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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How bestselling authors run PR campaigns

How bestselling authors run PR campaigns

How bestselling authors run PR campaigns

The book world is an insanely crowded place.
With the professionalization of the ghostwriting and publishing world, it’s easier than ever to release a book, which has sent the number of books published each year skyrocketing.
Because of this, it’s the perfect arena to learn PR.
Any PR veteran will tell you, in a crowded market, only the best campaigns are effective. Your pitching has to be personalized and persuasive, your follow up needs to be flawless and your research needs to be incredibly dialed-in.
I was lucky to learn PR in the book world — with the help of some much more talented mentors — and since I’ve grown a bit beyond the publishing world, I’ve seen first hand how many of the tactics used in a bestseller’s PR campaign translate to other industries.
In this article, I’ve broken down essential steps for a successful book publicity campaign, as well as the mistakes book publicists make. However, if you aren’t in book publishing, trust me — these PR lessons are universal.

Step 1. Design a killer press kit

A good press kit is a huge asset to an author for two reasons:
1. A good press kit increases your odds of getting coverage. They make it easy for journalists to evaluate whether or not your book is right for their audience.
2. A good press kit is very affordable — a freelance designer can do one for around $50.
Here’s an example of a press kit I actually put together for Cliff Lerner’s bestseller, Explosive Growth (with my/Cliff’s contact information removed, of course):
The press kit does a number of things right:
1. Necessary information is unavoidable—the cover image, title, and subtitle pop out.
2. The testimonial is powerful, and from someone the book’s audience will respect.
3. The journalist doesn’t have to come up with new headlines — they’re listed for them.
4. Cliff’s biography is presented for background information.
5. The contact information of both Cliff and his publicity director (removed) are accessible.

What you shouldn’t do: Paper the internet with your kit

A word of advice: If a journalist hasn’t expressed interest in your book, they don’t want to see your press kit.
Bad publicists will take a good press kit and blast it to every journalist they know with a form email. But no journalist wants to be emailed files they didn’t ask for.
We’ll get more into pitching later, but a rule of thumb is that you should always ask if a journalist is interested in seeing an asset—either your press kit or your book—before dropping it in their inbox.

Step 2. Research journalists — and categorize them

A good PR campaign comes down to its research. You can write the most persuasive pitch in the world, but it will do nothing for you if it’s sent to the wrong journalists.
It’s not enough to research relevant journalists for your book. You need to research and categorize journalists so that you can write them targeted pitches. In general, for a book campaign you want three categories of media contacts:
1. Writers who have covered books similar to yours. These are your bread-and-butter, and will be the most likely to cover your book.
2. Writers who review books in general. These will be more hit-and-miss, but there are a lot of them, and they will not be put off by being pitched a book they don’t want to review.
3. Editors and writers who publish coverage on topics your book covers. These will be the hardest to land, but if you can make yourself a source, they can be big hits.
Muck Rack makes it incredibly easy to find media contacts in each of these groups.
To find writers who have covered books similar to yours, simply find the most popular books in your category on Amazon, and then search for them with a search phrase like:
“Book Title” AND “Author Name”
So if I had written a book about vampires, my search might be:
“Dead Until Dark” AND “Charlaine Harris”
Muck Rack will return a list of people whose coverage includes articles where the book’s name and author’s name appear—the perfect targets for your lists.

What you shouldn’t do: Create one giant list

In PR research, size matters — but only to a point. The precision of your data is equally important.
Having a list of 3,000 journalists may give you a lot of targets, but if you have failed to categorize them correctly, you will struggle to make sure the right journalists get the right pitch.
If your pitches aren’t targeted and personalized, they will not be effective. Some journalists receive over 100 pitches a day, and pitches that have clearly been carpet bombed across the internet are always ignored.

Step 3. Write different pitches for each category of journalist

This is a riff off of step 2, but it’s important enough to repeat. Every category of journalist you break apart needs their own pitch.
For example, when you’re pitching journalists who have covered books similar to yours, your pitch should include a phrase like: “I was reading a piece where you talked about BOOK NAME and thought you might like to see a copy of my book, YOUR BOOK”
Obviously, say more than that — explain how your book is similar, and where your book differs from the book they covered.
For editors who simply write on topics related to your book, you want to go about this an entirely different way. Your pitch might include a phrase like: “I’ve been reading some of the pieces you’ve published, and I’d love to send you over my new piece RELEVANTLY TITLED ARTICLE — it’s excerpted from my new book, YOUR BOOK”
By doing this, you’re making sure your pitch offers each journalist as much value as possible.
Remember, your job is to make it easy for journalists to write about your book. That means making the value of covering your book clear, and sometimes, actually writing content for them.

What you shouldn’t do: Be too clever

We’re all busy, and we all love clever ways to save time. With PR, however, this a dangerous temptation.
The value of personalization is obvious — Muck Rack found that 22 percent of journalists reject otherwise relevant pitches because they lack personalization — but it’s time consuming.
Especially when you’re pitching 1,000 journalists, going through every email to tweak and personalize can be agonizing. Many authors try and get around this by being too clever with their templating, hoping to automate all of their outreach. This can go disastrously wrong.
This is the classic example of this sort of template:
“Hey NAME,
I’m a huge fan of your writing—in fact, I just read your piece “ARTICLE HEADLINE”, and thought you might like a copy of my book, BOOK NAME…”
This pitch is actually on the right track. If you notice, it includes a line similar to the one we talked about at the beginning of step 3. However, without personalization, this can go horribly wrong.
Imagine they wrote an article that included a scathing critique of a book similar to yours. When you pitch them on your book, they’re going to assume you actually read their article and agree with their critique.
If they look at your book and realize it’s similar to the book they hated, your best case scenario is they ignore you. Worst case, your book just got its first bad review.

Step 4. Follow up with new incentives

Follow up is where the magic happens. Any PR pro will tell you, it’s rarely the first email that gets you the coverage you want. It’s usually the second or third.
However, follow up is also an art.
Every time you follow up with a journalist, you need to bring something fresh to the table. Obviously, your first pitch didn’t do enough to get them on board, and so your follow up needs to add something new to the mix.
Each follow up should share two elements:
1. A new piece of news about your book — possibly new coverage.
2. A new hook or incentive — like a different angle for coverage, or an offer of an interview.
Your final follow up should also play to the journalist’s fear of missing out. If you’ve followed up multiple times offering new value, then you need to let them know this is their last chance to cash in.
Say something like, “I understand you’re super busy, so I’ll leave you alone after this message.”
You’ll be amazed how many people that kind of messaging hooks.

What you shouldn’t do: Pester journalists for responses

The absolute worst sort of follow up looks like this:
“Hey NAME!
Just wanted to follow up on this. Are you interested in seeing a copy?”
The only time that follow up will work is if the journalist legitimately intended on covering your book and forgot. Otherwise, if your first pitch wasn’t enough to convince them, that follow up certainly isn’t.
In fact, that sort of valueless, pestering follow up is the best way to get yourself blocked from a journalist’s inbox.

Good PR applies to any industry

One of the beautiful things about PR is that it really comes down to two things:
  • Finding the perfect people to connect with.
  • Engaging them in a way that is valuable for both of you.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, those two principles form the spine of good PR.
The book marketing blueprint outlined above is a great example of how those principles can be applied in one specific industry. However, the basic processes of research, personalization, follow-up, and creating media assets can be applied to any industry.
This means now, you have no excuse to run a bad campaign.
Go forth and pitch.

Caleb Kaiser is the founder of Conjur Creative, a full-service marketing agency that builds projects for people interested in changing the world. 
Photo via Pexels

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