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Get the Word Out: Five Steps to Effective PR

What’s the best way to get people to read your book?

Tell them about it! Seems easy, right? It can be, but it takes work, dedication, and persistence. There are five basic steps to effectively getting the word out about your book:

1. Craft an effective message
2. Assess your audience
3. Create a contact list
4. Get the word out
5. Follow up—don’t get discouraged

Craft an Effective Message

The crucial element of promotion is crafting an effective message, which can be conveyed in a short press release to send to media contacts. Frame your press release around a newsworthy event, such as the release of your book or an event you have planned, like a book signing. You can also issue a press release to call attention to your book in relation to a current news story, but it is not just a blanket advertisement for your product.

When drafting your release, keep it simple. It needs to tell your contact the “who, what, when, where, and why” of a newsworthy event associated with your book. Present the most important information first and make sure to include your contact information. Keep in mind that you will be submitting to online news sources, so optimize your release to include audience-specific keywords for search engines.

Assess Your Audience

When it’s time to determine your audience, consider the best places to reach readers interested in your topic. “Fish where the fish are. If you’ve written a book on flowers, why waste time sending a press release to Popular Mechanics?” says Marilyn Walton, author of Badge on My Collar: A Chronicle of Courageous Canines. Walton, who has run her own successful promotional campaigns, put Badge on My Collar on Amazon’s top 100 “new hot bestsellers” in the animal book category for the past several months.

To assess your audience, you must do research. According to Walton, no matter what the subject matter, there are foundations, specialized societies, museums, magazines, newsletters, radio programs, Web sites, educational outlets, libraries, historical groups, medical groups, or clubs that would have interest in your book. The Internet is a potent tool for your research, as almost every Web site has contact information and links to other, related resources. Many of these organizations also have newsletters or magazines with wide circulations that might mention your book.

Of course, you will also want to contact radio stations, newspapers, magazines, television shows, and any other relevant media outlets. “Most newspapers now have a place on their Web site where you can submit community news. I sent in a picture of my book and a synopsis,” says Walton. Your best bet is to start local; your community media outlets are more likely to run a press release about a local author.

“There are places you never think would be interested in your book. All it takes are a couple of good hits to start the promotional ball rolling. An enthusiastic person on the receiving end of an e-mail can do a lot to promote the book on an author’s behalf,” says Walton.

Badge on My Collar is full of stories about the lives of K-9 dogs, so Walton contacted dog owners, dog breeders, kennels, dog trainers, dog rescue organizations, police departments, search and rescue, K-9 equipment vendors, dog shows, international organizations, and even a Web site that sells dog collars. Yes, the dog-collar site is promoting the book!

Create a Contact List

Before you start making contacts, it’s vital to create a good media contact list. The list will contain more than names and addresses—it’s best to include notes about the media markets, target audience, types of coverage, publication schedule, contact names, and any other relevant information. If you have a specific name and e-mail address to contact, the outlet is much more likely to accept and review your information. It can also be useful to keep track of how many times you have contacted each organization and if you received a response.

Get the Word Out

Once you’ve crafted your message, assessed your audience, and created a contact list, place your press release into a concise, informative e-mail you can send to media outlets. Since many news organizations do not accept attachments, send your press release as a plain-text e-mail, and follow up with a mailed hardcopy.

Send e-mails, make phone calls, write letters, and knock on doors of individuals, organizations, clubs, foundations, and societies—anyone that might be interested in your book. Your enthusiasm for your book’s topic will be obvious when you share it with others. Make sure you follow the law—don’t spam or harass potential media outlets or readers.

Follow Up—Don’t Get Discouraged!

Once you have initiated the first communication with the myriad contacts you’ve discovered, make sure to follow up with an individual. Authors who follow up with initial contacts are much more likely to have a successful promotional campaign and generate interest in their book.

When you make a follow-up call or write an e-mail, be pleasant, direct, helpful, and willing to answer questions. Keep conversations upbeat—don’t get discouraged—so you can maintain a good working relationship with the people on the other end of the line.

Tell the outlet you sent them a news release or an e-mail related to your book. Let them know you are following up to see if they need further information about the book for a story, review, or interview. Offer to send a review copy, and make sure you know your book’s talking points and your PR pitch. If you are contacting an organization or group, offer to visit with them and share some information at their next meeting.

Once you have initial success with local media and organizations, use the stories as leverage to take your campaign to a regional and national level. “A tightly focused strategy can be like a snowball rolling down a hill, gathering more snow along the way. Create a domino effect. The more e-mails sent, the more sales. That’s how my book ended up on a Web site in Tasmania!” says Walton.