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What kind of publicity might your book achieve?

There are a number of specific locations in the media that are devoted solely to books (such as the review pages), but don’t assume that these dedicated pages are the most important places to start. As Dotti Irving of Coleman Getty PR pointed out, there are vastly more people reading the news pages than the reviews pages! And then there are other opportunities too: sometimes they need ideas for features – preferably those their competitors have not already thought of; at other times you can make a specific pitch for a particular slot. Bear in mind that for each type of coverage, a different journalist is likely to be in charge, so there could be many different people on a particular outlet that you should keep in touch with. Here is some guidance:

  • Review coverage – on the books page. Contact: the Reviews Editor
  • Feature coverage – through a specially commissioned article or interview. Contact: the Features Editor
  • Specific, regular spots in a paper – for example, ‘Life in the Day of’ in The Sunday Times, or regular programmes/columns such as ‘Desert Island Discs’, or, ‘What’s in your fridge?’. Contact: each feature would have its own editor
  • Diary coverage. Contact: find out the name of the piece and address it to the Editor
  • Trade press. They will have all the above slots, and probably a ‘gossip column’ for light-hearted stories, which gets a lot of attention.

Getting the timing right

Effective timing is crucial for achieving publicity. Why?

Because it takes time to consider how best to secure coverage, to finalise and format your information attractively, for journalists to consider it, for proof copies of the book to be despatched and for the interviews to be arranged
Because you need to ensure that the publicity appears at the same time as the book is available for purchase, and this takes planning.

In the run-up to publication, the publishing house’s reps will (either personally or by telephone) try to persuade bookshops to take stock on the grounds that there will be demand. For this reason it is very important that any associated publicity should peak when the books are available in the shops. Bookshops have a very short period of time over which a book is deemed to be a success (and further stock ordered) or a failure (and stock sent back to the publisher). If the publicity is late, and the demand consequently delayed, the book may already be back with the publisher when the public start to ask for the title and sales will probably never recover.

It follows that starting to think about publicity when the book comes out is no use at all. Publicity needs to be thought about a good six months before. If an agent is negotiating your publishing contract, a figure to be spent on marketing and publicity is probably agreed then. If you are handling the negotiations yourself, this is something you will have to bring to your publisher’s attention at that point. Tony Mulliken again:

‘My advice to authors wanting publicity is to rattle the cage, and do so early. The more fuss you make, the more attention you will get.’

How much to rattle the cage is a question of judgement. If you are constantly on the phone you may alienate, but do remind the publicist seriously and proactively about what you think is possible. Try to amalgamate your requests and contacts into reasonable chunks (rather than sending an email every couple of hours) and express them in a tone that combines passion with achievability.

Trying to get publicity for your own books

How to draw up a publicity plan

  • Look at the book/product objectively and think about the options available (which journalists to approach; which media you think most likely to run a story on you)
  • Decide what is achievable based on time and resources
  • Make a list of preferences
  • Make what you send specific. A handwritten note, or letter referring to what you have seen them cover recently, carries a strong message; this person knows what we do and is contacting us directly, rather than as the result of a mass mailing. This is flattering, and more likely to get a positive response
  • Follow them up (by email, post or phone call – although not too often).

If you found this article useful, you might want to take a look at:

How to give an effective media interview

How to get the names of journalists

What (and why) authors need to know about marketing