Spreading the Word: Getting Your Book Into the Headlines

Award-winning journalist, author and PR expert Jon Kirk provides insider tips about cost-effective book PR.

If you’re an author, publisher or agent, you’ll appreciate the daunting prospect of publicising your work. Generating media exposure can be a thankless - and painfully expensive - task. Even the best titles fail to achieve the newspaper, magazine, TV and radio coverage they deserve. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right information, it’s possible to achieve coveted column inches on a regular basis, often without spending a penny. Follow the five steps below to conduct your own, simple but effective, PR campaign.

Step 1: Identifying a Newsworthy ‘Angle’

To stand a chance of getting your book into the media spotlight, you’ll need to find a quirky ‘hook’ or ‘angle’ to make it newsworthy. Remember, there’s a difference between what you and an editor may consider ‘interesting’, so try to think objectively. A good starting point is obviously the book itself. Is it groundbreaking in any way? Is it the first time such a title has been written? Does it contain controversial material or ”insider knowledge”? Perhaps it lifts the lid on a peculiar or secretive area of society, includes sections devoted to a high-profile figure, or describes the latest fad. If you find one, progress to Step 2, below. If you can’t, don’t worry - some of the most effective book PR campaigns have been based solely on the author. Again, you’ll need to find a newsworthy hook. Perhaps the novel is based on your own interesting experiences, such as travel or crime. Or maybe you’re a mum-of-12 who found the time to write in-between raising your family. Identifying the ‘angle’ is the hardest - and most important - part of the process, so take your time and choose carefully.

Step 2: The Press Release

A good press release provides the media with the salient details of your product in an easy-to-read, concise and clear format. Don’t worry if you’ve never written one before - it’s the information they contain, rather than their writing style, that matters. The key to a good press release is catching the journalists’ attention. Construct the release like a news story. It might be helpful to flick through a copy of your favourite rag and see how others are written first. In simple terms, your first line should tell the reader what the story’s actually about, and will include your ‘angle’. The second line will expand the story, while the third develops it a little more, and so on. Aim to tell the story in four paragraphs, followed by a line of quotes. You should then elaborate the points made in the first four paragraphs in more detail below. Forget fancy words and keep it as concise as possible. Remember, most stories run to approximately 650 words or less. Add your name and contact details to the foot of the story and, if at all possible, source some relevant photographs. In practice, these will include a shot of the book’s jacket, and a couple of the author. Before moving on to Step 3, pass the finished copy to an objective third party and ask for feedback.

Step 3: Distribution

So you’ve written an attention-grabbing press release and you’re ready to catapult it into the public arena. Firstly, you’ll need to identify whether the story you’ve written is suitable for the regional or national media, or both. Remember to remain objective; the national newspapers carry the day’s most important items and are significantly less likely to use your story than their regional counterparts. Whatever you choose, the process is the same: begin by finding the publications’ contact details - then pick up the phone. Ask to speak to the newsdesk, and provide the journalist(s) with a synopsis of your story. If they’re happy to see it, take down a direct email address and send them the release, and the accompanying photographers, ASAP. Be sure to include your own contact details at the foot of the email. The same process can be followed for TV and radio channels, and for magazines, internet sites and book reviewers.

Step 4: The Follow-Up

Once you’ve distributed the release, keep tabs on where it appears. Store any press cuttings for your own portfolio, and be sure to thank the journalist(s) involved. If it doesn’t appear in the paper(s)/sites you expected, it may have been ‘spiked’, (or binned). If so, it’s worth giving the publication(s) a quick call to find out why. However demoralising, try to stay positive. If necessary, re-write the release with a stronger hook, or send out the original to alternative publications.

Step 5: Ongoing PR

Once you’ve achieved media coverage, endeavour to keep the PR wheels in spin. Use the contacts you’ve made and keep them posted about the latest developments. However tempting, don’t bombard them with news - unless it’s ”newsworthy”! Over time, you’ll hone your press release-writing skills, and - with a bit of luck - generate publicity on a regular basis.

Good luck!

You can find out more about orchestrating a PR campaign at www.palamedespr.com. Jon Kirk also offers free PR consultations to authors, self-publishers, publishers and agents. He can be contacted via email at info@palamedespr.com or by phone on 07790 684107