By Maryglenn McCombs

For authors who elect to take the DIY approach to book PR, it’s crucial to have some insider knowledge of the process and how to find potential reviewers, places to look, and what you’ll need when you make contact.

Having promoted books and authors over twenty years, I have an extensive network of media contacts I can call on.  But if you’re new to the PR world and want to give your book every chance of success, the first question you may ask when thinking of promotion is:  how do you find people who will review your book or interview you?

If you’re like most authors, you probably have a few places in mind. Start by making a wish list and consider the papers, magazines, blogs, etc., you read regularly.  Don’t forget about your local media, your hometown media, alumni media, any special groups or organizations you belong to.  These may not always seem like the most glamorous media outlets in the world, but remember: you never know WHO may be reading.

When thinking of promotion, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Where did you grow up? Be sure to contact your hometown paper
  • Where do you live now? Contact your local media
  • What groups do you belong to?  Some groups may have magazines/newsletters, etc. Let them know your book is coming out  (and bear in mind that “groups” includes everything from professional groups to sororities/fraternities/special interest groups and others)
  • Where did you go to school?  Contact the alumni departments/alumni magazines with news of your book’s release.  Keep in mind that while colleges and universities usually have alumni publications and groups, many high schools do as well.  Do your research.
  • Similarly, the book itself may provide its own leads for promotion ideas.
  • If you are a novelist, does your protagonist have a usual profession? Might others in that profession be interested in learning about your book?  Use that as a basis for your pitch.  For instance, mystery novelist Tammy Kaehler’s mystery series features a race car driver—and that series has been extremely well received in the racing world. In fact, Tammy has even won several Motorsports Book of the Year Awards for her novels.
  • Also, where your book takes place could make for another promotion opportunity.  When relevant, contact the media in the area where your book is set. They might be interested in covering the book.  A client once picked a romantic-sounding New England town—one she had never even visited!—as the setting of her romantic suspense novel. A pitch to the town’s local paper yielded a large feature story about the author and book.
  • Also, when you’re thinking about promoting your book, please remember that when you have news to share:  share it!  For instance, be sure to tell the media if you have news, such as being nominated for or winning an award, receiving an outstanding high profile review, having your book go into multiple print runs, rights sales, movies deals, etc.

Sometimes it seems overwhelming just how many review outlets there are. I recommend casting a wide net.  But how do you find people who will review your books? Start by considering the media outlets where you find book recommendations.

One trick to find potential places who will review your books or interview you is to come up with a few similar books and do a Google search on the book title and author name. You will likely come up with a number of great leads.

Keep a list of the places you’ve contacted or plan to contacted and put together a realistic timeline for making contact with them all.  Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to start making contact. But, before you do, here are a few things you’ll need:

  • Either books or ARCs (advance review copies)—in both print and electronic formats. Typically, for electronic review copies, I am asked to provide either a PDF file or a .mobi file.
  • A jpg of your book’s front cover art (both a low resolution file of about 96 dpi, AND a high resolution file will come in handy)
  • A professional headshot  (also in both high-res and low-res formats)
  • A professional website—even if it is very basic
  • A one sheet or press release about your book.  The one sheet should contain:
    • Book Title
    • Author name
    • Publication date
    • Category
    • Publisher name/address
    • Format (s)
    • ISBNs for each format
    • Price for each format
    • A brief synopsis (about 175 words)
    • Information about availability/distributor
    • A two- to three-sentence author biography
    • Web links
    • Contact information
    • You will also need an “elevator speech”  – the 30 second pitch that explains what your book is about.  Brevity is the sole of wit for phone or in-person pitches. Write it–and memorize it.

Once you start making contact and soliciting reviews and media coverage, don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen overnight.  Remember:  successful book marketing is a marathon…and not a sprint.

Good luck!

Photo by Hatcher and Fell

Photo by Hatcher and Fell

MARYGLENN MCCOMBS, is an independent book publicist who has worked in the book publishing industry for over twenty years. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Maryglenn serves on the board of the Nashville Humane Association.

Maryglenn is a native of South Central Kentucky. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Tim Warnock, and their Old English Sheepdog, Majordomo Billy Bojangles. A native of South Central Kentucky, Maryglenn currently lives in Nashville with her husband, Tim.

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