Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild. The guest speaker was Diane Hinds, a PR expert from the UK. She spoke to the group about how to promote your book as an independent author, and gave us lots of great information – including tips for contacting the media.
Here are my Top 10 Takeaways from her speech:
10 – Indie Authors Lack Respect
Unfortunately, as Jennifer McCartney quotes IndieReader’s Amy Edelman in this Publisher’s Weekly article, “Self-published authors still face a huge lack of respect, both from readers and consumer media.” Indeed, Diane mentioned an author from the UK, Rachel Abbott, who has sold two million books, but is still not considered a “serious” writer because she’s self-publishing. Really? A woman with two million sales isn’t SERIOUS about writing?! I’d say she’s pretty damn serious about marketing, anyway!
So, how can we combat this lack of respect? With PR!
9 – What is PR?
First of all, PR stands for public relations. But what does that mean? It’s all about reputation, and more specifically, the way you are presented to the public by the media. The most important part of PR is third-party endorsements. These give a writer credibility, because they cannot be bought. PR includes editorials, features, news pages, and much more.
8 – Why Not Advertise?
Since the SDW/EG has a dedicated Marketing Support Group that meets monthly, you might be asking “Why not just spend money on advertising?” A great question! Diane points out that PR is free, unlike advertising or marketing, which is all about how much money you spend. Advertising typically shouts at the reader, often yelling “Buy my book!”, which readers tend to ignore. And it lacks credibility, because it’s bought and paid for, rather than earned.
7 – Who is Your Audience?
One of the most important things that authors need to be clear about is who their target audience really is. What are their demographics? What do they read, and where do they shop? Unless you know who you’re writing for, it will be very difficult to properly target your messages.
6 – What is Your Message?
Every author needs a clear, concise message that will help sell their book. What is your message? Ideally, you’ll want to use it on social media to “motivate people online to mobilize offline.”
Focus on your USP: Unique Selling Point. Be sure to avoid jargon, clichés, generalizations, and superlatives. Use key facts and figures to bring your announcement to life. Make sure all the information you present follows journalism’s inverted pyramid, giving the most important information first.
5 – Tools You’ll Need
Here are the tools you’ll need to start contacting the media:
4 – What’s a Press Release?
Your press release is the media’s first introduction to your book. It should be a one page document, sent to media contacts.
So what do you need to include?
3 – Start Locally
Diane advises authors to always start locally, by researching possible contacts. San Diego has a huge number of media outlets, so start compiling a list of radio, TV, print and online sources to contact. (Pst! Here’s a good one, from SanDiego.org.) Remember to work your angles: what message are you sending, and to whom? Compile a database of contacts, and then start calling and emailing.
2 – In Person Is Powerful
What’s better than a prerecorded (or phoned-in) interview? An in-person interview. Any time a TV or radio show asks you to do an interview, see if they’ll let you come into the studio to chat. If the outlet is local, this shouldn’t be too big a deal. If it requires some travel time, make the time. And remember to write off the expenses on your taxes, too.
1 – Lead the Debate!
Diane’s best tip for authors was to “lead the debate.” What does she mean by that? For one thing, target your book’s release date and press releases. Connect them with an event that’s happening, in order to build more steam. An example she gave was to connect a book on the subject of mental health to Mental Health Awareness Week.
Another way to lead the debate is to share your own experiences that caused you to write your book. If you have experienced a mental health challenge that inspired your book, don’t be afraid to talk about it. That personal experience engages readers, and helps them get to know the real you.
Remember to invite, engage, and lead on social media.
What About You?
How will you use Diane’s suggestions to get out and promote your book?