After writing my first novel last year I quickly realised that bashing out the words was the easy part. The tough bit is getting the book noticed. Amateur authors tend to turn to social media to promote their work but posting on Twitter, Facebook and Good Reads is no silver bullet. One of the best ways of raising the profile of your budding bestseller remains the good old local newspaper. A feature about how you achieved a lifelong ambition by finally taking the plunge and self-publishing your work can be a nice human interest story for editors and reporters.
As a former newspaper journalist and now a PR consultant, myself, I had a distinct advantage when it came to securing press coverage for my Kindle eBook. But the tactics I used can work for any amateur writer. They helped me feature in two local newspapers and an influential online media outlet. These are my top tips:
1 Send a press release
Put together a structured release with an interesting headline and a brief description of you and why you chose to write your new novel or non-fiction book. Make sure you include a daytime contact telephone number. It is also recommended that you email your release, particularly if you feel confident enough to write a feature for the paper yourself. Journalists are over-worked and under-resourced and they will welcome a well-written article which can be cut and pasted straight on to the page with minimal editing.
2 Research local newspapers and target journalists
Find out which papers cover your town or city. This may sound obvious but if you live outside a publication’s circulation area your release will be instantly deleted. Read all the papers in your patch and check to see if they have particular sections where a feature about you might fit comfortably in.
And find out which journalist is most likely to be interested in your piece. Perhaps refer to a previous article they have written about an indy author – pandering to a reporter’s ego is never a bad thing and it also shows you are interested in the newspaper.
3 Pick out an interesting newsworthy angle
This is critical. If you can get across that you wrote a story based on a local legend, an interesting life experience or something topical then you have a much better chance of attracting a journalist’s attention. Whatever this compelling angle is, you need to reflect it in the subject line of your email when the press release is sent. And make sure you explain it more fully in the brief description of your book. The angle of my release when I approached the press was to talk about how easy it is now to self-publish digitally with no requirement anymore to secure an agent or a publishing deal.
4 Include a photograph
Many local newspapers no longer use staff photographers and in a lot of cases reporters are sent out on stories with the office digital camera as well as their notepads. As a consequence, good pictures can sometimes be in short supply. So always send in a nice photograph of you – preferably a head and shoulders – holding a copy of your book if it is published in physical form. Feel free to be creative, as well, and add a prop or two if it is relevant to the novel.
But the picture must be of good quality, in focus and a decent digital size, for the paper to consider using it.
5 Follow up your email but do not pester
After you’ve sent the press release in via email it is a good idea at this point to wait a day or two before you contact the newspaper. By all means send a follow-up email the next day asking if the journalist needs to know anything further about you or your book. But don’t pester them. And certainly do not keep calling asking if the email has arrived. Reporters and editors receive dozens of emails every day and they will never make an instant decision on whether to publish your news.
I would be interested to hear from any other amateur authors on how they secured local press coverage and whether they have found my tips useful. Feel free to comment!