Book Promotion & Publicity


Because 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. Some authors dedicate a portion of their advance money to hire an outside public relations firm. Others try to spread the word about their work through personal networks, e-mail and setting up a website, reading tours, and similar efforts.

Developing a Mailing List

Sometimes a publisher will mail postcard announcements about your book to reviewers, booksellers, and potential readers. If not, and if you have the funds, this method of book promotion is something you might be able to 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 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. Try to gather e-mail addresses in addition to postal addresses.

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), an 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. You can build a site yourself if you learn HTML programs such as Adobe Dreamweaver. Some Web services, such as Yahoo and EarthLink, offer relatively inexpensive packages for hosting websites, as do sites like The Authors Guild helps members create Web pages and serves as a Web host. In addition, Authors on the Web offers online publicity through newsletters, contests, and established links to important literary and book-related sites.

In her Poets & Writers Magazine article "Extreme Makeover," author A. M. Homes shares her experience launching a website and offers many helpful tips for creative writers looking to launch their own websites. 

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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 letter 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 and other contacts 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, Seattle, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Tucson.

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 ($5,000 to $20,000), 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. 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.

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
  • How to Set Up a Reading Tour
  • Hiring an Independent Publicist
  • Other Resources