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Book Publicity on a Shoestring

Having been in and around this biz for almost 30 years, there are lots of ways to get buzz on your book for little money. But it takes TIME.

My suggestion for a zero or low budget strategy is two words: FREE MEDIA

If you have a zero-dollar budget, before you go out and BUY any book, or engage anyone for any PR service, go to your library and take out ten of the hundreds of books on how to get publicity for a business. It makes no difference if the business is a publishing empire, a writing "service" (that's what an author really IS) or a local dry cleaning store. PR is PR is PR!

You MUST sit down and write 24 press releases about your book. You need to find 24 "topics" or "holidays" or upcoming "news" items (elections, tax day, quarter-end biz cycles, beg/end of school year, etc.) that you can tie your book or the author to.

This will be some of the hardest work you have ever done because you will have call on ALL of your creativity to do it. But you need 24 of these. It may take a week, it may take a month. If you can't do it, then my suggestion is to give up and get out of the biz, seeing as you really can't afford to hire anyone to do it for you. And if you want my two cents, after you read eight or ten books on how to write media releases, you will do just as good a job (probably better) than anyone you could hire. Besides, that's the "pub" of "publishing." You need to know how to do this if for no other reason then if you DO hire someone you need to know if their work is good... or crap.

You should save the release in plain old Ascii text format and store it on your web server or someplace like Apple's MobileMe (if you subscribe to that) or one of the many free places you can store files and link to them. At the top of your release make sure you put in bold font "A plain-text copy of this release can be downloaded at"

Do not go to the next step until you have 24 of these things "in the vault." The big mistake 99% of publishers do is they write one release send it out and never write the other 23. Spend the time and do the work of getting your 24 releases written, polished, and ready to send.

The next thing you do is find 100 to 200 media outlets that will work for your book. This is as important as writing the release. This step depends on the subject matter of the book or novel. There are lots of media lists out there. You need to find the person who is best to read your release and get that entered in your spreadsheet or database.

Here is what I did when I first brought out Jaya123 (see below.) I compiled a list of about 500 newspapers and 200 magazines that I thought small business people would read. I then hired a teenager to take the list and go to each website and "scour" them for the editor or contact that I should address the release to. (I paid her $10/hr and it cost me a couple of hundred dollars.) I did a lot of this research myself as well. Believe me, you often have to dig on these websites to find the right person but most often it is there somewhere. Otherwise I called and asked "Can I speak with the business editor" and when I did I asked him or her which of his people I should send my release to... or should I send to (most said "send it to me.")

You should mail the release the old fashioned way... stamp and envelope.. if you have the budget, but fax may work. Do not email to print media. However, you can/should fax to radio stations if you are looking for air time. (I don't believe it works well for books, but does not hurt... assuming you don't mind getting up at 4 am on West coast for a 7 am drive-time slot in Boston.)

Every two weeks you send a release to your list.

It may take six months, but you WILL get media... unless of course your book is ill-conceived such that it should have never been published in the first place.

After the first year... you repeat the cycle (maybe add some new releases from ideas you get during the year.) They won't remember the previous one... and most likely it is a different person reading it this year from last.

Don't hire a PR writer if you can't afford one. Save your money for postage or fax costs. LEARN how to write good media. It's really rather easy... even the PR people on this list will tell you so. There is very little "talent" involved here (I can hear the screams of the PR people now!)

It is a craft and anyone can learn the craft. Think of it like woodworking. Your first bird-house might look like junk, but your 15th will look pretty good. Same for writing press releases. You CAN do this. ANYONE can do this. You don't need an expensive PR ghost for this. You want them to use their contacts to write a full proposal to get you on Oprah... not to get published in the Podunk Weekly News (and you SHOULD include a lot of small weekly papers in your media mix.)

Do you know why the above works? Because no one does it. It's true. They start out with "grand intentions" but never finish the job. If you do this, you will get media and you will sell books. Like the guy on TV says, "I guarantee it."

Al Canton, President
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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