Authors: 50 Fabulous Ways To Kickstart Publicity

by Linda White

NewsBrief_OpPublicity is a confusing area for many authors. The bottom line with publicity is that there is usually minimal cost (just the price of printed items you are distributing), but there is also minimal control of how the story you put out there is handled.

You can’t tell an editor how to write the interview, or tell a reviewer what to say about your book, just as you can’t insist that a bookstore owner keep a poster of your event beside the register for two months. You have to rely on goodwill, and request professional help as needed.

I’ll concentrate on self-publishing in this article – since that’s the focus of Molly’s blog – but even traditionally published authors need to contribute much effort to a publicity campaign. Many inexpensive things can be done to publicize a book, and much of it can be started very early. We’ll begin there.

A Year (or More!) Ahead

  1. Think about your goals and expectations. I always say that your Expectations have to match your Effort. Create your budget and plan your promotion accordingly.
  2. Write a nice short synopsis of your book, if you haven’t already. For publicity purposes, you will need something very brief, one or two lines, as well as something a couple paragraphs long.
  3. Write a nice professional bio. Look at other authors’ bios (on websites, on book jackets, etc). Focus on your life as a writer. Write a short and long version.
  4. Practice your elevator speech. This should focus on what you write, not the plot of your book. Short and sweet. “I write historical fiction with an emphasis on strong female characters.”
  5. Set up an author website. This should include a media section, a bio, some downloadable images, an events listing, and a way for people to buy the book. Check out other authors’ sites for ideas.
  6. Set up a professional email, whether it’s through your website or elsewhere. Gmail is okay, but it’s not the best presentation. Most web packages include an email with the domain.
  7. Set up some social media profiles. Consider Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads. See which ones you like best. Ask around. Concentrate on those platforms that feel right for you. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean it’s where you should spend your time.
  8. Now, build your fan base online by engaging with others. Ask questions. Post relevant articles. Share your progress, whether you are self-publishing or publishing traditionally. Encourage others.
  9. Consider a Facebook author page. A business page is a more professional way to present yourself to the masses. Try to keep personal information off this page, but still be genuine. Here’s why you might want to do this.
  10. If you decide to blog, now is a good time to start. But don’t start a blog just because you think you should. Nothing is more sad than an outdated blog, with the last entry a year old. Think pros and cons: how do you really want to spend your time? What should you blog about? A blog can be a great way to jumpstart your online presence. Know that you have to give to get. If you go ahead with it, batch your content creation so that you can have something ready to post consistently.
  11. Have simple bookmarks or postcards designed and carry them with you. Everywhere. You can do this as soon as your book cover is final. Make sure there’s a way for people to contact you on there – your website, email or Twitter handle.
  12. Visit your local bookstore, whether it’s an indie or a chain. Get to know the folks there. Browse the shelves and figure out where your book might go (know that the store may not agree). See yourself giving a presentation to a standing room-only crowd. Find out who is in charge of events. Buy some books. Ask if you can leave a little stack of bookmarks next to the cash register.
  13. Visit your local library. Get to know the librarians by name. Find out who is in charge of events here. See if you can leave a stack of your materials next to the checkout, or they may have a space designated for community literature. Replenish the supply often.
  14. Go to networking events. Boots on the ground. You can start local with happy hour events. Branch out by attending writers conferences in other states, or attending events while on vacation. Get to know people. You’re not selling your book at this point – you are selling you.
  15. Go to other authors’ readings. Even if you don’t know them. The more readings you go to, the more ideas you will have when it comes time to do your own. Don’t overlook unusual venues.
  16. Take note of where readings occur and the sponsoring organization. Libraries and their Friends groups are great event hosts, as are fraternal organizations and of course, bookstores.
  17. Join a writers’ organization, like Sisters in Crime for mystery writers, the SCBWI for children’s authors, or something appropriate to your work that offers networking and professional events.
  18. Continue to engage on social media. Post content that takes your followers along on your book journey. Post your cover choices. Ask if anyone knows someone who runs a reading series that might have you. Use your network.
  19. Collect names of those who you wish to send an ARC to. If you have an opportunity, try to meet some of your local media people. At the very least, you should know who they are. But also include influencers like booksellers, librarians, bloggers and other industry folks who might be your cheerleader.
  20. Send out copies to endorsers – it’s a list you can start building years ahead of time. This doesn’t have to be people you know, just people relevant to your book topic or style. Their comments can be great fodder for the press kit, book jacket or advertising.
  21. Understand your sales information. You should know who your distributor is and how people can get the book, including librarians and booksellers. Find out as much as you can about the options and get your channels set up.

Six Months Out

  1. Don’t drop the publicity ball. As the publication of your book approaches, you will be busy with editing, making decisions about tweaking the cover, and all kinds of things you didn’t know you needed to know. Keep engaging on social media. If you write a blog, continue to write posts.
  2. Put together a media kit if you haven’t already. Put it on your website so that media can download the different pieces. A typical media kit includes a press release, author bio, events listing, author Q&A and for fiction, an excerpt. For nonfiction, a table of contents. I always try to add something unique to the book at hand, like a top ten list, a character interview, some historical background or whatever is appropriate.
  3. Figure out how many advance copies (ARCs) you can send. This should be a line item in your budget. You should aim for as many as you can afford.
  4. Update the next reprint of your bookmarks or postcards to reflect any changes in the cover and to add more information about the book (number of pages, price, ISBN). If you have any blurbs, add a nice quote from the best one.
  5. Once the cover is finalized, get a copy of the file. You need a small version to use online and a larger, high resolution image for print use. The best file format is jpg, but you might also want to get a pdf. You should have this at your fingertips so it’s ready when media calls.
  6. Start sending out ARCs as soon as you get them. Check guidelines and make sure you send appropriate material exactly to their specifications. Start with industry publications, like Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. Some of the trade pre-pub review journals will not take self-published work or have specific sections that cover that. Do your research.
  7. Begin to put together a media list, if you will be handling your own media coverage. It’s easier than ever to look up radio shows and publications that will cover a given topic. Try to get a copy of the publication (libraries are great for this) or actually listen to or watch the show. Make sure it’s a good fit.
  8. Watch for proposal requests, if you will be arranging events. If there is a book festival near you, get on their email list. Likewise with any other big event, such as a bookseller convention or a popular reading series. They often schedule 4-6 months ahead.
  9. For smaller events, find out who the organizer is and send an email. If they want a copy of the book, send that. Attend a session of the event, if possible. Follow them on social media.
  10. Consider your budget. If you’ve found out about new opportunities, you should incorporate those. You may have to re-jigger things a bit.
  11. Will you be buying advertising? Now is the time to reserve that space and get someone to design those ads. Where depends on your particular book, but good general places to advertise are Shelf Awareness and GoodReads.
  12. Once your manuscript is finalized, pull out excerpts to use for promotion. You can post them on your blog or on your website as part of the press kit. These should be fairly short, less than a chapter if possible. I also recommend that you have some shorter pieces to use as content for guest posts.
  13. Make a little booklet as a giveaway or leave-behind. You can do the first three chapters as a booklet, just stapled together and printed on regular paper, or you can gussy it up with fancy paper. Make sure your contact information is somewhere on the piece.

Three Months Out

  1. Continue, continue, continue your online presence, whether it’s blogging, social media or both. Update your website with any events as they are scheduled. Share blurbs you receive as they come in.
  2. Send out media mailings to the list you researched. Send it 3-4 months ahead of time, aiming for coverage during the month of publication. Send an ARC, a press kit, and a business card or bookmark with a letter. Do not send anything else. Do not send this via FedEx or UPS. Don’t make them work any harder than necessary to discover why you are providing good content for them.
  3. Think about the launch you want. If you are going to have a formal launch, schedule the venue. This could be at a bookstore or library or some other literary place. It could be at a restaurant or bar. Or think of somewhere that ties in to your book. I highly recommend that it be at a public location, regardless. You could also do an online launch, either with or without an accompanying event in the real world. Send out Save the Date notices.
  4. Contact any alma maters, organizations you belong to or support, your hometown paper, or other places that might be willing to support you and that you have a good solid connection to. Offer to send a review copy.

Two Months Out

  1. Continue to send out ARCs. This can be very time-consuming. This is when the media may start contacting you with interview requests.
  2. Planning any trips during the first six months of your book’s life? Check those locations for possible opportunities for events or other promotion.
  3. Continue to schedule events. Now is the time when libraries may be contacting you, if you have made any pre-pub effort in that area. They will hear about your book through avenues such as Library Journal, LibraryReads or Brodart.
  4. Consider what you will do at events. Consider fun ways to present your material. Maybe you want to have a costume, or have someone else wear a costume? If it’s a children’s book, activities are a must. Consider the five senses, and try to use them!
  5. Write up a short description of your presentation. You will need this for libraries and other venues that do their own publicity. Think about how you can make it sound enticing!
  6. Practice reading aloud from your book. Time yourself. Practice in front of a mirror, or better yet, make a video of yourself reading. Critique yourself. Get someone else to critique you. Get help if you need it.
  7. Take any opportunity, no matter how small, to read from your upcoming work in front of real people.
  8. Send out launch invites, including some tantalizing clues about what folks can expect. Consider holding a raffle or contest to entice people to come (and to build up your email list!). Create Facebook events for those events that warrant it.
  9. Follow up with any media you have sent ARCs to within a month of sending the mailing. Things get buried quick in any media organization.

One Month Out

  1. Get that online presence ratcheted up and let folks know how excited you are about your upcoming release! Make sure all of your online bios reflect your upcoming work. Make another push for followers on social media. Cross reference your platforms so that followers can find you in multiple places.
  2. If you have pre-pub reviews coming in, post those on social media as they become available. Pull quotes that are particularly compelling.
  3. Finalize plans for your launch. Food, giveaways, other participants. How does this tie in to your book? What can you do to make it more exciting?


Now, write the next book.

Continue to do events and interviews as long as there is interest. Also continue to keep your social media presence alive. I have seen many authors drift away from their efforts once the launch is complete. But hey, that’s not the end! That’s really just the beginning. This is what you signed up for – make the most of all those months of work leading up to your release. And I have seen authors who continue to do events and have a great online presence years after their first book is out. You can too!

Continue to update your website, blog and events. Post events to social media; let folks know what you’re doing.

If there is a development that relates to your book, jump on it. Create a press release and send it out to media. Producers and editors are always looking for relevant sources for news. That could be you!

Keep in touch with any hosts or editors that interview you. You could be their go-to if someone else cancels, or a story is breaking that relates to your genre or area of expertise. Plus, you’ll need that contact for your next book, won’t you?

LindaWhite_OpLinda White is a writer, editor, and promotions professional living in the magnificent literary community of the Twin Cities in MN. With 20 years of publishing experience, she runs BookMania!, providing literary services. She regularly reviews for Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. Linda’s new jam is Publishing Bones, a community website for writers. She is a complete unapologetic book freak. Catch her on Twitter @LindaWonder or @PubBones.

Readers, leave a comment if you have a question for Linda!

This original content by Molly Greene and guests is copyright protected – did you enjoy the article? You can show your support by checking out my Amazon Author Page – and hey, buy a book while you’re there! Or, subscribe to my blog and you’ll never miss my weekly posts. Your email will NOT be sold, shared, abused, or rented – that’s a promise. If you’re not already, follow @mollygreene on Twitter. Mwah! Thank you so much.

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19 Responses to Authors: 50 Fabulous Ways To Kickstart Publicity

  1. Molly Greene March 30, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    Linda, I want to thank you so much for this wonderful post! I appreciate your generosity, and I’m grateful for all the great ideas you’ve shared with us. I’m way behind on this list, but there’s no better time to start than NOW!

    • Linda White March 31, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

      Molly, my dear, I am the one thanking YOU! It was an honor and a privilege to be asked to do it, and I’m happy to share. Also, this goes down as one of my top all-time social media stories – and people say that Twitter is a waste of time! ha! Oh, and don’t worry, everyone’s behind, right? I’m so far behind I can’t stand it. Sometimes the only thing you can do is start where you are.

  2. Kerry March 30, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    What a fabulous step-by-step guide. I’ve done some of these but there are others that didn’t occur to me which I’ll now start work on! Thanks Linda and Molly!

    • Linda White March 31, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

      So glad you found some value in it!

  3. Sue Coletta March 31, 2015 at 4:58 am #

    Wow. That is a lot of great advice. Need to bookmark this for future use. I do have a question Linda. I’ve found there just aren’t enough hours in the day, some days, thus something always seems to fall to the wayside. Is there an area that you’d advise to spend less time on so you can focus your efforts on writing and/or promoting? Usually where I fall short is in reading other’s blog posts. When that happens some bloggers feel slighted, which usually translates to them not commenting on my posts or snarky remarks when I comment on theirs, like “Nice of you to drop by,” when I’ve been reading their blog for years. I realize I can’t make everyone happy all the time, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Some days I need to concentrate on my goals. And when I reach the next level of my writing journey my time will be even more limited. How do you juggle everything and what do you spend less time on to focus your efforts elsewhere?

    • Linda White March 31, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

      Oh Sue, that is a GOOD question, and one I hear a lot. I wish I could give you a formula or something, but everyone’s situation is different. The truth is that you may have to give up other things to make your dreams come true. And you most definitely cannot make everyone happy all the time. You have to do what’s right for you. A simple post about how you spend your time may help. Molly has done that with her house project. She isn’t apologizing, but it lets people know that hey, we are all human. Share your goals, share your progress, and quality people will cheer for you. BTW as a writer, there is about a 100% chance that you are going to hurt someone’s feelings, some time. Don’t let that control your actions.

      • Molly Greene March 31, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

        I have to jump in here and say, BEST ANSWER EVER.

  4. Sally Jenkins March 31, 2015 at 5:19 am #

    This is all great advice! I’d just like to add one thing. If you’re at all nervous about making a book launch speak/reading your work aloud/giving author talks then join a Speakers’ Club (UK) or Toastmasters’ Culb (UK/US). They will allow you to speak & build confidence in a supportive environment – so that eventually you might enjoy giving talks about your books!

    • Linda White March 31, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

      Yes, that’s what I meant by ‘get help if you need it.’ Good advice! I have talked to several authors who have done just that. And I just took a three session course on speaking and presenting – how to use a microphone, tips and tricks. It was given by a local musician and it was great. I know how hard it is, believe me. But the days are gone when we can all scribble away in a garret and expect to achieve any success.

  5. Nick Brown March 31, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    Great post full of wisdom

  6. Yol Swan March 31, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Wow! What a comprehensive list of publicity steps! I am definitely bookmarking it. Thanks for taking the time to put it together!

  7. Preston D. Durie March 31, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

    Feeling like I stumbled into a ‘Chick Flick’ and am so happy that it happened. Great advice all the way around. Truly inspired and not knowing where the inspiration will take me, humbled…

  8. Linda White April 1, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    Haha No chick flick here! Open to all who are interested! Glad the advice is what you were looking for. Hope your inspiration takes you as far as you want to go!

  9. Russell King April 1, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Love this post. Incredibly helpful. Wish I had thought to gather some advice on this with around a year to go instead of the two months I now have left. Anyway, thanks very much. Appreciated.

  10. Linda White April 1, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

    It’s not too late! You can still do a lot two months out. Much more room to get things done than if the book were already out. It’s never too late to start social media/online efforts, for instance. Gun it!

  11. Barry Knister April 4, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Thanks for this all-systems go to-do list. Everthing here would apply in an ideal world–but this world is something other than that. What I need help with is creating a prioritized list of, say, ten must-do items, based on my unique abilities and limitations as a self-marketer. Any suggestions? Thanks again.

    • Barry Knister April 4, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

      Correction: a more real-world list, at least for me, would probably be five items, not ten. I have money for ads, but only if they actually make sense. Just to clarify: I spent what was for me serious money to retain the services of a respected book marketer. Absolutely nothing came of it. Thanks.

  12. Linda White April 4, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    Hi Barry, Yes, I know this is a big concern. See my answer to Sue above. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where to focus (since I don’t know anything about your book, experience, etc). I would say play to your strengths. Start where you are most comfortable and move out from there. If you have a great online presence, focus on that in your limited time. Visiting bookstores and libraries and doing local events would apply if you live in an area where that is a strength. Ads, in my opinion, would come later in the game, after you have maximized free ways to communicate.
    You mention a ‘book marketer’. Do you mean a publicist? Because either way, this is not something that has any guarantee. The best way to get the most out of this relationship is to be clear about what you expect, and to make sure this person has a good track record. If it was really marketing, I don’t see how that could be done without a significant budget.
    Finally, one tactic I use (in whatever area you decide to concentrate on) is simple: three things in 15 minutes. Everyone can spare 15 minutes, whether it’s at your lunch break or after work. Just make a list of short things you can do: send an email, do a little research, make a phone call, post to social media. Then repeat, repeat, repeat, as often as you can. Biting off smaller chunks that way makes a huge job seem palatable.
    Big question, very valid concern, but I hope this helps a little bit!

    • Molly Greene April 5, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks, Linda, another great answer. Your post is full of ideas that made us think about new possibilities, and the “three things in 15 minutes” idea will help us hone our own list and move our goals forward every day. Thank you SO MUCH!