“Monday Morning Quarterback -
Barnett’s Public Relations Solutions to Out-of-Control Crisis Situations ©”
Updated Top Ten Tips For
Promoting Books and Authors
Last night an author I've been advising had an appearance on one of the
cable news programs - and his appearance reminded me of a couple of key
things that I'd neglected to include in my original "Top Ten Tips" for
promoting books and authors; with that in mind, I've enhanced my original
Top Ten list to include several additional - and very important - promotion
You'll find them embedded below, but here are a couple of hints:
If an author is scheduled to appear on any broadcast, get
that word out widely, in advance, so interested parties can tune in. I am
constantly amazed at the number of regular guests on cable news - authors
who have a book to sell (and who also have an e-mailing list of fans at
their finger-tips) who do NOT announce their upcoming appearance. The few
who do - and my hat's off to all of them - include James Taranto at the
WSJ's "Best of the Web," and The Nation magazine's editor, Katrina Vanden
Heuvel. They never fail (as far as I know) to let their readers know, in
advance, of their scheduled appearances.
If an author is scheduled to be interviewed in print format
(or on a website), get that word out, too - and if the print interview will
be echoed on the publication's website, put that in the announcement (not
all of us read the Milwaukee Journal, but all of us can find their website).
If the author is interviewed, reviewed or cited in a major
media outlet (of the Newsweek caliber - or the equivalent within the
author's trade-media niche), put out a press release ... and put that
release on the wire, and distribute it to all the talk show hosts/producers
and other media decision-makers you can find. This actually works - for
reasons beyond the scope of this column, media decision-makers often "run in
packs" - one good review or prominent mention in a media leader seems to
"validate" the author for other media, and a single break-through in
coverage can lead to lots of other successful coverage.
In short, build success on success - do not be afraid to
"pile on" and use all the coverage generated to create new waves of
additional coverage. Then, like a surfer, ride that wave as far as it will
In adding these three concepts to the Top Ten list, I had a chance to
reflect on each of these ten concepts - and in every case, I've found ways
to beef up those concepts, adding new dimensions to my initial marketing and
So, even if you've read this blog before (in it's earlier version), if
you're interested in book/author promotion and marketing, I think you'll
want to re-read this.
With that said, if you'd like to see how these ideas integrate into a solid
Top Ten list of the best ways to promote a non-fiction book author (either
in the mainstream or in a relatively narrow business market niche), please
Because of my passion for promoting books and authors, I put together this
Top-Ten list of solid PR- and marketing-related promotion ideas - suited for
either a narrow trade/business/professional market niche, but easily
adaptable to any book other non-fiction book - and for a good many works of
This advice is based on lots of experience. I first got involved in the
publishing industry in '74, and began actively promoting books and authors
in '82. Since then - in addition to my own nine published books (7 on
PR/marketing/advertising) - I've worked for or with three different
publishers (in the VP/Marketing role), I've owned a literary agency and I've
promoted several dozen books and authors.
Without further ado, here are my "Barnett's Top Ten Tips for Successfully
Promoting A Non-Fiction Book (or author)."
In cooperation with the book's publisher, contact the
various appropriate print (or even broadcast or online) media outlets - the
ones that tie in naturally to the book's topic - (including trade journals,
if appropriate) and propose that they "brand" the book. For example, in my
guise as literary agent, I sold a book to Simon & Schuster and arranged for
Casino Magazine to "brand" it - the book, when published, was released as
"Casino Magazine's Play Smart and Win" - and Casino Magazine not only loaned
us their name (for free) but actually did a promotion to subscribers to help
a. If successful, work with this publication to ensure ample pre-publication
publicity and promotion, as well as a big splash at the time the book is
b. Also work with the publication to "serialize" part of the book before
it's released, to whet the appetite of the publication's audience.
c. Try to strike the same kinds of deals with the "branding" publication
with regard to regular bylined columns (which can continue past the
publication date, and give the author a firm position to promote and market
this and future books, speaking engagements and other activities).
d. If successful, be sure to coordinate this with the publisher's own
in-house promotion/marketing department.
SUGGESTION: Clearing self-promotion activities involving the book with the
publisher is always a good idea - even if they have no
right-of-first-refusal on such promotion activities (and - though it's a
surprise to many authors, many publishers do have such rights built into
their book contracts).
It's also a good idea to always keep the publisher's own in-house
promotion/publicity/marketing department in the loop on all planned (and
especially all successful) self-promotion activities. Getting them on your
bandwagon will generally help open additional doors for successful
Beyond the "branding" publication (#1, above), contact
the various other appropriate print and web media (including appropriate
trade journals) to propose having the author "serialize" parts of the book (i.
e., adapt published chapters or parts of chapters into article format) in
their magazines or on their websites.
a. Depending on the author's publication contract and ownership of the
copyright, permission for serialization (and perhaps even fee-splitting)
must be cleared with the publisher ... and once approved, be sure to touch
base with the publisher's own publicity/marketing department.
Contact those same targeted media to propose that the author
do a regular bylined column for them, on the topic of the book. Generally,
this is seen as a separate business venture, and no permission from the
publisher is needed.
NOTE: Regarding 2 and 3 - if the publications which agree are non-competing,
there is no good reason to limit the serialization (or the columns) to a
single publication or website.
Create a website for the book. Then create a blog on the
topic(s) covered in the book. Then create a subscription (free or paid,
depending on your market and your marketing strategy) e-zine newsletter
based on the book and it's topic(s) - and if this proves really successful,
you can consider a print newsletter down the road. The goal here is to turn
readers into subscribers - as well as vocal advocates for the book - and to
ultimately create an affinity group based on the book, the blog and the
newsletter. This will be useful in many ways, from boosting book sales to
creating markets (and marketers) out of readers.
a. Create a website press room that includes ALL the reviews (HINT: solicit
some pre-publication reviews to aid in publicity), as well as a bio, a book
summary, and all the other things a good publicity/PR rep would put into a
press kit (the virtue of a website press room is that you don't want to have
to pay to have it printed, but the material is still there for reviewers and
b. Put all the content of the website press room on a CD/ROM disk, and send
it out with press releases, review copies, etc.
HINT: The concept of putting a website press room on a CD/ROM disk has
played very well among media I've worked with at conventions and trade shows
I've participated in over the past two years - you don't need a book to
adapt this concept to your other PR activities.
If the book involves a business segment, market niche or
issue of interest to some segment(s) of the business marketplace, contact
the various trade (or special interest) associations (local, state,
national) that cover the markets addressed directly or indirectly by the
book. Then implement Top Ten Tips #1-3 (above) with as many of these
associations as possible. Most targeted associations have member
publications and websites (including e-zines) which constantly need new,
fresh and appropriate copy of value to their members.
a. Voice of Experience (I used to be an Association VP/PR-Marketing) In
spite of the potential of these markets for all kinds of public relations,
associations often receive far less input from writers/contributors/PR folks
than do commercial publications. There are HUGE opportunities here.
NOTE: Associations are seldom competitive - if your book crosses topics, you
can strike parallel deals with different associations in the same or similar
markets without conflict.
b. Arrange a deal whereby the association becomes a reseller for the book,
promoting and selling it to their members - as a former Association
VP/PR-Marketing, I know from experience that associations are always hungry
for "unrelated income" to help them balance the books while keeping dues and
member fees low. If you succeed here, work with the association's PR team to
"get the word out" to both members and to the media that covers the
association's market niche, as well as to other media on your list.
c. Arrange for the author to put on a workshop/seminar for/with the
association - either as a member service or a revenue-generator for the
association. If targeted associations accept this approach, see (and
implement) 5b. above, as well - then hold a book-signing at the session.
Again, if you succeed here, work with the association's PR team to "get the
word out" to both members and to the media that covers the association's
market niche, as well as to other media on your own list.
d. Arrange for the author to be a featured speaker at an association
conference, trade show or convention (not a stand-alone workshop, but one of
the keynote or working/break-out session presenters); and if so, again see
and implement 5b. above. Once again, if you succeed here, work with the
association's PR team to "get the word out" to both members and to the media
that covers the association's market niche - and to other media that are on
your own list.
Wherever the author goes (on business trips, vacations,
etc.), arrange a B&N or Borders (or related) bookstore book signing -
preferably in conjunction with a local business association (or a bunch of
them - lawyers and accountants, for instance, aren't generally ashamed to be
seen with each other). Chambers of Commerce might also be interested,
especially if they can tie in book sales or a member
service/revenue-generating program. If you succeed here, work with the book
store's(and sponsoring organization's) PR teams to "get the word out" the
media that covers the bookstore's and sponsoring organization's market niche
- and to other media that are on your own list.
Arrange for speaking engagements at big national, regional
and state conventions (the kinds that, unlike trade associations, pay their
featured speakers - and that don't have speakers bidding for the opportunity
to speak for free). Conventions like to have interesting speakers who are
only tangentially related. I recall that a healthcare marketing/PR group
(part of American Marketing Association) had, at a national convention about
a dozen years ago, Joan Borysenko (of Harvard) speaking on her scientific
research which validated the efficacy of prayer on hospital patients (we
were mostly hospital marketers there). Her talk had nothing to do with PR or
marketing, but it was fascinating, and much more relevant than the luncheon
speaker they'd had the year before - G. Gordon Liddy! Anyway, the point is,
there's a market here, and they pay speakers, and you can also do book
signings. If you succeed here, work with the sponsoring organization's PR
team to "get the word out" the media that covers the organization's market
niche - and to other media that are on your own list. If the event is big
enough, let the various radio talk show and cable news program producers
know - the event might, in itself, justify them renewing their interest in
the author or the book.
a. Develop a speaker pitch kit - including a video/DVD (also on streaming
video on your website) that shows the author as a speaker, plus book reviews
and raves from group's s/he's spoken to, etc.
b. Develop several programs that meet different needs of typical convention.
For example, develop a "lunch program" talk on the issues dealt with in the
book, but for the "laity" business folks who aren't focused on the "inside"
of the trade book's topic. Also develop a "spouse program," using whatever
stretch you can make to create a link between the book's topic and the
audience's likely interests (insider "war stories" can often work). Be sure
to develop a stock "keynoter" address, too.
c. Pitch the author as an expert who can also talk to non-specialist
business people (or other relevant audience group) - and aim broadly, as
these target groups will have differing topics/themes and speaker needs.
d. ALSO - position the author as an ideal "last minute" speaker who can fill
in when scheduled speakers drop out (but define "last minute" - a day, a
week, a month, etc.).
e. When it comes to book signings/sales at these speaking engagements, the
author have to handle the books without help from the sponsoring group. The
author can obtain these books from the publisher, generally on consignment -
assuming the author has got that kind of deal with the publisher), or the
author can contract with a local bookstore to handle it. I was at a Sean
Hannity speaking event last winter and he'd arranged for Waldenbooks to be
there and sell books (which he then autographed). He would have made far
more money if he'd sold these books himself, but I guess he didn't want the
hassle of putting it all together (for his book promotion tour, he spoke to
probably 200,000 people over ten weeks, and it could have been a huge hassle
- besides, he was charging for the events and making a royalty on the book,
so he didn't need to be greedy). The author can work it out that way, or you
can take copies of the book on consignment (suggestion - have them
drop-shipped to the convention site and arrange to have them delivered to
the auditorium right before the event) and sell them yourself. You'll make
more money that way, and most conventions will provide access to hourly
local staff who can handle the credit card imprints, etc. (i. e., the local
worker bees you'll need to pull this off). If you succeed here, work with
the book store's PR team to "get the word out" the media that covers the
bookstore's market niche - and to other media that are on your own list.
When sending out books to be reviewed, ALSO be sure to send
out a ready-for-publication book review written (and bylined) by some
name-brand expert - a Ph. D. or CPA or college professor or somebody like
that who, on the face of it, is obviously an expert. In my status as
"adjunct professor" at a couple of universities (in PR at one and Marketing
at another), I've written such reviews for my clients or under contract -
these reviews then went out with the books, and you might be surprised how
often a trade journal or business publication editor will decide to publish
the canned review, rather than actually read and review the book. Really,
this approach works very well.
a. Of course, with or without a review copy, you'll also want to have a
press release done - and send it out along with a CD/ROM copy of the website
b. Regarding the press release, consider also "popularized" articles you can
put out in a MAT service such as NAPS
(http://www.napsnet.com/) or Metro Creative Graphics (http://www.metrocreativegraphics.com/).
Those reach and are placed in 700 or so small/mid-market newspapers. From
this placement, you'll generate lots of nice clips, and they really do
support sales. The cost of this is more than a release sent out on
PRNewswire or BusinessWire, but the service costs far less than an ad, and
the end result looks like pure editorial (which enhances credibility). Of
course, it has to be written in newspaper (not press release) style, but
that makes it function even more credibly than a press release. I understand
that there is a similar paid-placement news story service for radio (for
radio news and radio talk shows), and I imagine that it can also help to
generate awareness and stimulate business (though, in point of fact, I've
not used one of these).
c. Don't forget putting out at least one press release on BusinessWire or
PRNewswire - shoot for broad distribution, with a
400-word-or-less announcement of the book pegged for the non-trade
publications (those you hit directly, of course). This will appear (based on
the quality of the release) in dozens-to-hundreds of news outlets, plus on
1,500-plus online databases that capture press releases (topically, or
d. If the book/author scores big with a prominent review, an interview on a
major talk show - or any other kind of impressive, favorable coverage - send
out follow-up press releases on these successes. This series of releases
creates a "breadcrumbs" trail that members of the media can follow as they
research the book and author online - giving them a greater sense of the
legitimacy of the book and the author.
NOTE: That (8d) is a strategy that has much broader applications in public
relations and marketing - even if you don't "do" books or authors, jot this
e. When you're thinking "press releases" don't forget the growing market in
online web-zines and similar sites that include news/promotion feeds. These
are an increasingly important PR market, though the word isn't always "out"
there yet among book-promotion PR folks.
Once the core book is completed and in the publisher's
hands, think about publishing an "executive summary" book - a condensed
(think "Reader's Digest") version that boils the key points down for the
busy CEO, CFO or self-employed person. Offer it WITH the full-text book in
some kind of two-fer, as well as selling it stand-alone. You'll need to work
this out with the publisher, but because of the profit potential, publishers
are increasingly open to this kind of add-value additions to the core book.
a. Along with the Executive Summary version, you can do an audio version in
cassette and CD, for the busy exec stuck in traffic. Again, the publisher
must be involved - but again, the publisher should be open to this added
route to sales success. I believe this concept is what "Positioning"
innovators Trout and Reis (doesn't that sound like a fancy dinner in New
Orleans?) called "line extension" - and handled properly, this approach
works well in building both sales and profits.
Position the author with all the cable news (business
especially, but not exclusively) bookers/producers - and all of the business
radio talk show producers, as well. Be sure to prepare appropriate pitch
kits for producers.
a. List with Radio/TV Interview Report and
GuestFinder . They both have worked
b. Do the same (Top Ten Tip #10) for business publications outside the
book's core niche, and especially general business publications - you never
know when they'll need an expert on the subject of the book.
c. As noted at the very beginning, every time you score with 10, 10a or 10b,
be sure to put the word out in every way you can - let your author's "fans"
know when and where to tune in, and let other talk show producers know that
your author is "hot." Use great publicity to generate more great publicity.
Here's the bottom line: If you're going to promote or publicize (or market -
the terms aren't entirely interchangeable, but there's a lot of cross-over)
a book or author, these Top Ten strategies are a good place to start. And
even if you're not in the book/author field, these strategies have a lot of
bleed-over potential for the markets you do work with.
Obviously, if you need some support (this isn't a pitch, but I'd be a fool
not to offer), I'd be glad to help.
About Ned Barnett:
Ned Barnett, the owner of Barnett Marketing Communications (http://www.barnettmarcom.com),
is a 32-year veteran of high-stakes crisis-management public relations, and
is a frequent “source” for print and broadcast journalists. Barnett has
advised many corporate and personal clients on effective crisis relations –
often stopping a crisis in its tracks, even before it gets started.
As a political consultant and speechwriter, Barnett has worked for
candidates and officials from both parties, as well as for public interest
advocacy groups in areas involving the economy, the environment and
Barnett has taught PR at two state universities, and has written nine
published books on public relations, marketing and advertising. He’s earned
PRSA’s coveted Silver Anvil, two ADDYs and four consecutive MacEacherns; in
1978, he was the youngest (to that time) person to earn accreditation from
PRSA, and in 1984, he became the first person to earn a Fellowship in PR
from the American Hospital Association. But mostly, Barnett provides PR
counsel to a range of corporations, authors and advocacy groups.