Most authors want to publish their book. And to share their story with the world they have to publicize it. But publicity is murky. Sometimes difficult to navigate. You might find yourself asking, Can I manage publicity on my own? How do I know if I can trust a PR firm? What should I look for in an author-PR firm relationship?
We caught up with Julia Drake, co-founder and president of Wildbound PR, a literary-publicity company that helps authors across the globe gain exposure for their book. In our interview, Drake shared her insight and recommendations on what authors can expect from an author-PR firm relationship.
Transparency in the Plan
The first thing—and most important thing—you should look for in a PR firm is transparency.
A good PR firm will be up front with their publicity plan. They will present a proposal of publicity avenues they believe best suits your book and how they will help you accomplish your goals. This should be a methodical analysis—not randomized. It should be personal to you. And your book.
What if a firm refuses to share details about their publicity plans? Or claims they have a “secret sauce” they can’t share with you?
Leave. Lack of transparency in publicity plans, according to Drake, is typically an indicator of a scam.
Another thing to be wary of: A firm can appear perfect on paper but former clients might not be happy with their work. To recognize if a firm is good for you, reach out to their former clients. Ask if their experiences were positive. Ask if the publicists helped them accomplish their goals. A PR firm should be willing (and excited!) to share former clients with you. It means they’re proud of their former work.
Publicity is hard work. It requires experience and connections with the media to share your book—and not every publicist has the connections that will benefit you most. A publicist should be clear and transparent in what they can do for you.
Collaboration and Expectations
The author-PR firm relationship is a partnership. It’s teamwork. It’s a collaboration. An author who jumps into the action and is willing to collaborate with their publicist will run a stronger campaign than an author who sits on the bench.
A successful author-publicist relationship requires two things: communication and effort.
What are your goals for your book? Do you want to sell a thousand copies? Do you want your book to reach select audiences? Do you want to promote on TV or radio? Communicate your goals to your publicist. And be willing to spend time with them brainstorming publicity avenues.
As with any collaboration, you have to trust your PR firm. So it’s important to find a publicist who connects with your story. (This means they have to read your book!) Some firms read only the book’s summary and the author’s bio; run away if this is what they do. You want a publicist who believes in your story. Someone who has read...
“Do I need to build a platform?”
The short answer: yes. Publishers and agents want you to have a platform so that you can sell your book. But what exactly is a platform?
Platform is a fancy word for audience. When a publisher or agent asks about a platform, they want to know how many people you are reaching, and, more specifically, how many people engage with your content.
So, how do you build a platform?
We sat down with Stephanie Chandler, author of The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan, and expert on author marketing and platform building. In our interview, Stephanie shared invaluable tips on how to build a platform.
The Value of Relevant Content
To build a platform and grow your audience, you need to produce valuable, frequently posted content. Why? Because Google gives priority to sites that update frequently. Every time you create a new post, you’re showing Google that you’re relevant. And you’re giving your audience a reason to follow you. The more content you create, Stephanie explains, the more relevant your site becomes to your audience.
So, what exactly is valuable content?
Find your audience. To optimize your platform—whether that is through an email list, social media, podcasting, etc.—you have to be clear on your target audience. And once you know your audience, every piece of content you create should speak to them. As soon as you stray into content not beneficial to your audience, you lose your audience’s trust—and give them a reason to not return.
Produce relevant content. Your audience wants content that is useful to them. As you produce content, determine how you can best serve your audience. How do you deliver value to your audience? How do you address their challenges, needs, and interests?
Start by considering the questions your followers ask. Do you have content that can specifically answer their questions? Or create content closely related to their questions. If your engagement is slipping, Stephanie notes, it’s probably because your content isn’t relevant to your audience.
Implement SEO. Search engine optimization, SEO, will be your greatest ally. And your worst enemy. Whether you’re producing a blog or running social media accounts, you need to implement SEO into your content. SEO includes keywords and key phrases that target your audience. At Journey Sixty6, we rely on SEO phrases like, “coaching for writers” and “online learning community” to reach our audience. Think about the keywords and phrases your audience will search. And then implement those phrases/words into your content!
Ultimately, the best way to build a platform is to create fresh, relevant content.
Email Is Still Relevant
Once you’ve nailed down your content, you have to actually establish your online presence. Common ways to build a platform include: blogging, social media, speaking events, podcasting. To learn more about these platforms,...
"Why do I need to build a platform?”
From literary agents who want to know about your platform activity in the query letter, to publishers who want to see your book marketing plan, building a platform is an important step to becoming a published writer.
An important piece to building a successful platform is determining where your audience can be found. Does your audience listen to podcasts? Is your audience active on social media? Do your readers prefer blogs?
It’s likely your audience is spread across multiple platforms. And while we want to reach as many potential readers as possible, it’s a feat we likely can’t conquer. A piece of advice: Commit to one platform.
In our recent podcast episode, we talk about five ways you can build a following for your writing. Take a listen and you’ll learn tricks for building a platform through different avenues. This blog post will focus on a specific platform building activity: podcasting.
Podcasting: Is it for Me?
I bet you have a favorite podcast. There’s one for every interest, from decorating, to history, to entrepreneurship, to true crime. Podcasts are ubiquitous; and podcasting is a continuously growing market. A new one pops up every day. Developing your own podcast might seem intimidating. But if you prefer speaking to writing, it’s a great way to build your niche audience. And, hopefully, land a few readers for your book when it’s published.
Producing your own podcast provides consistent opportunities to develop your expertise on a topic and talk about ideas tangential to your book.
So where do you start?
The Podcasting Styles
Before you jump into recording, you need to find your editorial angle. What makes you unique? What can you do to make your podcast unique?
This is as much about what you’re going to talk about as how you are going to package it.
There are different types of podcasts: interview podcasts, conversational co-hosted podcasts, monologue podcasts, and storytelling podcasts. You might consider a hybrid.
The Journey Sixty6 Writing Podcast, for instance, is a hybrid of the interview and conversational style. It works because it allows the founders, Dave and Melissa, to share their expertise and connect personally with their audience as well as provide valuable insights from other experts in the publishing realm.
A couple caveats. The monologue style podcast is particularly personality driven—and demands a host who can hold court for a period of time. And most storytelling podcasts demand writing. Think of the first wildly popular podcast, NPR’s “Serial.”
Often the content will dictate the format.
Whatever you decide, recognize your weaknesses, and lean into your strengths.
In order for your podcast to stand out from the others, you’ll need to find a format that you’re not fighting against, but feels natural and works for your content.
How to Successfully...
What is a query letter? And what should you include in a query letter?
A query letter convinces a literary agent to read your work. Think of it as a sales piece. It’s your first (and sometimes your only opportunity) to present your book in a simple, concise manner so that an agent can easily understand your book’s premise and quickly decide if they want to read more.
It goes without saying, a query letter should be clean. There should be no grammatical mistakes nor spelling errors. It should also be short. A strong query will be no more than three short paragraphs. (The recommended is two!)
What else should you consider?
To get the insider scoop, we recently interviewed New York literary agent Miriam Altshuler, agent to Anne Tyler, Joseph Campbell, and Nadine Gordimer. After more than 30 years in the publishing world, Altshuler recommends that you include in a query letter these three things.
An eye-catching query letter needs a strong elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a marketing tool that summarizes your book. It’s short, concise, and makes the agent want to read more. Its purpose is to immediately hook an agent into your book. (Or a reader into buying your book.)
How do you create a pitch? Altshuler recommends you visit a local bookstore and read the flap copy of books in your genre. Flap copy is a book’s summary and typically found on the inside of a hardcover copy. As you read through different flap copy, determine which pitches grab your attention best. And then model your pitch based on these.
An important part of the pitch—a part new writers overlook—is explaining what your book is about. Agents want authors to recognize that a book “has to have a heart—it has to explore something. It’s not just a story of two characters. It’s not just an idea.” Your pitch must explain what the ‘heart’ of your book is.
The best way to do this is to break your pitch into simple terms: “Character A meets Character B and explores X.” Then you can spend 1-2 sentences explaining what ‘X’ is.
In non-fiction writing, briefly explain the idea of your book and why your take on it matters.
If you can concisely explain what theme your book explores, then an agent will be more interested in your query.
Agents receive hundreds of queries a week. And the queries that stand out are personalized, thoughtful letters.
As you write your query letter, think about the ways you can ooze thoughtfulness. For starters, send out individual emails to agents. Do not clump agents into one email! That shows that you don’t see the value of individual agents—and what they offer the writers they represent.
You also want to maintain a respectful tone. Agents often read through query letters on the weekends or at night. They’re taking time out of their day to consider representing you. The least you can do is be respectful.
“Why do I need a social media following?”
The simple answer: Because agents and publishers want you to have an established following. They want to know how you will reach your audience when it’s time to promote your book.
We recently spoke with Natalie Papier, owner of Home Ec.-Op and soon-to-be author, about how she grew her Instagram following from a few thousand to over 130,000 in a few short years.
Natalie shared four tips on how to grow your social media following that you can immediately start using to grow your own following today.
Establish Your Content
To grow your social media following, find your tribe—and understand the content they’ll gobble up.
Snoop around Natalie’s IG account, and you’ll see that she serves up exactly what her audience wants: delicious images with plenty of behind-the-scenes details and tips on how to design from the heart.
Not to mention she seasons all her posts with a dash of authenticity—making her approachable—someone with whom you’d want to have a coffee date with. (We all know that social media is called “social” for a reason.)
Your expertise may not be design, like it is for Natalie, but you can learn from her strategy.
First, determine what your audience wants and lean into your experiences and hard-earned wisdom. Provide some inspiration, along with some how-tos, and maybe even a thought-provoking question to engage your audience.
Natalie speaks about what she knows best and shares her triumphs while also not being afraid to share her failures. This is where the magic happens on social media: when you show your humanity. It gives followers something to connect with on an emotional level. And connection is the key to getting people to share your content and come back for more.
Natalie built her following by posting regularly, posting to her IG Stories daily and her account a few times a week. Of course, “regular” is different for each person. The important thing to remember is that if you’re not posting regularly, your content is buried by those nasty algorithms.
Content is prioritized that is liked and shared. And the only way to get likes and shares is to post engaging content regularly. It’s a virtuous circle.
It can be scary committing to regular posting (we recommend three to five times a week at the least). You might wonder if you have enough to say. Some people tackle this problem by creating an editorial calendar. Plan ahead (even write the posts in advance) if you fear you won’t be able to come up with the content in the moment, like Natalie does.
There are plenty of online resources (such as Hootsuite) that provide calendars with prompts on what to share. That way you’re never stumped.
Get the Conversation Going
Natalie’s great strength is her ability to connect with her audience. One of the primary ways she does this is by asking questions at the...
Querying an agent can be exhausting and terrifying. There are a multitude of ways to query an agent, ranging from writers’ conferences to emailing a submission. But there is another way to query that is not as well-known: Twitter pitch events.
Twitter pitch events are a virtual opportunity for unpublished authors to pitch their manuscripts to literary agents and/or editors. If an agent or editor likes your work, they will request more material from you. And, hopefully, this will lead to a deal.
In this blog post, we share the benefits and drawbacks to querying through Twitter pitch events, as well as include three of the most popular pitch events that take place annually.
Participation in a Twitter pitch event can help you test interest for your story. You can search through other Tweets, learn about books within your genre, and determine if there is a market for your story.
Pitch events are a great means to make connections in the writing world (and as we frequently reiterate, connections are the best way to land a book deal!) A pitch event allows you to get opinions on your work from other writers. And if you’re searching for a beta reader or critique partner, you might find someone within your genre.
A Twitter pitch event will also help you improve your pitching skills. Twitter allows only 280 characters per a Tweet. So, you will have to play around with a single sentence or two short sentences that accurately represent your story—and make you stand out from the crowd.
If you’re unable to share the premise of your story in a single sentence, or two sentences, then you might need to reconsider your work. A pitch should be short and to the point. And your story should be easily explained in a short amount of time. Agents are short on time, and are looking for strong opening hooks that will inform them of the most important information in your story.
The most obvious benefit to a Twitter pitch event is the potential to land an agent or editor. If an agent or editor is interested in your work, they will like or favorite your Tweet and then request more material.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people participate in Twitter pitch events. Throughout these events, thousands of Tweets will be published. And if you’re not active on Twitter prior to the event, then the algorithm will work against you. It is difficult to get seen if you’re not active on Twitter.
A low success rate is another drawback to pitch events. Because thousands of Tweets are published, and because only a few agents and editors participate, it’s challenging to land a deal. You might have a wonderful manuscript that gets buried beneath other Tweets.
Even if you do land an agent or editor, they might not be the right fit for you. This can be frustrating since you spent time and energy constructing your query. But there is no guarantee that you will land a deal, much less land an agent or editor who are the best...
When you’re writing a book, two questions first-time writers most often ask are: How do I land a book deal? and How do I market it so it is read?
We sat down with Robin Zachary, author of Styling Beyond Instagram: Take Your Prop Styling Skills from the Square to the Street, who shared her roundabout path to landing a book deal and how she plans to promote her book to increase sales immediately following its release and also in the years to come.
In this blog post, you will learn the best approaches to land a book deal, and how to market your book to increase book sales.
All You Need is a Connection
Publishing houses receive dozens, if not hundreds, of manuscript submissions a day. Their process of elimination is brutal and quick. And if you don’t make an immediate impression, your manuscript will be rejected. The rejection doesn’t mean your book is “bad,” it just might not be a good fit for a particular publisher, as Zachary found out.
At a conference for creatives, Zachary attended multiple workshops and seminars with published authors who shared their experience getting published. Most of them said, “The publisher found me.” Zachary wondered, “What about the rest of us?”
Later at the conference Zachary sat down with a publisher who expressed that her book idea wasn’t “publishable.” Tough words. So tough, Zachary decided she likely would self-publish the book and use it as a teaching tool.
But things quickly shifted when she had a chance meeting with an acquaintance at that same conference. Zachary shared her idea, and her friend said, “That sounds like a book the publisher of my book would be interested in!” A few weeks later, Zachary’s friend reached out for a book proposal she could pass on to the publisher.
Often the best way to land a book deal is through a connection like this. It’s a warm introduction. The person acts as a proxy for trust.
That being said, you also should be looking to ways to nurture relationships and support people you know. Give without the expectation of gaining. You just never know when you might receive a gift in return.
Attend a Conference
Many people attend conferences and writer’s workshops with the expectation that they will find an agent or land a book deal with a publisher. But often these workshops are intermediate steps to landing a deal. View these gatherings as opportunities to learn from other people’s experiences, learn more about the industry, make connections, and share your unique ideas.
You might not land a book deal, but you’ll create valuable relationships—that might pay off like they did for Zachary. You never know who might have a connection!
Market Your Book to Your Ideal Audience
While you’re writing your book, you need to begin to think about how to market your book to increase sales. In fact, even as you write your book you should be...
“I have a manuscript, but is it ready for submission?”
Maybe. Maybe not.
There’s no magical formula for what will catch an editor’s attention. Sometimes editors just follow their gut.
But with years of publishing experience under our belt, we know a few things about what manuscripts catch the attention of editors—and which ones are trashed.
Check out our 8 must-dos to get an editor’s attention.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road—Writer’s Guidelines
One of the most basic yet important steps is to follow the guidelines established by publishing houses. Guidelines are your guide in getting one step closer to being published. This is a step you can’t skip, but aspiring writers often bypass.
Publishing houses have varied and strict guidelines on how to submit material. Before you submit a manuscript, research the houses you want to reach out to. Determine whether there is a specific word count, a letter to be included, or other necessary guidelines to be completed before submission.
If you have a personal connection who can get your work in front of an editor, you may be able to bypass this step. If not, your writer’s guidelines are your first step to making the connection!
Publishing houses have their own niches. And they have a definitive audience in mind whom they want to serve. This is true for magazines and book publishers. It’s important that you recognize what stories the publishing house is interested in. Figure out what they want. If you don’t have material that fits into the house’s niche, don’t waste your time on a submission.
If your material does relate, then think about the audience the house wants to serve. Ask yourself: “Who is their audience? Is my manuscript a good fit for this audience? Do I have an expertise that would benefit their ideal audience?” Make sure your material provides some sort of value to their audience. And in the pitch letter (if they ask for one), make sure to reference your understanding of their target audience.
Hook ‘Em to Win ‘Em
Editors are drowning in unsolicited manuscripts. If you want yours to be the one that pulls them up for air, you have to hook them. Your first sentence/paragraph of your manuscript must breathe some energy into the editor—at the very least, make them think “This is fresh! And they can write!”
Editors have limited time. They scan the first paragraph and might skip to the conclusion. But they typically will not read the middle. You don’t have time to build up to some dazzling insight or prove you have writing chops.
One caveat: when writing your opening, stay away from clichés—ideas and phrases. Clichés reflect unsophisticated thinking and writing. Find a unique angle on your subject.
Also, create some tension that demands the editor’s attention.
If you’re looking to pitch an article, do some...
Writing a book is not a solo act. You need the support of editors and readers. Launching a book isn’t a solo act, either.
You need a team—a book launch team—to create buzz beyond your immediate circle in the weeks leading up to its release.
Recently, we spoke with book launch manager Kaitlyn Bouchillon, who explained what a book launch team is and how to optimize the reach of your team.
Book Launch Team? Never Heard of It
A book launch team is a group of people who volunteer to support your book’s release. They are your cheerleaders. They are your support team from behind the scenes.
You provide your members with early access to your book, either a digital copy or an ARC (advanced reader copy). This way, your team knows exactly what your book is about—the message, the characters, the storyline. They’re prepared to talk about your book. And share it with the public. Essentially, they market your book before its release date.
Book launch teams are not confined to self-publishers. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, you can request a launch team to work with your marketing team. It is possible to manage your own launch team. Many do to save money.
But, managing a launch team can also be stressful. You’re in charge of securing reviews for your book and encouraging your team members to promote your work—which can be awkward for some people who aren’t used to asking for help. You have to tell them what to post, and when to post. In the weeks leading up to your book launch, this may cause additional stress to your already busy life.
So, what should your launch team do?
Reviews! Reviews! Reviews!
A reader will be interested in your book based on the blurb or cover. They will then read reviews about your book to determine if they should buy it. Reviews are important for you book sales and should be an expected part of your launch team.
Amazon rank books depending on their reviews. If a book receives regularly posted reviews, it will receive a higher ranking. On Goodreads, members can catalog which books they want to read, are currently reading, or have read. If your launch team members catalog your book on Goodreads, your book will gain traction.
Reviews are a staple to a book launch. And a necessity if you want to increase book sales.
Social Media Is Your Greatest Ally
One of the best ways to promote your book is through social media.
These postings range from serious, long posts reserved for personal blogs or Facebook. To fun videos on TikTok, shortened reviews on Instagram, and book cover postings on Twitter and Pinterest.
The buzz on social media will encourage potential readers to check out your book on Amazon or Goodreads. The more traffic for your book, the better!
I Want a Team—Now What?
Your first step is to outline your main goals. Do you want more social media shares? Do you want more book reviews? What do you care about the most? Determining your...
Where do you find an agent? How do you query them? What if they reject your work?
Querying an agent can be downright daunting. You first wonder, Where do I find an agent? And once you find a handful, your inside screams, “She’ll probably laugh at my writing!”
We sat down with literary agent Adria Goetz who shared her tips on querying an agent, what to include in your query letter, and why you should be querying agents, even if you’re rejected the first time.
How to Query an Agent
There are a couple different ways to query agents.
Dig into the guide books available at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon, which provide information about various agents. Check out Guide to Literary Agents 2020—the most popular guide book out there.
Conferences are another great place to connect with agents. Throughout the conference, you have opportunities to meet face-to-face and pitch them your project.
But don’t expect a contract. While some authors successfully connect with agents, the reality is agents rarely pick up authors from conferences. Adria, in fact, has only signed one or two agents from a conference.
Traditional Querying: Still the Best Route
The best way to connect with literary agents, come to find out, is the traditional way.
Adria says she connects with most of her clients through the email slush pile of manuscript submissions she receives. Traditional querying is a great means to reach out to individual agents you have researched. You are solely querying those you’re interested in—and who (if you’ve done your research) might be interested in your writing.
The downside to this method is the overwhelming volume of manuscript submissions agents receive on the daily. You’re not the only person querying an agent. You have 20 seconds to make an impression, or it will likely be rejected.
Tweet, Tweet, Tweet: Connecting with Agents via Twitter
Another option for querying is through Twitter, where agents lurk. Once you follow a couple of agents, you will follow the breadcrumbs to more agents. Follow them. Comment on their posts. Become a familiar name to a handful of agents who cover writers of your genre.
But Adria says, do not (do not!) DM these agents with your pitches. Instead, participate in Twitter pitch event days.
Throughout the year, Twitter designates a few days for pitch events. During these events, agents are actively looking for fresh projects.
You can tweet a pitch of your project using a specific hashtag. For example, #PitMad is used to tweet a pitch for unpublished novels. This is the only hashtag for nonfiction projects. Another hashtag to check out is #PassOrPages. It’s used for agent feedback on queries.
Editors and agents scroll through these hashtags and request to see your project if your work piques their interest. If you’re nervous about querying, this is a great opportunity. Agents request to see your work rather than you submitting a manuscript and...