PR advice for the indie author from 9 expert book publicists

By   Hannah Bickerton 6 min read

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

The hard work doesn’t stop once you’ve written a book: now you want people to read it. This can often be overwhelming for authors – how do you make your work stand out from the endless stream of fresh new books published every month? We spoke to some of our expert PR partners, knowledgeable in-house publicists and friends across the pond about the top strategies independent authors can use in their book publicity campaigns.

1. ‘Know your audience – know what they read, what they watch and listen to, if possible. It’s finding all the ways to reach that audience – through all the different platforms they may engage with. There are tools, apps and websites that can help! Sprout or Lefty are a few I have used.’
~ Fiona Smith, founder of the publicity agency Smith & Baxter.

2. ‘Although every project is different, campaigns often follow a similar pattern. When we work with our clients, we will research the project so we understand the key themes and messages behind it. We then compile a strategy and discuss it with the client to ensure we are all on the same page. To do this effectively, you must look at all the different angles of the story. Here are some key questions to ask to figure out what might be interesting:
– What are the themes of the book? Are there specialist outlets interested in this?
– Is there a personal story? This may be of interest to human-interest slots.
– Is there new/original research?
– Does the story link to the current news agenda?
Once we have decided on our angles, we start working on a press list targeting journalists interested in different aspects of the main story. It is then important to target press closely with specific pitches to maximise impact. Thorough research of both the project themes and relevant media is the key to a successful campaign.’
~ Sophie Toumazis, CEO and founder of tpr media consultants.

3. ‘Independent authors should find their community, so make connections with other authors in their genre, read and support online other authors in their genre. If any author only retweets praise about their books and does not play a supportive role in their online community, this will work against them. Find the bloggers and influencers who like and work in their genre and make connections. Put themselves forward as a panel with fellow authors for festivals and events. Play a campaigning role for the industry, be it for literacy or diversity or libraries, kids reading, etc. Build relationships locally with their bookshops and also local papers, local journalists, where appropriate. Keep everything on social media positive, decide on a tone and stick to it.’
~ Georgina Moore, Director of Books and Publishing at Midas PR.

4.Pinpoint any news angles either in your book or about yourself. Fiction can be hard to cover, particularly with so much new fiction being published every month, so the more you can offer the media particular hooks – reasons why they might want to interview you or talk about your book – the higher are your chances of success. Secondly, know your media. There is nothing more infuriating for a journalist than to be sent a totally inappropriate approach – for example, if someone is a heavyweight political commentator, they are unlikely to want or have the space to write about your new book on house-cleaning tips. I exaggerate to make the point, but it is important that you have at least read the journalist’s work and know their areas of interest.’
~ Dotti Irving, Chief Executive, Culture at Four Communications.

5. ‘Be authentic when speaking to your readers; engagement is key and more important than the number of followers; be creative. Think about who your readers are by answering the following questions: who? where? how? why? what?; start a newsletter; speak to your local bookshops, event and literary festival organisers and foster those relationships.’
~ Milly Reid, Senior Publicity Manager at Quercus Books & MacLehose Press.

6. ‘Not particularly original but I would say network! So much of this can be done from the comfort of your home these days – the online publishing community is mighty and can make such a huge impact to the success of a book. Follow and interact with authors, agents, bloggers, independent bookshop owners, reviewers, and generally anyone in the industry. Don’t be afraid to join conversations and share details about your book, the writing process, the journey to publication – people find it fascinating! And if you are able to then get out and do the same in person – build a relationship with your local bookstore, go to festivals and book events, talk to people you meet there and I’m sure you’ll make some great connections.’
~ Ellie Hughes, Head of PR at Penguin’s Michael Joseph.

7. ‘Indie authors have a raft of PR and marketing strategies at their disposal – if anything there are too many options. I meet with many authors who are lost. They know they want to outsource some of this role to experts, but they don’t have an infinite budget. They know they want to build buzz around their author brand and their book(s) but they don’t want to make costly mistakes. That’s why I co-founded The Author School with Abiola Bello back in 2015 – to help authors expand their understanding of their publishing options and connect with other authors and experts who can offer practical support and advice. An online book tour/blog tour is a great idea for those seeking to build social media engagement and followers, get more reviews and connect with targeted reader groups. A PR campaign pitched to reach the target audience can be invaluable when it works well, a newspaper and magazine feature, local and national radio interviews, online reviews, etc., all combine to make a powerful case for why that book should  be stocked by those booksellers, purchased by those people, etc. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy that works for every book and every author, but we do have a tried-and-tested combination of strategies that we offer as packages to authors seeking our expertise and experience as well as our contacts and ideas. These packages are a combination of PR, marketing and social media strategies.’
~ Helen Lewis, Director of publicity agency Literally PR.

8. ‘A virtual book tour, engage in podcast, radio and TV interviews, write articles to place in publications.’
~ Marika Flatt, Founder & Chief Publicity Strategist at PR By The Book, Texas, US.

9. ‘While each book and author is certainly different, there are strategies every indie author should consider incorporating into their book marketing plans, including:
Social media: All authors should establish themselves on at least one major social media platform, depending on their genre and target audience (i.e. business book authors will probably want to focus on LinkedIn while fiction authors may choose Instagram). Once you identify the right platform, consistent engagement is key. Start by finding like-minded people in your industry to follow and begin genuinely engaging with their content. If you notice any patterns, trends, or pain points try to offer valuable and original content that applies to these cases.
Grassroots initiatives: Especially if you have a book intended for a niche audience, consider a highly targeted approach that may include personal outreach to relevant organizations focused on specific topics related to your book, identifying appropriate social media groups/forums to join in an effort to network/share your messages there, and approaching local venues (like libraries, bookstores, etc.) to explore any opportunities for collaboration, events, etc.
Creating marketing & publicity collateral: In order to begin spreading the word about the book – whether to online influencers, local media, your own network, or beyond – consider creating a media kit or brief sell sheet that offers a quick snapshot of your book and its messages. This type of marketing collateral should include pertinent information including book summary and author bio, but you can also go beyond this with a canned author Q&A, links to additional resources, endorsements, comp titles, etc. These can also be easily shared and designed using simple online tools like Canva.’
~ Smith Publicity, New Jersey, US.

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Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.