Friday, January 21, 2011

Be your own book publicist

When it comes to book promotion, most authors are either paralyzed because they don't know what to do or where to begin, or they're throwing money at the latest tactic because they've heard that's what everyone else is doing. I understand both, but neither is good.

The chronic, widespread paralysis is caused either by a lack of information or information overload -- either you're clueless about what you should be doing, or you've read so much about book promotion that you can't sort out what does and doesn't apply to you. The "tactic of the month" approach comes from a lack of information about the best strategy to use -- and every book deserves its own strategy.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when starting the book publicity and promotion process:
  • Who did I write the book for?
  • Where do I need to be to reach them? What do they read, watch, or listen to? Are they online, offline, or both? 
  • What's the best strategy for reaching them? Should I leverage my networks, tap into the research I did for the book, or focus on a specific tactic?
  • How much time do I have for book promotion?
  • What are the most cost-effective tactics, and will they help me get my book title in front of my target audience?
  • What promotional activities do I enjoy the most, and are they the types of things that will help me reach the right people for this book?
  • Is there anything I should outsource to someone who's better suited for the task?
  • What are the one or two things I have time for that will have an impact?
If you want to sell copies of your book, you have to promote it yourself -- there's just no way around it. And you've got to answer these questions if you're going to make progress. Learn what will make a difference with your book -- not anyone else's -- when you register for "Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz," the popular e-course running from January 31-February 25, 2011. You'll learn more about what works and what doesn't, the best options for your title, and, best of all, how to do it! We've got a few more openings for the course, so join us and enjoy the benefits of personal coaching in a group forum environment. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The press release isn't dead yet

I'm sure that Heather Whaling's column, "10 alternatives to sending a press release," caused many people to breathe a sigh of relief. For whatever reason, non-publicists are often intimidated by press releases. I sometimes get the impression in my workshops that people would rather give a speech than write a press release. For those who don't like them, you'll find a couple of different options on Heather's list that are a good fit for your communication style and ability, so give it a read.

I'd like to take her column a step further and offer reasons why you still want to use press releases, though. There's a lot of chatter about whether these tools are still effective now that we've got Twitter, Facebook pages, websites, and so many other ways to get our information in front of our target audiences. They are. And here are five reasons why:
  1. A well-written press release will still get used. This is especially true when you're sending it to weekly newspapers, smaller dailies, trade magazines, e-zines, and other outlets that are looking for the information you're offering because it's relevant or important to their readers, viewers, etc. And by "well-written," I don't mean award-winning. Just get to the point quickly and include the facts. (If you're an author writing a book announcement press release, read my tips on how to do that. If you want a fill-in-the-blanks template, you might like this resource.)
  2. A distributed press release is an aggressive alternative to the more passive options on Heather's list. Oh yeah, sure, you can put a YouTube video up there or write a blog posting about whatever you've got going on, but people -- including journalists -- have to come looking for it. When you send a press release, you're shouting, "Hey! Look at me!" (And oh-by-the-way, make sure that any press release service you use actually sends the thing out. Some of the free sites don't -- your release only sits on their site waiting to be found.)
  3. When your press release gets picked up, you're reaching people who aren't on your e-newsletter list or missed out on your blog tour interviews, etc. You're expanding your audience and building your business.
  4. A press release posted in your website's press room is a two-fer: (1) It helps search engines find your site and all your organization has to offer while (b) it provides journalists searching for information about your topic with helpful or relevant content presented in a format that works for them.
  5. When you become known as someone who provides good information in press releases, you get added to journalists' contact databases. They'll start calling you for interviews without you reaching out to them because they trust and respect you. And that's when your publicity program shifts to automatic pilot.
Why do you think press releases are still effective?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Doing good? Tell somebody about it

Waste Management’s High Acres Landfill in Perinton, N.Y. seems to be an ongoing source of community controversy. Most recently, the landfill’s expansion proposal was opposed by residents concerned about air quality and other issues. I haven't seen or heard much positive publicity for this site in the local news -- outside of its cameo appearance in an early episode of "Undercover Boss" on CBS -- until recently. An article in our weekly community newspaper announcing that High Acres received national recognition for its "green" community relations activities seemed like a nice change -- but it also made me wonder why I didn't know more about what the company does right.

I learned through the article that High Acres was recently honored as the Wildlife Habitat Council's Corporate Lands for Learning Rookie of the Year. The award recognizes the company’s work to be a good neighbor by creating a more than 400-acre wildlife habitat for community-based activities. These include Eagle Scout projects, bio-diversity and college field studies, migratory bird reviews, habitat enhancements, removing invasive species, public trails, and presentations to local groups.

There’s no doubt that High Acres management is trying to counter negative perceptions of the landfill and its environmental impact by transforming some of its acreage into an impressive community resource. But I live in Perinton, I'm an outdoorsy-walking/biking/hiking-kind-of-gal, and I'm a media consumer, so how is it that I'm not more aware of High Acres' contributions to my community? I suspect it's possible that the company's communications resources are focused on responding to criticism and complaints about the proposed expansion or other negative issues and don't have enough time for positive community outreach. Or maybe they're doing it and I'm not in the target demographic. (But as a taxpayer, how can I not be?)
It's not enough to be a good corporate citizen -- people have to know about it, too. National recognition for facilities like the High Acres Nature Area is validating, but that doesn't help much if the local community is unaware. Companies of all sizes need to find a way to spread the word about what they're doing right so it helps diminish the impact of perceived wrongs. And if you can't share news of positive activities or accomplishments through the media (because, well, they like controversy more than they like stories about class field trips to a corporate-owned wildlife habitat adjacent to a landfill), then go straight to the people:
  • Invite local groups on guided tours.
  • Develop environmental educational programs for schools.
  • Staff a booth at local festivals and engage passerbys not with brochures but with wildlife or other tangibles that will entice them to visit or learn more about the habitat.
  • Present a wildlife slide show at the library.
  • Teach a class at the recreation center.
  • Host technology recycling events.
  • Lead guided birding tours.
  • Identify the community's key influencers and invite them to volunteer or serve on advisory committees.
It's possible that High Acres does all this and more and yet isn't on my radar screen. Regardless, High Acres obviously understands that when a business has any potential for controversy, it's important to counter that by giving back to the community, as it does. But you have to also tell the community what you're doing, too. The old Nike slogan -- "Just do it" -- isn't enough. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

How to plan and execute a virtual book tour

My guest column today over at the Savvy Book Marketer blog addresses how to plan and execute a virtual book tour. I've provided step-by-step information along with a fill-in-the-blanks "pitch" form you can use and a sample pitch.

The information on how to plan a blog tour isn't limited to authors, though. It's relevant to anyone promoting a product, service, mission, cause, or organization. Check out the blog post and tell us there, or here, what you think and how we might be able to help you even more.