Today’s news cycle is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It seems like it never stops. While there has always been news, over the last several years I have heard frequently from reporters and producers at major shows that this news cycle is more chaotic than anything they’ve seen before. I’ve noticed it myself as book marketing has become incrementally more challenging as the news cycle evolves.
Rest assured that your book marketing can still be successful amid all the background noise.
I hear daily from authors who feel like they can’t make any headway. I one-hundred percent get how that feels. But here’s the thing, to be successful in marketing your book, you just have to get creative.
In fact, with stories changing on a dime like they do these days, it actually leads to a wide range of opportunities, especially for non-fiction authors. If you have a tough time coming up with angles, some coaching might really be helpful to talk about topics and tie-ins you can speak to. In fact, I do this with authors all the time!
- Stay focused if you write fiction:
If you write fiction and feel a little lost right now, you are not alone. If you open Facebook and get slammed with a bunch of stories about politics, you might be thinking: Is anyone going to see my stuff? It truly depends how you’re using social media. And the reality may be that social media isn’t the best place to focus; instead, focusing on the things that will drive readers to you. There’s a lot of escapism going on right now, regardless of what side of the political fence you are on. And what’s the first thing to get a boost when escapism soars? Things to escape into. Movies, books, TV. Fiction actually isn’t on a downward trend. In fact, fiction is bigger than ever. Instead of getting sidelined by the media or feeling like you need to sit this one out until things calm down, you should know that the media cycle shows no signs of slowing. Instead, you’ll need to find a way to work within this new normal.
- Jump on the media spin:
One of the things I’ve learned in the work I’ve done with authors is that the media is always looking for a new way to spin an old story, or a spin a breaking news story. So if you can speak to something, speak up. With this crazy breaking-news cycle, there’s probably a story you can speak to, or comment on. If you’re an expert in a particular category or market, speak to that market. You should always be ready with a story or spin of some sort.
For example, during the Kavanaugh hearings there was a story about how mothers are speaking to their young sons about consent. If you’re a parenting expert, it might have been a great fit. However, if that’s outside your comfort zone and you want to stay away from volatile or divisive topics, think about what else you could talk about that’s making news. A few months back, the stories of people smuggling peacocks and squirrels on to planes was indie-expert gold.
When I plan book marketing campaigns, I look to the author’s history and their expertise to determine where I want to pitch them. Keep in mind, fiction and non-fiction authors alike can have a great newsworthy angle. An example of this is a New Adult author we worked with who wrote a book about a young girl who was forced into marriage at a very early age.
Remember Tom Clancy? He was often called upon as a military expert because of all of the exhaustive research he did for his books.
The media is always in need of an expert. Why not you?
- Non-fiction authors must be vigilant:
If you haven’t considered paying attention to what’s making news as a book-marketing strategy, then I recommend that you remain vigilant for where some of these conversations are coming from. Is your angle going to be most accepted in liberal or conservative media circles? I recommend identifying the key topics you feel you can speak to and then always be on the alert for these stories. Be aware of what’s happening in your specific market and be ready to pounce when a story erupts that you can speak to.
- Understanding timing:
If a story hits the news and you have something to say, jump on it immediately. We had an author who wrote about dealing with a troubled kid. A week after a school shooting, he asked us to push his message. And, while it was fine in theory, the firestorm of media that develops after a school shooting, or any big breaking news event, evaporates quickly. This means you need to be ready with your pitch and with your media contacts so you can reach out immediately after the news breaks. The reality is that you don’t have long to pitch someone. If a national situation happens that you can speak to, you’ll need to begin pitching the media on this right away. In fact, this article on how early you should start marketing your book offers great info on how to do this.
- Be blogging:
Blogging for non-fiction authors, in particular, is really important. This is especially true if you’re after national media attention. If you’ve pitched the media for a topic, they are going to check your website and blog. They may check your social media too, but they will certainly Google you. This makes your blog a key strategy for marketing your book. How often? Once a week if possible, more if it’s reasonable. You don’t need to write a thesis every week. In fact, concise blogging in 500 words is fine, as long as you get your post across.
- Offer a local angle for a national issue:
We’ve talked a lot about slanting your book marketing to national issues, but what about local media? A lot of authors overlook local media because they feel it’s not big enough, or sexy enough, or whatever. But here’s the thing: local media loves local authors. If you haven’t pitched yourself to these markets, it’s time to start. The key will be digging into how a national issue could affect your local market – and creating a unique spin on that message.
- Start building your lists:
Ninty percent of your book marketing battle is often being prepared, so start researching now to build a solid list of the media you might want to target. If your topic is health-related, you’re going to want to find journalists or producers who cover a health beat. You can often find these by reading the publication masthead or even simply watching the show and looking for the producers to target. Building your list now will save you a lot of time when breaking news hits the wire.
- Remember the HUH factor:
What does HUH mean? It means Hip, Unique, and Helpful. Your story or media pitch should fall somewhere in that area. It doesn’t have to be all three, but it should be whenever possible. So if one of your book marketing goals is to pitch yourself to the media and you want to get more attention for your story, make sure it passes the HUH test.
The bottom line here is that today’s media cycle is nearly unprecedented and to stand out above the crowd, you’ll need to find creative angles. You may find a seasonal topic you can tie into. With spring approaching, there may be some great tie-ins for spring cleaning or Mother’s Day. If your topic lends itself to being fun, it can be a strong way to capture attention.
Just remember, whatever you do it should have a different spin on whatever else is out there.
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.