Book Promotion & Publicity

Introduction

Because most publishers lack the resources to run a comprehensive book publicity and promotion campaign for every book they publish, authors are increasingly taking on the work of publicizing their books themselves. Most authors try to spread the word about their work through personal networks, e-mail campaigns, websites, social media, reading tours, and similar efforts.

Developing a Mailing List

Sometimes a publisher will e-mail announcements about your book to reviewers, booksellers, and potential readers. This method of book promotion can also be something you undertake yourself. Either way, it is crucial to develop a mailing list that you and your publisher can use to publicize your work.

Your list can consist of family and friends, but you’ll want to expand it by asking for the e-mail addresses of people who attend your readings, take your classes (or take classes with you), or attend the same conferences you do. Ask your friends whether you can include friends of theirs. It may also be worthwhile to gather postal addresses so you can send a copy of your book for potential reviews or to pitch an interview opportunity.

Creating a Website

A website serves as a place to display critical information about yourself and your work. Many of the materials that would be included in a traditional press kit can be included on a website, including descriptions of your writing and publications, ordering information (with links to your publisher or an online bookseller), a high-quality author photo and bio, excerpts from reviews you have received in the past or from book blurbs, and selections from your works-in-progress. Writers can also list much of this information in Poets & Writers’ Directory of Poets & Writers.

It’s possible to create a website inexpensively. Most website hosts, such as Squarespace and GoDaddy, offer all-in-one packages that include easy-to-use templates, domain name registration, and e-mail hosting. The Authors Guild helps members create websites and includes services like website hosting and domain name registration. In addition, Authors on the Web offers online publicity through newsletters, contests, and established links to important literary and book-related sites.

Getting Connected on Social Media

Social media can be a powerful tool to help you quickly and easily connect to the literary world—fellow authors, magazine editors, readers, and others—and to create buzz for your book and your writing life. You can create a Facebook event page for your book launch and any tour stops, engage with readers and writers on Twitter, share images of your writing life on Instagram, network with book-lovers on Goodreads, or start a blog or personal newsletter. There are all kinds of platforms to choose from, for all kinds of personalities. One bit of advice: Engage with the community and build your followers on social media well before you have a book coming out; don’t just show up on Twitter or Instagram trying to convince folks to read your work without first developing a following and supporting the people who you hope will eventually support you.

Other Ways to Connect Online

You can get creative by producing a book trailer and posting it on Vimeo or YouTube; pitch interviews, reviews, or regular columns to online media outlets; or reach out to book bloggers for a book review. 

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How to Set Up a Reading Tour

Big publishing houses sometimes fund authors’ reading tours, with publicists arranging tour dates, transportation, and accommodations. Such treatment is rare, however, and many authors decide to set up their own reading tours. Doing so requires time and money, but it’s possible to arrange a brief tour and to make inexpensive transportation and accommodation plans.

The first step is to contact bookstores, libraries, universities, bars, restaurants, cafés, community centers, and other venues that host readings. If you can, send the event coordinators at these locations a free copy of your book before you call. Allowing a two- to six-month lead time, ask the event coordinators if you can schedule a reading, lecture, question-and-answer session, or book signing. Confirm arrangements with a follow-up phone call or e-mail.

If your reading engagements involve travel to other cities, states, or countries, you can often rely on relatives, friends, or friends of friends to put you up for a night or two. Frequent-flier miles, if you have them, might offer an inexpensive way of getting around, as might some train and bus lines. Driving yourself will probably be expensive, but it may be the most convenient mode of travel.

Use your personal mailing list, social media, and our Literary Events Calendar and Reading Tour Manager (both free and available to everyone) to publicize your readings as widely as possible, and, if you have a publicist, be sure to communicate your plans, as your publisher might be able to help publicize or fund some of your tour.

The Readings & Workshops program of Poets & Writers pays fees to writers giving readings or teaching workshops in New York, California, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans, Seattle, Tucson, and Washington, D.C.

Hiring an Independent Publicist

An independent publicist can use his or her experience and contacts to help you put together a press kit, make contacts, and set up readings or radio spots. Most writers will find the cost of hiring an independent publicist prohibitive (costs vary greatly, but a standard fee starts at about $5,000), but some manage to save up the money or put aside a portion of their advance to cover a publicist’s expenses.

If you do hire a publicist, first do some research to find one who can devote real time and expertise to your work. Ask other authors for recommendations when you start your search. Be sure to ask prospective publicists how long they have worked in book publicity and for whom, whether they specialize in niche markets or handle all genres, how many authors or projects they take on at a time, and whether they work on an hourly basis or for a placement or project fee. If you can, reach out to one or two clients of any publicists you are considering hiring and ask them about their relationship with their publicists, how they conduct business, and how effective their publicity efforts have been.

Other Resources

For an overview of how publicity and promotion works and how you can do it yourself, take a look at The Poets & Writers Guide to Publicity and Promotion.  

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  • Introduction
  • Developing a Mailing List
  • Creating a Website
  • Getting Connected on Social Media
  • Other Ways to Connect Online
  • How to Set Up a Reading Tour
  • Hiring an Independent Publicist
  • Other Resources