Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Publicity 101 with author, blogger, PR guru Wendy Townley

If you read the publishing trades and latest streaming news from authors, agents, editors, consultants, etc., on twitter you're more than aware that the success of an author's overall career depends largely on the breadth and success of their own book publicity campaign, all of which takes real time, energy, money and some good old stick-to-it-ness. And let's not forget strategy.

More and more authors have chosen the DIY approach to spread their book buzz because publishers are unable to afford fabulous PR pushes for the majority of their authors. And most authors can't afford to mortgage their homes to pay a PR firm for a full court publicity press (yes, this does happen. More often than you think.) So, you have two choices: 1) Start saving some serious money (around $10,000 on the cheap end) to hire a book PR firm who will handle a piece of the pre-pub campaign for you; or 2) grow confident and get completely educated about the book publicity process, develop a strategy, ask all your nearest and dearest (and their nearest and dearest) friends and family to help with various aspects of your campaign and start spreading the word about your book. Now, you'll still have to save money for your own campaign as you'll need a website and other promotional materials (posters, business cards, ad space, pens and other promotional gadgets, for example). The more money you invest in your book publicity, the better, but it is possible to achieve free PR thanks to social media, etc.

As this will be an ongoing discussion here on TLCG, let's start from square one. Let's build you a solid book PR foundation.

I asked author, blogger, radio show and Omaha based PR guru, Wendy Townley, to share with us some basic PR tips to either help get you started on your book PR campaign or to at least give you something to consider as you embark on your literary (and I use that term broadly) career.

Here are Townley's 5 best book PR tips to get you started:

Start the PR process early. Work backward from your publication date, or the day of your first book signing. My first book, Nerdy Thirty, was published in May 2010. By February of that year, my press release was written and emails to radio, TV, and print contacts around the Omaha area were sent. That’s not to say that continual follow up wasn’t necessary; it most certainly was. But giving reporters more time to consider coverage can increase your chances for exposure. Reporters could read through my press release when they had time, and page through the complimentary copy I sent in the mail.

Some say the traditional press release is dead. Write one anyway. True, the press release is morphing into a sticky, social-media heavy animal that may never be faxed again. But that doesn’t dilute the importance or power of a well-written press release. Explain your book, your inspiration for writing it, and offer a brief (one paragraph is more than enough) bio on yourself. Limit your press release to two pages and include website links where appropriate. Include your contact information (name, phone number, email address) at the top of the press release, and be aware that reporters may call you in the evening or on the weekend, depending on their deadline.

Be kind to your media contacts. Email them initially with a brief message (Remember – the earlier, the better), and follow up a few days later with a phone call. Understand that the reporters may not immediately respond, but that should not dampen your spirits. Keep in touch, yet don’t become a nag. Media have the final say on what coverage they will provide your book. The only way to guarantee exposure is to purchase advertising.

Social media is the place to be. Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the other dizzying array of social media networks to build a following. Don’t wait until your book is published to talk about it online. Begin the conversation during the editing phases. Share photos, related articles from the web, even sketches of your cover. The more you disclose about your book, in small, digestible bites, the more excited your audience will become. And share that following with your media contacts, which will add legitimacy to your book and your hopes of press coverage.

Say “thank you” often, t
hen say it again. From media contacts to bookstore owners to venues that host your book signings, thank them with a handwritten note. Although the web is a powerful place, few things match the sentiment of handwritten greeting sent in the mail. It will be the best forty-four cents you will ever spend.

Thanks, Wendy! All great tips. Practice these steps consistently, writers and follow-through. Most opportunities are missed because of lack of follow-through and organization on behalf of the author.

Writers, if you want to read more on the topic, check out these resources:

Guerrilla Publicity check out the resources page

Your Action: Share your story or tips on how you scored some free book publicity here (don't forget to share links to your book site to keep the buzz rolling).

Here's to a productive week!


About the Contributor:

Wendy Townley is the author of Nerdy Thirty , Assistant Director of Media Relations at the University of Nebraska, Omaha and blog host of Do I dare/Disturb the universe?.


  1. I had no idea such great writer resources were right here in Omaha--Erin, I love this series on neighbors. And Wendy, thanks for sharing!

  2. They're here, Emily, you just have to explore and connect...the whole message behind this series of getting to know your literary neighbors. ( : I hope you get an opportunity to meet Wendy.

  3. Sure! Thanks, Suzy.

    Author Brandon T mentioned on The Lit Coach facebook page that getting corporate sponsors for your book launch/reading/parties, etc., is easy to do and adds another layer of value to your whole author package. I agree! Several of my authors (from lit agent days) did this successfully and everyone benefitted.

    Don't ever be afraid to ask. At the very worst, you'll hear "no." We can deal with that, right?

    Another great tip is author collaboration. Your community will really get behind several authors doing an event...for the sake of the event or better yet, for a cause! Think big.

  4. Ohh I like this! Now when I get pubbed let's see if I can collaborate with Morgan Llewelyn and Juliet Marillier... Doesn't get much bigger than that!

  5. Love the enthusiasm, Laura! It's always worth the attempt! Maybe one or both will consider blurbing the book?


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