You can begin your publicity efforts even before your book is published by sending out advance review copies (which are copies that are used to proof the book before the final version is published). Generally speaking, most members of the media want finished books to review so they can assure their readers that there’s a finished book available for purchase.
However, I encourage you to send advance review copies to all the major trade publications, associations, as well as to the movers and shakers in your particular field of interest. Reviews from book industry publications such as Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Choice could give you a great endorsement on future mailings, and quotes from them can be used on your book’s back cover if it goes into a second printing. Their reviews can also generate library sales, because these publications are followed closely by acquisition librarians.
Since they’re geared toward the book industry, these three publications want to get the word out before the general press does. That’s why they require advance review copies and are unlikely to review a book in its finished form. (However, every rule has an exception. I once notified a reviewer at Library Journal that Nannies, Maids & More: The Complete Guide for Hiring Household Help had been published and that review copies were available, and a reviewer requested a copy and reviewed it for me, even though it was in its finished form.)
I usually wait until I have finished books in hand before starting my campaign to the general interest media. Since you’re working on a budget, here’s what I do to save money. I create an A list of prospective reviewers that will receive a copy of the book for review and the media kit to go with it. (A description of what goes into a media kit follows later.) Who makes the A list? It’s a combination of media outlets that will be most important to your marketing efforts and reviewers who will be most likely to give your book a positive review.
Prospective reviewers on your B list will get a “media postcard” that tells a little about the book and asks them to respond if they’d like a review copy. The B list should include reviewers at smaller-circulation publications, those who only marginally reach the market you’re seeking, or those who’d be less likely to review your book. You’ll probably have some B list prospects you’d like to put on your A list, but economics won’t allow you to do so. Creating a B list cuts down on the cost of mailing books to every prospect, but still leaves the door open to them. Remember, you’d like to get reviews from all these outlets if possible!
Your publicity materials, also known as a press or media kit, will be your first contact with the media and will be sent out with your advance review copies or finished books. Therefore, they should also be “dressed for success,” so take as much care writing and editing these materials as you took on your book. All of your printed materials should feature either your personal or business letterhead or be printed on stationery that has been designed especially for the project.
You want businesslike quality here. Badly printed materials will leave a bad impression, and handwritten notes, although personal, won’t appear businesslike. However, it’s not objectionable to include a handwritten note that points out some important aspect such as “author is local” to a prospective reviewer. Keep these notes concise.
You should also include all of your media kit information on your website so that anyone who is interested in either reviewing your book or interviewing you will instantly have access to that information and will have a way to contact you. It’s generally a good idea to include a phone number, but most people will be happy to drop you an introductory email through the website asking for more information about you and your book. The wonderful thing about using the World Wide Web is that your website is working for you twenty-four hours a day and compared to printing up a professional-looking media kit, it’s a very reasonable form of advertising.
There are also a number of websites that can increase your media exposure. For instance, I’ve developed three sites dedicated to making the task of reaching media people easier for authors. For more details, visit AuthorsandExperts.com and SchoolBookings.com. You’ll find them useful in getting the word out about your book.
Your print-based media kit should include:
o A press release. This is a short article, usually a single page in length, announcing that your book will be published on a specific date (or in the case of completed books, simply announcing that the book is out) and summarizing the notable elements of the book. It’s also good to talk briefly about your expertise with the subject matter.
o A single-page biography. Don’t include a lengthy resume. Stay focused on how your background directly relates to your book.
o A sample of the book’s cover art (you should have about 100 to 500 extra book covers printed for publicity purposes at the time your book is printed) and a photograph.
o If you plan to publish more books, it will be worthwhile to include any brochures or other materials that you use to market your publishing company.
o A cover letter explaining that you’re sending your book along for review. If you want to increase your chances of having your book reviewed, you must do your homework. Find out who’s in charge of book reviews at each newspaper, magazine, or broadcast outlet you plan to approach. If you’re sending a book to an expert for an endorsement, explain why you chose to send them a book (usually because they’re experts in the field your book covers) and politely ask for comments that you can quote. In this age of litigation, you might also want to create a release form that will give you the express permission to use their quotes for marketing your book. If you can afford the time and expense, it’s good to call beforehand to gauge the expert’s interest.
o Many authors put all their media kit materials into a folder. It can be as simple as a colored folder from an office supply store or more elaborate, including the logo and contact information of the publishing company. Since you’re working on a budget, it’s important to remember that a folder is a courtesy to recipients to keep your press kit neatly organized, so buy folders with that simple function in mind. A solid-color folder will stand out and allows you to insert a business card over one of the pockets. What goes into the folder is more important than the folder itself.
As for your B list prospects, the media postcards you send them should be professionally written, designed, and printed. It’s important to put your best face on, since this will be your B list’s first contact with you. Your postcard needs to entice a reviewer to request your book, so include a representation of the cover, a brief (but compelling) description of the book, and, of course, information on how to contact you to receive their review copy.
Once you’ve begun to receive publicity through news stories and reviews, make sure to include photocopies of them in your media kit. Also list any interviews you have given on radio, television, or the Internet. This will show new publicity prospects that other media outlets have already considered your project newsworthy. Bookstores and distributors will also be interested in this fact, too.
Linda Radke is the author of numerous books, including “Promote Like a Pro: Small Budget, Big Show”. She was recently named Book Marketer of the Year by Book Publicists of Southern California.