How to Make Your Book Newsworthy: 5 Tips from a Publicist
Olivia McCoy is a publicist and marketing associate at Smith Publicity. Her clients have received national media placements in outlets such as The New York Times, Fast Company, Authority Magazine, Splash Magazines, and HOLA!. She has two BAs in English Poetics and French from the University of Georgia, a Master’s Certificate in Publishing from the University of Denver Publishing Institute, and an MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises from Northwestern University.
There are three main branches of book promotion and coverage — earned, paid, and owned — and of these, earned coverage, often referred to as book publicity, is the most elusive. It can be understandably daunting as it takes so much of the control out of the author’s hands and places it into the laps of media professionals, writers, and editors who are able to pick and choose what to publish and push out to their mass audiences.
That being said, there are a few things authors can do to set themselves up for success and apart from competitors pitching for the same print and/or digital space.
Below are 5 simple tips to get started:
1. Research and follow journalists to build relationships
Warm leads (people that you already know personally and/or professionally) and connections are much more likely to come through with coverage than cold ones. As you comb through your ideal outlets for placement, take note of the journalists that are writing articles, features, reviews, and content related to your book’s key themes. Then, follow their professional profiles on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter are the most popular platforms for media professionals) and begin engaging with their content — ask questions, leave comments, like, repost or share, etc. It makes it much more likely that when you do reach out to those individuals about covering your book, they will recognize your name and respond.
2. Join industry newsletters for quote opportunities
Journalists will sometimes query through industry newsletters like HARO, ProfNet, and Quoted for sources for their stories. By subscribing, you have leads being sent directly to your email, often multiple times a day! It may take some scrolling to find requests related to your expertise, but these queries cover most topics including lifestyle, entertainment, business and finance, medicine, travel, politics, and more.
Journalists like to allude to their souces’ relevance and authority so be sure to bring up your book, regardless of whether it is published or upcoming. You can do this by mentioning the book in your bio, “Jane Doe is the author of Title: Subtitle (publisher),” and/or including “Author” as a title in your signature (Ex. Jane Doe, CEO of Company, Field Expert, and Author of Title). This will be particularly useful for nonfiction authors hoping to build up your platform — appearing as an expert in a related article could bring some attention to your book.
3. Watch the news cycle to spot pitching opportunities
It seems obvious, but it’s important to follow the outlets you’d most like to cover your book and engage with their content by sharing their articles with your network, leaving comments, and following them on social media. What kind of stories are they posting? Who are they interviewing? What topics do you see repeated over and over again each week? These are the key media angles you can use to catch their attention. For example, if you’re a finance author publishing a book about how to save money, you can reach out to journalists who have written about recent recessions or even interviewed other finance experts to pitch your tips and advice.
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4. Outline relevant angles from your book
If you weren’t a list-maker before, you are now! Go through your book chapter by chapter and pull out your key takeaways for each. Some great questions to ask yourself when looking for your takeaways are:
- What problems am I trying to address in this chapter and what are the solutions I am offering?
- What are the top 3-5 tips or pieces of advice a reader will learn from this chapter?
- If I were to assign a headline or title to each main idea in this chapter, what would those look like?
Remember your 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. For the finance expert in our example above, some key takeaways might be “Where to cut spending in your day-to-day life” from chapter 1 and “What kind of savings accounts to consider” from chapter 2.
Make a list and refer to it as you’re watching the news cycle to see where there is a good fit. You may notice that one day a huge piece comes up in a notable outlet, and the next day reporters are querying for experts on that topic in the industry newsletters you’ve subscribed to. Go through your list and see which takeaway readers could benefit most from. When you send your pitches and reply to requests, make sure to mention the top 3 most relevant takeaways for the current news cycle as talking points.
5. Have your pitch template ready to fire
A pitch is a form of communication meant to persuade the journalist into covering you, your expertise, and/or your book. It could be a press release or email or letter ready to be updated and go out as needed. Each pitch will be slightly different based on the outlet and journalist you’re reaching out to and will need to be updated over time based on the ever-changing news cycle, but the bulk of it can remain the same: this should include a line or two about the book, including its publication date (if it’s pre-publication), a retail link, and key messaging as well as a little bit about you, your background, and where they can learn more about you (author website, social media handles, etc.) Make sure to have your website and book’s retail link hyperlinked so that the journalist can easily click to follow and learn more. Then, you can update the pitch with a relevant and timely introduction paragraph, angle, and call-to-action best fitting for the intended audience.
When you do secure coverage for your book, make sure to share on social media and your website, giving credit to the appropriate media professional and outlet by tagging them in your post. The outlet may be more keen to reshare your post than create their own—best to make it easy for them to do so by sharing and tagging as soon as possible once the run link is live. This will not only help to further build connections and grow your network, but also keep your branded content up-to-date and optimized for search engine algorithms.
These tips should help you to get your foot in the door when beginning publicity for your book. Remember publicity outreach is optimal about 3 months ahead of publication, so you can begin following journalists and writing your pitch template while you’re developing other brand assets like your website and social media platforms early on in the publication timeline.