It seems like it never stops, does it? There’s always news and that’s a fact, but book marketing has become incrementally more challenging in the last few years. I’ve even had reporters and producers at major shows tell me this news cycle is more chaotic than anything they’ve seen in recent years. So what’s an author to do? Well first off, know that your book promotion can succeed in all of this noise, or even in spite of it.
A lot of authors feel like they can’t make any headway, and I 100% get how that feels. But here’s the thing: you can absolutely make strides in your book marketing. You just have to get creative.
In fact, when the news cycle is as chaotic as this, with stories changing on a dime, this creates some vast opportunity for many of you who have written non-fiction books. If you can’t see what your tie-ins might be, it could be worth your time working with a professional to help you brainstorm some topics and conversation tethers you can speak to. Let’s chat about your book promotion goals and ensure you understand how we could possibly collaborate on creating more opportunities!
1. Fiction authors need to stay focused:
Fiction authors, in particular, feel a little lost right now. You open Facebook and get slammed with a bunch of stories about politics and you think: is anyone going to see my stuff? The short answer is: it depends on how you’re using social media. The longer answer is: maybe social media isn’t the answer for you. But what is important are the things that will drive readers to you. There’s a lot of escapism going on right now. Regardless of what side of the political fence you are on, escapism is at an all-time high. And what’s the first thing to get a boost when escapism soars? Things to escape into. Movies, books, TV. Fiction actually isn’t on a downtrend, not at all. In fact, fiction is bigger than ever. So instead of getting sidelined by the media, or feeling like you need to sit this one out till things calm down, here’s a spoiler for you: they won’t. In fact, if this is the new norm, you’ll need to find a way to work within this new, seemingly endless breaking news cycle.
My recommendation is to not let yourself get lazy. Keep pushing your book in the right ways. Now that we’re in a key window to holiday sales, why not start planning your strategies NOW? Don’t wait on this. Because while it’s easy to get distracted, it’s also a key time to get out there.
2. Jump on the media spin:
One of the things I’ve learned in the work I’ve done with authors is that the media is always looking for a new way to spin an old story, or a spin a breaking news story. So if you can speak to something, speak up. With all of this breaking news, there’s probably a story you can speak to, or comment on, or offer your insight. If you’re an expert in a particular category or market, speak to that market. A good book marketing person knows to always be ready with a story, or spin of some sort.
For example, during the Kavanaugh hearings there was a story about how mothers are speaking to their young sons about this. Are you a parenting expert who could speak to this? If you’d rather stay away from something that’s terribly volatile, what about speaking to all of these “emotional support” animals and in a few unfortunate cases, rodents, people are trying to smuggle on planes. Are people really that much more anxious or is this just a ridiculous trend with people dragging squirrels and peacocks on board (or trying to)?
When I set out to plan a book marketing campaign, I look to the author’s history in terms of their resume. And this isn’t always isolated to non-fiction. An example of this is a New Adult author we worked with who wrote a book about a young girl who was forced into marriage at a very early age.
In fact, we have a few authors who have worked in, or become an expert in a particular area they are now writing in – even those authors who have written genre fiction.
Remember Tom Clancy? He was often called upon as a military expert, because of all of the exhaustive research he did for his books.
The media is always in need of an expert. Why not you?
3. Non-fiction authors need to remain vigilant:
You may have gotten this far into this piece and are thinking: I hadn’t thought of this as a book marketing strategy! And if you’re ready to add it to the list of book promotion ideas that you want to start working on, then I recommend that you remain vigilant on where these conversations are coming from. Is this a more liberal media spin, or is your argument better had in the conservative media? Can you speak to both? If so, I recommend identifying the key topics you feel you can speak to and then always be on the alert for these stories. Be aware of what’s happening in your specific market and be ready to pounce when a story erupts that you can speak to.
4. Understand the media timing:
If a story hits the news and you have something to say, you’ll need to pounce immediately. We had an author who wrote about dealing with a troubled kid. A week after a school shooting he came to us wanting to tackle his book marketing and push him to that message, which is fine in theory, but the firestorm of media that develops after a school shooting, or any big breaking news event, evaporates quickly. This means you need to be ready with your pitch and with your media contacts, as we’ll discuss in a bit. How long do you have to pitch someone? Not long. If a national situation happens that you can speak to, you’ll need to begin pitching the media on this right away. Read this article on how early you should start marketing your book for more info on how to do this.
5. Be blogging:
One thing I can tell you is this, blogging for non-fiction authors, in particular, is really important. Especially if you’re an author who feels they have a topic they’d like to use to get some national media attention. If you’ve pitched the media for a topic, they are going to check your website and blog, maybe even your social media presence, but they’re going to Google you, for sure. So having a voice out there, even if it’s just via your blog, is a solid book marketing strategy. How much should you be blogging? Once a week if possible, more if it’s reasonable. And the posts don’t need to be long. In fact, concise blogging in 500 words is fine, as long as you get your post across.
6. Speak locally to a national issue:
We’ve talked a lot about slanting your book marketing to national issues, but what about local media? A lot of authors overlook local media because they feel it’s not big enough, or sexy enough or whatever. But here’s the thing: local media loves local authors. So if you haven’t started pitching yourself to these markets, it’s time to sit down and flex your book promotion muscle in that direction.
The key will be, really asking yourself how a national issue could affect your local market – and creating a unique spin on that message.
7. Start building your media list:
Being ready to hit the ground running is often 90% of your book marketing battle, so start researching now to build a solid list of the media you might want to target. For example, if your topic is health-related, you’re going to want to find journalists or producers who cover a health beat. And often you can find these by reading the publication masthead or just watching the show and looking for the producers to target. Building your list now will save you a lot of time when breaking news hits the wire.
8. Remember the HUH factor:
So what does HUH mean? It means Hip, Unique and Helpful. Your story or media pitch should fall somewhere in that area. It doesn’t have to be all three, but it should be whenever possible. So if one of your book marketing goals is to pitch yourself to the media and you want to get more attention for your story, make sure it passes the HUH test. This is something the media will look for as well.
Finally, remember that despite whatever else is going on in the world, we are entering a season where people are craving fluff pieces, or feel-good stories. An example of this is one we did several years ago, around a book that talked about why humor is so good for kids. The book marketing pitch we led with was: Give Your Kids the Gift of Laughter this Holiday Season, which got tons of buzz online and off. It was fun, helpful and really resonated with the time of year when we tend to want to turn our attention to things that make us feel better.
By the same token, as December moves into January, we’ll also be looking at New Year, New You stories, too. Keep in mind, that unique will be very key, especially in the new year, because there are no shortage of these pieces, so whatever you do it should have a different spin on whatever else is out there.
What are some ways that you’ve found to break into the breaking news cycle with your book promotion? Please share in the comments.