Friday, September 08, 2017

Let’s Do Launch! Getting Out the Word About Your Book

By Peggy J. Shaw, @peggyjshaw

Part of the How They Do It Series (Special September Guest Event)

Peggy J. Shaw is the author/editor of more than 50 traditionally published books, including titles for Sesame Workshop and Disney. A former senior editor for Dalmatian Press/ Intervisual Books/Piggy Toes Press, she helps writers produce their best manuscripts for submission.

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Take it away Peggy...

So, you’ve written a book, it’s been published, and you’ve got your Sharpie pens ready for the big book launch. Congratulations! But, remember: Your work here is not done. If you want people other than family members and close friends to know about your book, you need to do some PR and marketing. Try these ideas.

Know Your Product. 

Is your book a picture book, YA (Young Adult) or chapter book? Know your product, the age range you’re targeting, and your audience. Are you marketing the book to librarians, teachers, everyday bloggers?

Know Your Audience. 

You can tweet all day long, social media guru Peter Shankman once said, but if your audience is not on Twitter you’re wasting your time. Marketing your book to parents? Find the top mom blogs. Those can be powerful, and most book PR these days is online. See if the blogger will review or mention your book. Teachers? Don’t forget school PR people or head librarians. You might tie-into something they’re doing and get an author visit. (I have a presentation called “My Life on the Street” about writing for Sesame Workshop, which I can tailor to groups of young children or adults.)

Know Your Message. 

Maybe this is the first Civil Rights picture book about the integration of Huntsville, AL, like Hester Bass’s book Seeds of Freedom. Or maybe it’s historical fiction like Vicky Alvear Shecter’s YA novel Cleopatra’s Moon. Market that information. What makes your book unique?

Tie-in with Something. 

Look for a nice tie-in with your book. When I was an editor at Dalmatian Press, my Sesame Workshop book What Makes You Giggle? was marketed well before the newest Tickle Me Elmo toy hit the market—so the book and toy would have a better chance of being mentioned in the media together. We also planned a book called “Love, Elmo” to coincide with Valentine’s Day. And Lynn Cullen’s charming picture book Dear Mr. Washington, was launched in January, and reviewed around the time of George Washington’s birthday in February.

Work with the Media. 

A little research will help you identify some key media people, particularly ones in your region. Find out their deadlines and what they need. Be sure to have a few things ready, like a nice headshot (jpeg for print media), a photo of the cover of the book, and a news release (media kit). Remember that much of public relations is establishing relationships. For local media, facetime can be beneficial. So, drop by to see the editor of the community paper, and bring a media kit. Be courteous and available for interviews. Make sure the editor has your contact information, and if the newspaper does use something about your book, thank the reporter and editor, and then re-post the story link online.

Broadcast: Some authors make appearances on local TV. Does a TV station in your area have a noon show? Consider radio interviews, too. In Atlanta, for example, the NPR stations are doing more talk radio.

Print: Is your paper still doing book reviews? Check first and then send your book and the news release to the right editor. If not, the book will most likely end up in a media “slush pile.”

Online: Having an online presence is important for many reasons, one of which is to give media people a link to your website. Most book PR is online now, so consider Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Some blog sites are advertising based, but often bloggers are happy to interview you.

Post Items Yourself. 

Authors can post stories themselves in some places, like the community news site Doing a signing or making an appearance at a book festival? Write an announcement and post it beforehand. Afterward, post photos from the event and tell readers when and where you’ll be talking about your book next. And remember to post author events on calendars and booklists.

Get Reviews. 

Find reviewers and bloggers who are interested in interviewing you or writing about your book. Consider places that post reviews, like Goodreads. And if you do get a review, post tidbits with the link on social media sites. Consider asking people who “liked” your book on Facebook to do reviews on Amazon.

Utilize Social Media. 

Consider Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your own website, and a blog. Jane Yolen, author of Owl Moon and many other books, posts daily on Facebook, and often on Twitter—interesting, newsy shorts related to her books. She might talk about issues in publishing, other new books, or conferences she’s attending. Her entertaining and informative posts draw readers back to her sites.

Keep your own sites up to date, and make sure that what you post is accurate, relevant, interesting, and helpful. On Facebook, author Jan Karon might post a brief about how she began writing her Mitford books. Then she mentions work on her latest book so that readers will stay interested and have information about her next publication date.

Remember the people who “liked” your book on Facebook and then wrote short reviews for you on Amazon? Re-use the reviews. Post links on your Facebook page and Twitter.

And if you get mentions on other sites—say, a bookstore like Decatur, GA’s Little Shop of Stories—re-use it. Post links to those mentions, and re-post any photos. (Watch for times you may need to add a photo credit.)

Use Photos and Videos.

At a launch party, a book-signing, or small street festival, ask someone to take a casual photo or short smartphone video (under a minute) that can be posted on social media sites, or your blog. I’ve had my picture taken at festivals with parents and young readers holding up their copies of my Sesame Street books. (Ask permission to use the pictures on social media.) And author Lynn Cullen once posted a picture of some of her books at Target, commenting that it never got old hanging out with “old friends.”

Book Festivals and Other Events.

Look for opportunities to be on a book festival panel, or do a signing at a small event. If you have a Christmas book out—like The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia by Susan Rosson Spain and Elizabeth O. Dulemba—consider small gift shops that might like a visit. Offer to come on a Saturday and sign.

Think Outside the Box. 

Look for opportunities to sell yourself and your book. When author Carmen Deedy was planning a sequel to her book The Library Dragon, I was doing PR for an independent school in Metro Atlanta. I contacted Peachtree Publishers and asked about having the book launch in our school’s elementary school library. They agreed, and we had a wonderful party. The school got media attention and we re-used photos on social media. The author and Peachtree PR officers also used the news on their social media sites.

Join Professional Groups. 

SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) offers valuable resources, hosts book signings at conferences, and will put announcements about newly launched books on listservs. Reach out to groups such as American Pen Women and see if they need a speaker. And look for opportunities to do an event at the local library, schools, independent book shops, and Barnes & Noble (ask for the community relations manager). Always take a signed copy of your book to leave with them.

Get Help from a Professional. 

Public relations professionals help authors get publicity. Consider professional guidance to help you schedule book signings, obtain book reviews, produce good media releases, submit your work for awards, and propose you for literary festivals. Seasoned pros, such as Mimi Schroeder at Max Communications, can also help with media kits, social media guidance, websites, and book trailers—either directly or through their contacts.

About What Makes You Giggle?

What makes you giggle? Elmo and his friends want to know!

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