Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Best Timing for Book Publicity

To everything, there is a season, and after many years of helping authors publicize their work, I’ve learned that some seasons that are better than others for certain aspects of book promotion. Here are my recommendations on timing for book publicity (note: this is general advice based on my experience as a publicist; your experiences may be different, depending on the kind of book you’ve written, whether you are traditionally or self-published with ebooks or print versions (or both), and the specific media and venues you plan to approach):

1. The best time to promote a new book: the first 6-8 months after its release
The first 6-8 months that a book is out is the best time period to promote it, because that is when authors are most likely to receive yes nods from booksellers and members of the media for signings and interviews (except for those topics that tie in with breaking or hot news topics: then an older book can be considered timely). When I work with new clients, I tell them to plan on spending the majority of their promotional time, travel, and budget during the first 6 months after release; after that, I recommend they get back to work on their next books.
2. The best time for book signings and tours: spring, summer, and early fall
Booksellers are more apt to say yes to signings in the spring, summer, and early fall, especially in those areas of the country where winter weather might be an issue. Most bookstores don’t want to host authors during the holidays; they have enough traffic in their stores at that time. And many of them don’t begin to set event dates on their calendars until after the start of the new year.
3. When to begin calls to book spring, summer and early fall signing tours: January – March
See #2 above – most booksellers start filling out their spring, summer, and fall schedules right after the new year. Big name bookstores will sometimes book signings months in advance, so be prepared to start early for those venues that are highly sought after.
4. The worst time for book tours: late November – early January
Winter is quiet for booksellers, but it can be a good time for presentations to clubs and professional organizations (although many organizations set their schedules early, so plan to start calling at the beginning of the year to obtain speaking spots).
5. The best time to hold giveaways for new books: just prior to or immediately after release, and ongoing
To help drive initial reviews and buzz, giveaways are best held just before a book is released or immediately after its release date. Some reader sites have specific windows for giveaways (Goodreads, for example, allows authors to give away prerelease copies of their books, but will only allow giveaways for published books that are within six months of their release dates), so check the guidelines for timing. Ongoing giveaways are good, as well, especially if you are an author with a number of books and can give away some titles to help drive sales with others.
6. The best time to book conference speaking engagements: 6 months -1 year in advance
Those authors who would like to give presentations or workshops at conferences should plan to do so early – most conferences schedule presenters a year in advance, and some are even booking two years ahead. If you know you want to speak at a certain conference, check the website for dates when calls for presenters begin and note deadlines for submitting applications.
7. The best time to seek jacket blurbs: 3-4 months prior to publication
Most authors who are traditionally published will have help from their editors on soliciting blurbs for their back covers, but self-published authors have to do this work themselves. I recommend contacting those whose endorsement you seek at least 4 months prior to publication. Be considerate to those you’re approaching and submit all or a portion of the book (this can be done in manuscript form) with enough time for the endorser to read what you’ve sent. And remember to acknowledge the generous gift of a positive blurb with a thank you afterward.
8. The best time to seek reviews: ongoing, but good to solicit some 3-4 months prior to publication, so that they are available when the book is released
Again, authors who are traditionally published will usually have help from their publishers with initial reviews, but self-published authors will have to handle reviews themselves. Traditional publishers will usually prepare advance review copies (ARCs) and send them to top-tier reviewers (New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal, etc.) four months prior to publication. Self-published authors can approach reviewers (generally, mid-tier and online) once their book is in printed form or, in the case of ebooks, when the formatted files are available.
9. The best days to pitch news producers and editors: Tues/Wed/Thurs
When making publicity calls, I’ve found that the best days to actually reach news editors or producers fall during the middle of the week. Editors and producers tend to be busy or unavailable on Mondays, and Fridays seem to be the most difficult days to reach media people.
10. The best time of day to pitch radio and TV morning show producers: 6 – 8 a.m.
If you plan to pitch morning show producers, be ready to get up early. Most producers are in the studio well before 6 a.m. on days that shows are taped, and many of them will be unavailable once the show begins. If you miss a producer, be sure to leave a voice message and follow up with email info (press release, author photo, and book cover art). Be aware of time differences if you’re calling cross country, too.
11. The best time to pitch media for event coverage: 3 weeks prior to event date
This is my own personal preference, but I like to give print media the most lead time for feature stories (about 3-4 weeks). If you are calling magazines, their lead times can be quite long – from 3-6 months in some cases – so research their submission guidelines and plan accordingly. I usually make calls to radio and television producers about 2-3 weeks prior to events (I like to set up my clients’ events first, usually booking 6 months out, and then make media calls about 3 weeks prior to each event to help drive traffic to it).
12. The best time to send out calendar listings: 2 weeks -1 month prior to event date
Many print and online publications will let you post listings on their websites. But check the guidelines for when listings must be done – most publications want them 2-4 weeks in advance of the event date.

Finally, many authors ask me about the best times to schedule their social media posts. For those who do a lot of posting on different sites, I suggest using a management dashboard like Hootsuite to schedule updates. As to specific timing, in his research on blogging, Hubspot's Dan Zarella gives the following guidelines:
-The best day/time to post on Twitter: Friday at 5 p.m. EST is considered the most retweetable time of the week.
-The best time for readership on blogs: early morning.
-The best days for Facebook sharing: Saturday and Sunday.
-The best time for Facebook sharing: around 9 a.m.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On Fiction Writing- Interview on Book Publicity

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed about the ins and outs of book publicity by editor Renee Miller at On Fiction Writing. You can read the entire interview here:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stop Hiding Behind that Laptop! How to Use Events to Get More Media Coverage

Okay, we’ve all read the success stories about big-name authors who have gone the self-publishing route and are making a living selling their books. These authors appear to have it made, as they pump out books and chronicle their sales on blog and social media sites. Writers flock to these sites, eager to hear news of the demise of traditional publishing and the latest tidbits about sales numbers. To new authors who yearn for similar success, the path certainly appears rosy and paved with a certain amount of gold.

But what many new authors don’t realize is that a good number of successful self-published authors have a long list of books they’ve spent years writing and promoting. Some of these successful authors have, at one time, been traditionally published, in addition to being self-published. And many of them can describe long days and evenings spent pressing the flesh at book signings, selling their books out of the trunks of their cars and at conferences and street fairs, building and growing social networking communities, and doing the hard slog of developing a following of readers who will eagerly buy the next book they have coming out.

For those who are new to the game, especially you first-time authors, things are a little different. There is no built-in fan club anxiously anticipating your first book. Most brand new writers have yet to do the hard work of building that base, reader by reader, reviewer by reviewer, social networking follower by follower.

Despite not yet having a following, many first-time authors will call me and say, “Hey, I want media coverage for me and my book.” But, here’s the thing: unless you are a celebrity or subject expert, or have a built-in following of readers, you’re not likely to get much interest from the media because of your book alone.

To be successful with media producers, editors, and reporters, you have to offer them news. And, no, just the fact that you – a first-time author with no following – have written a book, is not news. There are 300,000 other authors each year who also have written books and are calling these same editors, reporters, and producers.

So, tell me: What makes you special? What makes you stand out from all the other first-time authors who have published a book this year? And what is newsworthy about you and your book?

Authors should take some time to reflect on these questions and figure out what they can say about themselves and their books that is of value (i.e., is news) to the news media. Most of the time (especially in the case of fiction), there isn’t much to say. The book may be good, the author may be a nice guy or gal, but that’s not enough of a newsworthy pitch to give to a producer or a reporter.

So, how do you break through if you’re a newly published author?

There are a number of options out there for authors who want to build a platform, and many of them are oriented around using online videos, web and blog sites, and social networking forums to establish expertise and build a following. Networking online is an important part of platform-building, and all authors should still pursue these outlets as part of their promotional plans.

But having an online presence doesn’t always translate into media coverage. So, in addition to building their online networks, I recommend that authors create news around their books by scheduling speaking engagements at bookstores, libraries, professional organizations, or other targeted venues. Why? Because when you have an appearance scheduled, you and your publicist now have a local news event to pitch. The fact that someone has agreed to let you give a presentation gives you credibility and allows the media representative who is reporting on you and your book to give readers, viewers, or listeners a place to go to see or hear you after an interview.

Now wait a minute, some of you may say, we’ve heard that book signings and speaking engagements are a waste of time. They’re a lot of trouble to set up, promote, and even get to, and often no one comes to them.

Well, sometimes that’s true – you can’t always predict who will show up for an event, even if it’s well-promoted beforehand. But, at least with an event, you have something to submit about yourself and the book to the local newspaper event calendars. You have something (besides your platform and the book) to write about in a news release that can go out on the wires and appear in search engines and on all your social networking sites. And you have something, other than the fact that you wrote a book, to pitch to a newspaper/radio/television editor, reporter, or producer. In other words, you have news – the fact that you are appearing somewhere – to share.

So, why do authors resist the idea of making appearances to promote their books? Some do because it can be time-consuming and expensive to set up speaking engagements. Many authors don’t want to take the time to book the event, print promotional items, create and run ads, prepare presentations, and then travel for an appearance. Other authors resist because they’re shy, or they have issues with speaking in public. Some don’t like the idea of having to take time away from their writing. And many resist because they stubbornly believe that all it takes is the right pitch and the media will magically say yes to a feature article or radio or TV spot.

But here’s something for authors to think about: even big name celebrities in entertainment and sports have to go out and do the appearance drill. Even though they are known to millions, teams that win the Super Bowl, actors with a new movie out, and singers with new CDs to hawk, all make appearances on late night television shows and at movie premieres, award ceremonies, fundraisers, and community events. Why? Because those events are necessary to promote whatever it is they’re selling. Even though they’re known commodities, the public’s attention span is short; most celebrities won’t be known for long unless they get out there and smile for the cameras.

So, before you call a publicist and ask for media coverage, think about getting out from behind your laptop and scheduling some book signings and speaking events. If you feel you don’t have much news to share, create some by scheduling appearances and using those events to help convince the media that you are worth an interview.