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Promoting your work: PR and press tips for writers
Promoting your book (and yourself) is an essential skill for writers, so we've put together some handy advice to get you started.
Promoting your book (and yourself) is an essential skill for writers; the more people who hear about your writing, the better. You might have the support of a professional publicist, or be responsible for promoting your book on your own. Either way, preparation is key to ensure you spend your time wisely and get the best results possible.
Spread the word
There are some tried and tested methods for spreading the word within the book community.
- Events: Visits to local libraries, book shops and schools can all help to build your audience and translate into book sales. If you're based in Scotland, you might be eligible to join our Live Literature Author Directory so that organisations can find and book you for events.
- Press: Book reviews, features and interviews all count as press publicity. Traditionally newspapers and magazines, "press" could also mean appearing as a guest on a podcast, or writing a post for a popular website.
- Social media: A cost-free way to grow your profile that's completely within your control. Read our guide to using social media to promote your work before you begin.
It's important to think about what you want to achieve and how you want to be seen by potential audiences. This isn't about lying or pretending to be somebody you're not. But it does mean thinking carefully about what makes you and your book unique, appealing and interesting. You might want to bear in mind:
Your goal: Are you trying to get your name known? Sell a particular book? Promote your back catalogue? Be realistic about how much time you have and what you can do with it - it's better to plan room for growth than to overstretch yourself and have to drop a plan halfway through.
Your brand: How do you want to be seen? Are you an authority on your subject? You need to think about your audience too, and what they're most likely to want to hear from you.
Your boundaries: Think carefully about where you want to draw the lines in your personal life. Journalists and bloggers may ask questions you are uncomfortable with, and it's good to know what you're willing and unwilling to share about your private life ahead of time.
Your key message: Whether you want someone to buy a book, sign up to your website or book you for events, it's important to pick one clear message and focus on that. You can always adapt or change it later if needed.
Find an angle
If you have a book coming out with a publisher, you may be in the happy position of coordinating your PR efforts with their own. The size and style of the publishing house will have an effect on the amount of support they're able to give. Even with professional help, it's incredibly useful to think about how you might present your book (and yourself) to media outlets in a way that will attract attention. After all, nobody knows more about you than you do!
- Human interest. A good story equals good publicity. Is your book autobiographical? Did you go to unusual lengths to research it? Did you or do you have an unusual job? Does your book feature controversial subject matter? Was your nan the first woman in space? A really strong hook doesn't to be closely linked to your book, but it helps if you can make some kind of connection
- Expert comment. Are you considered an expert in your particular field? If so, keep an eye out for current events which you could offer an expert opinion on and contact newspapers to offer comment in a timely manner
- Author comment. Think about particular days of the year when newspapers might be looking for author comment, such as NaNoWriMo, Book Week Scotland, World Book Day or World Book Night. There might be other days that link to themes in your book, such as Mother's Day, Father's Day or St Andrew's Day
- Seasonal events. Think about where you can offer well-written, seasonal content that relates to your book. For example 'ten books that make great Christmas presents for teenagers' or 'five books that will fill you with the joys of spring'
- Competitions. If you have some spare books, you could offer to run a competition with a local newspaper. Call their marketing department to find out what their minimum prize fund is
- Stunts. If you have a great imagination and are creatively inclined, a stunt is a good way of attracting media attention. You could create the world's largest sculpture made entirely of books or make an outfit entirely from the pages of your book and model it in a public place. Don't forget to invite photographers along by sending a photocall invitation to the picture desks of your target publications
Be sure to keep in touch with your publisher even when their support has quietened down (which it will do after the initial buzz of a book launch). Most publishers don’t have the time or budget to put lots of promotional resources behind a writer, especially if that author has yet to prove themselves in terms of sales. Publisher cutbacks and a competitive marketplace means that you will be expected to be hands-on in promoting your book.
Writing a press release
A press release is a simple, professional way of sharing your news with relevant publications and platforms. Whether you are holding an event, writing about your publishing deal or announcing something exciting, a press release is the best way to do it. Here are a few handy tips for crafting newsworthy press releases:
- Remember that press releases should contain news. Stick to one subject or story, and present the facts rather than your opinion
- Create an angle or ‘hook’ for your subject, linking it to current news, local interest or seasonal events where possible
- Include a clear 'call to action' which is closely linked to your publicity goals. This could be a suggestion to buy tickets for an event, a link to a local bookseller or information on how to find you online
- Be brief and direct. Try to stick to one page, two at the most, and put the most important information at the top of the press release.
- Remember to include all the essential information - who, what, where, when, why
- Don't forget contact details! Journalists may need to get in touch for more information, so include a professional email address and website if you have one. Press releases can be widely shared, so don't include your home address or personal telephone number.
Pitching your ideas
Pitching an interview or contributed article idea directly to publications is a good way to secure solid coverage. If you're working with a publisher, it's a good idea to discuss their expectations around pitching ahead of time so you both know exactly what's happening and when.
- Make a list of the themes and subjects that you are comfortable talking about or could be considered an 'expert' in. If these subjects relate in some way to your book, so much the better
- Make a list of publications that you would like to target (including all the newspapers which serve your local area)
- Research your target publications - either buy copies or browse through them at your library and look out for features that you could potentially contribute to. Remember that the features don't need to relate directly to books. For example, a local newspaper might have a slot for well known locals to talk about what they love most about their home-town, or a national newspaper might be looking for public figures to contribute to light-hearted weekend pieces such as 'how I spend my weekend.' Although not book-related, these features are popular and will assist in raising your profile. The usual procedure is that you offer to contribute a piece to these features in return for a blurb about your book at the end
- Prepare your pitch. Keep it short and to the point - a brief outline of which feature you would like to contribute to, with an outline (preferably bullet-pointed) of what your contribution would consist of, a short bio and your publicity expectations (e.g. a short blurb about your book at the end of the piece).
- If you manage to place an idea or angle, be sure to ask for a mention for your book and a link to your website to appear somewhere in the piece. You could also share the coverage on social media once it's published, and tag the journalist and publication if appropriate