Beating the Book Publicity Blues

Congratulations…It’s a book!  For the past few months/years/decades you’ve poured your heart and soul into this baby and soon it’s going to be launched out into the world. I know, because 18 years after its first publication, my novel The Pipe Dreamers is being reissued this month in conjunction with upcoming the 50th anniversary of the 1969-70 Vietnam protests and May 1970 tragedies at Kent and Jackson State. If you’re anything like me, you approach the impending event with a shudder and a sense of doom. For me, promoting my book is almost as bad as Internet dating. It can be expensive, involves a great deal of time and you have to deal with mainly duds.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, according to ASJA member Nancy Peske (@nancypeske). With more than 30 years of experience in all aspects of publishing, she knows the industry inside out—not only in terms of her many successful titles including Cinematherapy and its follow-ups and Raising a Sensory Smart Child, plus successful collaborations with authors such as Christiane Northrup, Marianne Williamson, David Perlmutter and others. She also coaches others in taking their projects from concept to completion. While she works with clients on three aspects—book proposal evaluation and vision planning; ghostwriting or developmental editing; and consulting and coaching—for our purposes here, we’ll mostly discuss book publicity.

ASJA Confidential: Let’s face it, publicizing your book can be overwhelming. Where do you start?

Nancy Peske: You start with a good press release, one that’s newsworthy and targeted to your audience. You can hire someone to do this or do it yourself. Avoid a generic press release—“Look at me! I’ve written a book!”—and instead approach it as you would an article with an eye to what might be relevant and fresh.

You also need to have sound bites about your book at the ready. These can be two to three concise and even funny sayings that make people laugh or they find interesting. When celebrities do the talk show circuit, when they have a new movie coming out, they tell the same anecdotes during each interview.

Whenever I do a [virtual or phone] interview, I tape a card to my computer screen so I make sure to include certain stories. After a while you can become so familiar with them you can practically tell them in your sleep—or, say during a 5 a.m. live interview that we had to do with Cinematherapy. After a while they become keywords, for example if you type in “sensory smart” into Google, my site associated with my book, Raising the Sensory Smart Child pops up.

ASJA Confidential: How do you handle promotion on social media and the Internet?

Peske:  Make sure your website is up to date, because they do get old and creaky. While websites don’t have the impact that they once did, people still refer to them, especially for basic information about your project. You’ll want a media page with a press release; a Q and A with facts about the book; publicist contact info, if applicable; and downloadable, high-resolution photos of you and the book’s cover.

Also, cover all of your social media angles. Some experts believe that you should only focus on one or two things, like Facebook and Twitter, but I believe in casting as wide of a net as possible. My mini-book 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook has more details on Facebook. YouTube is often used as a search engine, so have some presence here even if you don’t do a lot of videos. And use images with your words. While memes [photos with funny or unique sayings, preferably with a link to the author or book’s website] are a pain to put together, if and when they go viral, they can reap great rewards… just look at Grumpy Cat. We live in a society that is primarily visual, and because we are writers who prefer to work with words, this can be a challenge. Facebook Live can also help you reach new audiences.

ASJA Confidential: Facebook Live –really?  Facebook Live seems like the ultimate video selfie—here I am on Facebook, talking, but who cares? 

Peske: If you position what you’re going to say as newsworthy or of interest to others, then Facebook Live can be very useful in getting across your message or platform. Along with Facebook closed groups, Facebook Live is favored by Facebook’s algorithms, which means that it gets a lot more push on the platform. Plus Facebook Live is archived, so people who are searching for a particular name or topic can refer to it at any time.

ASJA Confidential: What are things that you should avoid in promoting your book?

Peske: A lot of times book publicists recommend sending out a weekly newsletter. While I do have a newsletter I only send it when I have something new or important to say. Every day we are inundated with newsletters, email blasts and press releases but in my experience, if it’s occasional and from a source of interest, people are more likely to open and read it rather than discard it.

Make sure to vary your posts so it’s not the same thing over and over again. Be judicious and again, newsworthy. And acknowledge key comments, even with a simple, “Thanks!” If you get negative feedback, it’s best to politely respond with a simple “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hoped my book’s strategies have helped you” and move on rather than starting an argument. And whenever you’re promoting your book, make sure to have your sound bites ready and a fresh angle to pique readers’ interest.

Also if you hire a publicist, be careful. I know people who have spent thousands of dollars on publicists and gotten nothing in return. You might be better off hiring a virtual assistant to help send out emails and press releases on your behalf. You know your audience better than anyone— that’s the reason publishers have you fill out forms about your media connections and bloggers and podcasts you know of before the book launches. And don’t overlook your college alumni magazine and the local angle, including neighborhood newspapers and TV and radio shows.

ASJA Confidential: Any other words of advice?

Peske: Traditional media—newspaper and magazine coverage (again, include specialized ones because outlets like The Atlantic or Forbes can be very difficult to get into), writing your own blog or guest blogging, online and print book reviews, even reader reviews on Amazon—these are all gold. I encourage partnerships with related subject matter experts or even specific events, such as meetings or conventions, pertaining to your topic.

For example, the latest thing is a virtual summit, a collaborative online event in which several subject matter speakers are interviewed by a host. It’s free for a few days, then after that people have to pay a fee to access all the information. These summits are so new, you almost have to come upon them by accident, but if you happen to hear about one, try to get in on it. Or you can host your own, which will grow your email list.

I’ve only touched on some highlights here. Anyone who’s interested in promoting their book should visit ASJA member Sandra Beckwith’s Build Book Buzz blog, which along with providing free information and tips, has an amazing list of resources. She covers other possible outlets like radio stations, HARO (Help a Reporter Out), press release distribution services and much more—and hiring her
is worth every penny. And while publishers might not like it because they may not make as much money, BookBub, which offers discounts or free books, is another great way to get readers. They have an immense following and only choose books that are solidly written. Good luck!

This year’s ASJA Conference featured an entire track of content about books and book publishing. If you missed these panels, check out our conference recordings. Recordings of individual sessions will be available in June.