Are Most Promotable, Whether Fiction or Non-Fiction, Are Those That:
· Are first to raise an issue or aspect of life.
· Are unique in how you tackle a well-known subject.
· Reveal news or raise great questions on a newsy topic.
· Lend personal insight on an industry, person, or organization that we are curious about.
· Are great at the extremes – using humor, sex, violence, love, politics, money, fame or other
push-button emotions on sensitive issues to get a point across.
· Are controversial, outrageous, trendy, offensive, and shocking.
Creating A Media-Friendly Book
What if publicists could influence the editorial content of a book before it’s published and promoted? What if the book could be enhanced or altered so that its integrity remains intact, but its ability to attract media attention is increased?
So few authors—and even publishers—consult a publicist far in advance of publication for the sole purpose of doing a PR audit of the manuscript.
To do so, requires great forethought and planning, something most authors aren’t aware of and something most publishers are too rushed to consider.
Still, I ponder the idea. Can you imagine how much better a book would sell if it was packaged for the media?
There may not be an exact formula for making a book promotable.
Some things can’t be altered such as the author’s credentials, who the publisher is, or the overall theme of the book. But anything from a book’s title, length, use of photos, language, revelations, etc are up for grabs.
Consider creating a PR laboratory, where you can genetically alter a book’s DNA, where you can cut here, add there, or change this—and you suddenly have a media-friendly book.
There are challenges to this, for sure. Let’s see:
1. You need enough time to give it a cosmetic makeover.
2. There needs to still be something of quality as a base to work with.
3. You need a smart editor to team with a savvy publicist to make sure the book is still a quality read while addressing
the media’s needs.
4. You have to know what the media wants and how to feed it to them.
There’s also a dilemma attached to such a process. An author is very proud and protective of his or her work. She wouldn’t want some stranger suddenly rewriting her creation. It seems less genuine, less authentic, less creative to suddenly throw in things to a book just to placate the media or commercial demand.
But if you can live with the changes you’ll have a much more marketable book.
So if one were to engage the services of a PR consultant, what would he or she be told?
1st, it depends if it’s a novel or non-fiction. There’s a huge difference in what can be done to each type of book. 2nd, it also depends on the genre you write in and the existing competition out there. 3rd, it depends on how much media coverage has already taken place on your subject matter. 4th, it depends on the type of media you plan to approach. The needs and nuances vary greatly amongst television, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and radio shows. 5th, it depends on the amount of money and time you can dedicate to promoting your book.
If you want to write a book that has a chance of getting publicity, sales, and critical acclaim, you first need to write what you want, what you know, what you feel. But then go back and edit and revise in a way that makes it more promotable or commercially viable. This doesn’t mean you are selling out. It means you are making additions or changes that don’t substantively alter the integrity of the work but by making such changes, you now connect with potentially a larger or more rabid fan base.
Look at trends, demographic changes, and emerging industries or lifestyles.
See if you can change names, places, professions, and cultural references in your book to match the look and tastes of the newly emerging America,
- Instead of the family pet being a gerbil, make it a three-legged dog
- Instead of a relationship book being about a power couple, make it about a waitress and a fireman
- Instead of setting your book in the present, make it about the 1980’s
- Instead of being vague about a college or street or company, reference specific ones that are sure
to have many followers
- Rather than saying something happened, show it, and be descriptive
- Throw in people the media can relate to or like
- Instead of writing about worlds, people, or times that you didn’t come close to experiencing in
your life, write about something that connects to your past, family, city, job, relationship or
- Be willing to make despicable characters strong and almost likeable. Turn our perceptions upside
down – make us think about those we normally don’t like or shine a spotlight on
What’s Today’s Media Landscape?
· More media outlets and opportunities exist than ever before
· And their value, individually, is more diluted than ever before
· You will need a certain quantity of quality media placements
· You need to secure publicity by the pound
· 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.
You have book reviewers, news and feature editors, columnists, beat writers, op-eds and by-line article opportunities at
- Trade journals
- Industry publications
- Airline magazines
- Interviews or feature stories on national and local news programs, morning shows like GMA or
Today Show, late shows like Daily Show with Jon Stewart , weekend shows, talk shows, and
magazine format shows such as 60 Minutes
- Interviews or feature stories on national and local talk shows or news segments
- Different station formats target certain demographics
- Blog interviews, stories, reviews
- Online reviews posted on various sites
- Guest blog posts
· Social Media
- Your blog
PR is not just about giving away free downloads of chapters and books, or of tweeting and making videos, or of e-blasting a press release. It is about making a sustained, strategic effort to influence the influencers and get media coverage that will help you in the short and long-term.
Your Writing Can Help You Get Media Coverage
- Great writing can get people’s attention
- Identify a particular chapter to make available for your site
- Find a few high-quality passages to excerpt
- Coin a phrase or highlight something odd or unique
- Invent your own word to explain or express something
- The specific word choices you make and the level of vocabulary matter
- The overall writing style and pace of the book are important
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
- Get to the heart of why one would read your book
- 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?
- How does it fit into the body of your other writings?
- Can you genuinely speak with passion, confidence, conviction?
- You should visualize your press release headline as you write your book
- You should formulate your 15-second elevator speech about your book before it is written
- 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 in
Think Like The News Media
They look for books not only that are well-written, interesting, and new, but where:
- There is a direct tie-in to their readers or audiences, such as by location, content, theme, or
- There is news to report or you can tie into things in the news
- The author is famous or has great credentials
- The book ties into a movie
- The book is a best-seller
- The book is getting buzz through Twitter or YouTube
- The book is controversial
- The book has something the journalist, blogger or talk show host can personally relate to
- The demographics of the media outlet tend to match those of the book’s intended readership
Find a way to reduce your book of 200+ pages into a handful of bullet points and sound bites.
The Media Is
- Exposed to too many options to cover
- Human and has physical, psychological and financial needs
- Smarter than the average person
- Drawn to big issues, dynamic personalities, shock, drama, power and fame
- It is expanding and shrinking, diversifying and fragmenting
Scrutinize Every Aspect and Component of Your Book:
· How visually appealing is your book?
· Look at the front and back cover colors, images, design, texture
· Book title and subtitle
· Foreword, Intro, Preface
· Price, paper quality, type face, interior design, add-ons/resources like a CD or DVD
· The book’s timing
· Who the publisher is
· Chapter headings and the table of contents
Does Your Book Cover The Topics That Have Popular Followings?
What Is Evergreen? What Is Needed vs. What Is Desired?
· Sex / Romance
· Relationships: Parents, Lovers, Siblings, Friends, Enemies
· Politics (Issues, Policy, Government)
· Religion (Spirituality)
· Dogs/Cats (Pets/Animals)
· Wealth (Money, Retirement, Career, Homes)
· Gadgets and Technology
· Kids/Parenting (Education, Family Dynamics)
· Health (Diet, Disease, Beauty, Youth, Sports)
· Natural Disaster
· Ethical Questions
Does Your Book Cover Themes Such As:
· Loss and grief
· Second chances
· The underdog
· Ability to grow/improve
· Offering advice: legal, financial, parental, career
· People need guidance on life and through each phase/stage
Think In Terms of Headlines and Bullet Points
· What makes your book new, unique, different or funny and entertaining
· What ties your credentials into what is in the news?
· Write a book that’s promotable by thinking like a promoter; write for the media – not just the
· Can you convert a chapter heading into a media story?
What’s The Media Looking For?
· Drop names, events, places in the book
· Cover a newsy topic
· Reveal a thinly veiled truth about someone
· Make an allegation or accusation
· Raise a theory and question the status quo
· Dispute perceived truths
· Attack or promote certain values
· Be mysterious
What Helps You Get Media?
· Socialize or regionalize the book
· First, media begets media
· 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
· Use your gift – your ability to communicate with words and images – to promote your work
· See PR as a means to an end, just like passing tests leads to a school degree or creating a resume
leads to a job
· Shape your image – think of yourself as a business and develop a tagline
· Set the tone and image of who you are or want to be seen as – by what you say, do, and look like
· Create your Web site at least 5-6 months prior to your book launch date
· See your launch date as a coronation – not Day 1. From your launch date, you have 30-90 days to
make an impression.
Explore Writing About Powerful Minorities or Niche Groups
· Gays and lesbians
· Parents of young children
· Fans of: football, baseball, movies, etc.
· Ebay users
· Divorced women
· Animal Rights advocates/opponents
· Gun advocates/opponents
You get the idea – there are hundreds of such classes, groups and connections out there that you can tap into.
For Novelists, See:
· What ideas have not yet been explored
· What character traits would be unique
· Think of locations, time periods, historical events to connect to
· Look for the extreme, the unknown, the emotional triggers, the fantasy
· Monitor the news
· Look at an Almanac or Census Data
· Anticipate trends from your observations, experiences, or conversations
· Be aware of what the competition writes about
Your Approach Towards The Media Should Be As Follows:
· Create a press release based on your core message and then expand outward into other areas
· The opposite of your core message can be commented on as well
· Forget any sense of fairness: often, the dumbest things get attention.
· You may need to think on a simpler level in order to generate story ideas that will interest others
· PR is the opposite of substantive writing – but it is important – it’s the doorway you must enter to
get to your reader
Explore The Extremes and Weave Them Into Your Book Or Media Pitches
· Make outrageous statements
· Unleash wild predictions
· Raise questions
· Insert gut-punching humor
· Express or appeal to emotions: Fear, Anger, Love, Hate
· Offer a confessional
· Reveal a truth
· Offer ways to help people – inspire, inform, enlighten them
· Play Paul Revere and issue a warning or offer prevention or a solution to some dilemma
As An Author You Are Also A Publicist
- Determine what you can give away to get what you want
- Brand beyond the book – brand yourself
- Promote to perceptions – appeal to what people believe
- Promote to assumptions – appeal to how they think
- Promote to appearances—appeal to what they see
- Befriend people with big mouths to get early buzz
- Viral videos – try to do a few but don’t expect a lot
- Networking – always
- Issue teasers with blog posts, a short story, or even a prior book
- Partner with other authors – other writers can help you greatly
Look At How You Are Packaged
Honestly Assess The Following About Yourself
· Physical Looks
· The Persona You Project
· Sound Of Your Voice
· Vocabulary Choice
· Energy Level
Other Factors To Ponder
· How would your book or life translate into press release speak?
· Do you have a sponsor – such as an organization or non-profit that is endorsing you?
· Do you have a co-author or collaborator that brings media savvy and mojo to the book?
· Do you have someone who can champion you?
What Else Can You Do?
· Promote your book way before it’s out
· Do something daily for your book publicity
· Meet deadlines and work in advance to handle potential setbacks
· Poll others to test out ideas
· Anticipate – don’t 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
· Get out of your head and step back so you get an honest perspective of your book
· Don’t let your ego get in the way
· Coincide your media pitches and efforts with upcoming events, holidays, anniversaries, honorary
days, and timely news hooks
I Conclude With This:
I know you see yourself as a writer, first and foremost. And you should. But it is not a distinction exclusive of being other things. You are also a promoter.
Try the hat on, and get comfortable with it.
There is nothing more rewarding than writing a great book than to have a lot of readers and media attention. By actively promoting your work, you position yourself to break through the clutter and to be heard.
Written by Brian Feinblum
We wish you well in your journey.
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