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Why Your Site Needs a News Page

by Sharon Bially on March 14, 2013

Recently I browsed over to the website of one of my dear author friends, curious to see what sort of press she’d been doing. To my surprise, the site had a page for her bio, one for her books and another giving information about her freelance work, but absolutely nothing showing where she’d been quoted by or mentioned in the media.

When I asked her about this, her answer was, “Should it?”

Yikes!

Because my friend had diligently hired a publicist to help build her media platform, I found it baffling that not only was there no place for her to showcase all the wonderful results of this investment, but also, that her publicist had not suggested that she create one.

A website News page is the pillar of your media platform. The glue that holds it together. Whether it contains links to interviews you’ve done on the Today Show or to guest posts you’ve written for small-ish blogs (which by the way, are all referred to in the lingo as “press clips,”) it is a vital piece of information for two reasons:

First, it’s a marketing piece. By showing that you’ve been actively out and about talking to the media — and that the media is interested in what you have to say — it helps compel readers to buy your book(s), talk about you, tweet about you or otherwise help spread the word.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, reporters considering whether to call you will want to see it first. Your News page is literally your press portfolio, your “resume” as a public voice. Just like with a professional resume, your experience counts. The more press you do, the more attractive you become as a news source. So curate it all online where reporters can easily find it.

Without griping about the fact that a publicist would not have made this suggestion in the first place (okay, that was a gripe….), this fact also brings to light once a again a point I feel very strongly about:

In this ever-evolving world where the very definition of “media” blurs more every day, PR can no longer be simply about securing reviews and media coverage then moving on. It has to have just as strong of a focus on how to tie together the various strands of publicity and marketing so that they’ll work for you. For real.

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Why Your Publicist Should Think Like a Novelist

by Sharon Bially on January 21, 2013

It probably happens each time you sit down to write: You have a plan, an idea of where you want your story to go. But as soon as the words start to flow, your idea changes slightly or another one pops into your mind. Since you’ll be obsessed with it unless you at least explore it, your plan has to change.

This is a lot like the process good publicists go through when planning and leading a campaign. That’s because fundamentally, PR is a creative story-telling exercise. Think about it: a publicist’s job is to find ways to tell the media and readers about your book.

The first step is crafting a brief but grabbing story about it. But this writing project is just the beginning of the creative journey involved in figuring out who among the gazillions of reporters and readers out there might want to hear this story, which particular aspects of it some might be more interested in than others, and how to re-tell the story in various ways depending on this.

Most often, ways to retell and re-frame a story come to mind only after a campaign has begun, once real reporters and real people have become engaged in live conversations about your book. And with each new conversation, new ideas spring up about other people or news outlets to contact beyond the initial list built for this purpose. For yes, there really, truly are gazillions.

Soon this creative process takes on a life of its own. Just like with novel-writing, it can give publicists a terrific buzz, wake us up in the middle of the night, drive us to email ourselves notes while standing in line at the supermarket or yell, “Shut up, I’m busy thinking!” to our kids when outwardly, we seem to be doing nothing more than washing dishes. And just like with novel-writing, there is potentially no end.

Some PR firms manage this potential for infinity by setting rigid parameters on campaigns before they start. They pick one or two written pieces to use (usually a press release and/or email pitch) build a press list, send out the release or pitch, make some phone calls and then move on. From a business point of view it makes perfect sense: after all, each hour has a price tag and there’s only so much any individual or organization can do.

But as the publishing and media environments continue to transform, we publicists, too, need to innovate – every minute of the day. More than ever, it is our creativity – our near-obsessive passion for exploring news ideas and our equally obsessive, fiction-writerly love of telling stories – that in the end will make all the difference for your book.

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Marketing & the Spirit of Giving

by Sharon Bially on December 29, 2012

Marketing is about finding ways to tell people about your book so that they’ll buy it, right?

Technically, yes. But in the unpredictable and often mysterious world of books, it turns out that one of the very best marketing tools, particularly à propos in this holiday season but equally valid year-round, is…giving.

Perhaps this is because unlike so many other products, books are social by nature. They spark ideas, memories, questions and conversations we want to share. They can trigger a whole gamut of emotions from wrath and disgust to adulation and joy, making readers want to reach out and connect, see who else felt the same way. And everything that’s social has sharing — giving — at its heart.

For authors, this means thinking not in terms of what others can do for you (“Buy my book!” “Click on my link!” “Write a glowing review!”) but in terms of what youcan do for the reading community. What hands-on advice or unique insight you can offer in articles, guest posts or on your own blog? What nugget of humor might help a peer through a bad day? Do you have an answer to a question weighing on somebody’s mind? A contact a friend might find helpful? Offer it. Stay open to helping, no matter what the request is or who has made it.

A few other ways to give as an author are:

  • Share others’ blog posts and book news on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
  • Interview people on your blog. Invite them to write guest posts.
  • Contribute to online conversations. In other words (*hint*), leave comments on this and other blogs. There are also dozens of Facebook groups out there for writers, including the Grub Street Self Publishing Network (you don’t have to be self published!) and the highly interactive Writer Unboxed Facebook Group.
  • Respond to emails you get from total strangers. Try to help with any questions or advice they request as best as you can.
  • Use your social networks to help other authors spread the word about their books, hosting giveaways for them, author Q&As or book club chats on or off line.
  • Cite other authors and mention their books when you give talks. Plug them. Hold them up, pass them around. This is engaging for an audience and builds lots of goodwill.
  • Give books away. You can donate them to troops, to church groups, synagogues, local indie bookstores and libraries. You can sign them up for World Book Week or run a few Amazon KDP free giveaway promotions if your publisher allows it.

While you clearly can’t spend every waking hour giving, if you commit to making giving as regular a part of your life as writing is, you’ll find opportunities arising that help spread awareness about you as an author and your book or books. Readers will leave reviews on Amazon or B&N.com and recommend your book to friends. You may be invited to give talks, run seminars, or even speak with reporters.

But beware, there’s an important catch — also particularly à propos at this time of the year: Giving will bear real fruit from a marketing and community-building perspective only if you do it sincerely, with the honest intention of sharing and helping out. Answer strangers’ questions, plug other authors and their books and share their content not because you feel you should, but because you’re genuinely excited about doing so. Or because you care and it’s gratifying to know that you’ve made even a tiny difference this way. And don’t limit your generosity to friends within your personal writerly network. Instead, extend it to people who don’t know you, people whom you’ve never met and perhaps never will. Take initiatives where you see fit in the true spirit of giving without thinking about what they’ll yield for you.

After all, writing is about sharing so much more than stories. When you do, you’ll see your community of readers and heartfelt supporters grow.

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