Planning a promotional campaign for a new book can be a monumental task and no two campaigns are alike. Here at BreakThrough Promotions, our goals include determining what the author’s goal is, determining what the publisher will do to help the author meet that goal, and then filling in the blanks. A well-designed team effort gleans the best results. However, in this day and age, most publishers aren’t able to do much by way of promotion, so the author is left to do much of it alone. Usually, this isn’t because the publisher doesn’t want to help. It’s just the simple fact that in today’s economy everyone has scaled back and a single, in-house publicist simply can’t take care of a whole list of authors. There are only 24 hours in a day and time available for follow-up is crucial.
We like to discuss what our clients want and what they feel most comfortable doing for themselves, then design a customized package that lets us schedule those things the author would rather not tackle. We’ve designed several packages that include different types and amounts of events. Here’s a brief description:
Carl Brookins and the Minnesota Crime Wave at a book launch at Once Upon a Crime
Events: These could be basic meet-n-greet book signings, short talks at libraries or civic organizations, or workshops conducted at community centers or writers conferences. Some authors very successfully command an appearance fee or honorarium for their time and this can be discussed if it’s a type of event that interests you.
The most common is the bookseller/book signing event. Many authors really don’t like them, and some swear they’re not worth the trouble until you’ve published several books and have developed a following.
Authors who’ve been there and done that will explain that those basic book signings 1) are a sure way to get your books on the shelves, 2) help you develop name recognition and relationships with booksellers, 3) are the primary way they built their following and establish a fan base (by collecting addresses at these events), and 4) that the signings are more about the first 3 items than about how many books you sell at a single event. Like most promotional efforts, the results are cumulative and no single event can be judged as a success/failure. Successful book promotion is a “slow and steady wins the race” affair. No matter how large the foundation, they’re all built one brick at a time.
Print: The most common thing we arrange in this category is book reviews. We don’t pay for book reviews, nor do you pay us to write them. Technically, authors pay us to find appropriate review markets, send the review copies and follow up with those markets, reporting back to the author when we find those who have written reviews in response to what we’ve sent them. We don’t send unsolicited review copies (ARCs) to anyone unless it’s a request specifically from the author or publisher.
Other things that fall into this category are mentions or interviews in blogs, mentions in newspaper articles or columns, newsletters, magazines, trade journals. Pretty much any time we’re able to assist in getting your name or book title in print. We’re happy to target the type of print market that you’d most like to see, but have no way of guaranteeing which ones will respond.
DJ Doug Wilson (right) of WANB
Radio: This is probably the most cost effective means of book promotion, almost always conducted by phone. We work with a number of shows regularly that have established audiences and recurring “book” or “author” spots during their programs. Most of the shows we work with are considered local, but many are regional and national broadcast programs.
We also work with a selected few internet radio and satellite programs that have documented large audience bases. Interviews may be 5 minutes in length up to an hour. When we send the confirmation information to you, it should include some information about the program and the coverage map. We can also arrange for you to talk with a media specialist to help you improve your interview skills and make you more comfortable in giving interviews if needed.
Cheryl Nason of Conversation Cafe
Television: This is a wonderful way to reach a large number of potential readers and to help you establish your brand and develop name recognition. The interviews we arrange are usually local morning or noon news shows and interviews tend to be very brief – 2 – 3 minutes at most. They can be very beneficial to your campaign, but should be done sparingly, especially at first. They’re especially helpful if scheduled prior to an appearance in the area. Keeping recorded clips of radio and television interviews is wise. Almost all requests to appear on national broadcast programs require sending clips of previous appearances to assure producers and guest schedulers that you will be comfortable and entertaining for their listeners/viewers.
So, now that you’ve seen the sample campaign contents, and the descriptions of the types of events, how do you know what you really need?
We believe in what I call a pyramid approach:
The base of the pyramid is the availability of books. Without the book, there’s no need to promote it, right? If you talk enthusiastically about this great book, but the customer can’t find it anywhere, that’s not helpful. So the first and large part of your effort has to be establishing the availability of the book for purchase. Larger publishers probably take care of that for the author, and many smaller presses at least make the attempt. But it’s still advantageous for the author to speak knowledgably to issues in this area. To do that:
- Make sure you know which distributors stores can order from and what the bookseller discount is
- Include ordering information on your sell sheet
- Make ordering information available on your website
- Do not lump all the info together – make a specific sell sheet for booksellers and wholesale ordering and another for retail sales
- Design campaign activities to notify independent booksellers and libraries about your book
- Design campaign activities to notify potential readers about print and e-book availability
- Don’t overlook alternative, niche markets for book sales
Once you’ve got a strong foundation in the works for book availability, the next tier in the pyramid is print. Today’s print market is much different than it was even 5 years ago. Newspaper reviews are like gold and about as hard to find. But there are a lot of alternatives; they just require a little planning. Design your campaign so that a wide variety of print markets are being contacted. Don’t make the mistake of waiting too late – many require several weeks lead time prior to publication. But don’t make the mistake of giving up too soon, either. With diligence, you can glean reviews months after the release date if you’re pursuing the right market. And remember, a book is new to a person until they see it, no matter what date it was actually released.
Bob Langstaff WAMV
The third tier of the pyramid is media. This is a broad category, but should have less of your time and attention than book availability and print. Fortunately, you can accrue a good amount of broadcast media coverage in a short amount of time. Look for opportunities for radio interviews on a variety of show types and in a broad spectrum of locations. TV interviews are good for helping drive traffic to events and personal appearances.
While relatively easy to set up, broadcast interviews provide the opportunity to get your name and title in front of more potential buyers than just about any other single event. Even the smallest local programs will have an audience of several hundred. Most have several thousand, and regional programs can easily have more than a million listeners. Don’t make the mistake of gauging the success or failure of a radio interview by watching for an immediate spike in sales following the program. Sometimes that happens. More often it doesn’t. Marketing experts will tell you that it generally takes 14 repeat exposures for a name or product to register on the consciousness of a consumer. It’s the cumulative effect of several marketing efforts that builds name recognition and begins to spark sales.
Elaine Viets at Venetian Arts Society
The tip top of the pyramid is niche markets. As you might suspect, the possibilities here are endless. It may mean finding markets that focus on nurses because your primary character is a nurse, or it may be alumni of your college. It may be a variety of pet venues because your protagonist has a canine sidekick or maybe gift shops in National Parks because your books feature a forest ranger. There may be several specific niche markets that would be interested in different aspects of your book(s) or in you as the author. Take advantage of all of them, but only after the other three tiers are getting the needed attention. Niche markets can seem like a gold mine, but in the overall scope of things, you don’t want to focus all your attention there if you want a reasonable return on investment. Careful timing and planning will help you cover all the bases.
There are a lot of factors to consider when planning an effective campaign, so it’s easy to understand why some opt to get professional help. As you begin to craft a plan for your own campaign, keep in mind that you cover each pyramid tier to some degree, but you may need more help in one area than another. If that’s the case, learn to staff your weaknesses. Call on friends and family to trade tasks with you if that will work. Or contact professionals. You might be surprised how simple things become when you have a well thought out plan to start with.
Good luck and happy writing!