Such a Decision!
Where or Where is the Excerpt from
That Will Help Your Promotion Most?
here it is!
15 Commandments for Getting FREE Publicity
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
An Excerpt from THE FRUGAL
HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER
This article may be published without
permission as long as the bylines and taglines are used intact and it is
not altered in any way. If changes are needed, please request
A huge retailer once said that
advertising works, we just don’t know how, why, or where it works best.
What we do know is that advertising’s
less mysterious cousin, publicity, works even better. It is the more
reliable relative because it is judged on its merit alone and carries
the cachet of an editor’s approval. It also is surrounded by the
ever-magic word “free.” The two are easily identified as kin.
These two often walk hand-in-hand and
yet they can be incompatible. The editors of good media outlets will not
allow the advertising department to influence them. Still, in an effort
to be completely impartial they reserve the right to use advertiser’s
stories editorially if they deem them newsworthy. That is why it is
helpful to use advertising in a vehicle that plays to the audience you
would like to see standing in line for your book. This paid-for exposure
then becomes an entrée to the decision-makers. A contact in the
advertising department may be willing to put a news release on the desk
of one of his editors, maybe even encourage her to look at it. There
are no contracts, but it does sometimes work. If you’re going to try
this route, choose a “little pond”, a bookish brochure or an “arty”
weekly so that the dollars you spend will be noticed.
Sometimes a magazine or newspaper will
run a special promotion called advertorial. These are sections where
you pay for an ad and then the newspaper assigns a reporter to cover the
story you want told. The article carries some of the prestige of
editorial copy—that is the general reader may assume the article has
been chosen only on its merits because of its copycat character. The
writer or editor you meet will can be approached when your have
Fellow author Erin Shachory (Eshachory@aol.com),
who handles consumer publicity and consults on advertising strategies,
knows that her clients hire her—at least in part—for her great database.
It is something that, over time, you can build for yourself.
Still, advertorial isn’t exactly FREE.
If FREE sounds more like the fare that will serve your needs, carve out
some time to do it yourself and follow these 15 commandments:
Study other press releases. Read a book like Publicity Advice &
How-To Handbook, by UCLA Marketing Instructor, Rolf Gompertz, a SPAN
member. Order it by calling 818-980-3576. Join publicity oriented
Read, read, read:
Your newspaper. Your e-zines. Even your junk mail, a wonderful
newsletter put out by the Small Publishers of North America (www.spannet.org)
and one called The Publicity Hound (www.publicityhound.com.)
My daughter found a flier from the local library in the Sunday paper
stuffed between grocery coupons. It mentioned a display done by a local
merchant in the library window. My second book, HARKENING: A COLLECTION
OF STORIES REMEMBERED, became a super model in their lobby and I became
a seminar speaker for their author series. Rubbish (and that includes
SPAM) can be the goose that laid the golden egg.
Keep an open mind for promotion ideas:
Look at the different themes in your book. There are angles there you
can exploit when you’re talking to editors. My first book, THIS IS THE
PLACE is sort of romantic (a romance Web site will like it) but it is
also set in Salt Lake City, the site where the winter games were played
in 2002 and, though that’s a reach, I found sports desks and feature
editors open to it as Olympics © fervor grew and even as it waned
because they were desperate for material as the zeal for the games wound
Develop your Rolodex by adding quality recipients from media
directories. The Web site
http://www.gebbieinc.com/ has an All-in-One Directory that gives
links to others such as Editor, Publisher Year Book, and Burrell’s. Some
partial directories on the web are free and so are your yellow pages.
Ask for help from your librarian—a good research librarian is like a
shark; she’ll keep biting until she’s got exactly what she wants.
Send thank-you notes to contacts after they’ve featured you or your
book. This happens so rarely they are sure to be impressed and to pay
attention to the next idea you have, even if it’s just a listing in a
calendar for your next book signing.
Partner with your publicist and publisher:
Ask for help from their promotion department—even if it’s just for a
sample press release.
Publicize who you are, what you do:
Reviews aren’t the only way to go. E-books are big news right now. Katy
Walls, author of “The Last Step,” coordinated an “anthology” of recipes
from authors who mention food in their books (yes, some my family’s
ancient recipes from polygamist times are in it). It is a free e-book, a
promotional CD, and great fodder for the local newspapers. Use it as a cookbook and as a sample for your own e-book
Think of angles for human interest stories, not only about your book but
about you as its author. Are you very young? Is writing a book a new
endeavor for you? Several editors have liked the idea that I wrote my
first book at an age when most are thinking of retiring, that I think of
myself as an example of the fact that it is never too late to follow a
Develop new activities to publicize:
Don’t do just book signings. Use your imagination for a spectacular
launch. Get charities involved. Think in terms of ways to help your
Send professional photos with your release:
Request guidelines from your target media. Local editors won’t mind if
you send homey Kodak moment--properly labeled--along with your release.
Some will use it; it may pique the interest of others and they’ll send
out their own photographers. It’s best, however, to send only
professional photos to the big guys.
Frequency is important:
The editor who ignores your first release may pay more attention to your
second or twenty-fifth. She will come to view you as a source and call
you when she needs to quote an expert. This can work for novels as well
as nonfiction. I received a nice referral in my local newspaper because
I am now an “expert” on prejudice, even though my book is a novel and
not a how-to or self-help piece.
Shel Horowitz, author of Marketing Without Megabucks (http://www.frugalfun.com),
reports that follow-up calls boost the chances of a press release being
published. Voice contact builds relationships better than any
other means of communication.
Professional publicists like Debra Gold of Gold & Company do this for
their clients; you do it so you’ll know what’s working and what isn’t.
One year after your first release, add up the column inches. Measure the
number of inches any paper gave you free including headlines and
pictures. If the piece is three columns wide and each column of your
story is six inches long, that is 18 column inches. How much does that
newspaper charge per inch for their ads? Multiply the column inches by
that rate to know what the piece is worth in advertising dollars. Now
add 20% for the additional trust the reader puts in editorial material.
You now have a total of what your year’s efforts have reaped. New
publicist-authors should set a goal to increase that amount by 100% in
the next year. If you already have a track record, aim for 20%.
Publicity is like planting bulbs. It proliferates even when you
aren’t trying very hard. By watching for unintended results, you
learn how to make them happen in the future.
Howard-Johnson is an
award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction and former publicist
for a New York PR firm and a marketing instructor for UCLA's Writers'
Program. THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER tells authors how to do what their
publishers can’t or won’t and why authors can do their own promotion
better than a PR professional. Purchase it as a thick, full-size and #1
selling e-book at Star Publish
or as a trade paperback at Amazon.com.
reviews of the Frugal Book Promoter
Contents of the Frugal
for Carolyn's first person essay,
"Beating Time at Its Own Game."