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Public relations can be a strange and mysterious thing for indie authors. Whether you’re a debut author trying to get your name out there, or an experienced writer looking to boost your books’ reach, PR is a good addition to your platform.
For most authors, though, PR appears to be something that just happens. You hire a publicist and hope for the best. Some get featured in massive magazines, others get a couple of blog spots, and then their campaign fizzles.
What most indie authors don’t realize is there is a secret to great book PR. This secret is perhaps the most ironic and encouraging secret in the publishing industry.
What you need to do well in PR is a great story.
We’re not talking about the story you just wrote, but, rather, your story and the story of your book.
At the core of public relations, what any publicist is trying to do is sell their client’s story to reporters and editors.
However, they can’t just go to any entertainment reporter and say, “Hey, this lovely person wrote a book, cover it!” Unfortunately, you’re not the first person to have written one. As special as that book is to you, it’s just another book in a stack of millions to a reporter.
What public relations does is pitch your story to help you stand out from the crowd.
You’re not just another thriller novelist, your book is “the next The Girl on the Train.”
You’re not just a memoirist writing about mental illness, you’re the first to write of it from both the perspective of doctor and patient.
Even if you’re writing in a popular genre, and you think your book may not have much uniqueness within that genre, the key to PR is finding the story hook that makes you stand out.
Now, finding the story in a client’s platform is a huge part of what publicists do. They help you and reporters discover what’s special about your story.
However, they can’t do it all alone. No one knows you and your book like you do, so when you meet with your publicist, don’t spare any details.
If you were inspired to write your book after the events of 9/11, say so. Your publicist could pitch that angle. If you think your book is Jodi Picoult meets Suzanne Collins (whatever that would look like), say so! If you became an author as a way of filling your nest when your kids left, say so. A parenting or senior magazine may love that.
The point is, everyone has a story, and the more granular you can get with it, the more opportunities you’re arming your publicist with.
Perhaps you have a unique and interesting angle, but the (reporter/editor) fish aren’t biting. What’s next?
You can’t always expect a news outlet to do all the work for you. Interviewing someone and writing a piece takes precious time. Sometimes you have to develop your own story. Write an article about your experience. Shoot a video of your history. These assets can be pitched to media by your publicist and often gain much more traction, due to the light workload they impose.
At the core of all efforts made by you and your publicist is the story. Some stories will take off like wildfire. This frequently has to do with timing. Sometimes the right stories just happen at the right times and it feels like magic. Other times, a story may not connect with everyone, but will usually have its niche where it works very well.
The bottom line is, that no matter what your story is, coverage will be much improved if you have a tale to tell.
KELLY BOWEN is the Director of Publicity and Marketing at BookSparks. She has more than 13 years of marketing and public relations experience in the book publishing industry at top publishing houses including Simon & Schuster, Algonquin Books and Algonquin Young Readers, Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, and the University of South Carolina Press. She has executed numerous New York Times bestselling book campaigns including The Art Forger, West of Here, The Drunken Botanist, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, The Other Boleyn Girl, Never Check Your Email in the Morning, and many others. She is a graduate of New York University’s M.S in Publishing program and also has a B.A. in English from the University of South Carolina.
City Book Review is the publisher of San Francisco Book Review, Seattle Book Review, Manhattan Book Review, and Kids’ BookBuzz. Since 2008, we’ve been helping readers find their next favorite book. We’re proud to be deeply involved with the indie writers community. We are one of the few national book review magazines to review and promote self-published books. We also work with publicists from around the world to bring you the latest books. To round out our services, we also offer authors and publicists assistance with promoting their books through book review videos, book cover design, blogger outreach, social media marketing, and press releases. If you’re interested in getting your book reviewed by us, please see our How to Get Your Book Reviewed page.