Getting Your Book Coverage in the National Press
This is a guest post by Douglas Wight, freelance journalist, author, publisher and book serialisation specialist. He explains how authors can get book coverage in the national press… and get paid for it!
Book Coverage: Making A Splash
How many “likes”, how many “followers”, how’s your “discoverability”, what are your “signs of life”, are you on top of your profiles, what are your hits on “YouTube”?
Life can be baffling for an author these days. The pressure not just to have a digital presence but one that’s firing hourly on multiple platforms is not just daunting, but increasingly terrifying.
But imagine a platform that would pay for your content. That’s right. Hard cash. Not only that but it will guarantee an audience of millions. And these millions aren’t just digital consumers but actual readers. In addition, at no cost to you, it will take on the heavy lifting of promotion. This platform might even advertise your book, plug it extensively online, tweet links to your material, sell your content on to other outlets, giving you a share of the spoils and run discount price offers so the audience can directly purchase your book.
Sounds not bad, eh? And what is this amazing new platform that can promise all this?
Actually, it’s oldest known to mankind. The humble newspaper.
A Great Success Story
In the digital age not much attention is paid to “old media”. Newspapers are dinosaurs, right, losing readers by the millions, out-dated and out-of-touch?
On the contrary, newspapers are in many ways the great success story. They’ve survived the arrival of radio and television and, after a rocky period, are navigating a passage through the Internet age. Crucially, for authors, they love books. True, many titles have done away with specialist literary editors but newspapers appreciate the kudos a book can bring. A good serialisation can work wonders for both newspaper and author. And, in an age of declining sales all round publishers and the fourth estate need each other more than ever.
If you’re the author of a non-fiction book, there’s a good chance it could find a home in a newspaper. The only criteria, be it for a celebrity biography, strong real-life or historical story or a ‘mind, body, spirit’ book, is that it’s new, or offers readers something different. And, as long as it’s properly researched and credible, they’re happy to promote self-published books, which can be a massive boost for a fledgling author or imprint.
Modern-day serialisations have evolved from the days when newspapers would pay tens, even hundreds of thousands to gut a big celebrity title over several days. As advances have come down, so too has the money newspapers expect to pay to run content, but this has opened up the market. These days a ‘serial’ is more likely to be a one-day hit but it can be a fantastic launch pad for any new book.
Although newspapers demand exclusivity, other media – magazines, online news sources, television and radio stations – are happy to follow, offering new pathways to publicity and promotion.
And the good news is that, certainly where tabloids are concerned, they are still willing to pay for content. The sums involved might not make you rich but in an era of ridiculously small advances they can almost take the place of an advance for self-published work.
With journalist Jennifer Wiley, I recently self-published an unauthorised biography of the pop singer Rita Ora. A serial deal with the Sun meant we were able to print a hardback and attract interest from a major high street retailer. The Sun’s coverage was picked up around the world and led to extensive secondary publicity. This won’t be everyone’s experience but it showed the potential of strong newspaper coverage.
In another example, a book published solely through Amazon’s Print on Demand went on to sell thousands of copies after a tabloid serialisation brought it to the public’s attention.
Get Serious About Serial
Whether you are an independent author, self-publisher or have a forthcoming book with a traditional publisher it’s important to think about the merits of serialisation.
Most publishers have a rights department whose job it is to secure serial deals. Sadly, however, away from the big titles it can often be the case that a smaller book gets overlooked or not much effort is put into achieving national coverage.
So, take an interest. Think of ways to make your text appealing to newspapers. Some authors are guilty of thinking that once their manuscript is sent a team of specialists will mould their work to make it publicity friendly. The reality is that the best you can hope for is that a rights manager will flag it up to a paper and send over the manuscript. If you’re a books editor or features editor you might have ten manuscripts a week vying for your attention.
If, however, you’ve dissected your text and teased out the killer new lines, in which chapters to find them and set out exactly what’s fresh and interesting, then you’re helping push your book to the top of the pile.
It also means you’re starting to control part of the process.
Newspapers are visual beasts so think photos and images. If your book is photo-free suggest images available online that might help them illustrate it. The more visually grabbing your piece is the better chance it has of making it past the editorial conferences held to decide which stories are placed and where in newspapers.
Fiction is harder to place or feature with anything more than a review. However, if you have a good back story or a remarkable real-life event sparked the idea for a novel this could pave the way for an interview to plug your new book.
It’s worth noting, however, that newspapers traditionally don’t pay for author interviews, just extracts. They will however plug the actual book, possibly with an off the page reader offer, and front cover.
If you’re not writing for a publisher, work with a serialisation expert, or ring up the paper you think is best suited to the material. Features editors are desperate for brilliant ideas.
Often, retailers monitor press coverage and increase their orders accordingly. There’s no guarantee that happens all the time and publishers might well argue that the press’s influence on sales is not what it was… but any publicity is good publicity and the more prompters readers get to the existence of a new book the better.
So, in this digital age, think ink and see how Fleet Street can help your book on the High Street.
Looking to get some book coverage in the press or on specialist blogs? Pitch our our Reedsy publicists here and ask them for free quotes!
Have you tried to pitch your book to newspapers? Do you believe in the power of the "old media" in the digital age? Share your thoughts and experiences with us, or ask Douglas any question, in the comments below!