PR campaigns for books are getting complicated.
The main goal is the same as it ever was: to sell books. What’s becoming painfully clear is that we don’t exactly know what coverage it is that does that.
To all of the talented publicists out there who just yelled, NPR! The New York Times! Good Morning America!, and all the authors who started yelling, Oprah!—I know. These are outlets that move books. Most of the time.
I mean, let’s be honest here. Everyone has that story of the author who showed up on a morning show, even after media training, and it didn’t move the needle at all. Or the excellent off-the-book-page features in major media across the country that absolutely should have sold books, but somehow just never translated.
And let’s discuss that other hard question: how do you even get your author considered for one of these outlets? Assuming his last name is not Sulzberger (Brian, if you took your wife’s name, call me ASAP). The answer to this varies, depending on your size and your muscle, but for a group like us—or any smaller author—I don’t think it’s one really excellent pitch, even if that pitch goes directly into the inbox or ear canal of a major journalist.
So in a landscape where securing a major media outlet always made a difference, it made a lot of sense to throw all of your weight behind that sort of outreach, even for a tiny, scrappy outlet like us. But now? To borrow a metaphor from Cory Doctorow (who I think stole it from nature, so no worries), I want our PR to be like dandelion seeds. I want us to go as many places as possible, and see if we can put down roots.
Which is why you’re hearing from the publicist so early in the game. Experimentation takes time, and once you’re successful, word-of-mouth needs a chance to accumulate before it makes an impact. I’d like for our outreach to start early.
So, Publishng team, since we’re all working together to put this ebook out there, get ready for a modified author questionnaire, which I’ve decided to call the Partner Questionnaire. There are just three questions on it:
1) Where would you like to see coverage for this project, in your most hopeful moments? What angle of the project do you think that outlet would be of the most interest to them?
2) Which outlets do you think are especially vital or good for this project? What partnerships?
3) What outreach can you personally contribute to our PR efforts? For example, are you willing to write guest posts about your role in the project? Broker introductions?
And readers: if you’re an outlet that would be hospitable to a dandelion seed, you can always reach me via email.