By Gretchen Crary
Publicity is a dish best served warm.
That’s what I tell clients who come to me looking for publicity help after the book has already gone on sale. A typical query goes:
“My book was published a month ago, and I’ve now decided that I’m ready to hire a publicist to go over the ground that my publisher missed.”
It’s a sad conversation when I have to tell these clients that the publicity ship has probably sailed.
Whether or not the publisher did a good job, there is a point when trying to publicize a book that is already on sale faces diminishing returns.
The reality is that setting up a great publicity campaign takes a good deal of time, especially in publishing where things move at a slower pace than most other industries.
I think it’s helpful to measure out the time before your book goes on sale into three phases.
Who Are You And What Are You Building?
In the first phase, you build your platform and map your positioning.
This phase starts yesterday. I’m kidding…sort of.
What I mean is that it starts as early as you know you will be launching your book but ideally at least six months before your book goes on sale.
With the advent of the digital revolution, authors have tools their disposal that have made it much easier for them to connect directly with their audience.
The tools are (somewhat in order of importance) email newsletter lists, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram. (Instagram would be higher on the list for authors of books with lots of visual content and Twitter would be higher for experts/journalists/academics).
Some of these tools have free and paid features that allow you to grow your audience with very little effort.
Even before you start using those audience building tools, it’s important to ask yourself, “What am I building?” and the answer to that question will go a long way to determining how you use them.
This is where it’s helpful to bring in a professional to brainstorm.
How do you want to be positioned in the marketing materials for the book including the book jacket cover, your bio, on social media, on your website, and on your book’s press release?
It’s best to have a unified message for everything that your reader might see about you and not pass up on an opportunity to reinforce that message.
If you are planning on working with a publicist, remember that you can’t just bring them on at the last minute to help you with these tasks for no less a reason than that they need to read the book as well!
Always put your best foot forward.
Related reading: The Four Essential Elements You Need To Sell Books On Amazon
What Is Long Lead Media And How Do I Pitch Them?
In the second phase – the galley phase – your publicist will set about researching “long lead” outlets that would be interested in your work.
The first galleys, or “advanced reader editions,” usually go out to the trade publications like Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal.
Think that a great glossy magazine like O, the Oprah Magazine could be interested? O Magazine and other glossies work very far ahead and need books sometimes a full six months in advance of publication.
And another thing to know is that long lead magazines will usually only cover a book in the month it goes on sale.
That is a fail-safe mechanism for them to stay current.
Lots of publicists send out a single long lead mailing to all outlets that prefer to get an advanced look.
With the meatier fiction titles, long lead is the most important phase…because reviewers need that time to read, absorb, and write their great reviews!
But for non-fiction books, I like to break my galley mailings down into two or three.
Major interview shows on NPR, for instance, like an advanced copy, but five or six months is way too soon for them.
So we stagger the mailings according to the outlet and get much better results.
The Media Landscape Is Vast But Not All Media Outlets Are Equal
The final phase – the short lead or finished book phase – begins when the finished books hit the warehouse and are ready to send out to media outlets.
Now you can really go wild and send out books to local daily papers, all radio, TV (where appropriate), and online outlets.
At February Media, we usually pitch many hundreds of outlets per campaign by the time the book has been on sale for barely a month.
If there are so many outlets, you might ask, why should publicity campaigns ever need to end?
The answer goes back to what I wrote at the outset. There are diminishing returns on finding those outlets.
Usually, they are the smaller outlets with smaller audiences. Finding them takes time, the same time it does to pull a large list of bigger outlets. And their reach is far less.
It just doesn’t make economic sense to keep looking at a certain point.
The Party Is Over. Now What?
The good news is that when publicity ends, there are many ways to use marketing to keep your book in front of potential readers and in many cases, marketing can be just as effective.
The end of a publicity campaign is a great place to pick up your marketing campaign using the tools you developed in phase one.
Here are some ideas for how you can extend your publicity bang through Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads:
1. Do a Facebook post with a link to a great review and boost it out to the audience you want to reach. Mention in the post where readers might be able to sample a chapter if they’re interested in checking the book out.
2. Take your leftover review galleys or extra stock and run a giveaway on Goodreads. You can then do a Facebook post about the giveaway and boost it out to the audience you want to reach.
3. Create a Twitter ad with one of your reviews and target the audience you want to reach.
4. See if any of the outlets that reviewed the book offer newsletters to their audience and purchase an ad on their newsletter that quotes from your review. It is just another way to reinforce that your work is considered worthy among that audience.
These are just a few ideas, but the possibilities are endless when you are willing to invest what you would invest in an expensive publicist in some targeted marketing.
So don’t despair if your publicity campaign is past the “sell by” date. You have options!
Gretchen Crary is the owner of February Media, a publicity and marketing company in New York City specializing in books, authors, and journalists.