Six essential PR tips for self-published authors
So you’ve decided to run a publicity campaign for yourself: that’s great. There are a million step-by-step guides on how to do just that. But aside from the same few steps every other self-published author is taking, how do you up your PR game and send interest in your book skyrocketing?
Publicity is the use of media sources to share the news about your book to new audiences. As a self-published author or independent publisher without a long list of powerful media contacts to share your wonderful publication with, it can be difficult to figure out just where to begin generating hype.
Unfortunately, publicity only works if you are in it for the long-haul. It does require dedication from you: the author or publisher, in being insistent about getting the word out. Only once the snowball is truly rolling can you take a step back. On the brighter side, publicity is a highly effective component of a good marketing strategy, and has a number of benefits when employed correctly:
Saves you money on advertising and promotion
Generates credibility in your brand
Once you’ve created a contact, the relationship is yours to maintain and develop
One of the first things to remember when working on your PR strategy is to sell yourself, not your book. Your book might be relevant around publication time, but more often than not it will quickly be replaced with the next thing hot off the press. You, however, cannot be replaced. Build reputation for yourself as an author or publisher with focus on your expertise, and let the book be the secondary focus. People want to hear about your book, sure, but your words only have credibility if you have first made yourself a credible information source. That way you’re more likely to be invited for repeat exposure in future.
Focus on the unusual
Sensational news stories sell better for a simple reason: they are far more interesting. Of course there are tried and proven PR methods such as giveaways, but the more mundane, the less likely it is to stick in peoples’ minds once they’ve seen your PR campaign for the first time. Keep it relevant to your book to create the obvious link, and remember to think outside the box. Think Red Bulls’ space jump, but on a much smaller scale.
This theory doesn’t apply to every book and every author, but it is a known fact that sex, sells! While the same blatant and oftentimes crude strategies employed in the 1900’s have gone out of style, studies have shown that sex in advertising still draws attention and increases memorability in 2020. In the modern context, ‘sex’ does not just mean sex, but encompasses the full range of arresting content about the human condition: shock, sensationalism, and brutal honesty. Raven Leilani’s Luster; (“The most delicious novel I’ve read,” Candice Carty-Williams), and anthology Kink (Garth Greenwell and R. O. Kwon) are two great examples of raw, human approaches to sex in publishing that have worked excellently for their early 2021 publications.
Again, this strategy doesn’t work for every book, which leads us on to the next point…
Know your audience
It couldn’t be more vital that you know who the audience for your book are. This includes knowing which other authors or publishers they are interacting with. It means knowing where they consume their media, and in which format. You should know demographics, down to age, location and gender (ways to collect your audience data will feature in a separate blog post coming soon). By knowing this you can direct your PR toward media outlets you know an audience for your book exists, without going to the legwork of creating fans.
It is becoming more evident that the digital content that generates the highest level of clicks and shares is value-oriented. In an age where companies across the globe are pouring out continuous flows of messaging all designed to grab your attention, studies have found articles with longer and more visual content to come out on top. Ensure what you are offering in your press release to media sources is value-driven: share with them what light you can shine on the subject. If your book is about a punk band, what discernible insights can you share about the mid-1970’s music scene that will interest consumers of a particular publication?
Discussion is one of the parts of PR that can turn your book into an overnight sensation. However uncontrollable the actual debate may be, you can orchestrate it by giving audiences the space to say what they think about your book across different platforms. Media discourse is the facilitator of best-selling books becoming "best-sellers", due to the aggregation of public opinion. Allowing the players in the book chain; sellers, readers, publishers and authors to debate the merits of your book ingrains it in cultural practice, encourages debate in the long-term and provides greater marketing opportunities for you.
Create an excellent quality press release: check for formatting, spelling and grammar, style and theme
Throw formality out of the window and focus on the creative
Before sending, put yourself in the position of an editor and read it through once more
Stay on top of current events in the publishing industry at all times!
Keep going, and keep expectations realistic
Finally (and most importantly), enjoy yourself! If you aren’t having fun with your PR strategy, it’ll come across to those receiving it. It will also inhibit your passion for sharing your work and make it become a chore: the worst thing to happen!