By Colleen Devine Ellis
Publicity is endeavoring to find ‘free’ promotion for your book through reviews, media, booksellers, librarians, events, and word of mouth from readers. Back in the good ole’ days before online media became the dominate form of information-sharing (yes, many of us remember those days!) there were tried and true paths to publicity success. These were opportunities everyone competed for like Oprah, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, and Sixty Minutes. Every major newspaper had a book review section. Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair and other national magazines could bring a book to the attention of tens of thousands of people who didn’t read more traditional book media. Except for a few trade publications like Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and Library Journal there wasn’t much else that had a national audience for book coverage so oftentimes publicists sent every book to the same places.
Many of these outlets, with the exception of Oprah, still feature book coverage, but most have less space and receive thousands of books every week for review consideration. Competition for review slots is beyond fierce. On the other hand, there are exponentially more media outlets that cover books and literary events. The media world got a lot bigger but also become much more challenging to navigate.
Publishing has changed dramatically along with book media.
Nowadays there are so many publicity options and opportunities that they can be overwhelming to decide which ones will be most effective and sustainable for your book. Before you decide where to send review copies and press releases, consider how you will define success for your publicity. If it’s a New York Times review, do you know their submission criteria? Does your book match the subject matter that they cover? If you are angling for the gold standard of an interview with Terry Gross, have you prepared yourself fully to submit a pitch to her producer? Major media stories are not random and editors and producers expect you to put in work up front; you must if you have any chance of getting through the fray and having a decision-maker even look at your pitch.
Here are considerations for when you are contacting the media for book review consideration:
Submit advance reading copies (ARCs), galleys, and press releases as early as possible, 4-6 months ahead of publication if possible. There should also be an online listing for the book, either on the publisher’s website, your website, or an online bookseller. Check media websites for submission guidelines. For instance, Publisher’s Weekly asks for two copies of an ARC or galley while Library Journal asks for one copy but also a finished copy when the book is published.
This can be a time-consuming process when done thoroughly so plan to devote as much time as you need to find appropriate publications and contacts. There are media listing services available for a fee and/or you can also start a list with people who write the book articles you read.
You can send out a press release to every media contact you have but it is probably wasted effort for the most part. Writers and editors get so many general PR pitches that are sent out en-masse that they often go into the recycle bin without a glance; there’s no other way to handle so much unsolicited information. If you do your homework and spend time on researching and creating specific pitches for media outlets and reviewers or editors your chances of having emails read and books reviewed increases substantially.
When sending out information remember that an editor has to review that info and assign it to someone to read, then a reviewer has to read the book and write the article, all for a pre-determined issue that is planned months before. Sending out material well in advance of publication gives you a much better chance at review consideration. Material received late can mean the difference between a review and rejection. Look for submission guidelines and if you can’t find them, write to someone at the publication to find out more. Don’t lose a review because your galley reached the reviewer too late.
Details are Important
If you don’t know specifications for what a reviewer wants included with a galley or ARC provide a summary of the book along with price, ISBN, pub date, number of pages, an author bio, and phone and email contact information. Help the reviewer understand the subject matter of the book and who the audience is; a thriller, a business book, a memoir for baby boomers.
It’s okay to check to see if your material has been received, usually with an email unless you find instructions that the reviewer prefers to be contacted in some other way. Don’t check back more than once unless the reviewer expressed interest or contacted you initially. Above all, be respectful; these writers and editors receive hundreds of emails a day, many of them unsolicited. They want to find good books to review so make your correspondence as interesting yet brief as possible so that it’s easier to reply back quickly rather than putting off reading a long email that they may never look at again despite their best intentions. Remember that you are competing with hundreds if not thousands of other authors for attention so make your contact into something that they want to read.
- 6 Questions to Ask Before Publicizing Your Book
- Setting Expectations Before You Publish Your Book
- Making Book Promotion Work: The Author/Publisher Relationship
- What Is Your Book Community?
Colleen Devine Ellis, a former publicity manager for Barnes & Noble and the University of Texas Press, runs literary consultant and runs Devine Literary Publicity and Marketing in Austin, Texas.