So you’ve written the book. Drafted, re-drafted, even let a few people read it. Perhaps even secured a publisher. And if it’s an academic book (see blogs passim), you are on your own as far as publicity goes. Even if, as in my case, you have vowed never to write a book with footnotes again and only 400 copies are being produced, then you still have a duty to wring as much publicity out of the first book as possible. And unless you have a friend/partner/relative in PR, or have worked in it yourself, then the following tips may come in handy.
1. Mine specialist and trade magazines – you know, the sort of publications that would appear in ‘Have I Got News for You’. If your story is about a lonely sheep shearer in deepest New Zealand then search out the New Zealand Sheep Shearers’ Almanac. Or settle for BBC History or History Today, if you are an Historian.
2. Sell yourself to the local press. For instance I have contacted the local papers both where I live now and where I went to school. Produce a paragraph about the book and two about yourself. Donate a copy to your school and write a ‘[Name of school] Old Girl/Old Boy Writes Book and Thanks School for Giving Her/Him a Love of History As Proud Parents Look On’ headline.
3. Approach blog writers as you would book reviewers. In the field of History, there’s lots of opportunities.
4. Don’t be scared of the big boys ( and most of them are male). Try the Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, New Statesman, Guardian, Telegraph etc. Most of the non-tabloids have review and book sections.
5. Think about contacts – for example, I have done some work with the Voice newspaper and they are going to feature my book as ‘Book of the Week’. I contacted Feminist Times to pitch an article about feminism and witchcraft, which they used on the launch website.
Launch – organise one! After all it’s a great opportunity to celebrate publication and all the effort you have put into the book and the editing and various other aspects of writing. In my case the bookshop has offered to put on a window display of my books, which had me sold immediately. If I never write another book again, I will at least have the experience of doing a book reading and signing. I’m going to be practising my signature…