When you type the iconic words The End in your manuscript, what feelings do they evoke in you? Joy or fulfillment? Or possibly even dread or a sense of emptiness? To me, the moment was priceless.
I felt elated, relieved, and filled with enthusiasm. As a first-time author, however, I had no inkling of the mountain of labor and learning that lay ahead of me. Probably best that way, otherwise I might have thrown in the towel during those early days.
To give you an understanding about public relations (PR) and marketing, I first must summarize my publishing journey. At first, I submitted my work with renowned publishing houses and small presses.
My book is a memoir spanning a 15-month period in my mid-30s.
Restless, I set off to fulfill a lifelong dream of sailing the high seas. As life took an abrupt turn, I traded my secure life in Australia for a turbulent existence in the Caribbean, dwelling in a rustic shack as the only white resident in the local village.
Although memoir is a high-selling genre, publishing houses often shy away from backing new authors. Without the promise of further books to follow, promoting a one-off work is risky and considered a less lucrative investment. In addition, I didn’t have any previous publications or awards, nor a significant social media following. All these factors made my chances for a book deal from the onset very slim.
I decided to independently publish my book.
After sorting through all the various publishing options, I hired some seasoned industry professionals for the job. My promise to myself and my story was to produce a book to industry standard. My work was to be equal in quality and content to any traditionally published work!
Those last months of pushing to get everything done in time for the book release were thrilling, if not a little exhausting. Blurb and bio needed to be completed, book trim sorted, printers lined up, website attended to.
This was when I realized how much PR and Marketing work was ahead of me.
Somehow, I assumed being tech-savvy and having a decent grip on social media would suffice to get me through the promo campaign. Soon I learned that this was not the case. I needed a PR and marketing plan to promote and share my book with the world, without breaking my bank account. Once again, I vouched to give my book the best possible start, so here are a few tips on what worked for me on this journey.
1. Pace yourself pre-launch!
This was likely my biggest lesson. I was charging through the publishing process like a racehorse galloping at full tilt in toward the finish line. I wish someone would have told me to hold back a little and conserve my energy.
Here’s some news: My book’s launch date was only a massive deal to myself. To the rest of the world, this was not a significant event. If that sounds demoralizing, don’t feel discouraged. Instead, look at it as an advantage: if you can delay your book launch and give yourself one or two months after finalizing the publishing process, you will gain an invaluable time window to prepare your launch and post-launch PR and marketing.
- Prior to the book release, you want to make sure your website is current and your online store is functioning.
- If your book is ready to go, have it available for pre-order, which can have a positive impact on your sales ranking come launch day.
- Set up your author profile on the main bookseller platforms.
- Organize card payment facilities for any in-person readings and talks.
- Make sure you have a professional-looking title sheet for libraries and bookshops and a smashing media release. (Find mine on my website as a template.)
- Get some book mock-up pictures, create a short book trailer and post on social media regularly to work up some excitement for the launch. Brainstorm media outlets that apply to your personal profile or your book type and genre, so you have some ideas for later.
- Last, it’s time to put together a fun launch event: This is YOUR celebration of your book, so set it up how you will enjoy it most, and notify local media to give them the opportunity to attend or cover the event. Add an online launch in addition, if you wish. I organized a 12-library book tour a few months after the book release and conducted author talks with a slide show. If this is something you wish to do, start contacting libraries well ahead of your intended visit.
2. Write articles and content
One thing to remember is that most news outlets are constantly seeking content. If you want to pitch your book successfully, it helps to deliver your message along with an engaging article.
My memoir features themes of sailing, romance, living abroad, and self-growth. Before I approached media outlets, I tailored five to six articles with variations of those themes and supplied them with my pitches for publication. If you make it easy for a magazine or online platform to use your content, more than likely you will be more successful.
Remember, once an outlet has accepted an article, it is standard for the story to be exclusive to said organization, and you should refrain from pitching or sharing it elsewhere.
3. Update your website regularly
Once you have secured some coverage, make sure you upload and update all online content on your website.
It is important for media outlets to see where and when you have been featured or published your articles. This will lend you credibility for future publications. You can also add a company’s logo on your website under a ‘featured media’ tab for quick identification.
During my PR and marketing campaign, I have constantly updated my website in this manner and was lucky enough to have been approached by TalkTV in the UK and a print magazine in Australia with interest in covering my story. Once you have a few features and articles under your belt, this will organically gain some momentum.
Also, remember, all online content remains on the internet, so the more you share, post, and publish, the larger your digital footprint. This means an ever-growing audience is exposed to your work and this will, over time, influence your sales. There are websites like HelpAReporter and SourceBottle that are looking for sources and you can sign yourself up to get notified. Make sure your pitches are short, snappy and on point with the requested topics.
4. Get talking!
Podcasts and radio interviews are priceless advertising. These conversations are longer, more in-depth, personal, and much more engaging than any written article. They are fun, too! Of course, it means you will have to put yourself out there and you may encounter one or two uncomfortable questions. I count myself lucky because I am a bit of an extrovert, love to meet new people and have a chat. I made peace with my story and am not afraid to be confronted (and, trust me, my story boasts a fair share controversy!).
Nevertheless, I took professional help in the lead-up to my PR and marketing campaign and engaged a public speaking mentor. This not only gave me more confidence in speaking at events or broadcasts, helped me to understand how to phrase (and what to avoid), and helped to crystallize my book’s core theme and convert it into an emotive message.
Interviews and podcast hosts are constantly looking for fresh stories and interesting people. Again, there are websites like PodcastGuest where you can sign up to be notified of upcoming opportunities.
5. Be authentic and persist
There is nothing worse than someone that doesn’t believe in their own message yet goes for the hard sell. It will come across awkward or pushy and more than likely will cause a less positive outcome.
I had times during my PR and marketing campaign when I felt deflated, when I felt lost and with little hope. This is normal. We are all human. Selling and advertising don’t come naturally to me, but I am passionate about sailing and love to share my story hoping to inspire other people to follow their dreams.
When I write an article and work on the promotion for my book, I don’t think about book sales. I think about the people I want to engage with, what I want them to feel and walk away with, and hope to stir their curiosity. This book is not my livelihood, it is my passion project and I enjoy learning and growing with it. Rather than looking at all the work as an enormous chore, I revel in all the new tools and tricks I am adding to my tool belt. When my energy is low and I don’t feel like promoting, I take a break and resume when I feel recharged.
My book, Change of Course, was published on June 22, 2022, and it has been a busy six months and likely will continue to be for another half a year or so. Then I will gradually ease off and focus on diving back into my second book.
So, once again, pace yourself and don’t give up! Look to other authors in your genre have done for PR and marketing and follow suit. Join author Facebook groups and ask for advice. Enter your book for some awards if you think you may have a chance. Pay for online ads to test the waters, but be careful with your spending.
Much like my days out on the open ocean as a novice sailor or while navigating new culture and customs in the Caribbean, publishing and promoting my book has been an enormous adventure. It was challenging and rewarding at the same time. I am proud of what I have learned and achieved so far and wish you much success in launching your own book and your PR and marketing campaign!
Regina Petra Meyer is the author of memoir Change of Course: Sailing into Love & Adversity on Caribbean Shores. Born and raised in Switzerland, while working as a travel agent, Regina’s curiosity was piqued by coordinating trips around the world. Eventually, she packed her own bags and adopted a globetrotting lifestyle. Regina has sailed across all continents, living and working in Antigua in the Caribbean, the USA, New Zealand. She currently calls tropical Cairns, Australia, her home.
You can learn more about her on her website, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads. More about her book, Change of Course, can be found here.