Getting free publicity for your book is not difficult if you’re willing to put in the time. Some people are fortunate enough to have the money to hire a publicist, but most independent authors do not have that luxury. Prepare to roll up your sleeves.
I work, for the most part, with people who have written a book for the purpose of marketing their business. The book is a marketing tool, not the product. From time to time I speak with people who have written a book and just want to market it. They want to sell enough copies to feel good about themselves or to make some money or, hope against hope, become a runaway best seller. That’s tougher because the book, to a large extent, has to stand on its own. The author is looking at making all their money from book sales and at $7.00 to $10.00 a pop (self-published), it’s going to take a lot of sales to make that elusive and much sought-after $100,000 in a year. (Yes, across cultures, across generations, people of all stripes have the goal of $100,000 a year and a million dollars in the bank. It’s a worthy goal.)
The amount of publicity you can generate depends partly on your book’s subject matter, partly on your credibility, partly on your skills. But the largest contributing factor to generating free publicity for your book is the amount of effort you put into the project.
So how do you get free publicity for your book? Let’s brush the obvious off the table first.
It’s Easier If You’re Famous
We’re going to start with the premise that you’re not famous because if you were famous, you’d have a publisher lining up a book tour and TV interviews and all sorts of fun things to do to flog your book. Face it: Famous people tend to get better book deals than we mere mortals. Why? They already have an established platform—they have a tribe of followers who are likely to buy their book. A publisher is in business to make money. Having thousands of sales “in the bag” is an appealing scenario when you are putting out time and money to publish a book. In addition, a celebrity is a known quantity. The publisher knows they can speak in public, present themselves well, and leverage their own network.
But for the rest of us, we need to generate our own publicity. And the work starts yesterday.
Do Some Work BEFORE You Publish
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you are probably tired of hearing me lament over people who don’t start marketing their book (or even think about marketing their book) until it is about to hit print. So I won’t sing that song again. I’ll just tell you to start marketing while you’re writing your book.
What are some of the things you should be doing as far as generating publicity before you’re published?
Reach out for endorsements: Based on your book’s topic, who do you know who is a thought leader in that space who would read and endorse your book? Now think about Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. (My bacon number is 3.) If you don’t know anyone, who do you know who knows a thought leader? Could they reach out to that person and introduce you?
If you don’t know anyone who can put you in contact, you have two ways to go. First, you can send a shot in the dark: Send an email or letter (remember those?), introducing yourself, telling a bit about your book and asking if they would be so kind as to read and comment on the book. It’s a long shot, but long shots happen, especially if the topic of your book is near and dear to that person’s heart. The second way to go about this (and why you’re starting early) is to put yourself in that person’s path. Are they appearing at a conference or giving a speech? Attend the event! Do they have any social media pages that they actively manage? Follow them and comment. Do they have a blog or a podcast? Again, follow and comment. I’m not saying you should stalk them (cuz that would be creepy), but if you have an opportunity to meet, try to make it happen.
Along the same vein, think of someone who might write the foreword to your book. This is usually someone who knows you personally—a teacher, mentor, friend—who is known in your field and has a bit of a following. There’s a reason why publishers splash the words “Foreword by [insert famous person’s name here].” Having that famous person’s name on the cover of your book lends you instant credibility. “If so and so wrote the foreword, it must be a good book.” It is, in effect, an incredibly strong recommendation of you and your book.
Write Articles in magazines, industry newsletters, newspapers, forums, blogs, etc. that reach your target audience. Use excerpts from your book (and mention in the notes that it is an excerpt from your soon-to-be-released book). Give people a taste of what you have to offer. Publishing an article on someone else’s platform does two things: It introduces you to their audience and it transfers the credibility of that person to you. You can ask that person for a review or endorsement of your book.
Research blogs, podcasts, TV and radio shows that might interview you about your book. Make a list, find out who is in charge of booking guests, and how you can go about getting on. Depending on the medium, start exploring the lag time between getting booked, taping, and the show release. Or, if it’s a live event, find out how far in advance the show is booked up. Then pursue the opportunity with a few weeks to spare. Do your homework now.
Build Your Networks. The months you’re writing your book are also the time when you need to be networking your butt off, locally and online. Work on increasing your social media following, yes, but more important, build stronger connections with social media influencers in your circles. If you belong to a Facebook group of gluten free moms and you’re writing a gluten free cook book, get to know the group organizer and admins. Offer to help admin the group. This is not the time to be in everyone’s face about the book you’re writing. Mention it here and there, but your objective is to create relationships.
The same goes for your offline networks. Are you a patron of your local bookstore? Does the librarian see you every few weeks? Do you belong to a writers’ group? Do you volunteer with a group that would be interested in your book topic? Get to know people. Be interested in them. Build relationships.
Find the Differentiating Angle
In business, we talk about having a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It’s what separates your business from what everybody else in your industry is doing. Your book needs one, too.
What is different about your book that other books haven’t addressed? What is different about you? Why should someone read your book over someone else’s?
In short, what makes your book different enough that a news outlet could put it in the headline? Is there a local angle that can get you local publicity? Is it connected to a famous person or incident? Is it timely? (Ripped from today’s headlines!) Are the ideas expressed in your book revolutionary (to anyone other than yourself)?
More than that, how does this unique factor benefit the reader?
The Rush to Publish Works Against You
In traditional publishing, there is usually a lag time of a year to eighteen months between the manuscript being submitted and the publisher releasing the book. Those months are used to plan all the marketing for the book and to line up publicity opportunities.
One of the benefits of self-publishing is that you don’t have to wait that long to publish your book. You finish the manuscript, have it edited, have the interior laid out and the cover designed, and within weeks you can upload and launch your book. If you are writing an ebook, there’s basically no lag time between finishing the book and publishing it. And that’s why so many authors aren’t prepared to market their book when it’s released.
If your book is ready to release but you have no marketing plan for it, and you don’t have any commitments for it, don’t release it yet. Take some time to line up publicity opportunities along with planning out your other marketing efforts. You won’t have time to build deep relationships, but you may be able to quickly snag some endorsements or line up a virtual book tour.
After all the effort you have put into writing your book, make sure you give it a fair chance at gaining sales traction. Start working on your publicity campaign now.