Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 1 Pre-Release

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One month to go. You are almost there with comprehensive pre-release strategy that will have your book come out of the proverbial gates a-swingin’! To date we have broken down what to do each month leading up to your book’s launch date, including media kits and contact procedures, arranging for public speaking events, internet presence with social media, organizational methods, graphic design and branding, and interpersonal relationships.

There is no easy way to say this, even with all the hard work you’ve put in so far, the months right before, during, and immediately after your launch are absolutely critical for your book success. History has shown in the traditional publishing industry that book sales are strongest in the first 90 days after release. It will be your measuring stick; and it has also proven to be the time when most books reach bestseller status. Even if that isn’t your goal, it certainly can’t hurt and, when dealing with traditional publishers, can show a strong presence enough to get your book on limited shelf space in stores.

In this section, to make sure you have as strong a start with your book release as possible, we will cover the following:

  • The media blitz
  • Tour scheduling
  • Street teams

The media blitz

You have a strong media list curated if you’ve followed Parts XXXXXXX on my blog. You have the press release polished and snazzy. You have your one-two punch media pitch. Now it’s time to put it all into action. Pitches and press releases should be sent out approximately four to six weeks before your launch date. While we know the world works in lightspeed paces, it takes real time for a reporter to cover a story, including working with their and your available schedules. If you start at the six week window, I recommend follow up reminders and additional releases weekly to keep on their radar.

Radio/Podcasts

Hosts often plan their guest appearances a few weeks in advance. This includes podcasts. They’re busy people, and they have their own marketing pre-release they have to account for. You will most likely need a combination effort with emails and phone calls to get a guest spot. I’ve found it often takes six or more contacts before you get the host’s attention without being too annoying.

The prep work for radio and podcasts is easy. Make sure your voice is well modulated; if you’re a heavy breather or throat-clearer, make sure to avoid doing so. It’s okay to have someone record you in advance like a mini-interview and then listen to yourself so you don’t sound awkward. Since I’m profoundly hearing impaired, I’ve had friends record me and listen to the recording on my behalf to make sure I don’t do things I might be missing. The same feedback can be helpful for normative hearing people too. Every little bit helps. The best audio tip to give about doing a radio/podcast interview is to remember to smile. It will make your host more comfortable with you (if you are in studio) and will make your voice sound open and friendly. The best preparation tip I can give is to have your top two or three points written down in front of you. Radio (and often podcasts) aren’t long, and they often have multiple guests. You may not get a lot of time to talk so make sure you get the most out of your time with the most important information.

TV

Television can seem daunting. The camera is terrifying to many. Especially writers who are often introverted by nature. But you can use the fact that television is visual to your advantage, even if you don’t like the spotlight.

Find visuals that relate to your book. Depending on your book’s nature, you might be able to do some sort of “show and tell,” have photos or illustrations. For instance, if I was to write and promote a book around my blog posts 8 Tips for Shopping Thrift Stores and 5 More Tips for Shopping Thrift Stores, I could have models demonstrate the “do’s” and “don’ts” of thrift store-found fashion. Just ensure that you clear everything in advance with the production team and host who will need prep time to set the stage and react.

Even if you don’t have anything more to go along with your book, being an engaged and enthusiastic guest is good TV. Read a little on how best to dress for the program (or ask the stage manager), and then just do what you do – tell a story, only the story is how entertaining or impactful to others’ lives you and your work will be.

Tour scheduling

Again, you’ve done the work: media lists and scheduled interviews, set book signings, and planned for live events – now it’s time to promote them! Check with radio stations/podcasts about advance promotion of events; many will. Most bookstores promote who is going to be there well in advance with in-store signage; maybe you can even get them to put you on their marquee out front along the roadside. In addition, many bookstores air or publish their own press releases, send newsletters, and do special promotion to VIP members. Conferences and conventions always promote on their websites, even if you’re not a big name celebrity, in the program, and on advance PR.

Let’s face it, like authors, some venues promote better than others. Some do virtual zero promotion. You must remember to ask what promotion efforts they have planned. If they don’t have press releases planned, offer one you’ve written. Tell them they’re welcome to use it on their website and social media as well. Do you have a blog following? Promote there. Keep your signing and speaking schedule posted on your website’s homepage, put it on social media, send it to relevant websites before, during, and after your events. Get your street team (that we’ll be discussing shortly) to get involved however they can.

Keep media releases of different lengths. You want one that covers your whole engagement schedule. You also want short announcements for each event. The media isn’t likely to pick up every event, unless you’ve made some sort of impression on them, but overall odds are good that many releases will get some level of coverage.

Friends who blog? Ask them to mention your upcoming events if their readers are in your target audience. Keep the upcoming events in front of your own readers by making them part of your regular newsletter. Keep it relevant on social media by updating frequently. Post it at places like Shelfari and Goodreads on your profile. Certainly have it available on your Amazon or Barnes and Noble profiles.

At every interview, mention where you’re going to be next. I always mention my next event and the one following that, especially if the first date is close to the interview air date. That way people have two chances, and someone who goes “Darn. I’m not available on such short notice” will have a second option that is further down the road to attend. Keep those interviews linked on social media, website, and blog. Helping to drive continual traffic to the host’s or reporter’s site by posting your interview links is an easy and good way to thank them.

Remember to set up Google Alerts to let you know when your name and book title are posted anywhere on the web. It will be important to know how your information is getting out there and beneficial to see who is the most effective at distributing it. Doing so will allow you to streamline your communications going into the future. That’s not to say to cut out traffickers that weren’t the best, but you can reach out to them later and prioritize your go-to promoters first.

Street teams

This is an older term that stems from radio. Radio stations used to have interns flood the market with flyers and promotional items. Don’t we just wish we had that kind of manpower and budgeting? Well, in part, you do. At least the manpower.

Do you have a handful of good friends and supportive family members that can be counted on? Who had read your manuscript before it was published? Often times an author can count on their beta readers as the basis for their street team. From there, you can build outward. But first you have to take a little bit of time to train your street team on what it means and how they can help you.

Establish willingness

“You must always ask; never assume.” Just because a beta reader had time to read and critique your manuscript prior to publication doesn’t mean they will have time to join your street team. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. To incentivize street team members you can always offer something: a signed, advance-review copy of the book is often appreciated, a small gift that relates to your book, even tee shirts. Sometimes the team members just likes be the “first to know.” Every team is different.

Establish tasks

This is what you need. Typically, it’s best to ask street teams to complete easy, inexpensive tasks like:

  1. Ask local stores to carry your book and contact you for a signing;
  2. Request their local library branches purchase your book;
  3. Write early, positive reviews of your book on Amazon or favorite online seller, submit reviews to relevant blogs, and post to social media;
  4. Put up advanced flyers and posters about upcoming events at coffee shops, universities, or other popular hangout places;
  5. Attend your events, often acting as a “plant” to ask questions, start conversations;
  6. Invite people, especially their friends, to your events;
  7. Call in during radio or podcasts with questions;
  8. Suggest your book to local book clubs;
  9. Provide a gift of your book (maybe one that you provide to them) to influential people they know;
  10. Talk your book up with people they know!

Some people balk at the concept of “plants” in an event’s audience, but there is nothing unethical about having people who genuinely enjoyed your book in the audience at events. Thinking of it from the big marketing point of view. Companies give out free samples and trial sizes all the time in hopes people will talk up and also buy more of their product. That is all a good street team does in essence: they talk up your product and get people buying!

 

Okay. So we have covered what to do in the month prior to your book launch. If you’ve followed the steps each month then you should have a comprehensive book marketing strategy that will blow the roof off your book release.

 

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 2 Pre-Release

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Photo: Notebook with checklist and hand checking off the list.

The countdown is getting close! Are you able to breathe? Hopefully with the homework we’ve laid out in Months 6, 5, 4, 3 of the pre-release plan, the only nervousness you feel is the excitement of your new book almost ready for a booming and successful start! This month is all about “priming the pump” so to speak for advance sales.

This month we’re going to concentrate on:

  • Article directories
  • Press Releases
  • “Push” pages

Article Directories

Remember that in order to catch peoples’ attention, you have to be visible. The best way for a writer to increase their visibility (not to mention increase inbound links to their website, therefore increasing search engine results) is to have name recognition everywhere. That means contributing articles online. You can easily capitalize on any membership sites you belong to. Doing so increases your membership’s community library and helps establish yourself as an expert. (Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be about writing or publishing. Any expertise can be linked back to your website, which will promote your book when it releases.)

There are also a number of articles directory sites. Articles directories are super easy ways for your articles to find their way into blogs, newsletters, and other sites. With these directories, you retain full attribution and gain links to your websites. Posting your articles for free is sometimes the quickest way to have people pick up on your material for redistribution among their blog, newsletter, or website. While the effort won’t be directly compensated, the exposure to different networks can be amazing. Most directories allow you to track your articles so you can ensure the poster does properly attribute you and provide a link to your information (like your website, book link on Amazon, etc). Sometimes your articles can even end up in publications around the world, increasing your visibility and establishing your expert status.

If you’re like me, the thought of writing “how-to” articles as a fiction writer was daunting. But, as you can see, as a writer, no matter that genre, you are an expert in writing, at the very least. From my own trials and errors (many, many errors!! Oy vey!) I learned how to market myself and my books better, and a lesson learned is something that can written and submitted!

 

Press Releases

All right, the time has come to put together your book’s press release. I recommend completing on main release, then all you need to do is tweak the first paragraph a bit here and there for other releases. The “tweaking” allows you to tailor it specifically for types of publications you want to target.

But I’m a fiction writer! you’re thinking. No worries. So am I, but a press release is easy. Think of it as backwards storytelling. In fiction we start with the broad and tailor down to the specifics. In press release writing, we start with the specifics and supply the filler information. So your “who, where, when, what, and why” information is at the top. Make sure to include a headline and lead sentence to “hook” the readers, just like you did when writing your back blurb. (Example: New Book Provides Step-By-Step Book Marketing to Authors). Don’t make the mistake of focusing on you as the author (example: BC Brown Launches New Marketing Book). The writer isn’t as important in the headline as catching the reader’s attention. The first sentence needs to hook the reader with what is new, original, or hmmm….weird about your book. Then hit ’em with the book title, release date, publisher, and author name. Head into the next paragraph with a one-line recap of the book’s content. The best is if you can focus on how to book solves a problem or introduces a useful process. If the book is fiction, then you need to highlight how your book is different or original from the others on the marketing, and your one-line recap should be a plot summary. Then add on your credentials.

You head into the next paragraph with any special launch events, media appearances, and book tour signings. Don’t forget to give accolades to your publisher or distributor (if you have one). I tend to give my editor a little shout out here also. Definitely include how your book is available – online, in bookstores, and/or through your website. If self published, it’s best to not mention that fact. It’s unfortunate and unfair but a lot of stigma is still tied to self publishing. Although many indie authors are making strides toward bettering the image in quality of work and expertise, it isn’t quite there yet.

Last paragraph should include your website information, push page (which we will discuss next), and contact information so interested stores or media outlets can follow up with you. Successful press releases are limited to around 200-300 words. Keep sentences short, use active verbs, and keep the focus on what the book delivers for the reader, not on the book itself. Your credentials should always show how your experiences is beneficial to the reader. Make sure to double-check for typos. You wouldn’t believe how many press releases have come across my desk with errors in the email or phone number for an author – yikes! (A useful hint is to read your press release backwards, starting at the bottom of the document and reading it one line at a time to the top. The break in continuity will keep your brain from “filling in the known gaps” and glaring errors should present clearer.)

Traditional media outlets are still sticklers for what they consider “professional submission guidelines.” And let’s face it, the traditional media outlets still dominate the landscape for news. Make sure you follow the traditional press release format. Here is the example I used for my novel, A Touch of Darkness:

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Glorious Bastards Press 555-555-5555

A Touch of Darkness Revitalizes Gritty Noir with Dark Humor, Realistic Police Procedural, and Touching Humanity

     Mattoon, IL—A Touch of Darkness, An Abigail St Michael Novel, the newest title by fantasy author BC Brown, catapults into the modern-day, alternative reality of mysticism and madness with Abigail St Michael, former cop and psychic consultant.

A Touch of Darkness opens in the midnight world of psychics and serial killers with the death of a child, washed in the shadows of night and the alternating red and whites of police lights. Abbey St Michael is forced to confront an evil on her doorstep that may be closer than she ever realized. With her unique brand of dark humor and sarcastic wit, she struggles to catch a killer while not getting caught herself.

BC Brown’s first work, the dark fantasy Sister Light, Book One: Of Shadows and published under the pen name BB Walter, burst onto the sci-fi/fantasy scene first as short fiction and then expanded by request of fans for a full-length printing. Sister Light then went on to repeated sold out signings while on book tour and earned high praise from reviewers and readers alike. In A Touch of Darkness, Brown has brought all the sweeping vision of epic fantasy to contemporary paranormal mystery with an added noir grittiness and realism evident in its market pre-sales.

A Touch of Darkness is published by Glorious Bastards Press, a new author collaborative imprint. The Abigail St Michael Novels are distributed in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster. Learn more at www.bcbrownbooks.com.


When submitting your press release make sure to embed it in the body of your email. Do not attach it as a document. Understandably reporters are uneasy about opening attachments for fear of viruses. Many firewalls are built to keep out attachments for that reason. You should always include a personal note to the correspond in an effort to build personal relationships. Keep it brief however. I usually start with a line or two about one of their recent articles I’ve read. Just remember to be sincere, actually read the article. Then wrap it up with a polite note asking their consideration for your release.

Don’t forget about all the paid and free press release distribution services. The paid ones range in price. I’ve seen them go from inexpensive to costly, depending on their presence and distribution, plus bonuses that can be added. I’ve used PR Newswire in the past. Free sources I like to use are OpenPR and 24-7PressRelease. There are numerous others, and I suggest doing a little websurfing to see one that fits you best.

Why press releases? Every release that gets picked up online will drive traffic to your website and the push page we’re about to discuss. It also helps boost search engine results, creates buzz about your book, and builds visibility about you as an expert. Don’t forget to use your press release when emailing bookstores too. Their PR person will be able to use it in their marketing when setting you up for book signings and events. Always notify media personally of events when you’re going to be in the area as well. And don’t forget about capitalizing on the “homegrown” aspect – let local professional association publications, alumni magazines, community event publications – know about your book and who you are. You’re a celebrity now!

Push Pages

A push page is an industry term that allows for online pre-sales of your book. This can be done even if you are self publishing by creating a pre-order button on your website.

Most commonly used in non-fiction, push pages are becoming popular in genre fiction work as well. Typically push pages (for fiction) use pre-ordering by offering bonus materials, such as a short story in the same genre etc. It can be anything really (audio recordings, swag, etc) from the author. The point is an incentive to commit to and purchase the book prior to its launch. Another fun way to market (and grow your audience and author network) is to ask other authors to cross promote with you. You can ask them to offer an excerpt or downloadable chapter, article, discount (anything) to your launch. Just remember that you want similar content without competing messages. This can work especially well if you and an author friend have opposite publication schedules. Also, ensure you have a way to fulfill the cross-promoted material (or the material you are providing) so everyone gets what you’ve promised.

To recap: this month you should be working on article directories and submissions to them, press releases to be sent out, and push pages for pre-release sales. If you haven’t yet, you should make sure you have bookmarks, business cards, posters, and book “fliers” designed and ordered. Send out your press releases and review copies. Contact bookstores to schedule those important signings. Start scheduling conventions and conferences for speaking opportunities and signings.

During all of this, make sure you update your spreadsheet with notes as to who you’ve contacted, when, and responses received. This includes media, reviewers, and book stores. Make notes about personality, outcomes, and overall experience. You can work with those who are willing to work with you instead of against you by keeping accurate notes. And it will save you a lot of time in the future! I also consider what “swag” I will be giving away at future events. In the beginning, I suggest keeping it small: bookmark with some type of giveaway (I suggest a short story download), maybe pens or magnets, candy). Keep it simple and small at first. Find ways to tie it to you or your book when possible.

Okay, well that wraps up your 2 month pre-release. You are well on your way to a successful launch if you’ve followed the steps laid out. Remember, by following each of these little by little you save yourself a lot of last minute stressing and initials sales that may be discouraging, to say the least.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
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Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 4 Pre-Release

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T-minus 4 months until launch. 4…3…2…

So far we’ve broken down the book marketing process by Month 6 and Month 5 pre-release. In this post we’ll discuss what steps you should be taking toward in Month 4. We’ll be looking closely at:

  • Writing your media pitch, reviewer letter, and press kit; and
  • Setting up speaking engagements or book signings.
Pitch it good. A well written or scripted media pitch is what you offer to radio or podcast hosts, TV shows, and reporters or interviewers in order to book you as a guest on their show. A typical media pitch is approximately ten seconds and it has to reach out and grab the attention of a busy reporter or host. Make it interesting, use humor (although keep it light, many people are humorless), and focus on what you can do for their listeners/viewers. Do it right from the beginning with a catchy headline. (If you need examples, just take a listen to the nightly news or common radio programs and how they pitch their headlines to hook a listener/viewer.) When possible, try to tie your topic into current headlines. There is nothing like being relevant to a story a journalist is already working on. Shoot, anticipation of a few key questions with snappy answers are good to have on hand.
Just remember that hosts and reporters are busy. I mean, like above and beyond busy. A good host or reporter has to keep their fingers on the heartbeat of everything going on in the world because they never know when or where the next big story might come from. A friend of mine is the booking agent for a local A.M. television show and she said it takes (on average) 5 phone calls or emails to catch her attention. Persistence counts here, but remember to be polite at all times and give a sufficient amount of time between emails and phones and follow up emails and phone calls. No one wants to get a phone call about the email they just received two minutes before that.
A pre-release review is like a bird in the bush. Or something to that end. Seriously, having reviews of your book in anticipation of its launch is a feather in your cap. Ensure you have ARCs (Advanced Review Copy) of your book for those reviewers who prefer a print book, and specific ARCs of your ebook to send out to reviewers. But, before all of that, you need to write and perfect your reviewer letter.
  • Step 1: Personalization. Your letter should always been personalized to the reviewer and publication/site you are sending it to. Make sure in has your publication information (title, ISBN, publisher/imprint name, release date, and distribution), and includes a 75-100 word recap of the book. Make the fact you are submitting the book for review very clear; many writers use bold type. Personally, I include a brief 100-or less word bio and any details of upcoming book tours or media events. Do not include these last two items unless you actually have a tour and events booked. End the letter with a thank you, something personally and not generic. Offer to send cover art or any other information they might like to have. And make sure your contact information is easy to find and read if they have questions and need to reach you.
  • Step 2: Follow Up. Don’t be surprised if, with your first book, you don’t hear back. Consider a polite follow up phone call or email to ensure the book arrives. Keep a list of everyone you sent the ARCs to, dates you sent them, and (when you follow up) keep track of how you are received: excited, noncommittal, rude. Cross off the rude one.
  • Step 3: Due diligence. Most reviewers will not contact you when they review a book. It’s easy to set up Google Alerts to notify you whenever your name, book title, and/or company are mentioned anywhere online.
  • Step 4: Thank you notes. Not all reviewers are going to like your book. They may not write a positive review. Even those that do like your book will always point out a flaw or weakness in an effort to appear balanced. When you receive a positive review, send a polite and short thank you letter. When you receive a bad review Stop. Take a walk to vent. Do not contact the reviewer. If the review seems unusually harsh, make a note in your spreadsheet and don’t send that reviewer future books. I used to send a polite thank you note to even the reviewers who disliked my books. However I learned quickly that while your intent is to thank them for their time, politeness can be misconstrued for snarkiness or bitterness. It’s better to avoid that possible misperception.
Important people have press kits. And you are now important. Or at least you are on your way to being important, so you better have one ready. Press kits contain:
  • Author bio, in varying lengths
  • Book summary, in varying lengths
  • A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page
  • Concise interview with you as an author
  • Short book review.
Step 1: Author Bio. Already covered in my Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 5 Pre-Release, so we will go straight to the book summaries.
Step 2: Book Summaries. Reporters live for things to be easy. The simpler you make it for them to describe your book by pre-writing a summary of it for them, the happier they will be. Typically, I include a page with a 1-sentence summary, a 50-word summary, and a 100-word summary. I know of authors who include a 200-word summary. The bonus is that, while these are great for media, they are super quick ways for you to grab a brief description for program books or enhancing your bio when needed.
Step 3: FAQs. Every wish an interviewer asked you a specific question? The FAQs gives you a chance to ask all the fun, interesting questions you wish people would ask about you or your book. Maybe you want to let people know what an expert you are at something, or why you decided to write about that topic. Maybe you just want someone to ask about your personal quirks like your unmatched sock collection or your collection of grotesque artwork in your home. Whatever it is, you can include it in the FAQs. Just make sure you can tie it back somehow to your work. You can even use this time to drop story ideas for future work. If you’re lucky, sowing those seeds early with lead the media to promoting future books by mentioning upcoming new titles. Again don’t mention anything that isn’t concrete. If you haven’t even written the future book, don’t mention it. If you’re in the editing phase, then it’s probably safe to mention.
Step 4: Self Interview. Yeah, it seems and feels weird. But a self interview can be a gold mine. Small town newspapers and magazines may pick up the article and print it word for word. Keep the interview limited to one page (500 words) and make sure to include all relevant data about the book including future books and any titles you have in your library.
Step 5: Book review. A ready-made book review can also be a big help to a reporter who is crunched for time. Focus on how original your story is and use positive (again don’t over exaggerate) language. Some authors feel the need to point out weaknesses in order to seem fair, but remember that not all reviewers do that so you don’t need to either. This is, after all, your book. You want to put all the good upfront to catch the reader and the reporter. Keep the reviews to one page (500 words).

Remember to include your press kit on your website, and always customize your pitches to individual reporters and reviewer letters to specific reviewers. 

Photo: Author BC Brown
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every bad deed in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)

Coming soon: Karaoke Jane                                                                 

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