Thursday, January 23, 2020

Writers: Make a List of Personal Influencers

By Sara Megibow, @SaraMegibow 

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: When it comes to publicity and promotion, we often have more resources than we think. Agent Sara Megibow shares tips on making the most of your personal influencers--those people in your life who can and will help you promote your book. 

Sara Megibow is a literary agent with kt literary out of Highlands Ranch, CO. She has worked in publishing since 2006 and represents New York Times bestsellers authors including Margaret Rogerson, Roni Loren, Jason M. Hough and Jaleigh Johnson. She specializes in launching debut authors and working on long-term career development and profit strategy with them. She is a graduate of Northwestern University with degrees in Women’s Studies, Gender Studies and American History. Always LGBTQ+ Friendly!

Take it away Sara...

Here’s a publicity/ promotions idea I wanted to share with y’all. It’s called, “Making A List Of Personal Influencers.” I’ve broken my thoughts into three parts - I hope these are helpful!
  • What is a list of personal influencers
  • When to make this list
  • How to use this list
Let’s dive in...

What is a “List Of Personal Influencers”?

Basically, this is a list of people personally connected to you, the author, who are interested in reading your book in advance of publication and who want to review it, give it a shout-out on social media and/or provide promotional coverage.

How do you make your list? 

Open an excel spreadsheet and start documenting people you know personally and interact with frequently. The key word here is “personal” – we are not looking for a list of everyone you follow on twitter. List people who want to read YOUR book and have something to offer your publicity campaign. Keep adding names to this spreadsheet throughout your publishing journey.

Who might be on your list? Here are some ideas:
  • Friends, partners and family
  • Professional organizations with whom you are associated
  • Members of your book club and/or writing group
  • Members of the PTO, the soccer team, church/synagogue/mosque or anyone you know well and see frequently
  • Online reviewers and bloggers with whom you personally and regularly interact
  • Published authors you know personally – especially if they write in the same genre of work as your
  • Your local SCBWI, RWA or SFWA chapter
  • Close, personal social media connections (from twitter, instagram, youtube, Facebook, etc.)
  • The manager and/or event coordinator of your local bookstore(s) – especially independent bookstores
  • Your local librarians and school librarians
  • Your local or regional newspapers, radio stations and magazines – especially if they have a “local news” and/or “books” section
  • The news editor from your alma mater(s)
  • Contacts from conferences to which you regularly attend (ComicCon, regional SCBWI conferences, etc)
  • Have other ideas? Leave them below in the comments! Thanks!

Who should NOT be on your list?
  • Editors at New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Locus or other major trade publications. These are people your publisher will contact.
  • People who just want a free book. Nope – that’s not what this list is for. Those readers can go to the library for free copies of your book.

Include as many details as possible in your list:
  • Names
  • Email addresses
  • Websites
  • Mailing addresses
  • Twitter handles
  • Social media links

Note that some authors have 5 names on their list and some have 50. Anything is ok!

When to make this list?

Sure, some writers start this list right after typing “The End” on their manuscript. But, typically, this exercise becomes useful once you have signed your first book contract.

Once you have a contract, you have a rough release date for your book. Note that release dates usually change (multiple times). This is normal! What we’re looking for is a rough timeline and that comes with the contract.

Regardless of how long it took to get your first book contract and regardless of how long from contract to publication, this is the time to start making your list!

How to use this list?

Some authors are introduced to their publicist early on but most aren’t. Some authors have a generic email address for their publisher’s publicity department while other authors have a dedicated publicist. Some authors schedule a conference call with their publicist before release date and some don’t. 

Don’t compare your experience with other authors – all books and authors and situations are different. Making a list of personal influencers is useful regardless of how your publisher’s publicity department operates.

At *some * point before your book hits bookstores, we share your List Of Personal Influencers with the publisher. As an agent, I typically spearhead this project by emailing an author’s list to the entire team – I copy the author, editor and publicist and I aim to do this 4-6 weeks before release date.

Then, the publisher makes contact with your list of influencers. Some of your people might get ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) or your book. Some might get a personalized reading link via Netgalley or Edelweiss. Either way – these come from the publisher and we’re hoping they turn in to early reviews and publicity.

A couple of final notes:

  • All agents work differently. If we get 100 agents in a room, there will be 101 different perspectives and experiences and opinions. My notes here represent my opinion only – I can’t speak for other agents or how they operate.
  • I ink book deals with traditional publishers – primarily the Big 5 in New York (Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and Penguin Random House). These notes are particularly geared toward Big 5 book releases.
  • I only represent middle grade novels, young adult novels, romance novels and science fiction/ fantasy for the adult market. These notes are particularly geared toward authors with books in these genres.


  1. Excellent post. Thank you so much for this.

  2. Yes, thank you, Sara! I didn't know about this strategy. Thank you for breaking it down so clearly.

  3. Excellent and useful! Thanks.