6 PR Strategies for Authors
Most of us only ever hear about PR (Public Relations) when companies or governments need help with a PR disaster. What that means is that the people who work in this space (ironically) often get bad PR because it’s the manipulators and spin doctors among them who get into the headlines. Most PR professionals, however, are decent individuals who fulfil a critical business service. In fact, incorporating their practices into your own marketing plan can help you grow your author business.
Hiring a PR agency is too costly for most writers. Results vary between companies and their work is notoriously difficult to assess. That’s why only authors who can already afford this luxury tend to use them. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on this valuable work. You can create a similar effect for free by running your own PR campaigns.
So what exactly is PR and how do you do it? According to Robert Wynne, it’s a promotion method you can use to relay a message to your audience for free through trusted sources instead of paid ads. Wynne explains that, “A good PR practitioner will analyze the organization, find the positive messages and translate those messages into positive stories.” Almost always, this process requires the help of journalists or influencers. After all, they or the organisations they represent are the ones who have taken years to build their reputations as credible sources, and it is their audiences who buy into products and ideas they endorse.
That’s the job distilled into one paragraph. The principle is simple. The execution, on the other hand, can be tricky. Fortunately, as with everything else, running your own PR engine is learnable. In today’s blog post, we will explore a few tasks you can carry out to get started. Mastering the basics will help you to sell more books, spend a smaller portion of your royalties on advertising and spread awareness of your brand in a world full of authors jostling for attention.
Create a Press Kit
An initial PR tactic you should consider doing that will make your book launches easier is creating a press kit. This is a graphic that contains all of the vital information you will need to pass onto journalists and influencers. It works like an advanced information sheet. Only as well as containing key information a collaborator will need to know about you and your book – the title, ISBN, reviews, etc. – a press kit also contains extra features like suggested headlines or video titles they could use to promote your message. Examples include:
- Why One Veteran Started Knitting for Marines
- Meet the Author Who Turned Down a Six-Figure Publishing Deal
- How Anyone Can Learn Mandarin in 5 Weeks
A good press kit will persuade the person reading it that working with you is a good idea. Plus, it will minimise the work required on their part. Not only will this extra touch increase your chance of converting an influencer into an ambassador for your brand, but it will also help you to guide the type of message they broadcast.
Become a Commentator
Capturing the public’s attention is an ongoing challenge in PR. Specialists do this by creating a positive story around a brand or by riding the coattails of an existing news story that fits their agenda. Since this second option is easier to do when you have limited clout, it’s a good place to start. As an author, it’s helpful to begin by searching for news stories that share themes that overlap with your books. A self-help author who writes about the mindset of athletes could seek out headlines about sportspeople, for example, and offer a commentary on their wins and losses to engage with fans who share a common interest. In contrast, if you’ve written a novel about monster hunters, you could analyse Nessie or Big Foot sightings that make the news, using the same Twitter and Instagram hashtags as the news outlets that report them to expose your words to interested readers.
Build a Fan Community
Barbara Hinske recently said on the Self Publishing Show that she once created a Downton Abbey Facebook fan page which indirectly markets her books. As the show grew in popularity, her page attracted well over 100,000 members, all of whom enjoy the genre and are hungry for more content. As a result, she has been able to access an audience that loves her type of fiction, and has received opportunities to work with other creators and brands in the same space, which perpetuates her personal brand.
Admittedly, not every off-the-wall venture of this kind will bear fruits of Downton Abbey proportions, but it’s possible to command a highly profitable audience even in a smaller niche. After all, fan communities do well on almost all social media platforms. Filling an untapped gap on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook could give you access to the eyes of an engaged and targeted reader community. Do you write zombie books and can’t find a place for Zombieland fans to horde together and devour content? This could be your opportunity to make a killing in the undead fiction space!
Compile an Influencer List
Sometimes there won’t be a perfect news story you can ride to spread your author brand. If that’s the case for you then you will need to create your own. To do so, first you must collect a list of relevant influencers. These people could be book reviewers, podcasters, bloggers, vloggers or journalists working for national newspapers. All are perfect PR collaborators. Narrow that list to people who are interested in your work and who have an audience that shares that passion, be they fishermen or young mums who love children’s picture books. Ticking both boxes is vital because it will save you time and effort. An interested influencer will be more likely to accept your pitch, and a well-targeted community will award you a better return on investment when your PR piece is broadcast.
Send Tailored Pitches
Once you’ve compiled a list of relevant influencers, next you need to pitch them. The key here is to tailor your pitch, taking into account the topics they normally cover, their primary platform medium and how spreading your message will benefit their audience. It’s in your interest to make it worth their while. That way, they will discuss your work with genuine passion which will encourage their audiences to feel the same way about you and your work.
Delivering value might take some forethought, but here’s an example of how to do it. Say you want to work with a podcaster whose show covers living in the wilds of North America, and you’ve written a thriller about a hiker hunted in the wilderness by a cult. Your expertise as a mushroom picker may only have a tenuous link to your thriller, but that angle will attract the host and could score you a spot on the show.
You can plug your work while speaking about this topic but remember to be gracious and stick mainly to what will interest them and their audience when you make an appearance. Being a great guest means missing some opportunities to push your book but doing so will pay dividends over the long term. After all, if the host and their audience like you, they will be more likely to support you and check out your fiction.
Create Viral Competitions
Some PR moves are so unique that they catch the public’s imagination and spread even without major influencers getting involved. A fantastic example happened in 2017 when fantasy and non-fiction author Derek Murphy set up a remarkable competition. The prize was a free ticket to join 10 authors on a month-long writing retreat in a French castle! This competition was so original, and the prize so outlandish, that news of it spread through his intended audience, the indie author community, with wildfire pace. Joining his mailing list entered authors into the draw, and getting others to join got them extra entries.
This idea nabbed Murphy thousands of engaged newsletter subscribers, attracted mainstream media attention and solidified his brand in the author community. Admittedly, it required an investment but the money was spent on a castle, not advertising. Not everyone can run a PR campaign like this one alone, but you might be surprised what you can do once you start brainstorming. Collaborate with a company or other authors and you could achieve a similar result without even having to contribute any of your own cash. There are plenty of PR tactics you can use to grow your author business. The key is to follow through on any promises your campaigns claim you can deliver. Getting people to know, like and trust you is just step one in this process. You have to maintain high standards and an impeccable moral compass to keep those fans forever.
Grab Your SPF Freebies!
Sign up to receive your SPF starter package, which includes a free 3 part video series on getting started with FB ads, and inspirational and educational weekly emails.